Book of Habakkuk Chapter
Three Commentary by
Audio Sermon – Habakkuk 3
Rejoice in the Lord
We’re being given a glimpse of the heart of one man in prayer, 2,600 years in the past, and note that the dynamics of today’s world are much like his. Are you troubled about your government, the divorce rate, the crimes committed in your area? Habbakuk, who wrote these words, had sought God for understanding and help in relation to the sinful people of his country, Judah. The Lord responded to him with the surprising news that his admittedly sinful nation was soon to be destroyed by the godless Babylonians, which was God’s solution! Habbakuk was shocked and in this chapter we find his thoughtful, prayerful, and prophetic response to God’s words.
He began in Verse 1 - “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth,” which was the plural form of a word associated with the titles of certain Scriptures, such as Psalm 7. It meant “frenzied” or “emotional,” and could possibly be translated “to wander.” The use of this word is a hint that Habakkuk was what is called a “professional musician/prophet,” assigned to the Temple in Jerusalem. And now he began in Verse 2 - “Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” If it wasn’t for the mercy of God, we would be gone in an instant.
Habakkuk truly BELIEVED in God. He recognized, as all too few truly grasp, that “the just shall live by his (or her) faith” (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 10:38). Merely being religious isn’t enough to satisfy God. This man knew that faith in the Lord is what is needed. He saw, as in Verse 3 that “God comes from (places like) Teman” on the Arabian Peninsula, and from “Mount Paran,” west of Edom and north of Sinai. He is from Africa, Asia, America, Australia. Everything and everyone on earth belongs to Him. And he used the word “Selah,” a term seen in Psalms, suggesting again that Habakkuk was a prophet/musician assigned to the Jerusalem Temple. He continued that God’s “splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise.” The Lord is not limited to a place, a theology or this universe. He is God.
Habakkuk observed in Verse 4 that “His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power.” God is holy, He is all-powerful, all-knowing, He is beautiful, too wonderful to even look upon. Our God who is also addressed as “Lord,” is glimpsed in many places within Scripture, such as Isaiah Chapter 6, where the prophet saw Him and then cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). John saw Him in Revelation Chapter 1 and “fell at His feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17).
And here is an astonishing truth about God in Verse 5 of Habakkuk 3: “Before Him goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him.” We look at our circumstances in life and many decide to trust in God or not because of them. But we should also note Exodus 4:11, where God observed through Moses, “…Who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind? Have not I the Lord?” And Peter said, “… you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith…” may be proved (1 Peter 1:6-7). God values our faith, not our money, strength or cleverness.
The events of this life are startling, as you can see by watching or listening to a news broadcast on any given day. Habakkuk saw it and continued in prayer, in Verse 6: “He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, the ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting.” God knows and is in charge of – everything.
Verse 7. “I saw the tents of Cushan under distress, the tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.” Cush was a son of Ham, son of Noah, (Genesis 10:4) a man that became a people through his descendants. Midian was a son of Abraham through Keturah (Genesis 25:2). All people, like the Cushites and Midianites, should tremble and seek the Lord because He is holy. As you read the next few verses, remember the Great Flood that destroyed every nation and the Exodus from Egypt when God destroyed the Egyptian economy and army in delivering Israel. Verse 8 asks, “Did the Lord rage against the rivers, or was Your anger against the rivers, or was Your wrath against the sea, that You rode on Your horses, on Your chariots of salvation?”
In Verses 9-10, we are reminded that God will eventually attack and destroy those who continue to reject Him. Habakkuk observed, “Your bow was made bare, the rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah. You cleaved the earth with rivers. The mountains saw You and quaked; the downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, it lifted high its hands.” So-called “natural disasters” are not the work of “Mother Nature,” but instead God is in charge of all things. The hurricane, the typhoon, the cyclone, the tornado, tsunami and earthquake - When you hear that such forces are headed your way, look to the Lord in faith and pray. He may yet spare you. And notice here and in Verse 13 the use of “Selah,” a word often used in songs (Psalms) of the Temple. Habakkuk indeed was a prophet/musician assigned to the Temple in Jerusalem.
In Verse 11, the imagery is a mighty storm, in which the sun and moon can no longer be seen - “Sun and moon stood in their places; they went away at the light of Your arrows, at the radiance of Your gleaming spear.” We are reminded of Joshua’s “long day” when the sun did stand still. (Joshua 10:12-13), but bolts of lightning are called God’s “arrows” in places like Psalm 18:14. And Verse 12 continues - “In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations.” Pray for your leaders because the future of your nation is at stake.
Verse 13 is compelling because it reminds us that the Father gave His Son so that we might be made right with God: “You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.” Here’s the word “Selah” again and in John 3:16 are these blessed words - “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God gave His Son to redeem us and defeat evil.
In Verses 14-15 we read, “You pierced with his own spears the head of his throngs. They stormed in to scatter us; their exultation was like those who devour the oppressed in secret. You trampled on the sea with Your horses, on the surge of many waters.” The word “sea” in Scripture can refer to groups of people, such as nations. And watch out because what you intend do to others will at some point be done to you. God will make it so. The Babylonians would pierce the heart of Israel, but they, in turn, would be destroyed.
Habakkuk remained very upset. In Verse 16 he said, “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.” Babylonia would come, Judah would be destroyed, and Habakkuk would wait with difficulty until that day came.
But here’s what this man found (Verses 17-19) - “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” No matter what happens, we can rejoice in God. He is our strength and our salvation. This book now ends with a salutation to the choir director of the Jerusalem Temple. It is a prophetic psalm, addressed to the director, but it is intended by the Lord for you and me.
Lord, though we have many concerns in life, we place our trust in You, the God of our salvation. Even if we lose everything, we will rejoice in Your Holy Name. In Jesus Name. Amen.