We start off this week with Habakkuk 3:1-7
Up to this point in the prophecy, Habakkuk has heard the Word of G-d – G-d is not pleased with His people and, as a result, they are going to go into exile. Habakkuk has accepted it and now begins to pray, in light of it, that in the midst of this exile G-d would not ultimately and totally cast off His people. Although they were going to be disciplined severely, having to endure great pain and suffering, G-d did not end His covenantal relationship with them. He remained faithful to the Word that He gave the patriarchs (Gen 12:1-3, Is 54:10). G-d desired that, in the midst of exile, the people would experience spiritual restoration and renewal in their lives so that they would be ready to return to the land of Judah, restore the nation of Israel and carry out the purposes of G-d.
v1: Prayer: When Habakkuk understood the prophetic truth that G-d had revealed to him it led him to pray. As we study the prophetic Scriptures, and as we listen and sense correctly what G-d is communicating to us through the prophets, it is going to bring us to our knees. We will be men and women of prayer. Prophecy is humbling. It reveals to us how G-d sees us. Not only do we need to humble ourselves, but we also need to repent. There is an inherent connection between prophecy and repentance. Through repentance a G-dly and glorious change can happen. Habakkuk prays for this glorious change to take place within his people.
- Shigionoth (שִׁגְיֹנֽוֹת): This unique phrase, written here in the plural, appears only a couple of times in the Scripture (see also Psalm 7 where it is written in the singular – שִׁגָּי֗וֹן). Some Rabbinical commentators say that it might be an instrument, or it might be a very bold way of expressing the presence of G-d in one’s life. The commentator Rashi suggested that this word, unable to be translated, was derived from error – something that was not according to the will of G-d. The use of this word by Habakkuk could suggest that Habakkuk was acknowledging the error of the people (i.e. their sinfulness – they had gone along a path that was against the purposes of G-d). Habakkuk did not deny that the people had sinned. He acknowledged their sin. Acknowledging our sins and confessing them is the beginning of restoration and renewal in our lives (1 John 1:9). The people of Judah suffered as a result of their disobedience.
v2: I have heard (שָׁמַ֣עְתִּי):This is a word that demands a response. Habakkuk is going to respond in a proper way. When G-d speaks to us (through His Word, through prayer etc) and He convicts us of something we need to give it priority and respond appropriately.
- (I) was afraid: It was scary for Habakkuk to think about the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and for the suffering that his people were going to have to endure. Nevertheless, we see that in the midst of this bad news Habakkuk did not ignore it. He did not say that he did not accept it, and therefore he would declare and believe the opposite. If people demand, believe and declare things that are contrary to the Word of G-d they cannot make those things happen. Only G-d can declare things and make them happen.
- Your work: Habakkuk is acknowledging that G-d is moving – moving to bring judgment upon His people. The people need discipline. They needed to realise that there were things in their lives that were not pleasing to G-d and that those things needed to be dealt with. The problem is that, often, we only begin to listen to G-d when we are suffering, when we are in a position in our lives that we are not pleased with. We need to be wise and learn to daily go before G-d so that we can pray as David did: “See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Ps 139:24)
- Work in the midst of the years: Habakkuk is acknowledging exile (The children of Judah were going to be in exile, in Babylon, for 70 years)
- Revive…make it known: Habakkuk was asking G-d to not stop working in the lives of His people during the exile. He did not want them to be set on a shelf, so to speak, and left alone. Habakkuk wanted G-d to be active in their existence. The prophet prayed that during exile G-dly change would take place. He wanted G-d to make it into a learning, growing and maturing time spiritually for the people. He wanted the people to experience G-d’s revelation so that they could know G-d’s mind, truth, will and purposes.
- Wrath (בְּרֹ֖גֶז): This word is literally translated ‘Shaking’.
- Remember mercy: We need to be those who sincerely seek G-d’s mercy. Biblically, those who went before G-d seeking mercy were never rejected or turned away. When we seek mercy, for the sake of repenting and turning to the will and purposes of G-d, G-d is usually very quick to extend it. G-d enjoys showing mercy. He enjoys forgiving and being gracious toward us. Likewise, when someone seeks forgiveness, we need to sincerely forgive them. Even if they do not seek forgiveness, it is still good for us to forgive them – not to hold on to that malice, feelings of anger, contempt and hurt.
v3: Teman: Teman has two meanings in Hebrew. It is the Hebrew name for Yemen – a country south of Israel. It is also a word that can simply mean ‘south’. This verse speaks of G-d coming from the South (see also Deut 33:2 – when G-d and the heavenly hosts approached the people at Mt Sinai they came from the South, also called ‘the right hand’ – מִֽימִינוֹ).
- Mount Paran: Found in the south of Israel. It is often associated with Mount Sinai (the place where the law was given). It is the placewhere G-d showed Himself to be generous, loving, faithful, merciful etc. It is the place where He did many of the mighty miracles during those 40 years in the wilderness when the children of Israel were south of the promised land (ie Canaan).
