The final chapter of Habakkuk concludes with the words of Habakkuk. After hearing God’s answer to his complaint, Habakkuk has a final prayer to offer the Lord. Not only is this a prayer but you will notice in verse 1 that the prayer is “according to shigionoth.” This word appear in the title of Psalm 7 seeming to imply a musical lamentation. We can see that it is a song at the end of the prayer. Notice verse 19 at the end of the verse, “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” This is Habakkuk’s prayer but it is his prayer put to music.
Remember Mercy (3:2)
Habakkuk begins his prayer by thinking about the past. Habakkuk remembers the works that God has done in the past. He knows God’s character. He knows the stories of God’s powerful hand. Habakkuk wants God’s mighty hand to move again. “Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.” (Habakkuk 3:2 NIV 2011) Habakkuk is saying, “Do it again.” “In wrath remember mercy.” God delivered his people before and he can deliver them again. God showed mercy to his people in the past and he can show mercy again. Habakkuk is asking God to remember mercy as he brings his wrathful judgment on the nation. This leads Habakkuk to call for God renew his work of deliverance.
Captivated By God (3:3-15)
Habakkuk begins describing the powerful appearances of God. In particular Habakkuk is recalling God’s powerful appearing in the exodus. In verse 3 Habakkuk describes the coming of God through the wilderness as God led the people from Egypt and from Sinai to the promised land. Teman was located in Edom and Paran was located in the Sinai peninsula. Habakkuk is tracing the powerful movement of God in making the nation of Israel and defeating enemies along the way.
Listen to how Habakkuk describes the splendor of God. Verses 3-8 just speak to his majesty. “His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hands; and there he veiled his power.” This is a ridiculous statement. His brightness is like the light and rays flashed from his hand and his power was veiled. This display of God’s glory and power was veiled. We know this is true when we read the account of God coming to Mount Sinai to speak his commandments to the people. That was only a veiled glimpse of God’s power and glory. Even veiled, the earth shook, the mountain quaked and was full of smoke, and the people heard the sound of a trumpet blast. The language mirrors what Moses said. “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand.” (Deuteronomy 33:2 ESV) Habakkuk is declaring that God came in power and splendor. Look at what you did when you came to your people.
We learn that in our despair we can look back to the mighty works of God for faith building. Look back in the scriptures and see what God has done to keep his covenant and show his love to his people. Look in the lives of others and see how God has blessed them. Look at your own life and see the mighty works of God in your past. Remember these days and use them to help during our times of trial.
Habakkuk continues to describe God but now as a warrior fighting on behalf of his people. God went before his people as a warrior against the oppressors of his people, using forces of nature as his armies. We see this image in verses 8-14. Habakkuk recognizes that God fights for his people. God leads his people. God loves his people. God fights for his people. This is part of the imagery of Revelation. We have a conquering warrior on our side who will destroy the enemies. God fights to save his people. Verse 13 shows God went out “for the salvation of your people.” God will save his people.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39 ESV)
God crushes the head of the leader of the wicked (vs. 13). To say all this another way, God turns the tables on the wicked. The wicked think they have the upper hand. The wicked think they are powerful and ruling over the earth. The wicked think they are getting away with their oppression and evil. God crushes the head of the wicked. God marches as a warrior to save his people. Be captivated by the power and glory of God that is at work on behalf of his people. God is on our side. As the apostle Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Full Faith (3:16-19)
The last four verses reveal the faith and emotions of Habakkuk. Habakkuk reveals in his prayer that when he heard God’s message of judgment, his body trembled, his lips quivered, his legs trembled, and rottenness entered his bones. Habakkuk was distraught at the news. Habakkuk was not cavalier in his faith and knowledge of God. He is not Superman with super faith. He heard the words of what God was doing and he could hardly stand. The message took his breath away. Habakkuk reveals total fear. Notice the end of verse 16. “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.” Can you imagine saying these words? The day of trouble is coming. We are going to be invaded. My fear is to the extreme.
Further, Habakkuk understands the total loss that is going to occur. Notice verse 17 where Habakkuk notes that the fig tree will not blossom, there will be no fruit on the vines, no food in the fields, and no animals in the stalls. For the fig tree not to blossom means not only is there no food now, but there is no food coming in the future. To put this in our language, Habakkuk would be saying that we will not have any jobs. Our jobs will be lost. Our money will be taken away. The banks and the stock market will close so you have none of your saved money. You will have nothing to sustain yourself. Everything will be lost. There will be no food to eat today and no hope in the future of food tomorrow. Your money and your work is gone. What would be your reaction? I am sure we would have the same reaction as Habakkuk in verse 16. Total fear would enter our bones. But then what will we do? What will you do in the time of difficulty and despair?
Habakkuk shows total faith in verse 18-19. Though everything will be lost, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” I want you to see something really important. Habakkuk does not say that though he will lose everything he will tough it out. Habakkuk does not that he will hang in there as best he can through the turmoil. Habakkuk says he will rejoice in the Lord. He says that he will take joy in God. It is a completely different attitude than what we often take toward suffering and trials. Habakkuk isn’t just enduring. Habakkuk isn’t merely putting up with the circumstances. Habakkuk is finding his joy in the Lord.
Verse 19 explains how Habakkuk can do this. Habakkuk’s strength is found in the Lord. God is his strength. God will carry him through. Habakkuk not only believes he is going to make it through, he believes he will make it through like a deer leaping on the high places. Despite these difficulties, Habakkuk expects to ascend to the heights of victory. However it turns out, I am going to be fine with the Lord. In fact, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be victorious in the Lord. Is this not the message of the book of Revelation to the Christians? You are going to get killed. But to those who are faithful in the Lord, you will overcome and because God has saved you and you will be with him.
Can we say what Habakkuk said? Even in fear of our suffering, can we trust God to get us through and rejoice in the fact that God will carry us through? If not, then we are still carrying and worshiping the idols that we looked at in Habakkuk 2:18-19. If we cannot rejoice in the Lord and say that the Lord is our strength through such dark days then it reveals that we are still tied to our idols. We are putting our trust in something other than God. We are expecting our wealth, our knowledge, our wisdom, our power, and our decisions to carry us through. But what will you do when that illusion is shattered? What will you do when you come to the moment that wealth will not fix, when you do not have the knowledge to fix it, when wisdom is empty, when your power is weak, and your decisions lead you into greater peril? What will we do when we finally open our eyes and realize that life is not in our hands and not in our control? There are only two choices. We can either try to carry the weight on our shoulders, which is what most people try to do. We just keep putting more weight on our shoulders, trying to endure the pain and suffering, until finally the tower collapses and we are left with the wreckage. You can try to carry the weight and be completely crushed by life. Or we can trust God completely. We can stop trusting in ourselves. We can stop trusting our wealth. We can stop trusting in our intelligence. We can get out of the boat and truly start walking on water by faith. Trust God and find your joy and strength in him. Don’t let your joy and strength be found in other things. Then we will be crushed during perplexing times. Christ must be our treasure. Christ must be our all. If our life is caught up in anything else but our Lord, we will not make it when life does not go according to plan. We have a relationship with God that allows us to rise above our fear and loss to trust in him who we love.