Habakkuk lived through trouble like we have never known. He faced the divine promise that the Chaldeans would invade, conquer, and devastate the land he had always known and loved. The Chaldeans would overrun Judah because God would use them to judge His people for their idolatry. Our friend Habakkuk, not yet knowing God’s plan and frustrated with Judah’s sin, poured out his heart to God demanding action. But when God answered, Habakkuk did not like the answer God gave him. The Chaldeans were coming. So, Habakkuk paused to make a reality check and to remind himself about what was really real. Judah would really be invaded. Although it might not appear so in the situation, more real than the swords and spears was who God was and is. God is eternal, God is faithful, God is powerful, and God is holy. Therefore Judah would not cease to exist. God allowed the violent take over to judge sin. After settling his heart, Habakkuk asked his question: God, how can you use ungodly people to judge us who are more righteous than they are?”
God answered Habakkuk in chapter two. His answer is in the form of five woes divided by three towers of eternal truth. Tower One is: “the just shall live by faith” (verse 4). Tower Two is: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD like the water covers the sea” (verse 14). Finally, the Third Tower assured Habakkuk: “The LORD is in His holy Temple, let the earth keep silent before Him” (verse 20). In Habakkuk chapter three, Habakkuk showed that he understood God’s revelation by composing a hymn, a Psalm to God. This Hymn breaks into three parts. He shares first his prayer. Second, he eloquently describes God’s power and judgment. Finally, he gives his resolution to be faithful and praise God in the worst kind of situations.
As a good man of God, he knows how to pour out his heart in prayer to His faithful God. “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, on Shigionoth. O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; 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).
Habakkuk openly admits his great fear of what God would do in the first petition of his short prayer. “I was afraid.” Awe should always be a part of our relationship with God. We must always recognize that we are God’s and we are the sheep of His pasture. God can and will do what He wants with us and with the evil doers around us. We also live in an increasingly godless land and we also may be afraid of what God may do. Let us freely confess that fear to the living God.
His second petition should be ours also. “O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known.” We must pray for God’s work on planet earth to be made known to all those who do not know Him and who deny Him. Let us continually pray for a revival in this church and in this land. When I was young this was a popular request. Somehow we have forgotten to pray that God would once again visit His church with a real revival, that repentance and not judgment would reign supreme in our nation and world.
Lastly, Habakkuk petitions God to remember mercy when His justice is dispensed. If it wasn’t for God’s mercy we would all be consumed. But because God has chosen to be merciful to the just who live by faith in God, we are spared and we will live forever with Him. Let us pray for our nation that when God acts in righteous wrath that He will remember to be merciful.
Having prayed, Habakkuk then poetically describes God’s glory in His judgment of sin. The first vision is of God’s glory, “God came from Teman, The Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of His praise. His brightness was like the light; He had rays flashing from His hand, And there His power was hidden” (Habakkuk 3:3–4). Our God does not become an ogre when He is going to judge sin. He still is beautiful and worthy of praise. So, that is how Habakkuk pictures Him for us. We do not like to see God’s wrath, so we tend to forget that the Bible teaches God is glorified in His wrath as well as in the giving of His grace. God is just and righteous as much as He is merciful and gracious.
Beginning with verse 5 we see God pouring out His wrath on the heathen nations. Expositors are tempted to try to tie the many flashing images of power to historical times in the history of God’s work with His people, but we forget that this is Hebrew poetry and the effect is to be felt rather than coldly dissected like a dead frog. God is very powerful and no one and nothing can escape His wrath except those who have taken refuge in the three towers of God’s truth in chapter two.
At verses 13-15, the picture changed. Habakkuk focused on how God deals with His covenant people. “You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For salvation with Your Anointed. You struck the head from the house of the wicked, by laying bare from foundation to neck. Selah You thrust through with his own arrows The head of his villages. They came out like a whirlwind to scatter me; Their rejoicing was like feasting on the poor in secret. You walked through the sea with Your horses, Through the heap of great waters.” God judges His own. Many in Judah did not believe this would happen, but it did.
How do we respond to this prophetic vision? Habakkuk responded with his resolution. First, he states clearly where he is in all of this. “I 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” (Habakkuk 3:16 NASB). I quote from a different translation so we get the impact Habakkuk communicated–You scare the life out of me, but I know it is Your will LORD, so all I can do is wait for the invasion to come.
In the face of this fear, and because of the realities that God gave him in the three towers of truth in chapter two, Habakkuk makes a resolution to God. “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.” The first images are the worst possible ones for Habakkuk and the people of his day. No flocks and no crops equaled starvation and hopelessness. This was complete economic disaster for the people of Habakkuk’s day. There were no factories. There was no stock exchange, no banks. Everything was flocks and crops. If this horrible vision of the worst case scenario happens, here is what Habakkuk will do. He will trust. He will rejoice, and he will draw his stability and strength from the eternally faithful God of His people. When the situation is adverse, God will provide for me. How do we respond when God allows bad things to come into our lives?
Our God got David through trouble, Joshua through, Jehoshaphat through, Habakkuk through, and many others, He will bring us through the storms of life and safely carry us home.