Lesson 7 - Hab.3:1-6, 11-13, 16-19 - THE LORD GOD IS MY SALVATION
LAST WEEK: In Hab.1:1-6, 12-13; 2:1-4, we were introduced to the prophet Habakkuk when he cried out to the LORD GOD (YHWH) and asked why He had allowed such sin, corruption, and violence to continue in Judah without being punished . God answered and told him He was raising-up the violent and cruel Babylonian Empire to utterly crush the land of Judah (vv. 1-6). Then the prophet sought God again and asked why a holy and pure God would allow such a wicked people as the Babylonians to come and ravage God's people, who were not as sinful as them. God answered him in a vision and told him that while the Babylonians would be His instrument of judgment on Judah, He also would in the end destroy Babylon completely but allow the righteous people of God who live by faith-a faithful remnant in Judah-to survive and prosper. The three principles that we learned from the lesson were: (1) It's okay to question God-ask why-during times of despair and confusion as long as we approach Him with a reverence and respect that is consistent with His holiness and character. (2) Whenever we pray to God for anything, we must accept and trust God's timing. God will not act or answer until the appointed time, and while we're waiting, we need to step out with patience, hope, and faith. (3) As Christians who have been made righteous (justified) by the grace of God, we should live by faith. This means we are faithful even when times are hard; we are faithful even when God doesn't seem to be nearby; and we live in faith because we know that God loves us.
THIS WEEK: In Hab. 3:1-6, 11-13, 16-19, we'll hear Habakkuk deliver a prayer (or psalm or song) of praise. Having received the revelation that the LORD GOD (YHWH) would destroy Babylon, Habakkuk now understands that God was acting justly in using that wicked nation to discipline Judah. Babylon would not go free but be destroyed for its sins, while Judah's punishment would only be temporary. This insight led the prophet to write a prayer (or psalm/song) of praise that concludes the prophecy. In his prayer, Habakkuk asked for a new demonstration of God's wrath and mercy, such as God demonstrated so powerfully in the past when he led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Then the prophet closes with a confession of faith and trust in God.
Hab. 3:1 - INTRODUCTION: GOD'S PEOPLE SAVED
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
NOTE: I'm using the ESV translation for this lesson because it's closer to the original Hebrew.
v. 1: Habakkuk's prayer is hymnic (musical) in structure, and like many of the psalms, it apparently wasn't part of the book of prophecy at first but added-on later. The origin and meaning of the term "Shigionoth" isn't certain, but scholars believe it was musical notation indicating that this prayer was to be sung in the Temple with musical accompaniment. From all the well-known hymns that all of us are familiar with, we can attest from experience that it's easier memorize words and phrases that are set to music and sung, and that was the prophet's intention in this chapter.
Read Hab. 3:2-6 - IN THE MIDST OF THE YEARS REVIVE IT
2 O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD , do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. 3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. 5 Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. 6 He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways.
v. 2: "O LORD I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy." - The first word of this verse, "O," attaches a strong sense of emotion to the words that follow, so that we see the prophet begin his prayer with deeply felt reverence and respect-a model attitude for us today.
• The "report" acknowledges that that Habakkuk had received the LORD's revelation (2:1ff), which allowed him to see and finally understand YHWH's justice, sovereignty, and almighty power.
• The phrase, "O Lord, do I fear," shows what happens when a believer get himself or herself alone- face-to-face-in God's all-knowing and all-powerful presence: our "fear" of God translates to a mindset of deeply felt humility, awe, and amazement, which is the right response to a holy God.
• In the phrase "revive it," the prophet is pleading with God to revive the "work" that will put His people back into a right relationship with Him. This is true revival, when God comes down and uses His Spirit to empower His people to perform mighty works that glorify His Name.
• The phrase "make it known" reveals what, from a revival of faith, that God will make known to His people: His majesty, glory, and holiness as contrasted His people's shortcomings (that you and me) in terms of our sinfulness, our weakness, and our helplessness, showing our desperate need for God.
• Finally, the phrase, "in wrath remember mercy," points to the true reason Habakkuk's audience and us all need revival: While God hates and punishes sin, He still loves the sinner. So, when we humble ourselves before God and plead for His mercy, He will give better than we deserve. Amen?
v. 3: "God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise." - Here, the prophet paints a picture of the LORD GOD (YHWH) rising over His people like the rising sun, appearing over Teman (an Edomite city SE of Judah) and Mt. Paran (wilderness area of Sinai), which were both locations to the east towards which the children of Israel fled as left Egypt during the exodus. The term "Selah," is a musical pause seen all through the Psalms, which really means to stop, think about this for a minute-ponder it. This image of God appearing in the heavens like the sun after sunrise imparts a powerful expression of YHWH's sovereignty over all of creation and history. It also marks a transition from petition-revive it, make it known, and show mercy-to praise.
v. 4a: "His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand;" - Habakkuk describes God like the light blossoming out from a rising sun, with power seeming to flash from the fingertips of His hand as rays of light. The might of God's hand is a powerful metaphor throughout Scripture: "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out Your Hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me" (Ps. 138:7).
v. 4b: "and there he veiled his power" - The rising sun reveals only a tiny fragment of God's unlimited power; the rest of His power remains concealed, and we can't even comprehend the full extent of it, which in reality, has no limit.
v. 5: "Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels." - In the context of this verse, the word "pestilence" (Heb. deber [deh'-ber]) refers to any kind of force that leaves devastation in its wake and "plague" (Heb. maggephah [mag-gay-faw']) is a force that causes suffering and affliction, and both terms represent the consequence of God's wrath and divine judgment. Jewish listeners would readily associate this with the 10 plagues of Egypt (Ex. 7-10) and Israel's disobedience at Sinai (Num. 10-14) that resulted in the wilderness wanderings.
