Lord in Our Own Time Revive It / Habakkuk 1:1-6

by John Seo   02/06/2022     0 reads


Habakkuk 1:1-6, 12-13; 2:1-4; 3:2 (Reading all three chapters is recommended.)

Key Verse 3:2, 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.

  1. Please examine the historical background of the book of Habakkuk (1:3b-4)[Footnote 1]. What was the first question of Habakkuk to God (1:2-3a)? What made him complain to God? What are your unresolved ‘why’ questions in your life?

  2. How did God change the perspective of Habakkuk (1:5)? What was the answer of God to Habakkuk’s question (1:6)? Think about the sovereign God who is at work already.

  3. How did Habakkuk express his confidence in God (1:12)? What was his second question of complaint to God (1:13)? What attitude did Habakkuk take to wait for the answer of God (2:1; Psalm 73:16-17)? How much have you waited on God?

  4. What was God’s answer to Habakkuk’s second question (2:2-3)? What does the phrase ‘the righteous person will live by his faithfulness’ mean (2:4)? Do you believe in the faithfulness of God in your life?

  5. How did Habakkuk’s complaints change after receiving God’s answers (3:2a)? What did he expect from God by faith (3:2b)[Footnote 2]? What do you think is the true meaning of ‘revival’? How can a revival come to our faith community?

    [Footnote 1] The oracle of Habakkuk anticipates the rise of the Babylonians that began around 625 BC. The Babylonians captured Jerusalem and took Jehoiachin, a king of Judah, as a hostage in 597 BC (2Ki 24:10-14). (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible) 

    [Footnote 2] The NRSV version translates 3:2, “O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.”



Key Verse 3:2, “O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.” (NRSV)

I have a question to all of us: Are you expecting and waiting for a spiritual revival in our church and our nation? It will be amazing to see a massive conversion of unbelievers and renewal of our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. But a great revival always starts from one person who repents of his or her sins sincerely, renews his or her faith in Jesus, and prays fervently waiting for the glorious presence of the Triune God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Historically, spiritual revivals took place when people were suffering from social turbulence, economic crisis, dehumanization, and spiritual dryness.

The year 1857 is recorded as “the Panic of 1857” due to the first financial crisis of the United States caused by greedy speculation, excessive railroad development and a wild-cat currency system. The unexpected financial collapse spread rapidly throughout the whole country. Hundreds of banks failed, specie payments were suspended, railroads went into bankruptcy, and thousands of merchants and businesses were forced to close their doors. Multitudes lost their jobs and masses of people flooded the streets with banners demanding bread.  In that dark time, a lay missionary, Jeremiah Lanphier, was greatly burdened for lost souls and began a weekly lunchtime prayer meeting at the lecture room of the old North Dutch Church on the corner of Fulton Street on September 23, 1857.[1] On the first day, after thirty minutes of praying alone he was joined by five people. The following week, twenty arrived and on the third week there were forty and then a hundred. He decided to begin daily lunchtime prayer meetings instead of weekly, and lot of people started to attend the prayer meetings. By January 1858, there were 50,000 people in New York alone, who were praying at noon in one hundred prayer meetings across the city. This noon prayer meeting spread to other cities. A merchant from Albany, New York came to New York City to buy his goods. As he was selecting his items, he requested of the wholesaler to work through the noon hour, thus enabling him to return home by the usual boat. But the wholesaler politely replied, “I cannot help that. I have something to attend to which is of more importance than selling goods. I must attend the noonday prayer meeting. It will close at one o’clock and I will fill out your order then.” The visiting merchant was so impressed by the wholesaler’s life of prayer and returning to his home immediately started a noonday prayer meeting in the city of Albany. In Chicago, D. L. Moody was greatly affected by the Fulton Street Prayer Meeting Revival. A great preacher and revivalist Charles Finney stated that the winter of 1857-58 would be remembered as a time when a great revival prevailed. This revival also launched a great American missionary movement, with missionaries going to India, China, and Korea. Horace Underwood went to Korea in 1885 and was a key leader in the Pyongyang Great Revival of 1907-10. In this aspect, our UBF ministry is a fruit of the Fulton Street Revival. It is important to realize that this great revival was ignited by a man of prayer, a lay missionary Jeremiah Lanphier. God uses a man of prayer to revive His people and save the world from the darkness.

