Habakkuk 3 August 24, 2017
The burden of the prophet is overwhelming. To have a revelation of impending doom may seem as though it is a great privilege while in reality, it is a tremendous burden. In reading the 3rd chapter of Habakkuk, the reader easily picks up on a vacillation of the use of past tense, present tense, and future tense. While that may seem a bit strange, considering the place of the prophet brings an understanding. The prophet is not writing in a passive voice speaking of the past as those it is present, he is speaking of the future as if it is present because through the revelation of God he sees the future as if it is present.
Habakkuk records a three-fold response to the chastening hand of God he visualizes as the Lord reveals the impending doom. He responds with humility, with a plea for mercy, and with praise. Verse 2 says he heard the report about the Lord and he was filled with fear. Fear is an emotion that is accompanied by humility. It usually occurs when a human being encounters a situation full of danger yet one they cannot control. There is a force or power greater than they who is in charge. Consequently, they are simply brought into humility under that power. Hence, Habakkuk was full of fear. He first responded with humility.
His humility led to a plea for mercy. The plea for mercy is a plea for a reprieve while knowing full well relief is undeserved. Habakkuk is not asking the Lord to overlook the sin. He is asking the Lord to grant a lesser sentence than is deserved. Notice that he does not enter a plea of not guilty. He is actually offering a plea of guilt and calling on the Lord to not impart the fully deserved sentence due the Israelites because of their breaking of the covenant.
The final response to the Lord is one of praise. Habakkuk sees the hand of the Lord using many elements of the creation to execute his hand of chastisement. He reports his vision of God using pestilence, plagues, earth quakes, rivers, and seas. His use of imagery is strong. But then he mentions chastisement and his own salvation. Here is a strong reminder, the work of the Lord here is not wrath against the people but rather correction. God is using the rod of correction. God is exercising mercy and grace in delivering the people from what would be the consequence of their own sin if left to their own devices. When he realizes the purpose of the calamity, Habakkuk offers praise to God. He closes the book by saying, “I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
The one who walks close to Jesus sees more clearly the future than the person who lives in sin. When one fully understands the future for the person who walks in sin, his heart is broken. But when he sees the wisdom of God in chastisement, and when he sees the salvation of God work to redeem one who is lost in sin, his response turns to humility, a plea for mercy, and one of praise. The one who walks with Jesus is full of compassion for the one who rejects Christ, a plea for mercy for the one who knows Christ but walks away, and song of praise when he stops long enough to realize, but the by the grace of God, we would all be lost.