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Habakkuk 3: Silence before God

April 18, 2010 Series: Habakkuk

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Habakkuk 3:1–3:19

Habakkuk 3.1-19

April 18,, 2010

Sam Ford



Today we end our journey with Habakkuk.  Last week, we ended with Habakkuk 2.20 But the LORD is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.  I have meditated a lot on this verse this week, probably because I don’t think it applies to me.  If you spend any time around me, my bride, or my children, SILENCE is not the first word that will come to mind—we are a couple of talkers who have birthed three more future talkers.  Just because someone is a talker, doesn’t mean they are great communicators.  Often times, those who talk a lot don’t like silences, and don’t listen very well. I guess that is why I became a teacher then a preacher where I get captive audiences.   Since I was young, I have been known to be a conversation dominator. And although my “condition” has improved over the years—it is never cured—and if not restrained, I will to talk over people, cut off people, and generally fill the air with my thoughts and opinions welcome or not.


I used to think I could fake being a good listener because I was a good hearer, able to remember and repeat what has been said on command.  The truth is that I often ONLY hear, and not listen, because I’m self-talking, waiting to speak the perfect response as soon as whoever you’re speaking with foolishly takes a breath.  Silence is difficult for me.  I realized this week that silence is difficult in my relationship with God.  In my prayers, I never shut up, not for a minute.  I am always giving God lists of requests, and needs, often sounding like a broken record.  It’s almost as if I’m not really talking to a person at all.  It’s like going on a date, or having someone over to your house, where all they ever talk about is them.  I wonder if God ever feels like that because am always talking, I’m always thinking about me, and NOT listening to or meditating on God.   We could do a lot worse than be silent before God. 


Silence w/ God and Silent before God

I think there is a difference between SILENCE w/ God and being SILENT before God.  Habakkuk cries out to God when he is overwhelmed by the sin he sees and experiences.  This is where Habakkuk’s faith first starts, he turns to God.  That is more than we often do, especially when we’re overwhelmed emotionally, physically, materially, psychologically, or spiritually.  When the emotions flare, when that person hurts you, when you hear bad news, when you experience tragedy, when temptation rises—a test of your faith has begun.  But IF we cry to God, what do we say?  And do we wait for God’s response?


God 1st Response is not listened to

Habakkuk complains—twice.  Habakkuk turns to God and when God answers, he isn’t really listening.   He heard what God said, but he doesn’t like what he says.  Even as God is speaking, I imagine Habakkuk’s mind is working to formulate the argument.  That could be one of the reasons why you talk to God, but don’t listen anymore—you turned to him in a time of trial, and you didn’t like what he said.  In fact, He never tells you what you want to hear. Habakkuk was one of those talkers who assumed how God would or should answer.  He went not actually expecting God to have his own plan, but for God’s answer to agree with his.  The sin in us causes us to overlook or worse, deny God’s Word when we don’t like what we read or hear, just like our first parents in the garden:   

  1. That is not what God said:  “Did God actually SAY don’t eat?”
  2. That is not what God’s Word means:  “You shall not surely die.”
  3. That part of God’s Word does not apply to me or my situation, I know God would want what is best for me…and this is it:   “God knows you’ll be like him


God’s 2nd Response leads to Worship

Once God takes a breath, Habakkuk decides to speak again.  By grace, God shows patience with Habakkuk and his second complaint about THE WAY HE DOES THINGS.  God boldly declares in no uncertain terms that “the righteous will live by their faith”.  He judges the unrighteous who in their own ability to make the circumstances work to their advantage while, BUT he preserves the faithful who trust that God has already worked out all circumstances to His Glory—even the evil ones.   And after singing his own TAUNT SONG, God tells the world to be silent—listen because you talk too much.    When we fill the air with words about what we see, what we want, what we don’t like, what we hate, what we are overwhelmed with, we fill our hearts, minds, and our lives NOT with the awe of God, but with the AWE of what we see.  It’s only after Habakkuk has truly listened to God’s Word, he is no longer overwhelmed by he sin and evil…he is overwhelmed by God.  He is SILENT BEFORE GOD, and out of his silence comes a song of faith:   


V. 1-2 The Coming of God

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.

     2     O Lord, I have heard the report of you,

and your work, O Lord, do I fear.

          In the midst of the years revive it;

in the midst of the years make it known;

in wrath remember mercy.


