Verses 1–2

This chapter is entitled a prayer of Habakkuk. It is a meditation with himself, an intercession for the church. Prophets were praying men; this prophet was so (He is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, Gen. 20:7); and sometimes they prayed for even those whom they prophesied against. Those that were intimately acquainted with the mind of God concerning future events knew better than others how to order their prayers, and what to pray for, and, in the foresight of troublous times, could lay up a stock of prayers that might then receive a gracious answer, and so be serving the church by their prayers when their prophesying was over. This prophet had found God ready to answer his requests and complaints before, and therefore now repeats his applications to him. Because God has inclined his ear to us, we must resolve that therefore we will call upon him as long as we live. 1. The prophet owns the receipt of God’s answer to his former representation, and the impression it made upon him (Hab. 3:2): “O Lord! I have heard thy speech, thy hearing” (so some read it), “that which thou wouldst have us hear, the decree that has gone forth for the afflicting of thy people. I received thine, and it is before me.” Note, Those that would rightly order their speech to God must carefully observe, and lay before them, his speech to them. He had said (Hab. 2:1), I will watch to see what he will say; and now he owns, Lord, I have heard thy speech; for, if we turn a deaf ear to God’s word, we can expect no other than that he should turn a deaf ear to our prayers, Prov. 28:9. I heard it, and was afraid. Messages immediately from heaven commonly struck even the best and boldest men into a consternation; Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel, did exceedingly fear and quake. But, besides that, the matter of this message made the prophet afraid, when he heard how low the people of God should be brought, under the oppressing power of the Chaldeans, and how long they should continue under it; he was afraid lest their spirits should quite fail, and lest the church should be utterly rooted out and run down, and, being kept low so long, should be lost at length. 2. He earnestly prays that for the elect’s sake these days of trouble might be shortened, or the trouble of these days mitigated and moderated, or the people of God supported and comforted under it. He thinks it very long to wait till the end of the years; perhaps he refers to the seventy years fixed for the continuance of the captivity, and therefore, “Lord,” says he, “do something on our behalf in the midst of the years, those years of our distress; though we be not delivered, and our oppressors destroyed, yet let us not be abandoned and cast off.” (1.) “Do something for thy own cause: Revive thy work, thy church” (that is the work of God’s own hand, formed by him, formed for him); “revive that, even when it walks in the midst of trouble, Ps. 138:7, 8. Grant thy people a little reviving in their bondage, Ezra 9:8; Ps. 85:6. Preserve alive thy work” (so some read it); “though thy church be chastened, let it not be killed; though it have not its liberty, yet continue its life, save a remnant alive, to be a seed of another generation. Revive the work of thy grace in us, by sanctifying the trouble to us and supporting us under it, though the time be not yet come, even the set time, for our deliverance out of it. Whatever becomes of us, though we be as dead and dry bones, Lord, let thy work be revived, let not that sink, and go back, and come to nothing.” (2.) “Do something for thy own honour: In the midst of the years make known, make thyself known, for now verily thou art a God that hidest thyself (Isa. 45:15), make known thy power, thy pity, thy promise, thy providence, in the government of the world, for the safety and welfare of thy church. Though we be buried in obscurity, yet, Lord, make thyself known; whatever becomes of Israel, let not the God of Israel be forgotten in the world, but discover himself even in the midst of the dark years, before thou art expected to appear.” When in the midst of the years of the captivity God miraculously owned the three children in the fiery furnace, and humbled Nebuchadnezzar, this prayer was answered, In the midst of the years make known. (3.) “Do something for thy people’s comfort: In wrath remember mercy, and make that known. Show us thy mercy, O Lord!” Ps. 85:7. They see God’s displeasure against them in their troubles, and that makes them grievous indeed. There is wrath in the bitter cup; that therefore they deprecate, and are earnest in begging that he is a merciful God and they are vessels of his mercy. Note, Even those that are under the tokens of God’s wrath must not despair of his mercy; and mercy, mere mercy, is that which we must flee to for refuge, and rely upon as our only plea. He does not say, Remember our merit, but, Lord, remember thy own mercy.