In this little book that scholars have classified as a poem in the original
language, Habakkuk is quite a complainer. Can you relate to that as readily
a I can, beloved? He complains both to God and about God. He starts by asking
God why He wasn't doing more to judge the sins of the nation Israel, God's
people of that day. Habakkuk qualifies as an Old Testament prophet, and
so God speaks back to him and answers his questions directly.
Later on it is revealed to Habakkuk that God was by no means asleep at the wheel, or whatever Habakkuk must have been imagining about Him. The Babylonians were being prepared by God and were shortly coming against Judah in the south to utterly destroy the nation and take them away as captives. Israel had turned their blessing into a curse by worshipping the gods of their enemies. Now God would force them to go live with their enemies, and in judgment bring some rest purity to the promised land.
This does not fully settle matters for Habakkuk, however. He thinks it over and then complains to God about the use of the Babylonians as His instruments of judgment. Well, I think the honest among us will admit that we often, and really too often, think about God in the way Habakkuk was thinking, and either share or harbor complaints and doubts about the Lord. Have you ever felt that God was neglectful on some matter, or that things were sort of getting out of His control? That's the mood of the Book of Habakkuk early on. But by the the time we get to chapter 3, the focus of this study, that mood has changed. The Lord has responded to the prophet. And Habakkuk has heard God's answers. He leaves his complaining and starts to pray:
Verse 1- "A PRAYER of Habakkuk
the prophet upon Shigionoth."
There's some official mystery about this little book and this man. I'm not sure what Shigionoth was, a place or some kind of instrument they may have played? The point is, this is a poem and a prayer, not a biography or strict history lesson.
Verse 2- "O Lord, I have
heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst
of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy."
The prophet had been accusing God of indifference toward sin. Now that he knows the truth, Habakkuk asks God to remember mercy. We all need God's work of mercy in our lives today, too. Habakkuk figured that out long ago.
Verses 3-6- "God came from
Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Se'lah. His glory covered the
heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as
the light; he had horns coming out of his hands: and there was the hiding
of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth
at his feet. He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder
the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual
hills did bow: his ways are everlasting."
When we see God as asleep, it is really we who sleep. We are napping in our own weakness and doubt. God is slow to anger for man's benefit. He isn't weak, He's just doesn't work on Habakkuk's (or our) timetable. Habakkuk was seeing the Lord's raw power at this time:
Verse 7- "I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble."
The Lord's power extended beyond His people to ALL people. Likewise, it isn't just the Church today that has to deal with God. Every person is ultimately responsible and accountable to Him. Have you ever seen a child who thinks they are hiding by simply covering their eyes? If you are not a believer today, beloved, remember that our spiritual blindness does not hide us from "Him with Whom we have to do" (see Hebrews 4:13).
Verse 8-12- "Was the Lord
displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was
thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy
chariots of salvation? Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths
of the tribes, even thy word. Se'lah. Thou didst cleave the earth with
rivers. The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the
water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on
high. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of
thy arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. Thou
didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen
Nature, too, lies powerless before the Lord. And ultimately, so do all His enemies! This passage is replete with Israel's history, poetry, and song all mixed together. The prophet is a true artist who here speaks Truth, but not in an exact, literal way. Read it again with that in mind and you may be able to feel, as well as know, the Truth in it...Then he continues along that same line:
Verse 13-16- "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundest the head of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Se'lah. Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly. Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters. When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops."
A believer must believe that the purpose of God's power is to accomplish righteousness, ultimate justice, and peace. He works through ALL things for your good and eternal salvation. I'm not saying this will be easy for you to believe. Nor was it, I'm sure, for Habakkuk. Remember he has just been informed by the Lord that a terrible enemy is about to devastate his land and people. But unless you believe in God's Goodness, you can't really call yourself a believer, beloved. And with this in mind the poet and prophet reaches for what I think is the apex of his message:
Verse 17-18- "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
This is FAITH. This is VICTORY. Getting beyond complaining about this life, and beyond the sway of worry, and your enemies. The world can never supply us with this kind of faith, but can't take it away either. This is the faith of Christ, Who cried out in trust, even from Cross, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." Satan cannot penetrate such a shield, beloved. Yet he will do whatever it takes to keep you from obtaining or holding on to it.
Now Habakkuk's complaints have turned to HOPE:
Verse 18- "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hind's feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments."
Notice that the prophet wants to get this all set to music as soon as possible. How wonderful that is.
May you find hope in this coming year. The hope that Habakkuk got to experience. The hope that allowed Jesus to Love our souls so much. Once He said something like this to His disciples, "I know you are having troubles in the world, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." Let us overcome too, beloved. Let us believe and find hope in our Lord and through these things produce love in a troubled world.