by Zac Poonen
Habakkuk is the story of a man who had questions but who made the journey from doubt to certainty. He starts with doubt, “O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. I cry, but no one comes to save” (Hab. 1:2). But he ends with certainty: “I will rejoice in the Lord. The Lord God is my strength; He will bring me safely over the mountains” (Hab. 3:19).
When Habakkuk saw the Lord, his heart was full of praise: “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent” (Hab. 2:20). The conflict of his faith ended in the triumph of faith. He says, “Lord, I am silent before Your majesty. I have no more questions.” When Job saw the glory of God he also said, “Now I see You. I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 42:5; 40:4,5). Job had no more questions once he saw the Lord. God will not answer all your 10,000 questions because if He did, you will then have 10,000 more questions! The answer (as in Job’s case and Habakkuk’s case) is to see the Lord Himself. The Lord is in His holy temple. Have you seen Him? Then your flesh will be silent before Him and you will have no more questions!
When Habakkuk saw God, he saw the reward of living a life of faith. A life that is God-centred is a triumphant one. Habakkuk who had thought that God was doing nothing to punish evil people now prays that God will be merciful in the midst of His anger (Hab. 3:2). He who had imagined that God had forsaken His people now sings a song of praise. He says, “I am filled with amazement at the things You have done. When I see God the Holy One, His brilliant splendour fills the heavens. The earth is full of His praise. What a wonderful God He is. He rejoices in His awesome power. When He looks, the nations tremble. You went out to rescue Your chosen people, to save Your anointed ones. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked” (Hab. 3:2-14).
Habakkuk now saw God first and not the Babylonians. The pure in heart will see God everywhere and all the time (Matt.5:8). The trouble till now was that Habakkuk saw only the wicked Babylonians prospering. Now he saw that God was in control of everything. The “head of the house of the wicked” could be applied to Satan, who was crushed by Jesus on the cross. All of Habakkuk’s questions were answered when he saw God in His glory and in His greatness. He trembled inwardly when he saw God and said, “I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us” (Hab. 3:16). When you have a doubt, talk to God about it and not to man. God’s final word to Habakkuk and to us is “Wait!”. When Habakkuk waited and listened to God, his complaint was turned into a song. The same will be true of us. The hardest work of all is to wait.
Habakkuk’s wonderful song of praise is one of the most beautiful songs of faith in the entire Old Testament. He sings here like a new-covenant saint: “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty – yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation’ (Hab. 3:17,18). Like Job, his business may be ruined, and he may have lost everything. But he will still rejoice because his joy is found in the Lord and not in anything on earth. Even if everything around us fails, we will still rejoice in the God of our salvation. A song of praise is the outward expression of the inner triumph of faith. “They believed His words – and sang His praise” (Ps.106:12). Habakkuk goes on to say, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains” (Hab. 3:19). This prophet who had so many doubts and fears at the beginning now says that the Lord will take him safely over every mountain of doubt and make him as sure-footed on those mountains as the deer that don’t lose their footing on the rocky crags. Habakkuk adds an interesting little note at the end: “(For the choir director: This prayer must be accompanied by stringed instruments)” (Hab. 3:19). What he is saying is that even though everything is lost, don’t sing this song as a mournful dirge! It must be set to joyful music – and make sure that many musical instruments are used as well! We must learn to praise the Lord with all of our hearts. Never sing hymns in a drab, monotonous way. The Lord is on the throne and Jesus is Victor, no matter what happens in this universe. Let us therefore use our voices and all the musical instruments God has given us, to praise Him and exalt His Name. Amen.