A study of Habakkuk 3.
Last week, in Habakkuk 1 & 2, we heard a difficult message of how God can use evil people to accomplish His will. When Habakkuk asked God to correct and admonish the Jewish people, God responded that it was all under control. God would rise up the evil Chaldeans to crush the Jewish people.
I imagine Habakkuk suddenly sitting down, stunned at the message. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
We’ve been studying the Minor Prophets for a while, and the message each week has been the same. Is the lesson Zephaniah? Answer: Wrath of God. Is the lesson Nahum? Wrath of God. Is the lesson Obadiah? Wrath of God.
If last week’s study of Habakkuk 1&2 was classroom instruction, then Habakkuk 3 today is a study of how to apply hard lessons. When we know the wrath of God is coming, like Habakkuk knew the Chaldeans were coming to conquer the Jews, how do we maintain our hope, our faith, our spirit?
Or closer to home, I couldn’t help but imagine a parallel in today’s times. Like we are praying to God that America seems to be losing its way, and please bring America back into God’s will. And God responds that he’s raising a mighty evil Islamic army called ISIS. How do we maintain our hope, our faith, our spirit?
In one sense, I guess we should expect that God uses evil people for His purposes. Romans 8:28 says “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” If evil exists, and God is in control, then it is only logical that the only evil that exists is that which God allows to exist for His purpose. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess at the name of Jesus, and that includes evil knees and tongues.
Among all of God’s beautiful attributes, like love, compassion, peace, and joy, our fear of the Lord should recognize God’s ways are above our ways, and in our temporary lives on earth we may not fully appreciate all of God’s ways. God is in control of everything, not just the good, and he will use *everything* in order to purify His people. God’s plan for you and me is not our happiness, but our righteousness. And he tells us that if we are righteous, then we will also be happy. Win-win.
So if you or I feel that God’s plans seem to be working against us, we feel hurt or pain or disappointment, how do we come to terms with God? We want to always think of Him as our kindly heavenly father who gives us great gifts, but we don’t like the discipline and God’s justice. How do we maintain our joy when we know God is raising up evil Chaldeans against us?
II. Reassured by What We Hear, Habakkuk 3:1-2
Let’s look first at Habakkuk 3:1-2 –
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
There’s an unfamiliar word there in verse 1, “On shigionoth.” I thought it was some sort of Klingon word, good thing I studied. Most scholars believe it’s a literary or maybe musical term, but one source I read believes it is a highly emotional poetic form. On shigionoth, Habakkuk is pouring out His heart in prayer to the Lord.
In verse 2, who has a translation that says “I fear” or “I was afraid?” This is not fear of the outcome, for our lesson today is how to have comfort that the Lord is in control. He says “I fear” which is standing in awe, not fear of the outcome. Habakkuk says he has heard of God’s most incredible power and might, and acknowledges that God’s power will destroy all that displeases the Lord. And Habakkuk says, Lord, in your wrath, remember mercy.
Habakkuk is likely referring to earlier books that tell of God’s great power. The book of Genesis, the book of Exodus. Habakkuk knows about the parting of the sea. The parting of the Red Sea wasn’t low tide or other some nonsense presented on one of those secular history shows. Let’s hear of God’s power in Exodus 14:21 following, and I’m going to shorten the story some in the interest of time –
Then the Lord said to Moses, “[…]Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. As for Me, behold, […] I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord […].”
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit […]. the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and […] overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained.”
It’s interesting to me that the Egyptians were the evil ones in the book of Exodus, and God used them to display his awesome power. Habakkuk says, “I have heard of your fame.” What Habakkuk is saying to us modern day Christians is… read the bible. God’s awesome might and power and wrath and love is in the Good Book for each of us to discover. We will be comforted. Yes, we stand in awe of God’s mighty power. Yes, we fear the wrath of God that is coming. But God will remember His mercy for those who have placed their faith in Him.
III. Reassured by What We See, Habakkuk 3:3-19
If reading our bible about God’s mighty power isn’t enough, we can see his power with our own eyes. Habakkuk 3:3-4 –
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.
We view the majesty of the Almighty moving across the earth. Teman was a city east of Israel, and Mount Paran was a mountain opposite of Teman, so Habakkuk is saying God’s majesty awakens from the east each day and covers the heaven.
