Habakkuk 3:1 (NIV) 1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
On verse 1: The book of Habakkuk reads like an ongoing dialogue between Habakkuk and the Lord. In chapter 1 Habakkuk complains about why there is injustice and evil in the world, and the Lord responds. Then Habakkuk questions how God could use the evil Babylonians as His chosen instrument. In chapter 2 the Lord responds by saying that He will hold the Babylonians to account for their sin as well. In chapter 3 the book of Habakkuk ends with a song of praise from Habakkuk. On “shigionoth” is probably a musical instruction for the musicians playing this song.
Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV) 2 LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
On verse 2: Habakkuk expresses his desire to see God do great things in his day just as he had done in generations past. He asks God to remember mercy in His wrath. What can we learn from this?
Like Habakkuk, may there be a longing in you to see God renew His miraculous works in your day, that you and your city would experience God move in a powerful way.
God answered Habakkuk’s prayer – “in wrath remember mercy” – when He sent His Son Jesus Christ to take on the punishment for our sins. God placed His wrath against sin on His own Son Jesus, so that He could show us mercy. As Romans 9:22-23 explains, we went from objects of God’s wrath to objects of His mercy, all because of Jesus Christ.
Habakkuk 3:7-8 (NIV) 7 I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. 8 Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots?
On verses 3-17: Some see verses 3 to 17 as history. According to this view, Habakkuk is using poetic imagery to describe how God previously led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. God did so by showing His glory to Moses and the Israelites (v4), sending plagues on Egypt (v5), parting the Red Sea and causing the neighboring peoples like Midian and Cushan to tremble in fear (v6-10), causing the sun to stand still for Joshua (v11), and delivering foreign nations into the Israelites’ hands (v12-15). Verses 13-14 also remind me of how God used His anointed one David to defeat Goliath and deliver His people. Indeed much of verses 3-17 recalls God’s past miracles for Israel.
Still, some see verses 3 to 17 as prophecy. According to this view, Habakkuk is describing what the Messiah whom the Jews had been waiting for would do in the future to rescue His people.
So which one is it? Is this passage history or prophecy? Quite possibly both. This passage could very well be both historical (talking about the past) and prophetic (talking about the future).
Notice how Habakkuk refers repeatedly to times when God manipulated the waters to show His power and save His people. In the Old Testament we see God doing this: when He changed the Nile River into blood, He parted the Red Sea, and He stopped the flow of the Jordan River so that the Israelites could cross over on dry ground (Joshua 3) toward the Promised Land.
At the same time, when we look forward to Jesus’ ministry centuries later, we see Jesus showing His supremacy over water too, whether it was turning water into wine, or showing his fisherman disciple Peter how to get a miraculous catch of fish, or walking on the Sea of Galilee.
What can we learn from this?
1. If this passage is truly both historical and prophetic, then one lesson we can learn is that God’s ways do not change. As verse 6 says, “His ways are eternal”. Just as God was supreme over the waters in Moses and Joshua’s time, so God remains supreme over the waters in Jesus’ time.
2. Speaking of waters, you may feel like you’re in deep waters right now, just barely treading or even drowning. But remember this: God is supreme over the deep waters of your life. Trust in Him to deliver you and see those waters as a stage for God to show His power and glory.
3. When you remember what God did yesterday as well as what He promises to do tomorrow, it gives you peace, hope and strength for today.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 (NIV) 16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
On verses 16-19: Having seen these powerful visions in verses 3-17, Habakkuk is shaken (v16a). Yet somehow Habakkuk is also inspired to wait for God to move in his day (v16b). Though it means Habakkuk must wait for a while with no sign of things coming to pass soon (v17), Habakkuk chooses to rejoice in the Lord (v18). He calls the Sovereign Lord his strength. He even recalls a phrase made famous by King David: “he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” (v19 and Psalm 18:33).
What can we learn from this? When you’re in a time of waiting, when things are not happening as quickly as you would like, make the choice to rejoice. How? By finding your joy and strength in the Lord. Though our circumstances may not be what we want them to be, the Lord does not change. God’s love is always worth celebrating. His presence is always worth drawing near to. God always makes His joy and peace available to us when we spend time in His presence. So draw near to Him and find your joy in Him. As Paul wrote while in prison and with no certainty about the future, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. When we draw near to God, even in our seasons of waiting, we can find peace, joy and strength in Him to move forward.
Heavenly Father, thank You for being so unchanging in Your love, strength, and faithfulness. Thank You that You are supreme over the deep waters of my life. Thank You that in every season, whether seemingly fruitful or fruitless, we can always find our joy and strength in You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
This brings our look at the book of Habakkuk to a close. What were the biggest lessons you learned from this book? I encourage you to write them down somewhere near Habakkuk in your Bible so whenever you come across Habakkuk in the future, you’ll remember what you learned and have something to share with others.