‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 23
H A B A K K U K
Habakkuk 3:1 to 3:19
Habbakkuk appears to have had a bit of a change. In last week’s ‘reflection’ he was in some kind of dialogue with the LORD as he came to grips with the enormity of what God had planned by way of judgement. Both for his own people, Judah, because of their unfaithfulness, and for the terrifying invasion forces of Babylon. In this last part of his ‘burden’, he turned to prayer before the LORD. He had been asking the LORD to intervene in the transgressions of Judah. Now the message is one of pleading for the mercy of God, accepting that judgment was coming. He is no less distressed. The ‘burden’ remained. He opened with a confession of his own. “O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of years! In the midst of years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” The LORD’s words were not un-noticed. He, at least, had clearly understood the gravity of the LORD’s displeasure. He also had knowledge of the mercy of God. So then he thought of Teman (an Edomite city named after a grandson of Esau) and Mount Paran, places where on their journey from Egypt, the Israelites had witnessed the LORD work with great might and power to their advantage. Both Amos and Obadiah had also used this as an example of God’s mercy to the Israelites. It was obviously an important milestone to them. In my imagination, I see that Habakkuk was wondering what he could possibly do or say to avert the calamity which was about to fall on Judah.
Habakkuk described what we would call “The Shekinah Glory” of the LORD. That is, the manifestation, on earth, of the glory of God. (Note that the word “shekinah” itself does not appear in our Bible) He describes it in terms of light and brightness and power. It was the manifest love, goodness, caring, mercy and protection of God among them. Unseen but present, experienced, and appreciated. The radiance of God’s presence, Habakkuk discerned, was about to depart from them. “In wrath, remember mercy”, was his plea. This was not an argument against God’s judgement. Habakkuk knew that God was right, and just. It was a ‘give us another chance’ moment. But it was too late.
There follows a recall of the might and power of the LORD in creation. All things covered in the glory of God. “And the earth was full of His praise”. The mountains, the hills, the rivers, the sea. Habakkuk poses the rhetorical question “O LORD, were You displeased with the rivers, was Your anger against the rivers, was Your wrath against the sea, that you rode Your horses, Your chariots of salvation?” This all symbolic of the might and power of the LORD to defeat His enemies, which Habakkuk raises again just a few verses later. “You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your anointed”. Here a reference to the great salvation of the LORD in bringing His people out of Egypt, with Moses being “His anointed” on that occasion. Habakkuk knew that with God nothing is impossible. What God had accomplished in the defeat and humiliation of Egypt’s Pharaoh, He could do again with the king of the Chaldeans.
This is all framed as a song before the LORD. That is evident from the final words of Habakkuk’s pleading. It is sung with his ‘stringed instruments’. It may be that he remembered the song Moses had sung, after the LORD had miraculously accomplished their salvation in the parting of the Red Sea. “I will sing unto the LORD for He has triumphed gloriously” (pure speculation on my part). In any event, it is obvious that the ‘escape’ from Egypt was very much in his thoughts. And it seemed that he was looking for such a miracle again. “When I heard, (of the crossing of the Red Sea) my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; decay entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” Well, the day of trouble was close at hand, again! Can you picture, as I can, the Israelites seeing the water of the Red Sea ahead of them, and the army of the Pharaoh behind them. Impossible situation. Then the LORD intervened. That is what Habakkuk could see. And he composed, and sang, his own song to the LORD.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls”. Just read that list carefully. Habakkuk described a scene of utter hopelessness. The blossom of the fig tree is the fruit itself, but lack of water will inhibit that growth, or even prevent that growth altogether. No grapes means no wine, No olives mean no oil for light, for seasoning, for cooking. No crops means no bread, no vegetables, nothing to eat. The flock outside the fold is vulnerable to predators. No herd in the stall means no milk. It is a description of great hardship, hunger, famine. A dire situation, hopelessness, which Habakkuk is comparing to the situation the people of Judah were now facing. And in this perilous situation he proclaims “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”
So the ‘burden’ which the LORD showed Habakkuk is lifted. As we look around our world, our country, our town, our church, our family, what do we see? Certainly there is much to be concerned about. It can be overwhelming. So God has provided this example of the faithful Habakkuk. Thankyou LORD. He has shown us that there is only One in whom we may be assured of safety in a world of woes. That being our trust in Him. He who has called us to Himself is trustworthy. And there is no other.