From Despair to Triumphant Faith (Habakkuk 3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 3

Our study of Habakkuk concludes with today’s Scripture reading of Habakkuk 3. The sinfulness the prophet witnessed in Judah and Jerusalem provoked Habakkuk to question the LORD, “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?” (1:3a). The prophet reasoned, “For spoiling and violence are before me: And there are that raise up strife and contention” (1:3b).

The LORD answered Habakkuk’s complaint, and revealed how He would raise up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to punish Judah and the nations for their wickedness (1:5-11). Habakkuk asked, why would God employ a wicked nation to punish the sins of His people? (1:12-17) The LORD answered His prophet’s inquiry in a vision (2:1), and the judgment that would befall Babylon for its wickedness (2:2-19). Accepting the imminent judgment of Judah, the prophet declared God’s sovereignty, saying, “the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk’s Prayer (3:1-2)

Habakkuk 3 commences as a prayer (3:1-2), and is followed by a poem best described as a psalm or song. While there is some debate among scholars regarding the definition of “Shigionoth” (3:1), many agree the word was a musical notation. Reinforcing that conclusion is postscript at the close of the book: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (3:19).

Having his questions answered, and understanding the inevitable judgment that would fulfill the LORD’s revelations, Habakkuk prayed: “O Lord, I have heard [listened to] 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” (3:2).

The Sovereignty and Providence of the LORD (3:3-15)

Looking to the future through the eyes of faith, Habakkuk remembered the ways and works of the LORD in the past. He remembered how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness (3:3). For “God came from Teman” (the south), and the Holy One from mount Paran” (located in the Sinai desert), and then penned, “Selah” (pause and think about that, 3:3a). When Israel encamped in Sinai, there the LORD descended from heaven, and “His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of his praise” (3:3b). Though a nation of slaves, the LORD strengthened the faith of Israel with a display of His majesty and glory. He gave witness to the “horns [symbol of power and authority] coming out of his hand: And there was the hiding of his power” (3:4).

Recalling what the LORD did for Israel in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would bring upon the nations a “pestilence” (for God uses plagues to punish the wicked), and they would tremble and be shaken at His presence (3:6). The prophet proposed three questions (3:8), and remembered God used nature to do His bidding and bring judgment upon the wicked. Portrayed removing His bow and arrows out of their sheath (3:9a), God had used the flood waters of the Nile (Exodus 7:20-21), and the troubled waters of the Red Sea, to cause Pharoah and Egypt to submit to His will (Exodus 14:15-28; 15:8-10).

Habakkuk described the effect of God’s wrath in natural terms, making mention of how the mountains tremble, and waters overflow their banks (3:10). Even the sun, moon, and stars are shaken in their courses by the judgment of the LORD (3:11; Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8; 2 Kings 20:9-11). When the LORD moves in judgment upon the nations of the world, fierce lightnings pierce the sky like “the light of arrows…[and His]glittering spear” (3:11).

Habakkuk warned, no man or nation could stand before the wrath of God. Yet, the LORD would remember His covenant and not forsake His people (3:12-13a). Babylon would wreak havoc on Judah, and destroy the poorer, weaker nations. Nevertheless, that wicked nation would be punished, and humiliated, for it would not withstand the wrath of God (3:13-14).

The Prophet’s Response to God’s Revelation (3:16-19)

Realizing the judgment of God was imminent, Habakkuk was overcome with emotion. His heart trembled, his voice failed, and his strength dissipated (3:16a). Yet, his hope was restored when he remembered when trouble comes, the LORD comes as well (3:16b). Crops would fail, and flocks and herds would be no more (3:17). In spite of sorrows that were to come, Habakkuk declared, “18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18).

Closing thoughts – How could the prophet rejoice, even as he acknowledged troubles were imminent?

Habakkuk did not derive his hope from pleasant circumstances, but from his faith that his joy was “in the God of [his] salvation” (3:18). Though trials were at hand, Habakkuk declared, “The Lord God is my strength, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet [fast and agile like deer], And he [the LORD] will make me to walk upon mine high places” (3:19).

With faith in the LORD, and trusting Him for strength, Habakkuk declared he could conquer mountains! (3:19)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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