Today we will meet another man of prayer who longed for the revival of God in a dark time of his nation, whose name is Habakkuk. The book of Habakkuk consists of the interactive dialogues between God and Habakkuk through two questions and two answers. The last chapter is the praise song and prayer of Habakkuk for the redemptive work of God in human history.  The prophet Habakkuk was living in Jerusalem in the late seventh century B.C. when the Babylonian empire was prevailing over the Assyrian empire and taking power in the ancient Near East which is the modern Middle East. His nation Judah had just experienced a spiritual reform under King Josiah who had found the book of the law and renewed the covenant with God (2 Ki 22-23). However, Josiah was killed in a battle against Egypt. His son Jehoiakim became king, but he did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Under the reign of this evil king, people in Judah were suffering from a high rate of crime. Physical violence was rampant; strife and contention abounded; the law was paralyzed; and justice never prevailed. The wicked surrounded the righteous, and justice was perverted. (1:3-4)

In the middle of all this, Habakkuk asks serious questions to God: “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” Habakkuk believed in God and called for his help; however, God seemed not to listen to his prayers. He cried out to God, ‘Violence!’ but God seemed unconcerned. Then, he complained to God saying, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” Haven’t we all had this kind of experience with God? We prayed, but God seemed not to listen to our prayers. We cried out to him, but God did not save us. Perhaps, we lost our faith in God and complained to Him. All of us may have unresolved ‘why’ questions with God.

   I was a missionary in Venezuela for 17 years from 1996 to 2013. While I was there, more than 60 people were killed by gun violence every weekend in Caracas. Most of the population suffered from extreme poverty. Corruption abounded everywhere in the government. Just 10% of the population possessed 90% of the nation’s wealth. I cried out to God, “Violence! Poverty! Corruption! Injustice!” But the situation of the country didn’t change. On the contrary, it became worse. One day, I fell victim to an abduction, and my family had to leave the country. In America, I continued to pray for the restoration of Venezuela. But, its economy collapsed, and nearly six million people became refugees wandering to other countries including the US.[2] So, I cry out to God as Habakkuk did: “How long, Lord, must I call for help? Why do you make me look at injustice?”

On December 12, 2019, some patients in Wuhan, China began to experience shortness of breath and fever, as the first known human cases of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 31, 2020, and a global pandemic on March 11. Around 380 million people got infected and about 5.7 million people have died from Covid including over 886,000 Americans.[3] 20.5 million American jobs were lost in April 2020 and unemployment soared to 14.8%, the highest rate since collecting data from 1948.[4] The pandemic has changed our life drastically and triggered a wave of mental health issues, like addiction, depression, social isolation, stress, anxiety, loneliness, and more. How about our churches? One in three practicing Christians dropped out of church completely at the beginning of Covid-19.[5] Moreover, church membership in the US dropped from 70% in 1999 to 47% in 2020.[6] Some church members don’t want to return to in person worship service either due to sickness or just not being comfortable coming back. One in five churches are facing permanent closure due to Covid-19 shutdown.[7]Many cross-cultural missionaries had to return home. Some missionaries visiting home got stuck in their countries. Especially, short term mission work declined remarkably. Many of us have desired and prayed for spiritual revival in our nation. Many of us have been praying for America to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But God seems not to hear our prayers. God seems not to be concerned about spiritual revival. Thus, we complain to God, “Lord, many people are dying and suffering. Are you not concerned about this world and this nation? Are you not listening to our prayers? How long, Lord, must we wait for spiritual revival in this country?”

