Published first in TRC Magazine on October 31, 2014:
Habakkuk Devotional Series:
By Anna Popescu
If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed.
If you look at God you’ll be at rest.
—Corrie ten Boom
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
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.
In Chapter 2, Habakkuk listens as God replies to his concerns. At the end of that chapter, he acknowledges God’s power and pre-eminence:
But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him. —Habakkuk 2:20
Now he prays to God in the form of a Shigionoth, which was considered to be a highly emotional poetic form. Habakkuk has confronted God about the havoc he sees going on around him and asks Him why He is not doing anything about it. God has replied to his concerns, but Habakkuk is still wondering if God will really do anything about it.
Isn’t that just like us? We pray about a situation, telling God that we trust Him to take care of things as He deems right. And yet if we don’t see something happen quickly, don’t we find ourselves questioning God’s timing and motives?
Habakkuk goes on to tell God that he knows the way God has worked in the past when chastising rebellious peoples. But why is he begging God to remember mercy? It seems Habakkuk has forgotten the times God followed up the punishment by granting mercy to these same sinners. He still sees nothing but chaos, madness and war all around him and wonders if God will really do anything to stop these wicked Babylonians.
Finally, Habakkuk remembers that God is still in control and makes the choice to trust Him. Although he is still afraid, he pleads for God’s mercy.
Habakkuk’s Prophecy – Praise
God comes from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.
His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise.
His radiance is like the sunlight; he has rays flashing from His hand,
and there is the hiding of His power.
Before Him goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him.
What a song of praise Habakkuk now sings! As was so often done in Old Testament times—and as we still do today—he is remembering and praising God’s past faithfulness, mercy and grace. Now he acknowledges a few of God’s awesome attributes:
- His holiness (verse 3)
- His splendor (verse 3)
- His radiance (verse 4)
The Shekinah glory, which protected and led Israel from Egypt through the wilderness (cf. Ex 40:34-38), was the physical manifestation of His presence. Like the sun, He spread His radiance throughout the heavens and the earth. —John MacArthur
The term Shekinah as commonly used describes the visible manifestation of God’s presence and glory usually in the form of a cloud.1
- His power (verse 4)
This description seems to refer to the unfathomable “inner recesses of the divine power.” How can a finite being, even the godly prophet Habakkuk, comprehend and stand in the presence of infinite power? But dear child of God, don’t forget that this very One is also YOUR Father, YOUR God, YOUR Protector! Be encouraged! —Richard Patterson
- His righteous anger (verse 5)
He is powerful, as the earth shakes, the nations tremble, and the mountains crumble. If nature is brought low, fear and reverence by people is inevitable. “His ways are eternal”—nothing human, natural, or supernatural can stand against Him. —Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute
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.
Habakkuk praises God’s magnificence and power. Who else can stand and survey the entire world at one time? God now gives him a vision of how He will demolish the evildoers by literally shaking up their world. The mountains and hills which have been in place since God put them there will be no more as they collapse and destroy the savage armies.
But the multitude of your enemies shall become like fine dust,
and the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff
which blows away; and it shall happen instantly, suddenly.
Habakkuk goes on to praise God as the everlasting One, who has always been, always will be, and whose ways are forever just and true.
I saw the tents of Cushan under distress, the tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.
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?
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.
Sun and moon stood in their places; they went away at the light of Your arrows, at the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations.
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.
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.
This section is unquestionably difficult to understand. Habakkuk starts by recalling past events, stating and praising the way God protected His people (Israel) time after time. He continues to confirm God’s awesome power over His creation as He overtakes and subdues the enemies of His people by demolishing the very things He placed on this earth.
He ends this portion by heaping praises on God for protecting and saving His chosen people.
But while He comes thus, executing wrath and judgment upon the ungodly, He comes in mercy. He goes forth for the salvation of His people, for the salvation of Thine anointed, that is, the elect nation (Israel) and the God-fearing, waiting remnant of the last days (see Ps. 105:15).
—A. C. Gaebelein
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 is sharing his own personal reactions to all God has revealed to him of what is to come. Although he knows that God will take care of the terrible Chaldeans, he also realizes that it will not be pretty.
Warren Wiersbe explains Habakkuk’s current state of mind this way:
“If Habakkuk looked ahead, he saw a nation heading for destruction, and that frightened him. When he looked within, he saw himself trembling with fear, and when he looked around, he saw everything in the economy about to fall apart. But when he looked up by faith, he saw God, and all his fears vanished.”
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.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
In spite of Habakkuk’s fears, his faith enables him to express his absolute trust in God. He exults (rejoices) in His LORD; “the Lord GOD is my strength.” He quietly and patiently acknowledges that only God is his help and directs his every step no matter how steep the mountain of trials may be.
Summary of Habakkuk
Habakkuk is the only Old Testament book consisting entirely of a dialogue between God and a man. Other prophetic books consist mainly of a record of the prophets’ message (preaching) to the people.2
In the first chapter, we considered Habakkuk’s confusion in a world filled with chaos. He felt that God saw and knew about all the injustice and corruption but did not care enough about His people to do anything about it.
In Chapter 2, Habakkuk patiently waits as God replies to his questions by saying that He is using the Babylonians for His purposes and will punish them for their sins in His timing. God reminds Habakkuk that no matter what he sees or feels, He is still on His throne taking care of business as He sees fit. Ultimately Habakkuk submits to God’s authority and continues to praise Him.
Finally, in this last chapter, we see that Habakkuk has done a complete about-face. He now completely understands that God has not abandoned His own people. His faith is renewed and his why is replaced with great rejoicing over the strength, constancy and faithfulness of God.
The theme of Habakkuk is faith. He has been called the prophet of faith. This little book opens in gloom and closes in glory. It begins with a question mark and closes with an exclamation point.
—J. Vernon McGee
This short book of prophecy is a great comfort to me. When I am feeling low regarding events currently going on in the world or even about the personal issues that make my daily life a struggle, I have great peace in knowing that God is always available to hear my questions and concerns.
Habakkuk had a conversation with God about the wickedness going on in the world. He thought God was not paying attention to the evil Babylonians but God assured him that not only did He know all that was happening, but that He already had a plan in place to take care of the matter.
Our world today is full of violence, injustice and depravity. We are daily faced with news of war, pandemic illnesses and terrorist activity. Christian values are being laughed at, and we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior are scoffed at and treated as fools.
Is this any different than in Habakkuk’s time?
Take heart! No matter how awful and frightening the world is today, God is still in control. He is not surprised by anything that is happening. He is fully aware of what is going on, is using every single thing for His purposes and His glory, and will continue to do so forever.
Perhaps the evil is worse now; we’re closer to the end than we’ve ever been before. But evil has been around since the Garden of Eden, and God’s plan for victory was designed before the world began. The Bible tells us to fear no evil. Because Christ triumphed, we will also overcome evil in the end. Trust Christ in this evil age and redeem the time, for the days are evil.
Make no mistake: sin will be punished. Satan and his minions will eventually be sealed in the Lake of Fire where they will spend eternity. Those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will live in peace and harmony with Him in heaven forever. There we will bask in the precious, lavish and all-encompassing love of our Abba Father.
He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!