Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says you have amazing things to sing about.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Your testimony of God’s faithfulness in your life needs to be shared with others. In that sense, you’re setting it to music so that others can hear the song and sing it and can be blessed by it.

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me,” David said, “and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord, and He heard answered me and He delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:3-4).

David said, “I’ve been there. I’ve been desperate. I’ve been in the depths of despair, but God delivered me. He rescued me. He has shown me Himself. I’m rejoicing in the Lord, and now I want you to exalt Him with me.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 2.

For the last several weeks, Nancy has led us through a fascinating study of Habakkuk. If you missed any, you can order Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith at our website.

Tomorrow we’ll hear from some listeners on practical ways to apply the message of this book. But today we find out why this prophet broke out into song.

Nancy: Well, this has been quite a journey we’ve had with Habakkuk.

I was doing a radio interview recently, and while I was studying this book and getting ready to teach it, the man who was interviewing me knew I’d been studying the book of Habakkuk for a long time. He said, “When we get to heaven, will you introduce me to Habakkuk? I think you’ll probably know him when you see him.”

Scripture tells us very little about this man, what kind of family he came from, where he lived, or any of that. But I think we’ve gotten to see a real glimpse of his heart as we’ve studied this book together over the last several weeks. We’ve been on a pilgrimage, a journey with Habakkuk.

We’ve seen him go from wrestling to watching to worshiping. We’ve seen the book go from a dialogue that Habakkuk had with God in chapter 1 to a funeral dirge in chapter 2 as He pronounced woes and judgment on the Babylonians.

But chapter 3 has turned into a doxology. He started in the low places of despondency in chapter 1. In chapter 2 he went to his watchpost, his watchtower, and said, “I will look out to see what God will say to me.”

In that place God propelled him upward to where we saw him the last session. He said, “God makes my feet like the deer’s feet; he makes me tread on my high places” (3:19).

Here is a man who is pressing on through adversity, through disappointment, through unanswered questions. It’s not like it’s all happily ever after—yet. He’s still facing the oncoming invasion of the Babylonians.

The Jews are still backslidden. They still need revival. Nothing has changed in his circumstances. Everything has changed in his perspective on his circumstances because he has received a fresh vision of who God is. And that’s what you need in your circumstances, in your trouble—a fresh vision of God.

Here’s a man who has grappled with God. He has wrestled with God. Habakkuk means “one who wrestles.”

But it also means “one who embraces.” He’s gone from wrestling with God, when he didn’t understand God’s plan and God’s purposes, to embracing God, clinging tightly to God by faith.

Faith! We said that was the crux of this book. “The righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4), faith in Christ who loves you and gave His life for you. So we’ve been challenged to live our lives by faith.

Now, as we come to this final phrase in the book of Habakkuk, let me just back up and read the last paragraph again so we get the context. Habakkuk realizes this destruction and devastation are coming. He’s trembling to think of what that day is going to be like and what the people are going to have to endure—what he’s going to have to endure.

But even in spite of that sense of trembling, he says in Habakkuk 3:17-18:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
  nor fruit be on the vines, 
the produce of the olive fail
  and the fields yield no food, 
the flock be cut off from the fold
  and there be no herd in the stalls, [if we lose everything] 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
  I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
  he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

We have here what one commentator called a “pinnacle of praise” in this book. He says it’s “the mountaintop destination of a journey that began in a valley of distress.”1

I want to remind you that this journey is not just for Habakkuk. It’s a journey God wants me to experience, and it’s a journey God wants you to experience. We may begin in the valley of distress, but in our hearts God can take us upward and onward to higher ground, living by faith in the midst of this fallen, broken, desperate world.

Then we have one final phrase in the book, and at first reading, you wonder why in the world this is there. Assuming God put it there for good reason, you say, “Then what does it really matter?”

I think most of us would be tempted to just skip over this phrase, but I think it’s a beautiful one and one worth giving a session to here.

The final phrase—after he’s sung this song, after he’s prayed this prayer; he’s read this psalm—he says, “To the choirmaster: with my stringed instruments” (3:19). "To the choir master, with my stringed instruments."

It’s as if Habakkuk, having been through this incredible journey from wrestling to embracing, having had his despair turned into a song of praise, having had fear turned to faith, he writes it down or he prays it, and then he turns around and hands the lyrics to the choir leader, the praise leader, the worship leader, and he says, “Here. Set this to music. And let it be accompanied, and let me be part of the accompaniment.”

“To the choirmaster: with my stringed instruments.” You see, it started out as a complaint in Habakkuk chapter 1: “Why, Lord? How long?”

If you were with us in the early part of the series, you remember he was just groaning. “It doesn’t make sense.” He’s grappling with things too big for any of us to understand.

What started out as a complaint ends up as a song. A song. By the way, it’s not the only time that happens in Scripture. There are many in the Psalms, but one that comes to mind is Psalm 13.

Listen to how that psalm begins, and then listen to how it ends. It begins much the same way the book of Habakkuk began.

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Then the Psalmist goes on to describe the circumstances he’s facing that are making him cry out in desperation. “Lord, how long will this go on?”

