Old Testament Habakkuk Yet I Will Rejoice

Yet I Will Rejoice

Yet I Rejoice- Habakkuk 3:1-19

We come now to the last week in Habakkuk. It never ceases to amaze me when studying the scriptures, how rich and precious each book, verse, and even word is. The word truly is living and active (Heb 4:12). Habakkuk lived over 2,600 years ago, but his lament is still applicable to the people of God today. Habakkuk gives a glimpse into the life of a prophet. Not only does he proclaim the word of God to the people but truly has a burden for God’s people and their spiritual health. Habakkuk comes with many valid questions and concerns that he places at God’s feet. God is faithful and steadfast, and that includes fulfilling his promises to his people when they wander far from him (Deut 28:15-68). Today we come to Habakkuk’s response to the Lord’s judgment to the Babylonians, or the five woes we looked at last week (Hab 2:6-20). Habakkuk does not come with questions, but praise, prayer, and a psalm all rolled into one. The prayer reflects a Psalm with an introduction (3:1) and a conclusion (3:19b). The word translated, ‘prayer,’ in verse one, is used as a title in other Psalms (Ps 17, 88, 90, 102, 142). The term ‘Shigionoth’ is a musical term used in Psalm 7. The term ‘Selah’ (vs. 3, 9, 13) is used throughout the Psalms as a musical term; some people understand it as a pause. The Psalm attributes of this prayer are the most persuasive case (in my opinion) for Habakkuk being a Levitical priest from the family line of Merari or Gershon (they played musical instruments). 

I. The Ascendancy of God (Vs. 1-7)

Habakkuk begins his prayer with LORD, which, when you see the word LORD or GOD in all capitals, it refers to the covenant name of Yahweh. Habakkuk uses this name throughout his laments (Hab 1:2, 1:12, 3:2, 3:8, 3:18, and 3:19). He comes to God knowing that God is the creator of all things, and the covenant-keeping God of his people. “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Gen 17:8; Ex 29:45; Jer 30:22). Habakkuk’s complaints have been founded upon solid theology. His prayer is still directed at Yahweh, he turns again to the only rock and refuge that he has. He hears of God’s plans that would soon see the Chaldeans coming and pillaging the land, and he is afraid (Hab 3:2). Just as God had told him (Hab 1:5-6), he humbly prays that God’s will would be done and carried out, but also prays that God would have mercy (Hab 3:2). Similar to the response of David in 2 Samuel 24:14, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.” Verse two is the petition of Habakkuk’s prayer, “your will be done.”

The next section (vs. 3-7) of the prayer speaks of God’s transcendence. One commentator shows this section as a chiasm. A chiasm is a poetic structure common in Hebrew writing. The structure follows the pattern A, B, B1, A1. Much like the song “going a bear hunt.” The story unfolds, and then they meet the bear, and the story reverses. The structure of the verse is presented as:

(A) v. 3a:        Place (Teman – Paran)

(B) v. 3b:        Celestial focus (sky) and terrestrial focus (earth)

(C) v. 4:          God compared to the sun

(C1) v. 5:         God’s retinue (plague and pestilence)

(B1) v. 6:         Terrestrial focus (earth, nations, mountains, hills) and celestial focus (ancient paths)

(A1) v. 7:         Place (Cushan – Midian)

The verses show God’s transcendence. God is sovereign over all things. Habakkuk mentions four places, and this most likely indicates that God is everywhere, in all four corners of the world. Like the points on a compass. Terman (East), Mount Paran (South), Cushan (North), Midian (North West). God covers the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise. And finally, his power; God is compared to the sun, but even his power is veiled. God is proceeded and proceeded with plague and pestilence. Pestilence and plague are shown throughout scripture as indicators of God’s divine judgment. God is omnipresent (all-present), omniscient (all-knowing) and, omnipotent (all-powerful). Habakkuk praises God for his splendor and praise (ESV). The word for splendor means “weight.” God carries a lot of weight, not in a physical sense, but when used in a setting about decision making, this means their voice means a lot. Habakkuk understands that God is sovereign, hence why he came to him, he heard him. David Wells said, speaking of modern evangelical theology, “God has become weightless.” Our prayers should give God a lot of ‘weight.’ 

II. The Severity of God (Vs. 8-15)

Habakkuk continues his prayer, respectfully praising God for his justice that he will bring. Habakkuk’s second complaint is centered around the issue of when final and complete judgment will come. How can God raise an extremely wicked nation to judge a wicked nation? However, God responds that Babylon will have to sleep in the bed that they made, figuratively. They will see judgment. Habakkuk praises God for this judgment. Habakkuk uses three illustrations throughout this passage to show the severity of God.