When Habakkuk was full of complaints in the middle of his desperate circumstances, God had mercy on him and revived his spirit by responding to his prayers. God told him, “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (1:5). God ordered Habakkuk to look at the nations and watch the work that God was going to do in his days. God would raise up the Babylonians to judge the injustice of Judah (1:6). God was not indifferent to his people. God did not close his ears to Habakkuk’s prayers. God had not abandoned his salvation plan. Rather, God was already at work to carry out his redemptive history. Some secular Christians don’t believe that God is at work now. They believe in the existence of God from their rational, scientific thought, but they don’t believe that God intervenes directly in the world. For that reason, their God is abstract and theoretical. They ignore and reject the intervention of God in their lives. They cannot experience God due to their erroneous belief. But Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (Jn 5:17). It is very clear that our God is the sovereign God who has control over everything that happens in the world and in our lives. Therefore, we must change our human perspective into God’s perspective by looking at God who is working among us. Instead of complaining to God or others, we must believe in God who will meet us, touch us, heal us, and revive us with his great love and power.

Habakkuk believed that God appointed the Babylonians to execute judgment (12). Consequently, another question came to his mind: “Why do you tolerate the treacherous?” “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (13) He could not understand why God would use the Babylonians who were wicked to swallow up the Jews who were more righteous than the Babylonians. It was another complaint that Habakkuk made to God. However, his attitude was changed. He expressed his confidence in God saying, “Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, my Rock, have ordained them to punish” (12). Habakkuk held on to his everlasting God, his Holy One, his Rock and decided to wait on God’s answer through prayer. “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (2:1). Habakkuk, after honestly communicating his concerns and questions, stepped away from the turbulence of the city and of his own heart. He went to the ramparts where he could stay alone to hear God’s quiet voice. He was ready to listen to what God would say to him and obey it. He poured out his heart to God waiting on God’s response through prayer. A psalmist testified, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (Psalm 73:16-17). The sanctuary of God represents the presence of God. When the psalmist approached God in a deep, personal relationship with Him, the presence of God overwhelmed him, and he could understand God’s plan. It is extremely important for us to approach our God closely with all our problems and listen to God’s voice quietly and patiently. Our God will be pleased with our prayers and respond to us with his sweet voice. Then, our spirit will be recovered, and our heart will be filled with joy from God. Eventually, we will experience spiritual revival in our hearts through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

God was pleased with the prayer of Habakkuk, in spite of his complaints. God spoke to him and revealed to him what he would do. It was an interactive dialogue between God and Habakkuk. What was the answer God gave to Habakkuk’s second question? God ordered him to write down his revelation plainly and wait for its fulfilment with patience. God’s revelation was that the arrogant Babylonians would not survive but be judged at the end. Though it would linger, it would certainly come and would not delay. God would fulfill his words of promise and plan of salvation.  Therefore, “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (2:4). It means that the righteous will live by being faithful to the promise of God. We must trust in God’s promise and wait for its fulfilment with patience. We can be faithful only when we believe in the faithfulness of God. When Habakkuk experienced the presence of God and believed his word, his heart was revived and filled with heavenly joy.  He could see a vision of God that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (2:14). When we believe in God’s faithfulness and experience the glory of God, our spirit can be restored and revived. Do you believe that our God is doing his salvation work faithfully? Do you believe that our God will fulfill his plan with us? Do you believe that our God will bring us a spiritual revival when we pray and repent of our sins through the work of the Holy Spirit? Then, do not complain to God or others, but pray to meet God personally so that a spiritual revival starts from you.

When Habakkuk was revived in his spirit, he prayed for the revival on his nation.  “O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy” (3:2, NRSV). Habakkuk remembered the work of God that saved his people and made the glory of God known. He stood in awe of the powerful work of God. He wanted to see this great work of God in the past revived in his own time. He wanted the glory of God to be known to his people. But it would not be possible without the mercy of God. Thus, he prayed fervently, “In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.”

 What is revival? Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the most gifted preachers of the twentieth century, defines revival as experiencing the glory of God by way of a visitation or an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that manifests the power and authority of God through the preaching of the biblical message.[8] He points out that a revival is not a human agenda, but the work of the Holy Spirit that comes down upon a number of people, upon a whole church, upon a number of churches, cities and a whole country. It is the Holy Spirit who starts and guides a spiritual revival by testifying that Jesus is the Savior with the manifestation of the power and glory of God. When we meet God and experience God’s presence through prayers and God’s word, we can be filled with praise, adoration, worship, joy, thanksgiving, and freedom. We can be empowered by the Holy Spirit and overcome our unbelief, spiritual inertia, and defeatism to serve God powerfully and faithfully. We can see God’s great vision, accept it, and put it into practice, preaching the gospel and raising disciples of Jesus of all nations.  But a great spiritual revival always starts from the repentance of one servant of God like Habakkuk.

