Perhaps it’s blindingly obvious: the books of the Bible were written by writers. Storytellers, poets, songwriters, historians, correspondents, legal scholars and apocalyptic dreamers. The Holy Spirit breathed upon each one, opened their hearts and ears and eyes to the spiritual realities around them. But they were still writers. They struggled to capture the inspired moment of clarity and present a finished work capable of blessing generations to come.
Peter described it this way: “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1: 10-11)
The writers searched intently, but the Spirit did not leave them alone. It was an inspired collaboration. The prophet Habakkuk--that discontent, whining, and wondering man who inspired the Apostle Paul--recorded the process of capturing God’s flash of inspiration. It’s a lesson to us today as well:
"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.
Then the Lord replied:
Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." (Habakkuk 2: 1-3)
Here are four observations capable of making us partners with the Spirit’s inspiration:
“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts . . .” We ourselves create the space to receive revelation. Habakuk purposefully took up the position of watchman, alone and vigilant, eager and confident that the Lord would speak to him. He was not disappointed; he had prepared himself for when the moment came.
“Make it plain . . . “ God favors clarity. Beauty and art flow from inspiration--and the clear expression of what he illuminates. There is a time to scatter rose petals among our words, but first comes content. Our words should carry a meaning so clear that even people in a hurry can get the idea.
“The revelation awaits an appointed time . . .” Strangely, the appointed time is seldom in the heat of battle. When social debate rages back and forth in public media we are exposed to the heat of passion, but there’s not much light. The prophets spoke to their day, but the prophetic message carried eternal weight. Neither human emotion nor intellect equal divine revelation--it comes only from God, and it comes only in his timing.
“Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come . . .” That's right: wait for it. Habakkuk stationed himself. He also waited. In the rush to say something important we often miss the opportunity to hear something eternal. Waiting is the discipline of writers who speak to generations. You can speak to the moment or you can speak to the ages--you can rarely do both.
I believe in the inspiration of the scripture, but I don’t believe the Holy Spirit used us as robots, forcing us to mindlessly scribble words we didn’t understand. We have a role to play, a role that compliments the word of the Spirit. Habakkuk shows us how it’s done.