Habakkuk responds to what he has learned with a song of praise and fear. In his prayer we see the answers to our 2 theme questions.
- How long will God let evil go unpunished?
- Why should we keep believing if we’re not exempt from the tragedies of life?
Habakkuk was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah, probably during the reign of the evil King Jehoaikim. The nation was spiraling downward into evil and rebellion. The king was oppressing his people and the nation was a vassal state of the Babylonians. Habakkuk’s world is in tremendous geo-political turmoil. Life seems to be going from bad to worse.
Into that setting Habakkuk seeks the Lord, asking how long will this go on? When will You rescue Your people?
The Lord answers that He is sending the wicked Chaldeans to discipline His people. Habakkuk then asks, how God could use a people more wicked than His own as instruments of discipline and judgment. In Habakkuk 2, the Lord responds the judgment is surely coming; God will act to judge the wicked and bring salvation to His people.
1A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
2LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy. – Habakkuk 3:1-2
- It’s unclear what the term “Shigionoth” means. Most think it explained the musical accompaniment to this psalm.
- Habakkuk has good reason to fear. While he could mean fear in the sense of reverence, given his close in 3:16, I think it’s likely he means fear in the sense of dread or anxiety.
- He prays that the years of adversity between this vision and the coming judgment that God will make His work known among His people.
- While God’s wrath is well-deserved, Habakkuk asks God to mercifully limit its duration.
3God comes from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, And the earth is full of His praise.
4His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power.
5Before Him goes pestilence, And plague comes after Him.
6He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, The ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting.
7I saw the tents of Cushan under distress, The tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling. – Habakkuk 3:3-7
- The English Standard Version (ESV) puts all these verbs in the past tense. The New American Standard Version (NASB) has all these verbs in the future tense. In Hebrew, some of these verbs are in the past and some in the future.
- Sometimes in Hebrew future predictions are in the past tense (“prophetic perfect”) because if God said it it’s as good as done. Even thought the event is in the future, it is guaranteed to happen and can be described in the past tense.
- Teman is a district of Edom which is in the north west. Mount Paran is in the South east near Mount Sinai. The picture is everywhere (east to west).
- The Lord’s radiance is so great that like the sun he appears to have rays of light beaming from His hands, even as He restrains His power. This is a poetic metaphor.
- Pestilence and plague indicate that He is coming in judgment.
- When a king conquered a nation, it was customary for him to measure it out and then divide it among his people. God the victorious king is measuring His kingdom.
- When God’s “foot” touches the earth, it shakes the nations, mountains are cleft in half and hills crumble, as if bowing before Him.
- We think mountains and hills are everlasting, but in contrast, God’s ways are everlasting. Mountains fall before Him.
- The people shelter themselves under tents and curtains in a futile attempt to shield themselves from the glory of the Lord. But their very tents and curtains tremble before Him.
8Did the LORD rage against the rivers, Or was Your anger against the rivers, Or was Your wrath against the sea, That You rode on Your horses, On Your chariots of salvation?
9Your bow was made bare, The rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah. You cleaved the earth with rivers.
10The mountains saw You and quaked; The downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, It lifted high its hands.
11Sun and moon stood in their places; They went away at the light of Your arrows, At the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
12In indignation You marched through the earth; In anger You trampled the nations. – Habakkuk 3:8-12
- The language here is probably an allusion to the parting of the Red Sea to deliver the children of Israel from the chariots of the Egyptians.
- Was God angry with the rivers when he turned the Nile to blood? Was he angry with the Sea when he parted it to let his people escape the Egyptians? No, God had a purpose for those actions.
- God is coming in judgment in chariots of salvation. His purpose is to save His people.
- When the bow was covered and put away, God’s judgment was delayed. But the delay is over. His patience is at an end.
- No matter how unlikely the event (such as parting the Red Sea) or how terrifying (as in letting the Babylonians conquer is people) or how unexpected (as the Messiah dying on a cross and being resurrected), all these things work together to bring about the salvation and deliverance of God’s people.
13You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil To lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.
14You pierced with his own spears The head of his throngs. They stormed in to scatter us; Their exultation was like those Who devour the oppressed in secret.
15You trampled on the sea with Your horses, On the surge of many waters. – Habakkuk 3:13-15
- God’s purpose is not to quell the forces of nature, but to vindicate His people and judge those who oppress them.
- “Anointed” first referred to the Davidic king. It later came to refer to the Messiah, the one Davidic king who would rule forever. Here it is parallel with “your people” and in contrast to the “house of the evil”. It probably refers to God’s anointed or chosen people.
- The wicked came in like a whirlwind, expecting to devour their prey (God’s people) in a secret hiding place. But God will inflict on the wicked the very destruction the wicked intended to inflict on the children of God.
- In Hebrew poetry the sea is frequently a metaphor for evil or forces hostile to God.
16I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us.
17Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments. – Habakkuk 3:16-19
- Habakkuk considers the divine judgment coming in the form of the Chaldeans and trembles in fear. As one commentator said, “his belly melted.”
- The strongest part of his body (his bones) because rotten and brittle. He was paralyzed with fear.
- Yet even on the day when the Chaldeans invade, Habakkuk will trust in the Lord.
- Though he loses all outwards means of support (food, drink, livestock, produce), he will trust in the Lord.
- We rejoice with gratitude when God showers us with the blessings of this life. But when He withholds blessings, the faithful still rejoice — because we understand that God is coming in judgment and salvation. He is our only hope.
- God is at liberty to do what he wants to do in the way he wants to do in the time he wants to do it.
- God will bring justice.
- The righteous shall live by faith.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast