Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.A Prayer for Middle Life
What we commonly call a revival of religion is the conversion of the young on a large scale. But when youth, with its energies and hopes, is delivered from this present evil world and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, this is not revival. It is the access of life to life. But when those who have-known life—of nature and of the spirit—find it sinking in the midst of the years, to have it restored by the Divine breath—this is indeed revival.
I. In the midst of the years make known is a prayer not for a change of surroundings, but for lordship over them. And this mastery comes to us only in one way. God in Christ must disclose Himself. We must return to the Lord, and receive from Him the deep and vital power we have lost. If we seek Him we shall find Him, and all in Him. He meets us and shows us what we are, and what in Him we may be. More than the vanished splendour of the heavenly vision which quickened our youth comes back to us, and with it the spring returns.
II. To do more we must be more. To be more we must see more of God. It is the Divine Appearing that liberates and reveals the forces of the soul. It breaks the chains which bind the spirit, whatever they may be. To many the deliverance is from intellectual indolence. They have for years learned nothing and forgotten much. To look round on their books is to see that they no longer care to comprehend the difficulties of their times. To preachers this is fatal. Nor will Christian laymen, as they are called, ever do the work they ought to do for Christ in this country till they are willing to become serious students of the Bible and of theology. A beginning of days to many preachers would be to take possession of some new province of literature, as Robert Hall did when, after sixty, he studied Italian to read Dante; as Arnold did when, two years before his death, he began Sanskrit, pleading that he 'was not so old as Cato when he learned Greek'. How many weary and starved congregations listen hopelessly to a dejected preacher who will never give them a word, a phrase, or a thought they have not heard hundreds of times. An appearing of God to such a man would send him to his desk and keep him there. Even among those who by conscientious toil keep their service on a high level, many shrink too soon from the effort to face and comprehend the thought and purpose of the new time. They need not subject their hearts to this as to a thing inevitable. Those who have fresh visions of God will never lose their grasp over young minds, or their power to deal with new problems. While the promise of the young should be, and ever will be, hailed with ardent affection, there is something greater and more beautiful even than that—a spirit revived in the midst of the years—compelling those who judged it and thought themselves done with it to revise their verdict, and entering, though late, into its heritage of power and peace.
III. For others this making known means the snapping of some chain of habit. Some indulgence, some selfishness, some sin not clearly recognized by conscience, is keeping out the light Freed from it, the soul enters into the great liberty of a new life. Perhaps it is taught for the first time the secret of Christian love. Nothing but the Divine enlargement will ever teach us this. Only the life in God makes us rich and interprets that saying, 'All things are yours'. The enlarged experience of God's love as we, 'being rooted and grounded in love,' look into the Father's face and the Saviour's heart, makes us love one another, and to him who loves all things become new.
—W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten Minute Sermons, p. 131.
Habakkuk 3:2I. In What Does Revival Consist?
a. In quickening believers to a higher life.
b. In awakening the Church to her Divinely appointed mission.
c. In leading sinners to Christ.
II. The Absolute Necessity for Revivals.
d. They heal breaches and restore harmony.
e. They call out all the strength of the Church.
f. Churches must perish without converts.
g. A real revival brings out the character of the wicked—they yield or rebel.
h. Influence on communities.
III. How Revivals may be Secured.
i. By the study of God's Word.
j. By self-examination and forsaking of sin.
k. By meditating on the condition of the unsaved.
l. By united and persevering prayer.
m. By faithful preaching of the gospel.
—C. Perren, Revival Sermons, p. 104.
The Hiding of the Divine Power
These words are part of a hymn on the self-revelation of God. They contain one of those flashes of insight and profound understanding which so often mark the utterances of Hebrew Psalmists and Prophets. The writer beheld a sudden unveiling of the glory of God, a glory the very light and splendour of which became the hiding-place of the Divine Power.
I. This fact is writ large in the physical universe. We do not usually realize the might behind what we see. Things are so serenely still and steady that we but vaguely apprehend the greatness of the power that holds and sustains them. If the power that silently pervades the universe were let loose without the restraints and direction of wisdom and goodness, confusion and destruction immeasurable and beyond imagination would at once ensue. And yet, even the greatest upheavals give but a faint indication of the reality behind.
II. On the field of history the same truth is illustrated. Every attentive reader recognizes the presence of a power that makes for righteousness, and against which nothing can ultimately prevail. Yet this power is usually hidden from the actors on the stage, so much so that they often imagine themselves masters of affairs. Statesmen and soldiers conceive that they are the arbiters of national and world destinies, but what is all the skill of men compared with that Unseen Power which works in silence age after age, and eventually disposes of men and nations?
III. God consistently conceals His power. What then has this well-attested fact to suggest to us? It brings home God's supreme regard for character. He could not have made Himself known by displays of might such as would have compelled submission, for that would have been contrary to His spirit and character. He would have been Master without any self-revelation, and His purpose would thus have been defeated. It was far more important that man should know Him as good, true, and loving than as infinitely powerful. By this method all that is best in the human heart is touched and called out. By concealing His power He gives scope for our freedom and thus provides for the proper discipline and development of character.
References.—III. 16.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2038. E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol.xxviii. p. 45. III. 17, 18.—G. A. Sowter, Sowing and Reaping, p. 73. III. 17-19.—J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv. p. 51. III. 19.—A. Raleigh, Old Testament Outline, p. 277.
O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?
Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.
Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.
Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.
Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters.
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.