Habakkuk 3: A Song of Faith
Imagine yourself as the prophet, you know that one of the worst tragedies in human history is coming, a holocaust against your nation in which many will die and suffer terrible atrocities. What do you do? Most of us would pack our bags and run away. Instead Habakkuk writes a song to equip Israel for the coming trial. As a shepherd and teacher of the people, Habakkuk shows the righteous what their own response to God should be in the coming times. The relevance of a song is immense. Many truths that have impacted our lives have been those we have sung in a hymn. God instructed Moses to instruct Israel with a song in Deut. 31:19. Lessons we were taught with a song are easier remembered, and so it is with this song. It is structured like many other psalms, and so technically there are 151 Psalms in the Bible. You will notice how it begins with the description, ‘A Prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.’ Psalms 17, 86, 90, 102, and 142 all have a similar introduction. Shigionoth is obscure but could point to the song as a type of lament. It then also ends like a Psalm, ‘To the choir: with stringed instruments’. Not only that ‘Selah’ is used three times in this song, this is understood to be a dramatic pause for reflection. This is the only place outside the book of Psalms where Selah is used. You could call it a song of faith, or a song for the sufferer.
This will be our last message in this series so let us remind ourselves of the argument of the book up to this point, H was complaining to God about the injustice and sin that was permeating the people of God. H was on the point of accusing God of not being holy and just for tolerating it. God responded in a vision showing that He did care and that He would act by sending the Babylonians to judge Judah. This was even harder for H to swallow for how could a holy God use a wicked people to afflict a less wicked people? God did not answer all of the questions that we would normally ask when discussing the problem of God controlling evil instead God rebuked H and told him of his duty which was to live by faith not sight, and secondly, He gave the assurance that Babylon too wold be judged. The second dialogue ended with a very dramatic picture, ‘But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.’ God is King, God is resident on the throne, God is Holy and God is about to judge, our response is one of silence not accusation, silent repentance not argumentation.
This prayer has three parts. V2 is the introduction with a recognition of God and His holy plan and three prayer requests. The body of the prayer is a portrayal of God as the Warrior-Savior in v3-15. The psalm ends with trembling yet trusting response of the prophet, v16-19. Since this is a song prepared by the prophet for the nation to sing you should picture it being sung when Babylon is attacking and ransacking Jerusalem, you think of it being the song of the exiles during the 70 years of their captivity, it is a song of faith to be sung by the one who suffers. It is the song of the believer who in faith reconciles himself to loss and suffering as God works out His holy and wise plans. The main body of the song is a picture of God coming as a deliverer. And so it is a song to train our thoughts to accept pain in God’s purposes while keeping a hopeful expectation of His salvation.