Then we come to verse 5 of Psalm 13: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love.” What’s the pivot point? It’s faith, isn’t it, that takes you from desperation and complaining and crying and whining to a hymn of praise?

It’s faith. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love.” This sounds a lot like Habakkuk. “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” The Psalmist says that before he can see the outcome, before he could see the salvation of the Lord.

“My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation,” and then verse 6, “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Now, six verses earlier that man was saying, “How long, O Lord?” I can’t bear this. I can’t go on. His pity party, his whining, his complaining turned to a praise fest.

What made the difference? “I have trusted in Your steadfast love.” A choice. “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation,” and therefore “I will sing to the Lord.”

So Habakkuk, having been through that process . . .  it took him a little longer than six verses, but he’s walked through that journey. I’m glad we have Habakkuk in the Bible because it gives hope to people like me who take longer than six verses to get from complaining to praising.

I look at Habakkuk and I say, “It took him three whole chapters, and who knows how long that process was! But he got there. He got there.”

So he says, “Let’s put this to music.” I think there are a couple of reasons he wanted to put it to music.

First of all, he wanted to remember it himself. Don’t you find that when there’s a jingle or a rhyme or something that you . . . Even little kids learning the alphabet, learning it with a song, learning it with music helps us to remember it, doesn’t it?

I think he wanted to always be able to remember what he had learned, what he had seen, what God had shown him. “My strength is in the Lord. I will quietly wait for the day of the Lord to come, for God to fulfill His promises.”

He wanted to remember what he’s seen of the majesty and the power and the glory and the wonder and the plan and the purposes of God. So he said, “If it’s set to music, I might be able to remember it more easily.”

I think he wanted to remember it himself, but I think he wanted to reproduce it in others. He wanted others to be able to remember this message. He wanted others to be able to benefit from the journey he had been on. He wanted to make sure they didn’t forget.

The Children of Israel were in a very low place in their history at this point, and I think he wanted it written as a song for them to sing, Today, now some 2,600 years later, we are being blessed and challenged and encouraged in our faith because Habakkuk said, “Give this to the choirmaster, and have him write it down as a song.”

There’s incredible power in a life message, something that you have grappled with and come to experience in your own walk with God. I believe God wants us, when we see His ways, when we learn His truth, I believe first He wants us to sing the song, to live it ourselves; not just to tell others about it but to experience it ourselves.

So first it’s a song we need to sing. We can’t be telling others . . . I can’t be telling you on the radio 260 times a year to trust in the Lord and to rejoice in all circumstances if I’m not going to sing it myself.

He wants us to have our own life message, to make that song ours. And then, when He has put a song in our heart, He wants us to set it to music so others can sing it.

I’m not speaking literally here. You may not be a song writer. I’m certainly not. But your testimony of God’s faithfulness in your life needs to be shared with others. In that sense you’re setting it to music so that others can hear the song and sing it and can be blessed by it.

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me,” David said, “and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he heard answered me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:3-4).

David said, “I’ve been there. I’ve been desperate. I’ve been in the depths of despair, but God delivered me. He rescued me. He has shown me Himself. I’m rejoicing in the Lord, and now I want you to exalt Him with me.”

So we’re setting it to music, our life message, our testimony, so others can sing it. And I want to tell you, it’s not just for a few others, though your sphere of influence may be small. The ones who are hearing and singing your song may be just within the four walls of your own home or within your little church or your little Bible study group or your little set of friends.

But you know what? As you sing the song of God’s faithfulness and grace, and as others around you pick up the chorus and pick up the refrain and begin to sing, do you know what happens? It spreads.

And one day, here’s the goal: one day all the earth will stand in awe at the presence of the Lord and sing, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.” All the earth will sing. All the earth.

You say, “Well, I’m just singing my little part. No one around me is singing this song.” You go ahead and sing it anyway. Sing of God’s faithfulness. Again, I’m not speaking just literally, though that’s not a bad idea, either.

I’m saying to live the life message of faith in God’s faithfulness, and then watch how others around you will begin to pick it up. I think of one of the women who’s sitting in this room, and I know that several years ago she did not have a marriage that glorified God.

She was not living as a woman for the glory of God. She was living for her own happiness. She was living for her own pleasure. She was not being the kind of wife that her husband needed, and he wasn’t being the kind of husband she needed.

But God has, over a period of these last few years, put a song in that woman’s heart, a song of faith and obedience and submission to the Lord and living for His glory. You know what? Her husband has started singing that song.

Now as a couple and as a family, they’re singing it in their church, the faithful promise of God. They’re testifying to it, and God is using this woman to touch and reach and bless the lives of many other women with her story of God’s faithfulness. Others are picking up on it, and it goes on and on and on until the day when the whole world sings to the glory of God.

So when you’re troubled, sing. When you don’t know what to do, sing. I do this literally a lot of the time. I’m not a singer. If you’ve ever heard me sing, you know that; but I sing to the Lord.

