When God Makes No Sense: Day Four

by | May 21, 2020 | Engage God Daily


The following comes from Chapter 4 of Bruce’s book, “When God Makes No Sense.”

Our encounter with God in Habakkuk melts our confusion into confidence. In the face of suffering, we trust in the Lord who will one day fill the earth with his glory.

In the first two chapters, Habakkuk fixated on life’s problems; we’ll see that in chapter 3, he focused on the person of God. While the book of Habakkuk began with a question mark, it ends with an exclamation point. The prophet started in frustrated doubt, but he ended in triumphant faith.

Hebrew scholars consider Habakkuk 3 one of the finest examples of Hebrew poetry. From the first verse, we see the chapter is a prayer. From the last line, we see that it is a song set to music. Most likely it was designed for public worship. In chapter 3, you will see the word selah three times. While we are not sure what it means, it appears to function as a musical notation.

Chapter 3 is a poetic prayer set to music, a hymn declaring that God is coming. This song elaborates the theme of the book in 2:4 that the righteous live by faith and faithfulness. Habakkuk blends historical allusions and natural phenomena to engage our imaginations to see and hear the coming of God as the divine warrior to judge and to deliver. As the divine warrior, he defeats his enemies and shakes the earth. As we enter Habakkuk 3, prepare yourself for elevated poetic language that paints a picture beyond our ability to fully grasp—the coming of God.

Read

Habakkuk 3:1–19 (NET)

Habakkuk’s Vision of the Divine Warrior

3:1 This is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet:

3:2 Lord, I have heard the report of what you did;

I am awed, Lord, by what you accomplished.

In our time repeat those deeds;

in our time reveal them again.

But when you cause turmoil, remember to show us mercy!

3:3 God comes from Teman,

the sovereign one from Mount Paran.

Selah.

His splendor covers the skies,

his glory fills the earth.

3:4 He is as bright as lightning;

a two-pronged lightning bolt flashes from his hand.

This is the outward display of his power.

3:5 Plague goes before him;

pestilence marches right behind him.

3:6 He takes his battle position and shakes the earth;

with a mere look he frightens the nations.

The ancient mountains disintegrate;

the primeval hills are flattened.

He travels on the ancient roads.

3:7 I see the tents of Cushan overwhelmed by trouble;

the tent curtains of the land of Midian are shaking.

3:8 Is the Lord mad at the rivers?

Are you angry with the rivers?

Are you enraged at the sea?

Is this why you climb into your horse-drawn chariots,

your victorious chariots?

3:9 Your bow is ready for action;

you commission your arrows.

Selah.

You cause flash floods on the earth’s surface.

3:10 When the mountains see you, they shake.

The torrential downpour sweeps through.

The great deep shouts out;

it lifts its hands high.

3:11 The sun and moon stand still in their courses;

the flash of your arrows drives them away,

the bright light of your lightning-quick spear.

3:12 You furiously stomp on the earth,

you angrily trample down the nations.

3:13 You march out to deliver your people,

to deliver your special servant.

You strike the leader of the wicked nation,

laying him open from the lower body to the neck.

Selah.

3:14 You pierce the heads of his warriors with a spear.

They storm forward to scatter us;

they shout with joy as if they were plundering the poor with no opposition.

3:15 But you trample on the sea with your horses,

on the surging, raging waters.

Habakkuk Declares His Confidence

3:16 I listened and my stomach churned;

the sound made my lips quiver.

My frame went limp, as if my bones were decaying,

and I shook as I tried to walk.

I long for the day of distress

to come upon the people who attack us.

3:17 When the fig tree does not bud,

and there are no grapes on the vines;

when the olive trees do not produce,

and the fields yield no crops;

when the sheep disappear from the pen,

and there are no cattle in the stalls,

3:18 I will rejoice because of the Lord;

I will be happy because of the God who delivers me!

3:19 The sovereign Lord is my source of strength.

He gives me the agility of a deer;

he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.

(This prayer is for the song leader. It is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)

Notice the opening of verse 3, “God comes.” How did Habakkuk poetically depict the coming of God in the following verses (3–15)?

Read Revelation 19:11–16. What parallels do you see between Habakkuk 3 and the coming of Christ in Revelation 19?

What did Habakkuk declare in verses 18–19? How did he describe God and what God did?

Reflect

What’s the point of Habakkuk 3? Rejoice in the all-powerful Lord God who will judge the ungodly and deliver his people, and who gives strength today no matter how difficult life becomes. Habakkuk dropped his protest against God. He had progressed beyond his intellectual perplexity to profound worship. Rather than advising God on how to run the universe, he was awed by him. Questions about justice faded before an encounter with God himself. The chapter begins with a request, then describes the coming of God and ends with Habakkuk’s response. Let’s look at the request. Habakkuk asked God to reveal his power with mercy.

Notice the striking contrast between the first two verses of chap­ter 1 and the first two verses of chapter 3. Here’s the start of chapter 1:

How long, Lord, must I cry for help?
But you do not listen!
I call out to you, “Violence!”
But you do not intervene!