Our Approach to God

From chapter 1 to chapter 3, something changes in Habakkuk.  There appears to be an overall shift in his attitude and approach to God.  Both the beginning and the end are prayers, but they sound very different.  He goes from, “WHY? WHERE ARE YOU GOD” to “WHOA…THERE YOU ARE GOD.”   Growing up, our parents tell us and we tell our children, prayer is a very simple thing—it is speaking to God.  I wonder in a culture that has lost all sense of “Sacredness”, where everyone is “entitled” to everything, if we have forgotten who we are talking to.  We are entering into the presence of God. How can we expect to hear God, or for God to hear us, if we enter His presence as if we deserve to be there?  .  We’re going before the King, the Father, the Creator of all things, BE HUMBLE, we deserve nothing. In chapter three, here, Habakkuk’s prayer is not random declarations, or a litany of requests, it is a poem, heartfelt and yet more formal than his conversational complaints.  Habakkuk finally has his mind off himself, off the Israelites, off of by Babylonians, and on God himself—O LORD, I HAVE HEARD the REPORT of YOU.  


Our Adoration & Fear of God

Shigionoth (SHI-GY-YO-NA) is term descriptive of a rambling musical poem.  In other words, Habakkuk’s prayer is really a song.   In this song you will also see the word “Selah” (SEH-LAW) which is used three times in this song and 71 times in the Psalms. Selah is a technical musical device which prompted the music to pause or the people to cry out a response.  It gave opportunity for people to corporately praise in response to a profound truth about God we worship.  Sometimes it was only silence, sometimes it was musical silence with God’s musicians agreeing with their instruments.  It’s a moment of silence, a moment of reflection, of meditation on God himself.  Suffering often draws us away from a focus on God.  We end up spending less time on the REPORT of GOD’S WORK—the gospel—and instead, give God our own report of all things he hasn’t done.  Shutting our mouths and meditating on God and his work will bring us to a place of fear, a place of deep place of reverence. That is why Jesus said our prayers begin with the NAME of God:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.


Our Desire for God’s Work 

Meditating on the NAME of God means focusing on the character of God as revealed by his mighty ACTS. Our God is a God of action, of work.  But as we approach God, we often pray for our own “work” to be done, and not God’s.  A faithful prayer expresses personal desires but only in submission to God’s desire.  We must understand that God’s goal is His glory.  Habakkuk is done complaining or questioning.  And he asks for God to act, that he might revive HIS WORK not what Habakkuk wants.  Again, this is why Jesus says the second aspect of our prayer is for God’s WILL:  Your kingdom come, your will be done.


V. 3- 15 The Wrath of God in History

Habakkuk has just heard that God’s WILL is to judge all sin, his, Israel’s, and Babylon’s.  The only request that Habakkuk has in this prayer for mercy—the rest of praise of a Sovereign God and his past acts of wrath that took place in the REDEMPTION of his people, acts that made his name known.


 3     God came from Teman,

and the Holy One fromMountParan.

          His splendor covered the heavens,

and the earth was full of his praise.  SELAH (STOP AND MEDITATE)

First, God heard, God saw, and God came. He responded to the cries of his people.  Temnan and Paran describe the campsite of the Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai, the mountain where they gathered after the Exodus from Egypt.  This is where God met his people in all his glory.  This is the God who descended on the mountain with fire, who covered it with thick smoke and a sky full of lighting.  This is the God whom, when he spoke caused the mountains to shake and the people to tremble (Exodus 19.16). 


     4     His brightness was like the light;

rays flashed from his hand;

and there he veiled his power.

     5     Before him went pestilence,

and plague followed at his heels.

     6     He stood and measured the earth;

he looked and shook the nations;

          then the eternal mountains were scattered;

the everlasting hills sank low.

His were the everlasting ways.  SELAH (STOP AND MEDITATE)

This is the God who brought the greatest nation in the world to its knees.  This is the God who turned the Nileriver into blood, brought forth gnats, disease, frogs, and giant 100lb hailstones to crush a powerful kingdom.  This is the God who proved he was in control of the water, the air, the land, the economy, the government, the health, the weather, the animals, the insects, the light, the darkness, and the life and death of millions.


     7    I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;

the curtains of thelandofMidiandid tremble.

8     Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?

Was your anger against the rivers,

or your indignation against the sea,

          when you rode on your horses,

on your chariot of salvation?

     9     You stripped the sheath from your bow,

calling for many arrows.  SELAH (STOP AND MEDITATE)

Cushan and Midian were nations that lied on either side of theRed Sea.  They were witnesses to what God did to redeemIsraelfrom slavery inEgypt.  Moses Midianite Pagan Priest father, someone who had only HEARD of the report of what happened, demonstrated more faith than many of the Israelites who experienced it.   Redeeming them fromEgyptwas only the beginning.  He had sworn to bring them into the promised land, a place of rest, a place where God would dwell with them.  This would happen through conquest— an impossible conquest led by a warrior with weapons, skills, and the will to use them!  (notice pause)


You split the earth with rivers.

