GOD’S DECISIVE ACTS
Habakkuk’s attention is now drawn from the awesome appearance of God to a description of God’s acts on earth. God’s mighty acts and judgments of the past brought about salvation or deliverance for His people. Habakkuk drew from these well springs the faith and joy that he needed to face the uncertain future of adversity. He could face this uncertain future in submissive confidence in God because in the midst of past difficulties and judgments God, The Mighty Warrior, had brought about deliverance for His people. He trusted God would use whatever the future judgment held to bring about salvation and deliverance for His people.
Our God uses judgments to deliver His people. God is involved in His people’s life situations and is there amidst His judgments to bring about justice and salvation.
I. GOD’S USE OF NATURE IN JUDGMENTS, 8-11.
II. GOD’S JUDGMENT AMONGST THE NATIONS, 12-15.
God’s rule over and through the basic elements of nature is demonstrated in verses 8-11. Verse 8 contains three rhetorical questions. “Did the LORD rage against the rivers, or was Your anger against the rivers, or was Your wrath against the sea, that You ruled (rode) on Your horses, on Your chariots of salvation?’
In this new section YAHWEH is directly addressed in the second person, or You. It begins with three questions which center on God’s motive for His appearance which causes such forceful reactions upon the earth and in the heavens. Was God’s wrath against the rivers? And at the streams? And at the sea? In other words, was God angry with nature? While direct answers are not given, a no answer is implied. God is not displeased with nature. He was displeased with man. He was using nature as a tool to demonstrate His power (vv. 12-13). God had exhibited His power by smiting the Nile River (Ex. 7:20-21), the Red Sea (Ex. 14:15-28; 15:8-10; Ps. 78:13), and the Jordan River (Josh. 3:14-17). Similarly God would use the power of nature to smite the nations. His motive was to destroy His enemies and deliver His people.
God’s chariots and horses are evidence of His power as the LORD of Hosts. He ruled His angels and rode steeds to bring salvation to His people. Elsewhere winged cherubim (on the clouds) serve as His chariots or throne (Ps. 104:3, 18:10-12; Isa. 19:1) riding the winds and striking forth with the power and brightness of lightning. His chariots bringing the power of the winds and the storm drives back the waters and churns them up. His cherubim and angelic force are executors of His sovereignty over nature. Therefore God was seen as a victor riding forth with His horses (Hab. 3:15; Zach. 1:8-11; Rev. 6:4ff) and chariots in majestic power to bring salvation for His people. This chariot pick Elijah from the earth at his appointed time ( ). [What a contrast with the Babylonians’ horses (1:8-9) that would eventually be stopped when Babylon fell a few decades later, in 539 B.C. (2:6-8).]
[God has used creation from the parting of the time of Noah and the great flood to fight against His and His people’s enemies. Habakkuk directly addresses these questions to YAHWEH, longing for God to act, to intervene in great power again.]
More of God’s arsenal joins the battle in verse 9. “Your bow was made bare, the rods of chastisement were sworn. [Selah] You cleaved the earth with rivers.”
The bow was made bare shows God pulling it from its sheath to get it ready for action. The rods of chastisement (lit. word) are probably the arrows used to put to an end the plans, and attacks of the Lord’s adversaries. Selah, stop and think about it. God has promised He will act. Meditate some on what God’s actions will be, based on what He has promised He will do.
The third line indicates that God’s actions and power can be seen in the carving out of nature. He creased the earth for the rivers. God forms the channels for where He would have things flow. As His power was displayed then so it will be again.
Verse 10 continues the thought of the earth’s reaction at the advance of the Lord of Hosts. “The mountains saw Thee and quaked; the downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, it lifted high its hand.”
The mountains quaked at His presence and their prominence withered away. This withering is pictured by women twisting and turning while seized with the pangs of childbirth. The underground waters of the deep move in recognition of God’s power. Their roaring is like His voice. The deep waves of the sea are spoken of as being lifted up by His hands. God’s power, as seen in the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 14 & 15) and the Jordan River (Deut. 33), can cause tremendous upheavals in nature! In this power-mad age we do well to remember the awesome power that belongs to God!
Verse 11 states that even the celestial bodies acknowledge their Creator. “Sun and moon stood in their places; they went away at the light of Thine arrows, at the radiance of Thy gleaming spear.”
