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Habakkuk’s Prayer-a Preparation for Providence

It is well that there is a day of judgment, and a future state, before us, in which it shall be eternally well with all the righteous, and with them only, and ill with all the wicked, and them only; so the present seeming disorders of Providence shall be set to rights, and there will remain no matter of complaint whatsoever.[1]-Matthew Henry

This very week conversations have made it ever more clear to me that God’s Providence is often misunderstood. Unfortunately, a prevailing idea intrinsic to American Christianity is one that rules out the determinate will of God in cases that presume that God’s will can not include what we consider to be bad. In other words, folks seem to be under the impression that because God is good and he wants us to have all good things, we know what those are.

Habakkuk stands against that idea as evidence not only that we are not necessarily privy to what God has ordained, we are short sighted to think that our idea of what ought to be is even close to God’s when it comes to our prayer requests.

Habakkuk prayed to God while he was under this type of assumption.

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2–4, ESV)

Was Habakkuk wrong?

Is it bad that innocents are victims of violence? Yes.

If iniquity goes unpunished, is it wrong? Of course.

What if the law isn’t enforced and justice left unserved, is that moral failure? It is.

It is sad to see bad men warming their hands at those flames which are devouring all that is good in a nation, and stirring up the fire too[2]

Habakkuk looked at his nation and those were the circumstances. Innocent people suffered at the hands of evil-doers. Sin reigned. Destruction and violence were commonplace. The culture was one of strife and contention. Law and justice were perverted by the government therefore the wicked surrounded the righteous and justice did not prevail!

The legislative power takes no care to supply the deficiencies of the law for the obviating of those growing threatening mischiefs; the executive power takes no care to answer the good intentions of the laws that are made; the stream of justice is dried up by violence, and has not its free course.[3]

The question asked by Habakkuk is one that rings familiar to us every time that we see another news clip or read another Facebook post about the sorry state of our own nation that runs parallel to his experience.

Where is God?

The assumption made may be the same as well. If justice is perverted, the wicked beat down the righteous, and the law is paralyzed, then God must be absent, because a good God wouldn’t allow us to continually be given over to unrighteous events or people, must less be in control of such things, especially ordain them.

Our prayers may resemble Habakkuk’s as well.

Where are you God? Why aren’t you paying attention?

Our ideas may flirt dangerously close to heresy if we assume so much.

If the assumption is that God can’t ordain such things, then it necessarily follows that he is not in control of them. What does this do to the Biblical concept of omnipotence? How can God still be considered able to do what he says? What do we make of his promises if there is a possibility that he wont be able to fulfill them?

Or could it be that our idea of God’s goodness is mistaken? Could it be the case that God is actually sovereign and we are not in a position to determine whether a particularly evil event may end up changing history for the ultimate good, God’s glory?

Sure enough, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But if you think about it, it is not only Biblical, it is anecdotally true because it’s simply easier to see God’s Providence looking backward. The fact of the matter is, we can’t make any sense of it looking forward because as finite creatures, we can’t know the future in this specific sense. We are riding the wave of history, unable to see but glimpses of what may be ahead. Looking into the past is our only option when it comes to broad views of time. History reveals the mystery, begging your pardon.

The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope. -General Robert E Lee

Lee's Surrender

That’s why this little book can be so helpful. Habakkuk could know the future. He was privy to God’s ordained plan, his will, if you will.

But, Habakkuk was quick to judge God in his assumptions. He was quick to inform God of what he thought needed to happen. God was quick to reply…

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”” (Habakkuk 1:5–11, ESV)

Be prayerfully prepared, ready to take the lead.

As we look at the cultural landscape of America, let’s be careful not to judge God. Let’s also be careful not to misrepresent his eternal character. God is a righteous and holy God. He is also a sovereign Creator who not only has the power, but also the right to do as he wishes (Dan 4:35). He will carry out his plans AND he will fulfill his promises.

In a time when Christian brothers and sisters need confidence instead of concern, in a day that the Church should prepare with faith instead of frustration, we can use Habakkuk’s prayer- a preparation for Providence-as an apologetic of provision. If we are only prepared for the answer we allow God to give, we are shortchanging ourselves. But if our confidence is in the Promiser then our patience will be perpetual and we will persevere to the promise.

Let us begin to allow our prayer life prepare us for that instead.

If we put God’s concerns first, then we can bring our own needs. God is concerned about our needs and knows them even before we mention them (Matt. 6:8). If this is the case, then why pray? Because prayer is the God-appointed way to have these needs met (see James 4:1–3). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer.[4]-W Wiersbe




[1] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1550). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[2] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1550). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[3] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1550). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 26). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice

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