Thursday, 10 May 2007

Rejoicing in the LORD

I have loved studying the book of Habakkuk over the past month with the small group leaders at Lancaster CU. It's been brilliant to dig into this little treasure trove and to see how God changes Habakkuk's heart.

Habbukuk 3 is one of my favourite chapters in the whole Old Testament. As we studied the chapter this week, we noticed how much and how little has changed in Habakkuk's heart. In some ways little has changed: Habakkuk's prayer in 3:2 is similar to the prayer for revival which opens up the book in 1:2-4. Yet one thing has very notably changed: Habakkuk's focus. In chapter 1, Habakkuk's appraisal of the state of the people of Judah is focused very much on his present circumstances. In other words, his cry is, 'God - your people are in a mess, when are you going to do something about it?' By chapter 3, God has changed Habakkuk's focus. He is God-centred in the way he evaluates the situation, leading him to pray:

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

It's this focus that ultimately leads Habakkuk to his wonderful prayerful response at the end of chapter 3:17-18:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

Things haven't become suddenly better for Habakkuk - in fact, they have become worse. Judah is still in a mess, and Habakkuk has learned of God's impending destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. But Habakkuk has also had opportunity to reflect on the fact that God is completely in control, that he is good and that he is as committed to drawing a people to himself than ever. This gives Habakkuk a deep joy: even as his world falls apart around him, Habakkuk knows that ultimately God will do what is right and good. This can be our hope too: in a world of sin and brokenness, as we focus on God's work in history, ultimately at the cross, and as we focus on God's character, we too are filled with joy and courage and strength.

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