Psalms 117 “Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all people! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!
Habakkuk 3:1 “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.” Such a strange transition in the writings of Habakkuk. The prophet begins his book with a heavy burden that grows ever heavier with the fuller revelation of the purposes of God, but now, the prophet sings a song of worship! The response of God has been overwhelming. Habakkuk has staggered under the burden of revelation and has been stunned by the enlarging of vision. He has been given an insight into the overwhelming expanse of God’s awareness and God’s passion to impose righteousness into His creation without regard to the box of theology that Habakkuk or any other prophet or priest has attempted to define Him into. God is not ever fully definable by our finite understanding and just about the time we think we have Him boxed in; He explodes the definitions. And when the explosion happens in our understanding and in the reality of our lives, all we can do is worship.
Habakkuk 3:2, “…in wrath remember mercy”! When the full revelation of fallenness of mankind breaks upon us, we realize that there is none righteous. Whether Isaiah the prophet of God crying out in Isaiah 6:5 at the revelation of God’s glory, “Woe is me, for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips…” or Job who is called the most righteous man in his generation but in Job 42:5-6 “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” No one is deserving of His mercy and all of us are deserving of His judgment. And yet, He has revealed His mercy through Christ. As we see the depth of our wretchedness, all we can do is cry out for mercy for us and all others! Habakkuk’s cry for mercy is still a cry for revival, for salvation. “Revive Your Work!!” In the middle of all You are doing, Oh God don’t forget mercy!!! Habakkuk is declaring that he has heard and accepted the report that the Lord has given and he realizes that the report is overwhelming and has stirred up fear in the heart of the prophet, but don’t forget mercy. Habakkuk’s appeal is based on His covenant promises. Habakkuk 3:3 “God came from Teman and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah” This is the first of 3 pauses in Habakkuk’s prayer. “Selah” is an admonition to “stop and think about this”. Habakkuk is appealing to the mountain of God where the Law was given and the promise was made. Deuteronomy 33:2 “He (Moses) said, “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousand of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand.” Habakkuk is in essence surrendering to the plan of God even though it is not what he desired. He has surrendered his will and his wisdom to the One who knows all things and does all things well.
Habakkuk now begins with an exultation of the Lord, describing His awesome power in delivering Israel and in saving His people through the wilderness. He pauses again in verse 9 after reaching a pinnacle of praise. He then starts again describing the mighty effects of God’s power on the elements of creation as His presence descends. Then once again in verse 13, he takes another breath before finishing with his fullest expression of God’s delivering power when He brought His people out of bondage. After describing such power and remembering the jealousy of the Lord for His people a deep assurance has come into the prophet’s heart and he concludes in verse 16 by turning the declarations of God’s power to deliver Israel from Egypt into a declaration of Woe on the ultimate decision of the Lord to use the Chaldeans and then judge them for their cruelty to His people. Habakkuk 3:16 “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.” Habakkuk has seen the destruction of the invaders. It may take many years and he may not live to see the day, but Habakkuk is assured that the Lord’s glory will be seen by the ungodly and that glory will be seen upon the people of God!!! II Thessalonians 1:5-12 “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The judgment of God that is reserved for the day of His coming is described as the glory of God on His saints. We may seem like a people oppressed living in a foreign country, but there will be a day of redemption!
The final 3 verses of Habakkuk are a famous refrain of worship in churches today. The prophet has finally arrived at a place of fullest trust in God and a settled determination that regardless of this life’s circumstances he will worship with abandon, the worthy Lord! It reminds me of the response of the disciples in total confusion and the abandonment of the crowds as Jesus asks them, “Will you abandon me also?” (John 6:67) but Peter responds, “Where else could we go, you have the words of life and we fully believe that you are the Holy One” (John 6:68-69) Even in the toughest of times, all we have is Jesus. Hebrews 12:3-13 are words reflecting the heart of Habakkuk, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” The writer of Hebrews gives us wise insight in conclusion with the beginning words of “Therefore”, ‘lift your hands, stop trembling in fear and walk it out so that you can be healed!’ Are you holding in reserve some other means of salvation? “Where else could we go”. He is the beginning and the end. Habakkuk 3:17-19 “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 is cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 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. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” In Psalms 42 David wrestles with his soul. His soul wants to descend into self-pity, but David refuses and commands his soul to submit to the heart of trust and worship. “To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” The greatest battle we may fight and the hardest opposition we may face in our lives may well be our soul. Take heart, David defeated Goliath only to find that his soul was an enemy that caused his heart to tremble, but he prevailed and so can you!
In my next posting, I want to deal with a New Testament version of Habakkuk’s wrestling and so we’ll conclude our study of Habakkuk as we look at Matthew 24 verses 1-8.