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Habakkuk 3:1-19-A Prayer and a Hymn for Divine Intervention

The book of Habakkuk closes with a prayer and a hymn. The prayer is a useful template for us when we pray that the Lord might revive His work in the midst of the years. The song may have been sung in the temple and it is also good for us to sing; since it is a hymn of faith and helps us bring our focus away from our immediate issues and causes us to rejoice in the Lord and our salvation.

Habakkuk heard the Lord’s speech and was afraid which was a godly response. Moses trembled at Mount Sinai, Joshua fell on His face when he met the Divine Commander, David fell on his face when he saw the Angel of the Lord and Daniel fell ill! Peter, James, and John fell down when the Lord was transfigured, and Peter wished to build Tabernacles. Peter had not lost his mind but was hoping that the Messianic kingdom might be ushered in with immediate effect. Shigionoth is difficult to interpret but the overall message is clear. Though the prophet’s situation in Judah looked bleak he would recount what the Lord had done in the past and trust Him with what would follow.

Habakkuk’s Prayer for Divine Intervention

How readily we ask for the Lord to intervene though how easily we forget that when He does it can be terrifying since He is a holy God. Some believers today can be indifferent and apathetic. We must be careful to avoid that attitude and thing soberly concerning how we relate to our holy and loving God. The fear of the Lord was the solution to the problem of the fear of the Babylonians and is also the solution to other things that we might fear from time to time in our contemporary surroundings.

Habakkuk desired that the Lord would revive His work “in the midst of the years”. Do you pray for that today? What would it look like today if God revived His work in the midst of our years? As with other genuine revivals great conviction of sin and an emphasis on holiness would be evident, a focus on the Lord above all else and a desire to please God would result in many souls being saved and God being glorified.

Have you considered that we often naturally equate hearing from God as a direct answer to what we asked for? So a change of circumstances or the problem, person or obstacle removed means life is easier and life resumes as normal. But something more important took place here which needs to take place in our lives too. Habakkuk’s circumstances had not changed but he had changed. Sometimes we need to change before our issues are resolved. Habakkuk was not given a full explanation though when this happens the important thing is to go to the Lord and His Word for help.

Habakkuk did what David did and what we should do and strengthened himself in the Lord. When we are above our heads and sinking rather than swimming, we can go to the Lord since that can change everything. When we consider who He is and what He has done and will do (Habakkuk 3:3-15) this reassures us. It is then that we see spiritually rather than through the natural lens and we draw closer to Him, and He draws closer to us. Without the Lord our lives will be incomplete, seemingly random and lacking eternal purpose.

Remembering God’s Intervention

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. Habakkuk wants us to pause for a moment and think about that. Teman was named after the grandson of Esau and an Edomite city (Amos 1:12; Obadiah 9). Mount Paran is located in the Sinai Peninsula though the Lord revealed His power in that location. What we have is a Theophanic prayer about God’s presence and brightness being revealed. Verses 3-15 describe the Lord’s appearance, and they recall an important journey. In a similar way, the believer is taken from Sinai to Canaan, and they are redeemed, (bought and brought out of slavery) to the Promised Land.

If you are a believer, can you remember when the King of the Universe intervened in your life? When He broke your chains, delivered you and took you from darkness into light? We were dead in our sins, but God has made us alive through Messiah. We are united with Him. This will encourage the hearts of the believers, fuel their prayers and is worth singing about.

God revealed Himself. Theophanies refer to when God reveals Himself and when God appears He shows something of His glory. These theophanies occurred many times in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Who was walking with Adam in the cool of the day? Who was it that wrestled with Jacob until the break of day? Who strengthened Joshua before he conquered Jericho? Who called Gideon a mighty warrior? It is Yeshua Messiah our Lord. Along the way, nations were driven out by Joshua though One greater than Joshua goes before us. Jesus the Messiah is leading and guiding us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

The Shekinah glory protected Israel throughout the wilderness. God’s Spirit is guiding the believers today. The Lord is sovereign past, present and future. The Lord does not change, and He is the same. The Babylonians were just around the corner whilst Habakkuk was still talking about the Exodus! Surely the Exodus was long past and for Habakkuk, Babylon was today’s problem. Yet if we restrict ourselves to pragmatism, we would be missing the point. Babylon resembles Egypt. The same God would deliver them and is with us now. How much more glorious will the coming of Jesus our Messiah be when He returns and judges in righteousness?

