Habakkuk: When in Doubt, Pray!

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth. O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:1-2)

Have you ever been confused as to what God is doing in your life? Perhaps you have felt that God was strangely silent when difficulties came and struggles continued with temptation to sin. You found yourself doubting God and becoming weak in your trust, commitment, dependence and worship of Him.

Let’s be honest! We’ve all been there in the so-called “dark night of the soul” when doubts arise and fears give way. As one missionary explains that the dark night of the soul, is from the perspective of doubting faith as a follower of Christ, not as a nonbeliever.”

This is the situation that we find the Prophet Habakkuk. He is a man of God. He is a believer in God. He is a prophet of and for God. However, he has struggled with God and His will for the nation of Judah in the 7th century B.C. What ultimately did Habakkuk do to resolve this conflict within his soul when he found himself in conflict with the person and work of God? What are we to do when we find ourselves in a similar situation? Pray and praise the LORD. Praying and praising the LORD is what Habakkuk eventually resolved to do when faced with the sovereign will of God being in conflict with his own.

Habakkuk 3:1 introduces not only the third chapter of Habakkuk, but also diretcs the reader to prophet’s perspective in this prophetical book of Scripture. “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth. The Hebrew word for prayer “tepilah” means the act of speaking and making requests to God. Questions by the prophet of God have given way to prayers by the same prophet to God.

The text says that the prayer was according to Shigionoth. A Shigionoth comes the root word “shiggaion” meaning a type of cultic song or a lamentation and dirge. While its precise meaning is unknown, the term may also refer to a psalm set to an irregular musical rhythm or beat. The only other biblical reference to a Shigionoth is found in Psalm 7:1 where the title says A Meditation of David, which he sang to the LORD.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “the reference to “Habakkuk the prophet” (cf. 1:1) marks a transition. The argumentative tone of the previous chapters, in which he cried for divine interference, is transformed into a plea for God’s mercy (3:2), a review of God’s power (vv. 3–15), and a chorus of praise for God’s sustaining grace and sufficiency (vv. 16–19). But while the tone changes, a strong, thematic connection remains. Having been informed of God’s plan of judgment, Habakkuk returns to the matter of Judah’s judgment, pleading for mercy.”

The hymn writer Joseph Scriven was born in Ireland in 1820. He studied at Trinity College in Dublin and was soon engaged to be married. The evening before their wedding, Scriven’s fiancé drowned. This tragedy coupled with difficult family relationships, caused Joseph to begin following the practices and teaches of the Plymouth Brethren. Shortly after moving to Canada to become a teacher, Scriven became engaged to Eliza Roche. Tragedy struck again and Eliza passed away from illness shortly before their marriage.

Joseph used the tragedies and hardships in life to identify with the elderly and poor. Scriven also used this time to saw wood for the stoves of those who were handicapped or elderly. 

Joseph wrote his famous hymn in 1855 to comfort his mother who still lived in Ireland. He did not seek to be noticed for it, and his authorship was only discovered by accident shortly before his death. What some would say was an accidental discovery was a providential act of God.  

Scriven then began to experience poor health, financial struggles and depression during the last years of his life. To this day, no one knows for sure if Joseph Scriven’s death was an accident or suicide. He was in serious depression at the time. A friend of Scriven explained, “We left him about midnight. I withdrew to an adjoining room, not to sleep, but to watch and wait. You may imagine my surprise and dismay when on visiting the room I found it empty. All search failed to find a trace of the missing man, until a little after noon the body was discovered in the water nearby, lifeless and cold in death.”

The hymn Scriven wrote was entitled What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

May the LORD’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

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