Return to Study Guide for Habakkuk -by Don Kugelberg
I have been thinking a lot about prayer lately. The elders in my church have been going through a study written by Alexander Strauch called Biblical Eldership. We are using it as a way to rediscover the Biblical model for church leadership. The unit we just finished addresses the issue of guardianship.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
It is interesting to me that the first admonition in this passage is “Guard yourselves”. The chapter goes on to describe how an elder does that.
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
I have always understood this passage as meaning the elders will give themselves to teaching the Word and praying for the church (which Jesus purchased with His life). While this is certainly the primary emphasis, it also applies to the elders themselves. They are to guard themselves by praying and being in the Word.
Two things came out of this study for me personally. First, if I spend all of my time in intercessory prayer for others my prayer life becomes a perpetual laundry list of church needs. This is a very real danger. Prayer is also supposed to involve seeing the Glory of God. Prayer involves praising God for who He is and all that He has done.
Second, as one who regularly teaches the Word, I am regularly in it but most often with a purpose – I am teaching this class or I am participating in a Bible study or I am mentoring someone. The study admonished us to not let our personal devotions suffer. Otherwise I will become like Martha complaining about her sister in the passage in Luke:
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Sometimes I need to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. We do this in the Word of God. It helps us to sit down and remember the greatness and Glory of God both in who He is and what He has done for us.
Remembering is important. In fact, one whole book in the Old Testament is devoted to remembrance of who the Lord is and what He did for Israel. In the book of Deuteronomy, one phrase is repeated over and over and over again:
Then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
In the New Testament Jesus admonished the Disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is good for us to look back and remember the greatness and glory of God as He has worked in our lives and the lives of others.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
It is easy as we discussed last week to get lost in the circumstances that surround us and lose sight of the Lord. Its what Martha did in the passage in Luke. Its what we will do if we don’t guard ourselves.
Habakkuk began his prayer by looking back to the beginning of the covenant between God and His people. He turned his heart back to Sinai and the giving of the law. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that this is exactly what the prophet should be doing.
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.
Moses takes the people back to exactly the same place. Deut.4:10-14
As we move forward this week, we find Habakkuk continuing in this mode.
Habakkuk 3:5 Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels.
Clearly a reference to Egypt and the contest between God and a Pharaoh who said:
Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.
Three plagues of inconvenience, three plagues bringing physical pain and financial loss, followed by three plagues involving upheavals of nature; all culminating in the death of all the firstborn in Egypt – and a celebration of the first Passover.
The most powerful nation on the face of the earth tumbles from glory and strength to disarray and destruction at the hand of the Lord. Israel is spared and is told to remember.
You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
Habakkuk joined them in worship as he contemplated the God who defeated the Egyptians and now would use the Chaldeans to judge the house of Judah who had not remembered. He worshipped as he further acknowledged that the God who defeated Egypt would ultimately judge the Babylonians and in the meantime would allow them to go no further than His plan allowed.
The next verse in Habakkuk 3 serves as the theme for the next portion.
He stood and measured the earth;
he looked and shook the nations;
then the eternal mountains were scattered;
the everlasting hills sank low.
His were the everlasting ways.
Verses 6-15 talk of God’s judgment of the nations at large through the use of supernatural events. We will not take the time to try and sort through the specific instances Habakkuk is picturing. They could span from Jonathan’s rout of a Philistine garrison in 1 Samuel 14 which involved an earthquake to panic the men, to Elisha’s protection from the Syrians in 2 Kings 6 with a multitude of horses and chariots of fire where he instructs his servant: “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” to the clear reference in verse 11:
The sun and moon stood still in their place
at the light of your arrows as they sped,
at the flash of your glittering spear.
to the events described in Joshua 10 as the Lord stopped time to allow the complete defeat of the Amorite’s. Again we see God measuring a nation and finding it wanting. It is summarized in
There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD obeyed the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.
The conclusion of this section is found in Habakkuk 3:13:
You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed.
The Lord wasn’t angry with nature, he measured the nations and found them wanting. Israel was no different except for their covenant with Israel. We are no different except for the cross of Christ. That’s why we are to remember. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Return to Study Guide for Habakkuk -by Don Kugelberg