Habakkuk was, like ourselves, called of God to labour for the good of the people among whom he dwelt. He was one of the later prophets who came to warn God’s ancient people before the Lord meted out their last terrible measure of chastisement. He saw, in vision, his country given up to the Chaldeans, and he pleaded with God about the matter. He had a burden on his heart which pressed very heavily upon him; he saw the nation crushed beneath the oppressors, and he asked, “Why is this?”
The Lord replied, “Because of the iniquity of the people.” Habakkuk understood that, but then it occurred to him that the Chaldeans, who were treading down the people, were themselves far greater sinners, — that, certainly, in the matter of oppression and bloodthirstiness, they were a far more guilty people than those whom they came to punish. So he used this fact partly as an argument with God that He would withdraw the Chaldeans and overthrow them, and partly he set it before the Lord as a difficulty which troubled his mind. Habakkuk was puzzled, as David had been before him, and as many a child of God has been since. He felt as if he could not do his work rightly; so, in his perplexity, he came to consult God concerning it.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE LORD’S SERVANT
Habakkuk is a model to us in this respect. Troubled in heart, he resolves to set himself to watch his God, and to listen for the message He is afterwards to deliver. We learn from him that the attitude of the Lord’s servant towards God is, first, an attentive attitude: “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me.” If we will not hear what God speaks, we may not expect to be able ourselves to speak in His name. There is, in the Word of God, a voice which is often inaudible because we are so engrossed with other things. Some men seem as if God must speak thunder and lightning before they will ever hear Him; but His true children sit at His feet, that they may catch the slightest movement of His lips, and not let a single syllable from the Lord fall to the ground. The attitude of the Christian worker must be one of attention.
Next, it must be a patient attitude. He took his position firmly and resolutely upon the tower, there to stand, and not to stir till he has seen and heard what God the Lord would have him see and hear. Do you think, dear friends, that we are sufficiently resolved to know our Master’s will? Do we frequently enough get upstairs alone, and with our open Bibles search out what God would have us learn? And do we pray over the Word till we have wormed ourselves into the very heart of the truth. Do we set ourselves upon the tower, determined that we will not go forth to speak for the Lord till the Lord has spoken to us, lest we go upon a fool’s errand, to deliver our own inventions, instead of proclaiming the message that comes from God himself?
To which I may add that it is often a solitary attitude. Well, sometimes, I say, that watchman has to be quite solitary. O brothers and sisters, it would be better for us if we had more solitude! The higher you get up in the Church of God, the more solitary you will be. For the sheep, there are many companions; but even for an under-shepherd, there are but few. As for that Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls, the Good Shepherd, you know that His most favoured apostles could not watch with Him even one hour, but He had to endure His terrible agony in Gethsemane alone; and such of His servants as He honours most will know best what is the meaning of Gethsemane, the olive-press, and the solitude which often accompanies the stern watch that the faithful servant of God must keep. The man who has God for his companion has the best of company. Expect, therefore, if you are a servant of the Lord, sometimes to have to watch alone, and be thankful for that position if God honours you by calling you to occupy it.
Many of you have your secular callings to follow; but, without neglecting them, you can still, in spirit, be watching and waiting to hear the voice of God; for God speaks to us not only when we are in the study, or kneeling in prayer by our bedside, but He has ways of talking with us while we are going along the road, and so He makes our hearts to burn within us. He can speak with us in the thick of the greatest throng; and, perhaps, some of us were never more conscious of the voice of God than in the midst of the crowded street. At such times, the noise and turmoil of this busy world have not been able to drown the gentle voice of God within our spirit. May you, beloved, be thus engrossed! If you intend to serve the Lord, give your whole soul to the learning of His truth and the hearing of what He has to say to you, that you may afterwards be able to tell out to others what you have yourselves been taught of God.
Observe, also, that the prophet was entirely submissive to the will of God. He put himself into this attitude, that he might hear whatever God should say to him, and that his only thought, all the while, should be, “What shall I answer when I am reproved?” Our mind is often far too much occupied, and too prejudiced, to receive a clear impression of the will of the Lord. How many make up their mind as to what they will see in a text, and so they never learn what the passage would teach them if it were allowed to speak freely to them.
The last remark I will make upon this first head is, that the attitude of the Lord’s servant was eminently practical. The prophet did not watch and wait merely that he might know the secrets of the future, or be able to prophesy, or show his wonderful knowledge. No; but he wanted to know what he should answer when he was reproved. He knew that, when he went out into the world, men would begin to reprove him for being a prophet at all; they would rebuke him for his zeal and his earnestness, and he waited that he might have the right answer to give, with meekness and fear, to all who opposed themselves. That should be your wish and mine, beloved; for, if we serve God faithfully, we are sure to meet with objectors.
Well, if this opposition is only against us, it does not matter much; but, alas! sometimes their critical and cruel remarks are against the Truth itself; and, worst of all, against our blessed Lord. In such a case, it is well to have something with which we can stop the mouths of the snarling dogs. It is a blessing to have heard God’s voice, for, if you repeat the message He speaks to you, even the echo of God’s voice will break the rocks in pieces and cause the cedars of Lebanon to split in twain.
There is nothing that can stand against the Word of the Lord. In the twenty-ninth Psalm, David says, “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty;” and, if we have heard that voice, and know how, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to echo its mighty tones, they will strike the objector dumb; and even when he hates the truth, he will still be compelled to feel what force there is in it. So the servant of the Lord says, “I will watch and wait to hear what God will say unto me, for then I shall know what to answer when I am rebuked and reproached for the Truth’s sake.”
Excerpted from the sermon titled “Watching to see” (Habakkuk 2:1-4) by CH Spurgeon dated 26 January 1882. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/watching-to-see/#flipbook/