“Lord, I have heard the report about you; Lord, I stand in awe of your deeds. Revive your work in these years; make it known in these years. In your wrath remember mercy!” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What do we pray at such a time as this? How do we call on the Lord? Chaos seems to reign and the news doesn’t feel like it is getting any better. For every step forward it seems we take, there are more steps back than we can count. Anxiety is building. Fear is rising. What do we pray at such a time as this?
Habakkuk’s situation was not like ours right now. At all. They aren’t even close. But then again, maybe things aren’t so different as it seems.
For Habakkuk and the people of Israel, Babylon was a looming threat on the horizon. Every day came reports of more nations they had conquered; each one closer to Israel than the last. Towns that were thought to be secure were laid low. Strongholds like Assyria, the terrifying power that had conquered their brothers to the north were cut down like so many trees. Nothing seemed like it could stop the spread of this horrible plague ever-advancing from the east.
Habakkuk had received word from the Lord that it was coming to Israel. It was only a matter of time.
But then He received another word as well. Judgment was coming to Babylon. Their evil would not last. It was not going to be the final statement on history. God was still in His temple; He was still in charge. He would not let things go but so far before correcting the course.
Now there was hope. This did not mean the threat of the Babylonians was any less. It was still coming. They were still coming. Judah would still be conquered. Jerusalem would still fall. But God wasn’t done with His people. The work He had started would not be stopped. He was still God and a godless nation posed no threat to that all-encompassing reality.
So what did He pray? Look and listen to these words again. “Lord, I have heard the report about you; Lord, I stand in awe of your deeds. Revive your work in these years; make it known in these years. In your wrath remember mercy!”
Habakkuk’s situation was different from ours, but his prayer here rings with a note of familiarity to me. Maybe it does to you too. Let’s look at it.
In the mind of someone in the Old Testament, something like this virus would be considered a deed of the Lord. Why? Because He was totally sovereign over His world. Good things were a blessing. Bad things were a judgment. Now, does that mean we should think about the coronavirus as something God has done in an act of judgment? Without any evidence, not even for a second. It is a natural evil, a consequence of living in a sin-broken world that we should lament with all our hearts and voices.
We may not call this pandemic a deed of the Lord, but I can call to mind some other deeds of His of which I stand in awe. Which ones? Well, consider the season we are in. The report about Him I have heard and in which I stand in awe is not an act of judgment, but rather a strike at the heart of the very sin whose effects this virus represents. I’m talking about Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and His death-defeating resurrection from the grave.
Let us make that the object of our crying the second part of Habakkuk’s prayer here. Revive your work in these years! Make it known in these years! Lord, let this be a season where the life-giving power of your resurrection defeat of death and all its fruits becomes so unbelievably apparent that no one can miss it. Let your name be known and glorified through your church in the way your people minister to those who are sick, but also to those who are lonely and feeling isolated by all the social distancing.
Let us not forget the last part as well. Lord, in your just and righteous wrath over our sin, do not forget mercy. Bring a swift end to this pandemic. Provide for those who have and will yet be impacted directly by the economic strain this is bringing to the world. Heal those who are suffering. Keep safe those who tirelessly and selflessly work on the front lines to serve those who are sick. Let this season bring about a revolution in gratitude in our world—gratitude to those who serve, gratitude for the things we have, gratitude for the blessings we have too long overlooked. Let it turn the hearts of the wandering to the God who is ready to provide a home, first in His church and forever in His kingdom.
Would you make this your prayer? It may seem a small thing, but when we call on the Lord, our efforts are never insignificant.