There’s something powerful about singing, literally singing. Why does God tell us to do it so many times? Because it expresses faith. I began my day this morning by singing a song to the Lord from Psalm 18, out of my little Psalter I’ve been using, singing to the Lord of His strength and His greatness and His goodness.

But I don’t want to just sing literally. I want to live a life that is a song. “To the choirmaster, with my stringed instruments,” Habakkuk says. Set it to music and let it be sung so that others’ lives can be blessed, so that others will believe and reflect the glory of God.

Most of you have probably heard this story, but I think it’s one always worth repeating. Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer and businessman in the mid-1800s. He and his wife, Anna, were close friends and prominent supporters of the evangelist D. L. Moody.

In 1870 the Spaffords’ only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, all of the Spaffords’ sizeable real estate holdings on Chicago’s lake shore (if you’ve been there, you know that’s prime property) were destroyed by the great Chicago fire.

So they had suffered two huge losses; of course, one was far greater than the other, but losing a son at the age of four, and then losing all their real estate holdings.

In 1873, after all they’d been through, Horatio decided to take his family to England for a much needed rest. They were just worn out from the whole experience, and Moody was in Britain conducting evangelistic meetings at the time.

The family planned to go meet him there and help out in the ministry. The Spaffords traveled together to New York from Chicago where they were to board a ship to cross the Atlantic.

Just before they were to set sail, a last-minute business issue came up that Horatio had to attend to. Instead of having the whole family delay their trip, he decided to send his family on ahead, as had been planned, and he would follow later after he attended to his business.

So his wife, Anna, and their four daughters set sail while Horatio went back west to Chicago to take care of the problem. Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife, who was, by this time, in Wales.

The telegram read simply, “Saved alone.” En route from New York to Europe, the ship that his wife and children were on had collided with another ship, and within 12 minutes the ship that his wife and family were on had sunk, and 226 people had lost their lives.

Anna had stood on the deck with her daughters, Anna, Maggie, and Bessie, clinging desperately to her, and then she watched as they were swept away into the sea.

Her last memory was of her baby, a little girl named Tinetta, being torn from her arms by the surging waters. Anna, too, was cast into the sea and became unconscious, but she was saved because a plank floated underneath her body and supported her until she was rescued.

When he heard the horrible news, Horatio took the next ship from New York to join his wife in Europe. At one point, while they were still in the Atlantic, the captain called Horatio to the bridge and said, “I believe this is the spot where the ship that your family was on went down.”

Horatio went back to his cabin on that ship where he wrote the words to this hymn that we’ve all sung, and it’s brought comfort to how many millions of believers in the many years since then:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot,
[pleasure or pain, sun or rain, gain or loss, life or death],
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well; it is well with my soul."

Though Satan should buffet,
[and by the way, this is really just a variation on Habakkuk’s song],
Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Now remember, the man writing those words at that moment was in a ship over the place in the ocean where he had just lost his four daughters. What’s he thinking about? He’s exercising faith.

Faith. “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). He’s focusing on the redemptive work of God that makes every other suffering in life seem inconsequential by comparison, as huge as his loss was.

And then, with eyes of faith, joining with Habakkuk and Peter and Paul and James and Jesus and saints through all the centuries who have joined this song, he wrote for the choirmaster, to be set to music, the words of this last stanza:

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend.
Even so, it is well with my soul.2

Ladies, the day is coming when faith will be sight. I know it may seem like a long way off, but it’s really not. So what do you do until then? You do what Habakkuk did. You quietly wait, and you actively rejoice.

You live out your psalm, your prayer, your song. You give it to the choirmaster. You say, “Set it to music, so I can sing it, so my family can sing it, so others can sing it.” And then we join with those throngs in the heavenly crowd singing, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name”!

We live for that day when faith will be sight, prayer will be praise, every tear will be wiped away, and forever in the presence of the Lord we sing and sing and sing.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been inviting us to sing no matter how bleak things look at the moment. She’ll be right back to pray.

Well, we’ve been on quite an adventure with the prophet Habakkuk, looking at his intense questioning, his doubts, his surprise at God’s plan, and finally, his song.

At different seasons of your life, you’ll find yourself in various points in this progression. When you order the CD or mp3 series of Nancy’s teaching, you’ll be able to review Habakkuk’s experience and gain insight for your own life, whether you’re doubting, trembling, or singing.

To order the series Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith, call 800-569-5959. Or you can order a copy at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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A group of women have been listening to Nancy’s teaching on Habakkuk. They can relate to the doubts and questions that mark the beginning of the book. Tomorrow we’ll hear about their struggles and how Habakkuk has shaped them.

Now Nancy is back to pray.

Nancy: O Lord, You have put a new song in my heart, giving praise to our God. We believe that You are our salvation and our strength and our song.

So even through our tears, we choose this day to sing and to say, “It is well with my soul,” because You are still on Your throne. You are good. You are fulfilling all Your eternal purposes. Nothing and no one on this planet can thwart Your plan, and we rejoice by faith in that day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Until that day, help us to sing. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1Walvoord/Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Victor, 1985, 1507.

2"It is Well With My Soul." Horatio Spafford.

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