Reading Habakkuk’s prayer I’m reminded of the 19th Century hymnist Horatio Spafford who wrote the worship song “It is well with my soul” whilst passing near where his four daughters had tragically died after their ship had sank rapidly following a collision with a sea vessel. We find a similar jaw dropping response to utter tragedy in Job’s blessing of God in his prayers (Job 1:21) following the death of his ten children, servants and livestock. In Habakkuk’s prayer we likewise see phenomenal humility and praise directed at God despite God’s impending judgement upon Judah for her sins.
Habakkuk begins with responding with an expressed fear of God based on God’s revelation and works (v1). He stands in the gap for Judah asking for God’s mercy to be known despite his plans of judgement (v1) and declares God’s might and glory through God’s works of creation (v3-4) and God’s works of salvation for his people (v5-v15). These earth shaking interventions leave Habakkuk trembling with reverential fear (v16). Rather than setting him fleeing from God such fear actually brings him clinging to God (v18). He is aware of God’s goodness.
Indeed, despite God’s impending judgement, and though Judah’s produce may fail and livestock die (v17) Habakkuk declares “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (v18). What misery defying words. Words steeped in a deep knowing of God’s goodness and glory. We are strengthened when we soak our minds and hearts in the knowledge of God. Habakkuk expresses this experience in declaring “God, the Lord, is my strength”. Though he trembles in reverence of God and his judgement, Habakkuk rejoices in him and finds strength through him, knowing that he is good news.
About 600 years after Habakkuk penned this prayer Jesus perfectly demonstrated the same pattern, not forsaking the cross but taking on himself God’s judgement of humanity’s sins by dying on the cross, bringing liberty and life eternal for all who believe in his saving work. In light of such good news, regardless of circumstances we can rejoice with the lyrics –
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Hymn – “It is well with my soul” by Horatio Spafford)