  1. Wrath- Habakkuk shows God’s righteous anger that he has for wickedness and injustice. Every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God. God is not neutral to sin but hates sin (Prv 6:16-19; Ps 5:5, 11:5). Habakkuk shows God’s hatred for sin by using these words: wrath, anger, indignation, and fury. Even the actions of spilled, writhed, crushed, trampled, and surging. 
  2. War- Habakkuk shows that God is at war with the wicked. He writes of the great battle that takes place, “not against flesh and blood but the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). Habakkuk uses words pointing to war: chariots, arrows, spears, marching, warriors, and horses.
  3. Water- Habakkuk uses the imagery of water and other natural disasters. Water is unpredictable and unstable. We have never tamed water. When we picture water, we imagine the calm beach or a gentle stream. Water in the bible is sometimes a picture of judgment and insurmountable force (Gen 6-9; Am0s 5:8; Ex 14:21-31). Habakkuk uses the words; rivers, sea, and waters. 

Habakkuk fearfully understands that judgment is coming to those who are wicked. As you recall in verse two, Habakkuk petitions God, “In your wrath, remember mercy.”

III.The Certainty of God (Vs. 16-19)

Finally, Habakkuk shifts to first person. He has finally heard God’s plan. He started by crying out how long do I need to cry for help, and you (God) do not understand (Hab 1:2). However, Habakkuk has finally heard. He is filled with fearful reverence to God’s justice. His body trembles, his lips quiver, his bones rotten, and his legs tremble. He first asked the question, How long? Now he responds that he will quietly wait for the day of trouble for the people who invade them (Vs. 16).

Interestingly, Habakkuk starts by asking God how long, then finishes by saying he will wait, quietly. He has run out of questions for God. He does not need to cry for help anymore, for he knows God is working, and God will judge the wickedness that he sees around him. God is not idly looking at wrong, as previously asked by Habakkuk (Hab 1:3, 13). Habakkuk is confident that the day of judgment will come. We don’t know much about Habakkuk, so it is difficult to know if he saw Cyrus conquer Babylon (538 BC). However, Habakkuk trusted that day would come for God’s people.

Secondly, Habakkuk writes the bitterly beautiful statement found in verses 17 and 18. He understands that a season will come where the night will fall and physical blessings will cease. No figs on the tree, no fruit on the vines, no olives, no food, no sheep, and no herds. The cabinets are bare. The bank account is empty. Employment has ceased, the services are finished; no water, no power, no gas. A dire situation. Bitter with no sweet. Then we come to one of my favorite verses, which begins with, ‘yet.’ Although the tragic situation that Habakkuk might find himself in Habakkuk says, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD.” When everything else is dry and barren, Habakkuk still has hope that God remains. He is certain God remains and that he is all that he needs. He is content, knowing God is his own personal salvation. He can rejoice and praise in one certainty, his LORD. He can have joy, not a false ‘happy-clappy’ joy but a joy founded upon the hope and assurance of God. Habakkuk can find strength in God, not in himself, or the situation and circumstance of the nation of Israel. Habakkuk can find security in his foundation, like deer. Interestingly, the situation seems more like a storm in the sea. However, Habakkuk is still able to have a sure footing. And finally, Habakkuk is confident of God taking him to high places, that he would not remain in the valley of the shadow of death forever. 

Habakkuk can praise God in the midst of this storm that he is confronted in. We learn that a true believer may live in uncertain times, but trusting in God is never uncertain. God is always the rock and refuge for the believer. Habakkuk does not have a band-aid solution where he will wake up tomorrow. He does not know if the problem would be averted. However, he will see Jerusalem sieged, Babylon rise, and take the Israelites captives. Removed from their homes and taken to a foreign land. The temple destroyed; this would have been tragic for a faithful priest. However, his hope is not found in a city, nation, or temple, but God, more importantly, Yahweh! The covenant-keeping, faithful, and steadfast God who is his salvation. We, too, can find our salvation, strength, and security in God’s certainty. 

The famous hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was written after traumatic events in Horario Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his son at the age of 2 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly after, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, 

When sorrows like sea billows roll 

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say 

It is well, it is well, with my soul It is well With my soul 

It is well. It is well with my soul

Habakkuk is an excellent book of comfort for the believer; not only can we lament the events around us. But we can still rejoice that God is our rock and salvation, even when we have no fruit on the vines. Christians hold fast to the promises of the Gospel that Christ is still our salvation in a pandemic, in national distress, economic calamity, and natural disaster. 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 24-25 (ESV)
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