     10     The mountains saw you and writhed;

the raging waters swept on;

          the deep gave forth its voice;

it lifted its hands on high.

     11     The sun and moon stood still in their place

at the light of your arrows as they sped,

at the flash of your glittering spear.

     12     You marched through the earth in fury;

you threshed the nations in anger.

     13     You went out for the salvation of your people,

for the salvation of your anointed.

          You crushed the head of the house of the wicked,

laying him bare from thigh to neck.  SELAH (STOP AND MEDITATE)

This is the God who conquered Canaanas recorded in the book of Joshua. Before they began their conquest, Joshua saw a man with a sword drawn and Joshua asked, “Are you for us or our enemies.”  It was Jesus. And Jesus responds with, NO.  I’m not on your team, you’re on mine—I am the COMMANDER of the ARMY.   This was the God who turned a bunch of complaining bricklaying slaves into warriors. This is the God who, according to the book of Joshua, brought walls of cities down with the voices of men.  This is the God who caused the Sun and Moon to stand still so that (the Israelites could complete the battle, no) God could wipe out the enemy by hurling huge stones from the sky. And we’re going to worry about________...nothing is impossible for our God!


V. 14-16 The Response of Awe in Habbakuk – What he feels

     14   You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors,

who came like a whirlwind to scatter me,

rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.

     15     You trampled the sea with your horses,

the surging of mighty waters. 

16     I hear, and my body trembles;

my lips quiver at the sound;

          rottenness enters into my bones;

my legs tremble beneath me.

          Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble

to come upon people who invade us.

God is victorious over ALL of creation, nature and men.   And when Habakkuk shuts his mouth and remembers who this God is whom he serves, HE TREMBLES.  His lips are not quivering over the sin ofIsrael or over the Babylonian threat that is inevitably coming.  If the pure awesomeness of God as he has revealed himself—don’t even imagine it—just read it, doesn’t make you tremble and possibly you’re your pants, there is something wrong . You haven’t meditated on our God. 


Habakkuk is trembling in great fear over the mighty power of God—HE IS IN AWE.   I could say “fear” but, unfortunately, that wonderful word has come to mean little more than being scared..  Defined, awe is partly emotional and partly intellectual combining a sense of dread, respect, and mystery and wonder.  We partially experience this at a beautiful sunset, moment of destruction, the birth of a child, or some incredible act of nature.  AWE is a terrifying fear and alluring beauty all at the same time.  In those moments, you see and feel how small you are, you see an amazing display of power that scares you a bit, and yet, you see beauty that you want to know be close to.  


V. 17-20  The Song of Habbakuk

And so, after 16 verses of praise to God and His Salvation, Habakkuk closes the chapter with some of the most powerful words in the Bible.  THIS IS THE SONG OF FAITH.  These word sdescribe the genuine heart of faith that trusts in the “God of my Salvation” through all circumstances; rejoicing in God’s Sovereignty because of what He has done, even if He does nothing else.  

     17    Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

          the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

          the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

     18     yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

     19     God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

          To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.



What is living by faith—there it is.  Though I don’t get the job, though I am not healed, though my kid does not behave, though I cannot pay my bills, though my marriage is hard, though I work hard and am not recognized,  EVEN IF my worse case scenario occurs or is worst than I think….I will trust Him.


More than endure…rejoice

And Habakkuk says he will do more than just grin, bear down, and trust.  Remember, he knows invaders are coming, he is actually expecting things to get worse.  Yet, he says I WILL REJOICE in the LORD…I WILL TAKE JOY IN THE GOD OF MY SALVATION—JESUS.  As another pastor in the A29 Network so aptly said, Only Christianity has a God that actually intervened and came into the world of suffering, and if God has come and suffered, He must have reasons for its existence if He was willing to come and get involved Himself and suffer upon the cross.  I’ve got reasons, and one day I’ll completely remove it, but to show you that I care I’ve come and involved myself in it.”  Our God entered our crappy circumstances, SO I WILL TAKE JOY in GOD whatever the circumstance.  I WILL FIND STRENGTH in GOD, HOPE IN GOD, PEACE IN GOD.  I WILL, like the deer CLIMB TO HEIGHTS I never thought possible because he takes me there.  I am not content to simply hang onto the cliff and not die…I will climb in his strength not because of what I see in front of me, but because I am more aware of who God is and who I am not; what I can’t do, but what he can.




Will you walk with Habakkuk?  Will you worship God no matter what happens? Will you worship God if the worst happens?  God doesn’t want a zippidy do-da-I’m immune from sin faith.  True faith is not pretending brokenness isn’t there; it is knowing that our God is bigger than what we see and that all of this is a speed-bump to eternity:  2Corinthians 4.16-5.9  16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.