v. 6a: "He stood and measured the earth;" - Standing above like the sun at its zenith, the LORD (YHWH) surveyed the whole earth; absolutely nothing can be hidden from His all-seeing power. This recalls how God measured-out the Promised Land and divided it by lot among the Twelve Tribes of Israel as their inheritance (Josh. 13 generally).
v. 6b: "he looked and shook the nations;" - His mere downward look, like rays of the sun, caused nations to tremble with fear. This would remind faithful Jews of how, against all odds, God drove the Canaanites out of the Promised Land in order to make room for the people of God (Ps. 78:55).
v. 6c: "then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways." - Mountains are typically seen as part of the foundations of the earth, permanent and immovable objects; yet, one glance from God could make the tallest Mountains fall to pieces and cause the hills surrounding them to collapse into a featureless plain. (cf. Isa. 40:4).
Read Hab. 3:11-13 - YOU MARCHED THROUGH THE EARTH IN FURY
11 The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. 12 You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. 13 You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah
v. 11: "The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear." - This alludes to Joshua's victory at Gibeon, when he asked the LORD GOD to cause the moon and the sun to stand still so that he and his army could continue the battle in daylight, and as the battle intensified, God, using weapons like "arrows" of light and glittering "spears," gave the Israelites an upper hand by calling up a powerful storm that bombarded the Canaanites with thundering rain and hailstones. (Josh. 10:12-13.) The whole premise of this verse paints a picture of YHWH as a mighty warrior with all the power needed to assure His people victory on a real battlefield.
v. 12: "You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger." - This analogy pictures the LORD GOD like a cosmic giant threshing machine who can march through the earth and trample any hostile nation as easily as an ox when it treads the grain. The idea of threshing the nations, like threshing wheat, speaks of how God fights for His own people, separating them from the wicked and ungodly nations like the wheat is separated from chaff. (see Amos 1:3 for comparison.)
v. 13: "You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah" - With this verse, the prophet raises some complex twists and turns: the phrase, "for the salvation of your anointed," along with the numerous contextual allusions to the Exodus, make this a likely reference to Moses and Israel as God's anointed (i.e., Covenant) people. It could even include King Cyrus of Persia who, after the defeat of Babylon, allowed a faithful remnant to return and rebuild Jerusalem. (See Ezra and Nehemiah generally) However, it ultimately foreshadows a future deliverance that anticipates the Messiah promised in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:11-16). God is the Savior of His people. He will save Judah from the Babylonians. He will send His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save all in the world who will believe and accept Him. (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:1.) Selah: Take a moment to ponder this verse and consider its far reaching consequences for all of human history.
Read Hab. 3:16-19 - YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD
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. 17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19a God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.
v. 16a: "I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me." - The prophet is essentially reporting: Your message has been received and is understood-loud and clear. When Habakkuk says, I hear," he means that the vision that God has given to him has not only been seen but heard, in the sense that the prophet now fully understands its significance and its consequences. And Habakkuk knew full well what the impact of God's judgment meant to him and all the people he lived among in Judah: The reality was that their entire way of life, everything they valued was about to be obliterated. They were about to become the slaves of a barbaric, godless race of people. Many would suffer and die. The force of all this upon him was so traumatic that he "trembles" (he's a nervous wreck), that his lips "quiver" (he's almost speechless), "rottenness" (it makes him physically weak) and "legs tremble' (he feels paralyzed).
v. 16b: Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. At this juncture, the prophet could do nothing but wait patiently. Earlier, Habakkuk had wanted to argue with God about using the wicked Babylonians to judge Judah; but now, having been reminded that YHWH was not only infinitely more powerful than these Babylonians, but had a plan to redeem His people Israel, the prophet had nothing more to say: The LORD GOD would handle the Babylonians; all Habakkuk had to do was wait. This verse led commentator Warren Wiersbe to remark, "Whenever we find ourselves getting 'churned up' within, we can be sure that we need to stop, pray, and wait on the Lord before we do something stupid."
v. 17: "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," - In this verse, Habakkuk pictures a worst case scenario using a variety of agricultural metaphors: To summarize, no fruit, no wine, no olive oil, no food crops, and no livestock (= poverty, starvation). This was the stark reality that the prophet and all of Judah were facing.
v. 18: "yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." - "Yet" (this is a huge yet), taking all of this together, the prophet declared that no matter how bad things get, that he, and hopefully the people willing to listen to him, would trust God for the eventual outcome. Even though Habakkuk felt physically weak, he was spiritually strong in faith, taking "joy in the God of my salvation," and thus, he would live. Habakkuk sets a high bar. As one commentator said, it's easy to praise God when He gives us all that's necessary for life in terms of health and prosperity, but during hard times, when these things are lacking, to rejoice in God for His own sake is evidence of pure faith.
v. 19a: "God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." - Here, the prophet uses the analogy of a deer whose swift feet can allow it to escape those who hunt them. It pictures a person who's so grounded and confident in his or her faith that they are able to encounter trials because they know that God will provide a way of escape. When find ourselves being defeated by the inevitable trials of life, the apostle Paul said this about it "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13).
APPLICATION-Facing Hard Times:
• Habakkuk's lesson teaches us: (1) to face our doubts, fears, and questions honestly, (2) to take them before the Lord with reverence and humility, (3) to wait for His Word to teach us, and (4) then worship Him no matter how we feel or what we see around us. This lesson is a great encouragement to people who feel discouraged and defeated by their present circumstances, so that they can see nothing coming good in their future. It helps us adjust our attitudes from one of pessimism (gloom and doom) and even hopelessness to an attitude of optimism and rejoicing. The critical issue is whether or not we're willing to listen to God and believe in Him; specifically, to leap out in faith.