The first Korean revival broke out in Wonsan in 1903. Dr. Robert Hardie, a Canadian medical missionary, was asked to prepare some addresses at a prayer meeting.[9] In the course of preparation, he was very moved by the word of God. During the prayer meeting, the Holy Spirit came upon him and commanded him to confess his sins. Thus, he confessed sincerely his inability to gain any fruits out of years of missionary activities. It was deeply painful and humiliating for him. However, the congregation witnessed that Dr. Hardie was full of the Holy Spirit. All those who were there also received the Holy Spirit. Dr. Hardie confessed on at least two occasions at different locations. At the Wonsan Methodist Church, he confessed while fighting back tears, “I had a strong racial prejudice against Korean people. I was not filled with the Holy Spirit.” His confession of sins motivated the confession of the congregation. Koreans who were there also repented and asked his forgiveness for hating him. They forgave and accepted each other. The Holy Spirit formed a genuine loving community between foreign missionaries and Korean believers. God used Dr. Robert Hardie’s prayer and repentance to ignite a great revival in Pyongyang, converting more than 30,000 people in 1907.

My family moved to Chicago from Los Angeles in August 2020 to join the Chicago UBF ministry in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was not an easy decision for us because I had not finished my Ph.D. dissertation in Practical Theology. My wife and I prayed about one month and accepted it as the guidance of God with desire to participate in God’s salvation work. However, when we came to Chicago, God’s work seemed to be stagnant due to the pandemic. The colleges switched to online classes and the campuses were closed. My desire to share the gospel of Jesus with college students seemed to be limited by social distancing. Besides, I could not meet Chicago UBF members in person. Our church members gathered online mostly. Hence, I complained to God saying that I had to come to Chicago after the pandemic. However, God was working even during the pandemic and opened my eyes to see his amazing work among us. Last year, our campus workers prayed and prepared diligently for the upcoming fall semester. When colleges opened, we went to campuses inviting students to Bible studies and preaching the gospel of Jesus. Amazingly, God sent many new students to our 1:1 and group Bible studies. More than 25 college students joined our in-person Sunday worship service. God worked powerfully during our student retreat where many students shared their sincere testimonies with repentance. It was an unexpected work of God that I experienced. After the retreat I got sick for two weeks. I could not do anything but pray to God.  Then, God spoke to me through Habakkuk 3:2, “O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy” (NRSV). Through this word, God changed my human perspective into God’s perspective. I realized that God was at work. Then, my spirit got broken before the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I cried with repentance for my unbelief and complaints. I confessed that I stood in awe of the great work of God. And I prayed to God sincerely saying, “In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.” I believe in our God who is working in our church, in our children, in our high school students, in our families, in our workers, and in all of us. I believe in our God who will raise 120 disciples of Jesus among college students and our children to be spiritual leaders for America and missionaries to the world. I believe in God who will work powerfully with His word during our upcoming Easter Conference. I believe in God who will bring his revival when we pray sincerely asking God’s mercy on us. Let’s look at our God who is working for a spiritual revival among us. Let’s participate in his great work faithfully through prayer and obedience. Amen.

[1] Mathew Backholer, Revival Fire: 150 Years of Revivals, pp. 5-10.

[2] https://disasterphilanthropy.org/disaster/venezuelan-refugee-crisis/

[3] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[4] https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R46554.pdf

[5] https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part-2/

[6] https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx

[7] https://www.christianpost.com/news/1-in-5-churches-face-closure-within-18-months-due-to-covid-19-shutdowns-barna-president.html

[8] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Crossway, 1987).

[9] https://www.byfaith.co.uk/paul20102.htm