Why We Praise (Habakkuk 3)


This is a guest post by our assistant pastor, Matt Banner.
Habakkuk 3
3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
    the Holy One from Mount Paran.

His glory covered the heavens
    and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
    rays flashed from his hand,
    where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
    pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
    he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
    and the age-old hills collapsed—
    but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
    the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
    Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
    when you rode your horses
    and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
    you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10     the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
    the deep roared
    and lifted its waves on high.
11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
    at the glint of your flying arrows,
    at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
    and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people,
    to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
    you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
    when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
    the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
    churning the great waters.
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 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,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
Have you praised God today? Have you gone out of your way to give God praise and tell God how wonderful he is and how your life is complete only because God has given us the breath to breathe and the life we live. Or have we shrugged our shoulders and said, “well, I’m a little bit too tired and I have all kinds of problems and life is too busy.  And while we were singing, were you checking your phone, maybe texting a little, or thinking about what you want for lunch? I can read you like a book, mainly because I am guilty of the same things.
This is a powerful passage. It depicts God as a shining indestructible warrior, like the mighty sunrise.  It is a praise of being in awe of God’s greatness.  It is a song of rejoicing, as God saves the anointed. And the amazing thing about this passage is that this prayer of praise is in the midst of an invading army. God has not yet saved the people. Yet, the heart of this prayer is one of thanksgiving. 

Isaiah 25
25 Lord, you are my God;
    I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
    you have done wonderful things,
    things planned long ago.
You have made the city a heap of rubble,
    the fortified town a ruin,
the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more;
    it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will honor you;
    cities of ruthless nations will revere you.
You have been a refuge for the poor,
    a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
    and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless
    is like a storm driving against a wall
    and like the heat of the desert.
You silence the uproar of foreigners;
    as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
    so the song of the ruthless is stilled.
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
10 The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain;
    but Moab will be trampled in their land
    as straw is trampled down in the manure.
11 They will stretch out their hands in it,
    as swimmers stretch out their hands to swim.
God will bring down their pride
    despite the cleverness
[a] of their hands.
12 He will bring down your high fortified walls
    and lay them low;
he will bring them down to the ground,
    to the very dust.
No matter our circumstances, no matter what is happening in our lives, praising God is the most important aspect of life. Our relationship with God is a top priority.  And when we speak words of love and caring, it is our own spirit that is lifted. When we have a relationship, we must grow it through praise.  Even when we don’t feel the emotional feeling of love, it is more important to give praise.  When we have problems, and feel down in the dumps, we need this praising time even more.  Have you ever had an argument with your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend? If you said no, then I am calling you a liar! It’s at that time when you most need to tell that person that you love them. Even when you completely disagree with everything they said over the past half-hour, you love them.  And you should tell them so.  Even when we have not felt God doing great things in our lives, we need to praise him!  We need to shout about the Good things of God in our lives.
1 Samuel 2:1-10
1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.
“There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
“Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.
“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.
“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.
“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
“It is not by strength that one prevails;
10     those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
The sad thing is that most of our praying sometimes seems like complaining.  We spend all of our time with God thinking about and talking about all of our problems. I have some news for you.  Most of your problems are not that big of a deal.  I know they seem so at the time.  My problems are always the biggest deal in the world right now. But, what would happen if I invented a time machine.  First of all, I’d be rich, which would be nice.  And second, I could take you 6 weeks into the future.  Many of your problems would be gone.  They would have resolved themselves in one way or another.  Of course, they would be replaced with new problems, ones you haven’t even thought about yet.  But, then we could travel 6 more weeks in the future and those problems would be gone, replaced again.  And there would be some stubborn issues and problems that last 6 months before they get resolved, and everything returns to normal.
I was looking at one of my old journals from when I was in high school.  I wrote all of my worries and all of my concerns down.  Now, I look at them, and I cannot believe all of the petty things I was concerned about.  I was so young and immature.  But, then I look at things I was worried about only a couple years ago, and how I prayed to God constantly about how I would never find a wife, and on and on.  I guess I didn’t really trust in God’s plan.
And I think if I look back in a few years, many of my worries and concerns would prove fruitless. But, of course, there are problems and issues that don’t go away.  Some that scar your life and your soul.  I am not forgetting about those things.  I remember when my best friend in America and his wife had a miscarriage.  It was horrible.  They were devastated.  And there were no easy answers.  I cannot tell you how to get over something like that.  I don’t know if you ever completely get over something like that.  I’m sure they had some angry words for God.
But I know that even in the midst of their terrible pain, they praised God. Even when they felt most betrayed and most alone, they turned to God.  When we constantly praise God, it defines us.  It shapes who we are and who we become. When we don’t feel like we are loved.  When we don’t understand why life is so bad, it is even more important to turn to those we know love us, even when we don’t feel it.