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Habakkuk's Prosperity Prayer (Hab.3:17-19)

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Question:  This question has stumped me, because I am not familiar with Hebrew view of wealth. Habakkuk's prayer (Hab. 3:17-19): how does this compare to the Hebrew theology of material prosperity?

Response: Habakkuk's prophetical method is similar to what one finds in all Hebrew prophecy, particularly in his use of future events (the end-times eschatology) to emphasize and interpret current events (or near future events). This subject (i.e., the hermeneutics of Old Testament prophecy) is taken up in detail in Part 1 of the Coming Tribulation series, where it is pointed out that Habakkuk (written ca. late seventh century B.C.) anticipates the coming Babylonian invasion of Judah (cf. Hab.1:6), and uses the ultimate invasion of Israel by antichrist as a paradigm of comparison (cf. especially Hab.2:3). Both events were/will be devastating in the extreme, and both did/will test the faith of the faithful in the extreme, separating the wheat from the chaff (cf. Hab.2:4).

In the dark days of that former Babylonian destruction and deportation, as in the dark days of the Tribulation to come, those who truly follow God will resemble Job more than Solomon. Indeed, I find the view of material prosperity given in the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments both, to be seamlessly identical. It is, namely, that all good things come from God, and that God is the greatest "good thing" (Ps.16:2). If we have Him (through His Son), then we truly have everything. Material prosperity as such is indeed a blessing from God that fell to the lot of many famous Old Testament believers, such as Abraham, David, and Job. But these three (and almost anyone you can name) did not live lives free from tremendous testing and occasionally severe privation. How much more will this second part not be true for the generation which must live through the greatest time of testing ever to befall the earth! God's words to Baruch in Jeremiah 45:4-5 in the context of this same Babylonian invasion which Habakkuk is predicting are particularly apropos for us on the cusp of the end times: "I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself?" (cf. Job 2:10). If testing, to include material privation, is a common element in the Christian life (and it is: 1Pet.4:12-19), how much more will that not be true for us, when those dark days of Tribulation occur?

As Christians, we should understood completely that Jesus is the pearl whose value is beyond estimation, the One we prize above any material gain. We came into this world with nothing and will leave it in exactly the same way (Job 1:21). Whatever we have here in terms of material prosperity, even as blessings from God, are merely means to an end, resources with which we may serve Him (Rom.12:1). For all material things are destined to return to dust (as are these present bodies we inhabit), and it is only the treasures we have stored up in heaven, our work on behalf of the Son done through whatever material means we possess, which will last (Matt.6:19-24; 1Cor.3:10-15). On the other hand, inordinate desire for wealth, the love of money, and the lust for more (greed) are some of the most spiritually disastrous motives that a person can give in to (cf. 1Tim.6:3-10; Jas.5:1-6).

This principle of God the greatest and really the only "good thing" was true and understood as such by all the great Old Testament believers and writers as well as those of the New Testament (cf. Ps.16:2; 73:25). So while it is a true principle in both Testaments that God blesses those who follow Him (cf. Ps.91:14-16), it is equally true before and after the cross that we are not to place undue focus upon whatever material blessings we may receive. For these are temporary, and even in the case of believers who continue to live lives acceptable to Him, these are not ultimately secure because this present world is passing away (cf. 1Cor.7:29-30). All of us are tested, and that testing may come in the form of material deprivation (so that we all, with Paul, need to learn how to be "content" whatever turn our material fortunes take: Phil.4:10-13). This is especially true for us, the believers of the final portion of the era of Laodicea, "upon whom the end of the ages has come" (See part 2A of the Coming Tribulation: "The Seven Churches"). For just as the believers of Habakkuk's day were soon to face the most severe sort of suffering and the loss of almost everything they had in terms of material blessing, so the Tribulation is destined to make life incredibly bitter from all points of view except one: the point of view of spiritual blessing and joy in the Lord, the only thing capable of transcending the scale of loss about to be suffered then, in Habakkuk's day, and likewise now both in our own present time and in that near future time of testing.

To return to the specifics of Habakkuk's text, the joy Habakkuk expresses in spite of the severe calamity he foresees in 3:17-19 is based not upon any pleasurable anticipation of these losses (they will be difficult as he well knows).  Rather, his joy is based upon a complete confidence in the Lord's divine retribution upon those who will inflict these losses (cf. 3:2-16), and upon the Lord's ultimate restoration of all that was lost (and more: for this principle of restoration, see part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion: Judgment, Restoration and Replacement). This has to be our point of view as well. Whatever God has for us, we have to trust that it is for the good (Rom.8:28), even if it does not seem so at the time. Just as Habakkuk was blessed to give his contemporaries a warning along these lines to help prepare them against spiritual feinting in the face of such terrible events, so we need to take every advantage of the warnings of scripture vis-a-vis the whirlwind bearing down on our own times, and separate in our thinking, no matter how difficult it might be, our material condition from our spiritual one, trusting God who gave the former that it is the latter which truly counts.

So don't worry, saying "What shall we [have to] eat?" or "What shall we [have to] drink?" or "What shall we [have to] wear?" After all, these are the things that the gentiles (i.e., the unsaved) are frantically pursuing. Now your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Therefore seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you in addition. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself: there is [already] sufficient evil in any given day [without you adding to it ahead of time].
Matthew 6:31-34

There is much to say on this subject. See in particular the discussion on "Greed" in part 4 of the Satanic Rebellion series, "Satan's World System".  And please see also the following links:

Are health and wealth a part of the gospel?

The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel.

The "Prosperity Gospel".

Does God really want us to be sick and poor?  Revisiting the prosperity gospel.

Hope this helps with your question.

In Him who is our true portion, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Bob Luginbill


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