—Habakkuk 1:1–2

Contrast that with where he is now in chapter 3:

This is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet:
2Lord, I have heard the report of what you did;
I am awed, Lord, by what you accomplished.
In our time repeat those deeds;
in our time reveal them again.
But when you cause turmoil, remember to show us mercy!

Habakkuk 3:1–2

Gone was the need to figure it all out; gone was his concern with his own immediate problems. He recognized that God is God and he was not. God can do whatever he wants and what he does is ultimately best in the big picture and in the long run. Habakkuk simply prayed for God to reveal his power, his great deeds, and to do so with mercy. This is similar to praying, “Your kingdom come; your will be done” (Matthew 6:10a, NIV). His concern had shifted from himself and his issues to God and his will.

Verse 3 opens with the line, “God comes from Teman.” He is on the earth. Just hold for a minute on the first two words: “God comes.” Consider who God is. The Almighty, glorious, incomparable God, the I AM. There is no one like him. There is only one God. He is the sovereign One. Verses 3–15 help us imagine God coming.

In a collage of images, Habakkuk opens our eyes and ears to experience God coming by blending historical allusions to his previous mighty acts with natural phenomenon, such as lightening, plagues and earthquakes. His coming is awesome, frightening and overwhelming as well as a cause for rejoicing.

God’s splendor covers the skies and his glory fills the earth. Skies and earth together symbolize everything. He fills the universe with his presence. He is as bright as lightening or a brilliant sunrise. As a mighty warrior, he holds lightning bolts in his hands, displaying his great power to crush his enemies. As he takes his battle position, he shakes the earth itself and a mere look terrifies the nations.

In verse 8, Habakkuk moved to personal address. With his­torical allusions to the Exodus, Mount Sinai and the conquest of Canaan, Habakkuk depicts God the warrior in his victorious chariots with his bow ready for action.

In verse 13, we see that his judgment accomplishes our deliverance. God marched out to deliver his people, his special servants. He struck the leader of the wicked nation who repre­sents all evil tyrants, including ultimately the Antichrist and the Devil. Our divine warrior, almighty God, is the victor as he pierced the heads of the enemy warriors and trampled the sea with his horses on the surging, raging waters. As God has fought for his people before, so he will again once and for all.

This prayer-song remembers what God has done and antici­pates what he will do. God’s dramatic coming removes the dangerous illusion that he is disengaged or does not care.

We see Habakkuk’s report of his response.

I listened and my stomach churned;
the sound made my lips quiver.
My frame went limp, as if my bones were decaying,
and I shook as I tried to walk.
I long for the day of distress
to come upon the people who attack us.

—Habakkuk 3:16

We cannot encounter the living God mildly. Habakkuk was shaken and so would we be. God’s coming is at once terrifying and overwhelming and reassuring as he judges and delivers. Habakkuk longed for the Lord to come; for final justice; for God’s victory over his enemies.

In 3:17, Habakkuk honestly faced very difficult circum­stances. Judah’s main economy was agrarian. Therefore, in mentioning fig trees, grapes, olive trees, fields, sheep and cattle, he describes their food source and their economy. These include necessities such as milk and meat. Habakkuk accepted scarcity as a consequence of sin, his nation’s and other’s. God warned this would happen if they turned away from him. Scarcity and suffer­ing show us our need for God. Our inner joy does not depend on outward prosperity. God’s blessing is not measured by material wealth (Ephesians 1:2–4; Philippians 4:11–13).

As we wait in faithful expectation during difficult circum­stances, we can rejoice because of the Lord. Read these wonderful verses once more:

I will rejoice because of the Lord;
I will be happy because of the God who delivers me!
The sovereign Lord is my source of strength.
He gives me the agility of a deer;
he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.

—Habakkuk 3:18–19

This line at the beginning of 3:19 is the centerpiece of Habakkuk’s declaration: “The sovereign Lord; is my source of strength.” This affirmation stands in great contrast to 1:11 where we read that for the Babylonians, their own strength was their god. In a few short years, they were destroyed by the Persians. 

In time, we will reign forever with the all-powerful God who is our strength.

We dare not look to ourselves for strength, especially in the really hard times when there are no grapes on the vines and the fields yield no crops. Habakkuk had every reason not to rejoice, but he knew that no matter how bad life got, God is our source of joy and strength.

Respond

In Habakkuk’s declaration of faith; how are his descriptions of difficulty especially significant in an agrarian society? What today might be parallel to the descriptions in verse 17?

How could Habakkuk rejoice in the face of the realities of verse 17? What did God do for him and for us? How can you move closer to Habakkuk’s faith in the face of your struggles?

 

The complete text of When God Makes No Sense: A Fresh Look at Habakkuk is available on Amazon. Bruce will donate all profits from the sale of his book this month to Christ Fellowship’s Love Fund to help those in need.

About the Engage God DailY

Jesus invites us to know him personally and engage with him daily. Through daily Bible reading and prayer, we can grow in our relationship with him. The Engage God Daily is a daily resource designed to help you better understand the Bible and take you deeper into the concepts taught on Sunday mornings.

Use this guide to prepare for next Sunday’s teaching. Each day presents a reading, Scripture, and a prayer to help grow in your walk with Christ this week. 

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