God displays the beauty of His creation to us so that we may know he is a God of love and beauty. Romans 1:20 says
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
So that we do not wake up each morning and says, “wow, what a spectacular sunrise. I guess that just happened accidentally again this morning.” No, it’s so that we clearly see that God’s glory is like the sunrise, with rays of brilliant light flashing from his hands.
As I was preparing this lesson, and Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable” came on the radio and I was struck by how perfect the lyrics fit this lesson. Can I ask the choir members in this class to sing this for us?
From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
You placed the stars in the sky
And You know them by name
You are amazing, God
All powerful, untameable
Awestruck we fall to our knees
As we humbly proclaim
You are amazing, God
And if God’s splendor and majesty is evident each morning, then so is his strength. Habakkuk 3:5-12 –
Before Him goes pestilence,
And plague comes after Him.
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.
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.
God makes mountains. God destroys mountains. He judges with pestilence and plague. He shakes the nations and crushes His enemies. There is nothing that can withstand the power of God.
Let’s go big. Let’s see if we can imagine the power of God. How big is the earth that God created? Let’s stipulate that the earth is big, really big. It is so big that for thousands of years, man believed the earth was flat. Man couldn’t see the horizon curve, there was no reason to believe they were living on a giant round rock. Here’s a picture from a low orbit where you can see at the edges that the earth is indeed round. Even though it’s low orbit, it’s still pretty high. I can’t seem to find a camera shot that is close enough to see people and yet also see the curvature of the earth. The earth is so big, over 7 billion people live on it now.
But as big as the earth is, it’s not the biggest planet in our solar system. We’re a small blue marble.
But even the largest planet, Jupiter, is small next to the size of the sun. The sun is huge. Imagine the sun the size of a basketball, then the earth is about the size of one of the dimples.
Our sun is considered to be a medium size star. There are stars in our galaxy that make our sun look tiny.
But even the largest stars get lost next to the size of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The Milky Way isn’t the only galaxy. Scientists estimate between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies, but that’s only because we can’t see any further than that.
Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God spoke the universe into existence by saying, “Let there be light.” From the morning rays of sunshine to the countless stars by night, God has demonstrated His glory to all so that we may be without excuse.
But maybe facing outward doesn’t give us a good perspective of God. Is God too big and distant? If this is God’s view, can He see me?
Let’s go small. Who am I, and what did God create? I’m one of those 7 billion people are the earth, so I thought I’d show you the complexity of the human body.
I admit I underestimated trying to describe human anatomy in the time available for our class. Our bodies are complex. We have a circulatory system that moves oxygen and antibodies, powered by a heart that will beat over 3 billion times in our lifetime. We have a nervous system that communicates heat and cold and pain and causes muscles to move and is powered by a brain that holds memories and process thought and makes sense of the world around us. A respiratory system that brings in oxygen, expels carbon dioxide that the blood cells from the circulatory system brought in. A digestive system that extracts nutrients from outside our bodies and turns them into fuel. A skeletal system to support our weight, and a muscular system to provide movement.
It was too complex. I thought, I’ll simplify this, I’ll just focus on one piece. How about the heart. Just one organ, part of the circulatory system.
I’m an engineer, and I don’t know how all this contraption works. There are valves and muscles and aortas and stuff. And it beats 3 billion times in a lifetime? This is a miracle gadget. Let’s simplify it even further, How about just the teensiest part. How about… a single human cell. If I can’t understand the machinery, maybe I can understand a nut and washer, right?
Goodness. There are 5 million human cells in a cubic millimeter, about a drop of water. They’re specialized, too. Liver cells, brain cells, blood cells, each one knows exactly what to do.
God is in the small stuff. God is in the big stuff. God is everywhere and in everything. There is no place we can go that God isn’t there. And we haven’t even talked about plants and photosynthesis or insects or rocks or how he created oxygen. Psalm 139:13 says,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
We are created by God for a purpose. We have meaning. God knows us, has a plan for us, and he knows the name of every single hair on our head. From our DNA to the hairs on our head to the creation of the universe itself, God loves us. Like Habakkuk, I can see with my own eyes God’s hand in every single part of my being, my life, my walk, and my purpose.
And I can see God’s love for me.
IV. Reassured by His Deliverance, Habakkuk 3:13
Habakkuk 3:13 –
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.
