It is great to live in times of prosperity, and by most any measure of the millennia through which mankind has lived on this planet, most of us have enjoyed much comfort and ease.
Yet there are difficult times that cycle throughout human history and God’s dealings with His creation. There are cataclysmic periods, and in those times there are always remnants – be they often small – of God’s faithful people.
If we read the Scriptures accurately – in my humble opinion based upon a lifetime of study – well, it does not end well for mankind. As end times approach along with the impeding hand of God’s judgment, there are going to be difficult days even for God’s elect people. Might we be the people … the generation … that lives through such a time? Yes, for there is nothing special about us that we should escape such an experience; and there is concurrently every reason for God to intervene in the human condition where He is so oft despised by our culture and the bulk of the peoples of the world.
Habakkuk lived in such a time of God’s pending action. Judah was about to be judged for disobedience and neglect. The instrument of God’s wrath upon them was to be the Babylonian Empire. And the period of time was to be 70 years. Why 70? Because, for 490 years the people of Israel/Judah had failed to honor the Sabbath year – where each 7th year they were to allow the land to rest, as God would provide enough for them in advance. But, not believing, they did not do it. And it is not to overstate anything to say that God is even faithful to keep his word to the dirt!
So Habakkuk now understands that he will be living through this period of time and judgment. And this third chapter is his prayer of praise and submission to God.
3:1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. < This is some sort of musical notation >
2 Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk prays in awe of God, seeking for God’s work to transpire soon and for God’s mercy in the midst of it all. The following is a reflective description of the prophet as he looks back to what God did in Israel’s history in delivering them from Egypt. It was another powerful time, and this same almighty God was going to use all of nature and His created world to manifest his power once again.
3 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.
4 His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.
5 Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps.
6 He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed—but he marches on forever.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. <These are neighboring nations who, near the Red Sea, saw God’s mighty power.>
8 Were you angry with the rivers, Lord? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and your chariots to victory?
9 You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers; 10 the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high.
11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.
Habakkuk now finishes his hymn of praise … physically exhausted from the majestic vision he has seen and heard, yet confident in the Lord and in his faith in God.
16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
Habakkuk essentially says that no matter what happens – even if everything is upset and the worst of circumstances are to cause the normal sustenance of life to evaporate – he would still trust in God through it all. His confidence would enable him to feel that he could live like the deer – sure-footed even on the perilous places of the mountain cliffs.
In perilous times we don’t need to be undone under the circumstances if we are living in trust under the Lord.
When it seems that injustice prevails and that God is doing nothing, we must remind ourselves that He has done everything. He has given His son to conquer death itself. And He has given us His word that the victory in ours in Christ, and that a final day of righteousness and justice will arise. We are moving toward it; we are not there yet, but it is coming.