The sun and moon are highly visible symbols of God’s created order. As they are always there and always on time. They represent consistency and permanence. We have base our calendar upon them for millenniums. Their inactivity indicates the interruption of that time-space order. In Joshua (10:11-14; 2 Kings 20:9-22; Is. 38:8) at Gibeon the sun and moon stood still in their respective places in heaven. Because He is their creator and the creator of nature law, He holds sovereignty over them and what they represent as weel. God can work His wonders not only on earth, sea, and among the nations but in the highest heavens as well.
The thought that the sun and moon went away suggest an eclipse or God darkening-hiding their light (Isa. 38:8). When His lightning flashes even the light of sun and moon is pale by comparison. Lightning racing toward its target is compared with the arrows of God.
Yet all the light and brilliance of sun, moon and lightning pale compared to the splendor of the Lord. The interruption in the created order characterized by darkness is also indicative of the coming Day of the Lord.
II. GOD’S JUDGMENT AMONGST THE NATIONS, 12-15.
Verse 12 states that in history God marched through His world dealing justice to the nations. “In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations.”
Habakkuk envisioned God moving like a thundering giant who marches through the earth. God was hardly tip-toeing through the tulips. In anger He tramples or threshes the nations. As an ox treads the grain to beat out and crush the chaff, so God marched across the earth to crush sinful people and bring salvation to Israel. The prophet wanted to incite God to do it again and bring out of control people and nations back to order.
Verse 13 gives the reason for God’s intervention. In the days of old God’s coming forth meant the deliverance of His people.“You came forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck.” [Selah]
So that no one doubts as to the reason God is manifesting such power, Habakkuk expressly states that God was going forth for the salvation of His people. Rather than ignoring evil or the oppression of His people, God remembers His covenant and goes forth on their behalf. The direction and motive for God’s judgment is also made clear. His anger was not vented against nature nor toward everybody in general. His purpose was to crush the head of the house of evil and to deliver His own people. Special deliverance was the goal behind God’s destruction. Salvation was for God’s people and expressly for His anointed one. Anointed One probably refers to the Messiah (mašiah). God is ever faithful to His people and to His anointed ones.
The last part of the verse describes YAHWEH’s victory over a violent leader with a serious body and head wound. God will eventually crush the head of the leader of the force of evil in our world (Ps. 74:12-14; 89:9-10; 26:12-13; Isa. 27:1; 51:9-10) whose forces are attacking God’s people.
God’s mighty past acts in history amply demonstrate that He is able to save those who look to Him in faith. He has promised to save His people and He will save them. The God who makes promises stands by His promises. The God who makes oaths keeps them. Selah. Meditate on it.
The two final verses of this ode of God’s self-revelation speak of the ultimate destruction of the enemy. Verse 14 tells of God turning the tables on those who attacked His people. “Thou didst pierce with his own spears the head of his throngs. They stormed in to scatter us; their exultation was like those who devour the oppressed in secret.”
The barbaric ungodly hordes are pictures as getting ready to storm into battle delighted to prey upon the defenseless (poor, humble, and afflicted). The enemy expected easy victory and the opportunity to devour their victim’s plunder like ravenous beasts. The role of victor and victim is suddenly reversed by the power of God (Jud 5; 1 Sam. 7).
The attackers of God’s people will be thrown into panic and confusion and God will cause them to destroy each other with their own weapons. But those under affliction will have victory brought about for them by God.
The stanza of the hymn ends with a reminder in verse 15 that the Creator-Warrior churns the sea with His horses.“Thou You tread (trample) on the sea with Your horses, on the surge of many waters.”
The recital of God’s marvelous acts in history brings this section to a close. This reference is probably to one of His most spectacular of His miracles. The prophet brings to remembrance God taking His people through the Red Sea (Ex. 14). The pursuing Egyptians were trod under by the seas and mighty waters as God wrought deliverance for His people.
What He did in history for His people, He is willing and able to do again. Is there any god like our God?
Remembrance is a blessed practice for the people of God, especially those who are in or facing times of distress and ready to fall into despair. They need to help themselves by remembering God’s faithful acts toward them and His reviving of them in their mind. An excellent way to do this is to recount these occurances to God in prayer. This should bring renewed confidence and courage.
There are a people in the world who are God’s people and their salvation is what He has in mind as He sovereignly acts in the world. Though oppressors may rule the moment, God rules the oppressors and holds them accountable for afflicting His people. Like Habakkuk, may we trust in His deliverance.