Habakkuk Lesson 7
“You went forth for the salvation of your people”
(Click here for other Lessons in the Habakkuk Series)
Unfortunately in our world today, children go to school everyday to face bullies. Some small child is confronted by a hulking brute who demands his lunch money. The tiny child wants to fight back, but he stares at his scrawny arms and knows he doesn’t have a chance. So, as he hands over his few dollars, he challenges the aggressor with “Wait until my Dad finds out! He will come after you!”
When in a bad situation with no hope for saving yourself, you long for a champion to come and save you. Habakkuk knows that the Babylonians are going to capture and punish the people of Judah. So, as he continues with the prayer/song, the prophet shows to his Jewish people the picture of their coming champion.
Their champion is the Lord, depicted in these verses, as a Divine Warrior, coming in judgment with rage, anger, and wrath. He has horses and chariots, bows and arrows, rods and spears. God is described as trampling the nations to save His people.
The picture of God as a Divine Warrior is a theophany. A theophany is a visible manifestation of God to mankind on earth in the Old Testament. It comes from the word “theos” meaning “God” and “phaino” meaning “appear”. Old Testament theophanies could be dreams, visions, or angelic visitations. Thus, the angel that wrestled with Jacob, the burning bush that spoke with Moses, and the angels that visited Abraham and Sarah are all considered examples of theophanies.
In this passage of Habakkuk’s prayer/song, Habakkuk switches from the 3rd person, used in verses 3-6, to the 2nd person. So, he is speaking his prayer directly to God once again.
Did the Lord rage against the rivers, Or was Your anger against the rivers,
Or was Your wrath against the sea,
That You rode on Your horses, On Your chariots of salvation?
Your bow was made bare, The rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah
You cleaved the earth with rivers. The mountains saw You and quaked;
The downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice,
It lifted high its hands. Sun and moon stood in their places;
They went away at the light of Your arrows, At the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
Verses 8-11 Speak specifically of judgments to the earth—rivers, sea, mountains, earth, deep waters, the sun, the moon– all received some change through the judgment described. (Just as Romans 8:22 states, “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth…”)
Many of these are mentioned with the future judgments in Revelation.
Habakkuk asks if God was angry against the rivers and the sea? Did the waters sin and make God angry? Is that why they were part of the judgment? The answer, however, is “no”– God in his chariot of salvation is doing what it takes to bring about the salvation of his people.
In indignation You marched through the earth;
In anger You trampled the nations.
You went 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.
You pierced 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.
You trampled on the sea with Your horses,
On the surge of many waters.
Verses 12-15 speak of God trampling nations, striking the head of the house of evil, piercing him. To the people of Judah, this would have been a comfort to think of God judging their captor and crushing the head of the nation that enslaved them. However, to me, this all seems like the coming ultimate judgment, described in Revelation when Jesus will crush the head of the one who bruised his heel. Again, Habakkuk’s song asks the question of why did God march through the earth with judgment and trample the nations? Again, the answer is for the salvation of His people.
Who is the annointed?
Verse 13 mentions specifically for the “salvation of your anointed”.
In the OT, priests, prophets and then kings were anointed as a special sign of their office. But also, I Chronicles 16:21-22 speaks of God’s people, Israel and God’s prophets as anointed ones. So, to the people singing this song, they would know that they were considered God’s anointed.
However, in the NT anointing refers to the Holy Spirit, and all believers are said to be anointed by God.
First John 2:27 “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
Furthermore, in Luke, Jesus quotes Isaiah 4:18a saying that he was anointed by God to bring good news to the poor…
And, in Acts 10:38 it says “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”
Anointing is always a sign of God’s choosing. When a king was chosen, he was anointed. When a priest was chosen, he was anointed. The chosen nation of Israel was considered God’s anointed people. Believers who have the Holy Spirit within them, are anointed. Jesus was anointed to be the savior of the world.
Therefore, in this passage, the salvation of the anointed refers to the Jewish people in captivity. However, it also seems to have the prophetic reference to Jesus, God’s ultimate Anointed One. Since Jesus would come through the nation of Israel, again a remnant must be saved to continue God’s eternal plan. Thus finally, The Anointed One, Jesus, would come again in judgment on the nations.
For the Jewish people in captivity, words of God’s ultimate power and judgment on all of the evil of the world and the saving of all of God’s people would be greatly encouraging. The reminder that God is the champion of His people would also be a call to them to repent and receive salvation. (The just shall live by faith.)
Here again, in these verses depicting judgment, Habakkuk seems to be speaking of the judgment coming to Babylon, but also of the future judgment that would be upon the whole earth. During the time of Habakkuk, God was using nations to fulfill His judgments on the world. But future prophcies describe God himself coming in judgment, with armies and chariots, and judging the whole earth.
1. God’s ways are forever. Nations and people are temporary. They will all ultimately come before God in judgment. The earth, sun, moon, stars, etc. are also not unchanging and forever. Judgment will change them. Evil’s rule on this earth is not forever. It, too, will be crushed by judgment.
All these will change and pass away, but God’s eternal plan will go forth forever.
2. Just as the Jewish people were comforted by the thought of the future final judgment, we also as we see sin increase around us and as some Christians suffer great persecution for their faith, can be comforted by knowing that God as the divine warrior will one day complete the final judgment.
3. God is mighty and victorious in the salvation of His people. If we feel battered by sin, we feel that evil has a strong hold on us so that we can not escape. We must look to the Lord, and remind ourselves that the battle belongs to the Lord. He is the one who can strike the head of the house of the evil one to set us free.
4. The theophany that Habakkuk presents is one of not only a wrathful Warrior of judgment, but also a Champion of Salvation. Both love and wrath are simultaneously presented in the picture of God. These attributes are not mutually exclusive. God is not sometimes love and sometimes wrath. He is always both! His love perfects His judgment, and His judgment perfects His love.
Praise be to God, our Champion of Salvation, our Holy and Righteous Judge.