- Selah: We pause to notice something – there is a connection between seeking mercy and the revelation of G-d. When we seek mercy (verse 2) we get revelation (G-d reveals Himself – this verse).
- His glory: There is also a connection between the law and the glory of G-d. (Teman -south- and Mount Paran are both hermeneutical clues that remind us of the law). We, who are IN Messiah, are not under the judgement of the law (ie. we do not experience the consequence of breaking it – death) but that does not make the law irrelevant for us (Matt 5:17-19- whoever does the law and teaches the law are going to be great in the Kingdom of G-d). The Holy Spirit has been given to us who believe. He leads us into all truth, into righteousness and not into unrighteousness (John 16:7- 15). He will help us to fulfil, and not cause us to violate, the spirit of the law.
- Glory: That which is spectacular, marvellous, wonderful.
- The heavens: The heavens are above the earth. This verse is saying that G-d’s glory, although it also fills the earth, is so much higher than the earth.
v4: Brightness – Exceedingly bright light: The manifestation of the will of G-d, the purposes of G-d, the law of G-d, the revelation of G-d, the knowledge of G-d etc. are all like a glorious and bright light that is going to cover up the heavens and fill this earth.
- Hand: A hand speaks of power and authority. This power and authority belong to G-d.
- His power was hidden: The power of G-d is not always in that which is visible. G-d’s power, His authority and work oftentimes take place in those things that are hidden from the sight of men and women, but G-d, nevertheless, brings it about.
v5: (literally) “Before Him will go forth pestilence, and fire will go forth at His feet.”
Note: The Kingdom of G-d will not come until the remnant of Israel is restored to G-d and the land is brought once more under the authority of the Jewish people (who will obviously also be under G-d’s authority at that time). According to the prophetic Scriptures, Israel is going to have a position of leadership in the millennial kingdom.
- Before Him will go forth pestilence: The time for judging the enemies of G-d (a.k.a. the enemies of Israel – those who inflicted pain and suffering on the Jewish people) will come. Babylon etc did not discipline Judah out of obedience to G-d. They did not do it because they desired to play a role in the purpose or plan of G-d. They did it out of their own sinfulness.
- Pestilence: These can be seen through what the book of Revelation reveals will take place before Yeshua returns.
- Fire: Heat. We could understand it as a plague. Here we have parallelism between the word pestilence and the word fire. This verse is simply saying that G-d is bringing judgement (damage) to His creation as a way of bringing it back into order. As G-d goes out, flames of fire on His feet (this plague) also go forth and bring about destruction.
v6: Stood: Biblically,this concept of ‘standing’ is related to victory. G-d stands in order to bring victory.
- Measured: Measuring is for the purpose of setting something in order. Usually, a person building a house measures to make sure that everything being built is in its proper order.
- Startled (literally ‘Leap’): This can be leaping in a sense of joy, or it can be leaping in a sense of fear – both are possible. There are going to be those in the nations who are going to be thrilled with the changes that G-d is going to bring about, but there are going to be even more from the nations that are against the things of G-d – they are going to be moving in fear and in dismay.
- Scattered (פֹּֽצְצוּ): This word can also mean ‘exploded’ or ‘blow up’. G-d is going to scatter these mountains that, from a human perspective, we thought would always be there and would never be moved. G-d, based in His absolute power, is going to bring a spectacular change to this earth as we now know it (see also Zech 14:4). The imagery used here is imagery associated with the last days.
- Bowed: They are going to acknowledge G-d. Creation is going to be humbled, brought down before Him.
- Perpetual or Eternal: All of time, all of space, the entire universe or cosmos (past, present and future) belong to G-d.
- Ways: G-d is going to act or behave in a way that brings about His Kingdom.
v7: (literally)“Under wickedness I have seen the tents of Cushan; and will shake the tents of the land of Midian.”
- Under (תַּ֣חַת): This word speaks of something being predominant, the main characteristic of (e.g. ‘under the sun’…Eccl 1:3,9,14 etc)
- Wickedness (אָוֶן): This was the predominant behaviour of the Cushites and those in the land of Midian. Although they were mighty and strong, they were under the influence of wickedness.
- Cushan (Cush): Cush, Biblically, is Ethiopia of today (Num 12:1). The Cushites lived in the land of Midian (Zipporah, a Cushite, came from Midian – Ex 2:15-21). This may be speaking about Africa in a general sense.
- Shake: They are probably responding to the wrath of G-d that is approaching them by shaking and trembling out of fear.
- Midian: This could be referring to another people group or it could be a synonym for the Cushite people.
Note: Because Cush and Midian are under the influence of wickedness G-d is going to bring about a change. They are going to shake because of the changes G-d is going to bring about.