GOD replies to the prayer of Habakkuk, but before enlightening him on what he is going to do, God instructs Habakkuk in the way to react to the reply to his prayer. What is so wonderful about these two verses is that we are given instruction as to how we should think and act after engaging in prayer and speaking to God about our needs and concerns. There are six points which God gives Habakkuk, and these are just as relevant to day as they were to Habakkuk. Let us consider these six instructions in turn.
God speaks to us in different ways, but mainly through the reading of his word, the Bible. God may speak to us directly in some happening or circumstance, but this first instruction is just as important whatever way God speaks to us.
When we meditate on God's word the Holy Spirit is present to illuminate what we read, and it is here that this first instruction comes in. If we are to really hear God speaking to us, we must engage in this discipline of writing down what God is saying to us. By writing down we have to use our mind to make sure we can express the truth which is being illuminated to us. It is so easy to be lazy, and simply let the word of God wash over us. We gain some understanding but because we have not written down what we are hearing from God, our understanding will be superficial and not fully understood and digested. Further we will find that we so easily forget what we have read.
When writing down the truths of God's word as we receive them, not only will our understanding be clear, but we will have a record to which we can refer in the future and so we will have a reminder of what we have been taught.
This leads us to the reason why Habakkuk was told to write down what God was revealing to him. It is the reason why all Scripture has been given. God required Habakkuk to write down the revelation he was given, not just for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others. He was told to write it in such a way that all who read it would be able to understand. This is the reason all Scripture has been written. God gave his word in written form so that in all ages God's people would be able to know the mind, and will, and purpose, of God, and in knowing it know God and his saving love in Christ. When we read the bible we should also write down what the Scripture is saying to us, so that we will be able to express to others the word of life we have received.
Habakkuk was also told to write down the revelation God was giving him so that it would be clear and understandable to all who read it, or who heard it read to them. God tells Habakkuk to write in such a way that a herald may run with it. The meaning here is that a person would be so able to understand the message being given to Habakkuk that they would be able to pass the message on to others so that they may also clearly understand it.
For Habakkuk this meant he must so seek to hear the revelation from God so that his understanding would be clear and informed, and that when he wrote it down others would, not only have the whole truth of God, but would be able to understand it. This indicates how important it is for all who are called by God to minister his word, that they understand clearly what they read, and work hard to present that truth simply and clearly, so that all who hear their words may easily understand and receive the word with faith and obedience. Preachers have no latitude to indulge in preaching what pleases their intellectual perceptions, or to seek the praise of men.
When we pray we may well have in our mind exactly how we want or expect God to answer our prayer, and we may well be convinced that our prayer should be answered immediately and quickly. When how we see and expect God to work does not happen as we expected, then we grow discouraged and complain to God that he is not hearing us. The fact is that God has always got his appointed time for acting according to his eternal purpose. The answer to our prayers has to wait for God's time, and we must be prepared for, and accepting of, God's purpose when the appointed time comes.
This is surely one of the hardest lessons for the believer to learn. When we pray in our need we get easily discouraged when the response from God to our prayers is not immediate and swift, and then we find our faith assaulted, for the devil is very quick to exploit such a situation.
The fact is that sometimes God's answer to our prayer is immediate and swift, and we are lifted up with praise and thankfulness. But other times God's time may be a long way ahead. When this happens we need to remind ourselves that God has an appointed time for everything, and if our prayer is according to his will, though the delay in God's answer is long in coming, because it is appointed by God it is sure.
The way we need to deal with the problem is to meditate long and hard on such scripture verses as the ones before us, and drink down deep in our mind and heart the truth expressed. In Habakkuk's time the fulfilment of God's word did not come immediately, and this must be noted and God's answer waited for patiently.
We need also to remember God's answers to our prayers in the past. All of us have experienced a delay in the answer to our prayers, but the answer has eventually been given in God's time and then we have been able to praise God for this faithfulness with thanksgiving. Remembering past experience will strengthen our faith to wait patiently for the Lord.
The next phrase is one we need to take to heart. God told Habakkuk that "it speaks of the end, and will not prove false." These words mean that God always tells the truth, and always keeps his word. If God has said he will do something he will certainly do it in his good time, and then all will be able to testify to the fact that God spoke truly, because his word did not prove to be false.
It is a sad fact about human promises and assurances that they are not always kept, either because they are forgotten, or human weakness and impotence has prevented the keeping of them. We often promise greater things than we can fulfil. Politicians are particularly prone to this failing. However this is never true of God. When he makes a promise, or gives and assurance, he is always able to perform what is promised, and he never fails to keep his word. If God's answer is delayed, we may be sure that it will come eventually, and never prove to be false.
Many of the promises of Scripture lie far ahead in time, and many refer to the last things when Christ returns, but the words of Scripture will always be found to be true, and not false. We can believe Scripture for Scripture is the word of God spoken.
The fifth point in these verses for us to notice for our good and blessing is the lesson of patience. God speaks to Habakkuk and says "Though it linger, wait for it;"
Two things happen when God's answer to our prayers is delayed. On the one hand we can begin to doubt and say that God is not listening to us, and this will cause us to sin by lack of faith, and unrighteous complaining against God. We must resist such response to God's delay in answering our faith, for it comes from the devil. The devil is swift to exploit such a situation, and throw his firey darts of doubts and complaining.
The other danger when the answer to our prayers are delayed is that we cease to prayer, and give up and forget.
Such action and reaction is caused through the sin of impatience. We want things from God our way, and when this does not happen we accuse God, or stop relying on God. The way to combat this failing is to nurture the grace of patient waiting on God.
The last words of these verses before us speak of the certainty of all God's promised actions. His will and purpose is sure, and when the appointed time is come, then most certainly what is appointed will happen.
The world is full of uncertainties, but there is no uncertainty about the word of God and his promises. God will not fail of their happening. There will be no delay on the part of God. The delay may seem to be present in our perception, but as far as God is concerned He never delays the fulfilling of his word.
Here is the anchor for our faith. Though in our perception nothing is happening, and our prayers seem to go unanswered, this is never true. What God has purposed will most certainly come. This is comfort for the believing people of God, but for the rest a serious warning lest in unbelief they are not ready when God acts according to his word.
God always answers the prayers of his faithful people. Any idea to the contrary is one of the devil's lies. We need to write God's word on our hearts, and then in faith wait patiently for God's most sure action.