Habakkuk 3-October 10, 2012
Habakkuk has heard that the proud, who do not rely on God, cannot rest or abide or live (2:4-5) and that the Lord will return their sins on their own heads to destroy them (2:6-20). O Lord, I have heard the report of thee, and thy work, O Lord, do I fear (3:2). Such is the effect on the prophet of God’s word concerning his judgment, before which the prophet can only tremble in awe and terror and before whose frightful wrath Habakkuk can only pray for mercy-not only for himself and the faithful but even for the wicked (v. 2).
God is bringing about his purpose for the earth to completion. The word of 2:3 has yet to be confirmed-the promise of God to establish his Kingdom upon the earth-and that confirmation is supplied by the vision of 3:3-15, whereby all the prophet’s questions are stilled and he ends with the confession of 3:17-19. O Lord, renew that work of which I have heard from of old and of which you now have once again reassured me. It is as if the prophet were praying, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done…Yes, O Lord, do it.”
Habakkuk does not pray here, “Lord, prosper my work.” He prays, “Lord, renew thy work.” He wants God’s purpose to be fulfilled, God’s work on earth to be done, God’s actions to be seen clearly by faith in the passages of history. The church’s goal is every knee bent and every tongue confessing Christ’s lordship. The church’s concern is the glory of the Lord known over all the earth. “O Lord, in the midst of the years, renew thy work. Bring thy Kingdom on this earth, even as it is in heaven.
In the power of the Spirit, we can work in accord with God’s purpose, to be sure. We can choose to promote it, and not oppose it. But we cannot finally achieve that salvation that only God can give. In the midst of the years, renew thy work, O Lord; in the midst of our years, make it known. It is like Christians being offered a foretaste of the new wine of the messianic banquet when they sit at the Lord’s table (Mark 14:25 par). Habakkuk is granted a foresight of God’s purpose accomplished (3:3-15). This passage forms the most extensive and elaborate theophany to be found in the Old Testament. Theophany is from the Greek theos, “god, “ and phainein, “to appear.” Theophany is the self-disclosure of God.
Even the eternal mountains are cleft by his look, and the everlasting hills sink low, for this is the God who determined his purpose in the beginning and is now bringing it to completion. The answer is clear. God has come once again to conquer the chaos, as he did at the creation (Gen. 1 & Pss. 74:12-13; 89:9-10; Isa. 51:9); but this time the chaos symbolizes the evil of the divine Warrior-King. Verses 9-15 therefore picture the final battle. There is a glimpse of the final future victory, even thought things did not necessarily change in the present time. Habakkuk knows who is working his purpose out, unseen, behind the turmoil. And Habakkuk now knows what the end of it all will be. He therefore sings the magnificent song of trust that we find in 3:17-19. Habakkuk is expressing his confidence in God’s salvation of him in the face of the enemy.
The foe in Jeremiah is not only Babylonia, but also God, who comes as the Divine Warrior to wreak his final judgment on his people. Habakkuk may therefore be referring not only to the historical threat of Babylonian invasion and destruction of the land, but also to God’s final reckoning with evil in his world.
Can we live with that? Can we affirm Habakkuk’s faith and know with certain joy that God is working his purpose out and will bring it to completion?
“By good powers wonderfully hidden, we await cheerfully, come what may.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yes, truly, the word is sure: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is at work, fulfilling his purpose. His Kingdom comes. And “in the meantime” and for evermore, the righteous shall live by their faithfulness.