We read of the Lord standing and measuring the earth and we might think, why and for what purpose? I remember going to a science park in Otford and seeing a solar system model in a park. The nearest planets were in the same field and the more remote ones were much further away. Stone mounds were used to measure the respective distances of the planets from the sun. The earth is 24, 902 miles in circumference and our planet is 93 million miles away from the sun. As God measures the earth and surveys the situation, He condescends to us to show possession of it and demonstrate to us His full comprehension of what He has created. We can make a device to measure distances or calculate time, but we cannot create something out of nothing or shape the future, but God can, so we rest in Him.

How do we make sense of the everlasting mountains being scattered? There is more than meets the eye or from a cursory unthorough examination of the text! This is more than demonstrating Divine rule over the natural realm. In Daniel 2, Daniel explained the mountains mentioned were great kingdoms. In another sense there were ‘high places’ for the Baals and Ashtoreths. Kingdoms took various shapes and forms but were temporary and would eventually bow the knee to the King of Kings whose kingdom and glory will outlast the years.

In verses 7-10, there are some interpretative challenges regarding the ‘tents of Cushan’. The narrative taken as a whole clearly shows a journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. However ‘Cush’ usually refers to Ethiopia, which in this instance does not quite fit. Nonetheless the Zondervan Bible Dictionary explains that in Genesis 2:13 ‘Cush’ is where Gideon flowed, which is more in line with Midian. Also in Numbers 12:1 Moses’ wife was referred to as a “Cushite”, although Zipporah was from Midian. Nevertheless the Hebrew parallelism in verse 7 (tents of Cushan-curtains of the land of Midian), refers to Midian confirming that Midian is the intended meaning.

Habakkuk asks in verses 8-10 whether God was displeased and angry with the rivers and whether His wrath was on the sea? But as we continue it is clear that the context here is the River Nile. The Red Sea is overflowing water and the essential point is assuring us of God’s intervention and deliverance.

Habakkuk continues recalling Israel’s journey with the Lord watching over her. Spectacular miracles concerning the sun and moon standing still are recounted, referring to Joshua’s victory at Gibeon. The sun stood still, and the moon stopped, and they had their vengeance. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. Ultimately, this demonstrates the Lord’s total and specific control over nature and human events.

In verses 12-15 some say this concerns deliverance from Egypt and others Babylon. I think it is probably both, since Habakkuk is taking us on a linear journey of God’s saving works for His people. Now Babylon emerges though Daniel foretold the successive empires that would rise, fall, and crumble in their allotted time. Babylon was no exception.

Though the Lord’s provision was assured, we are reminded again that we should never grow complacent. Judgement was coming initially to Judah and similarly today judgement begins in the house of God. So Habakkuk was afraid but took refuge in the Lord and so should we. Previously Habakkuk reminded us, what the Lord was like and what He had accomplished. Now Habakkuk closes with a hymn of faith and says what he will do and that of course helps us to respond in kind to our problems.

A Hymn of Faith

Do you ever count your woes and sit paralysed not knowing what to do? In verse 17 Habakkuk lists six agricultural disasters yet chooses to rejoice in the Lord.  No figs, grapes, oil, sheep, or cows. Think of what the implications would be at that time and context. In that era, people’s lives were interwoven with success in the fields. When our problems overwhelm us, we need to go to God for our source of joy.

When we are churned up, go to the Lord for strength and take the matter to the Lord. Habakkuk knew something of what God was doing though He could not see the whole picture in entirety. Sometimes we can clearly see the Lord at work and at other times we struggle to ascertain how He will accomplish His purposes.

This means we can rest in Him and when we worship Him our perspective changes. This is not ‘enforced worship’ but a close and real dependence on God. Deep calls unto deep. They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength like the eagle. Take your questions, troubles, cares, and worries to Him though continue worshipping Him.

These four verses helpfully summarise the book of Habakkuk and they also point us to God’s faithfulness throughout history and in our lives. The events that occur in this life can never compare with that which is eternal. Obedience then and now was a prerequisite to joy in the Lord and demonstrates trust in Him.

We are given a wonderful picture of our feet being made like the feet of deer. I love to watch deer on occasions race across fields or bound over fences and scramble up and down valleys remaining sure-footed! Obstacles seem to evaporate before them.

The Lord will give us strength and joy, much like the deer. Our confidence, joy and strength is from Him. He takes us from the valleys and causes us to walk on the high hills. Inner delight and gladness is found in Him.

One last thing. It seems that Habakkuk liked to sing this song accompanied by his stringed instruments. ‘The Director of Music’ is mentioned 55 times in the Psalms. These enable us to enjoy and glorify Him. One of the best ways to grow our confidence and trust in God is to set that to music. Let us remember that when we praise Him in song for it is good for us to sing praises unto His name.