This God of beauty, this God of power, this God of creation, is also this God of love. He knew, given free choice, that not everyone would choose good. It’s not choice if we’re forced to choose good. So, through the choice of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. Rebellion. Disobedience. His holiness will not tolerate our evil, our sins. God will destroy sin. God will raise Chaldeans and plagues and locusts to destroy the evil we do and the evil we think and the evil we are. His justice demands His wrath. The minor prophets we’ve been studying, like Habakkuk, have warned us of God’s hatred of sin.
But God loves the sinner who seeks Him. But more than God hates sin, God loves us. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16).
Out of His abundance of love, has given us His son. I don’t know how much it hurt God to sacrifice His own son for us. To watch Christ scourged and crucified under Pontius Pilot while the crowds of people called for the death of His son. And I don’t know any bigger gift that God could give than to offer forgiveness to us through the sacrifice of His son, so that we may be reconciled to God and be called Children of God. And through the death of Jesus, He then sent a comforter, the Holy Spirit, to live in us. To pray and groan on our behalf, to move us to obedience. Even as his perfect justice and discipline may cause pain and suffering as He teaches us spiritual truths, and even as He raises us Chaldeans against us to purify us as a people, we know that He has prepared a place for us, a place without tears.
We may not understand the Chaldeans in our own lives, but God has a purpose for everything. C.S. Lewis, in the book “Mere Christianity,” put it this way:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
When God allows Chaldeans to run roughshod over us with destruction and pain, the Chaldeans are fulfilling God’s purpose. Even if, and perhaps especially if, the Chaldeans are evil, for the evil cannot exist without God allowing it. Three verses can give us peace during these times –
- 2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and
- Romans 8:28 all things work together for good.
Praise and worship our mighty God. It is right to praise Him. Does God need our praise? No, it pleases Him to think that those who created acknowledge the Creator. How awesome it is to please Him.
V. Reassured by His Security, Habakkuk 3:16-19
Abundant life. Purpose. A God who loves us. An eternity without tears.
Because of all we have heard, because of all we have seen, because of all we have experienced, we can trust God in time of fear.
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.
Habakkuk knows God’s wrath is coming. The Jewish people have turned their backs on the Lord, and Habakkuk has prayed for the Lord’s will be done. The Lord responded that He will purify his people by allowing evil Chaldeans to conquer and rule over Israel. And Habakkuk, though so fearful that decay is in his bones and his legs are trembling, will wait patiently on the Lord to fulfill His word.
Did Habakkuk’s circumstances change? Calamity is on the horizon. Soon there will be destruction. Sometimes we believe that if we change our attitude, trust in the Lord, pray fervent prayers, then our circumstances will change. Not so – it is not the circumstances that change. Nor is it God who changes. No, it is us who change. We trust that God is in control. The same God that created an amazingly huge universe and the tiniest DNA stands in our cells and dwells within us, has provided the redemptive power through His son, is in control. We can wait patiently. It is us who changes.
So don’t worry. God’s got this.
What have you heard about God that reassures you? What have you seen from God that assures you of his awesome power? Our God is wrath, true. Wrath that destroys the wicked. But our God is love. He has created a splendor for us to see Him in our broken world. A little taste of heaven, here and now.
You may not know the name of Carl Gustav Boberg, a Swedish poet who was born in 1859. One day when Boberg was walking home from church and listening to church bells. Suddenly, a tremendous storm, with violent winds and pounding rains. The church rang madly. Lightning pealed across the sky in massive thunderclaps. Broberg and his friends had to take shelter.
Then, almost as suddenly as it arrived, the storm passed. Winds blew over the nearby meadows, the pounding rains gave way to cool fresh showers, and then clear skies with a rainbow.
Broberg was in awe of the storm, the lightning, that demonstrated God’s power, and the peace and beauty after the wrath had passed. That night, Carl Broberg wrote a poem called, ‘O Store Gud,’ or as we know it today, ‘How Great Thou Art.’
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Invading Chaldeans are coming. Habakkuk has to wait – terror at what is to come, but trust in the outcome. Habakkuk 3 is a prayer to Yahweh to let the world again see the redemptive work of the Lord. Regardless of our circumstances, we stand in awe of our God!
To God be the glory.