Because of the persistent rebellion and idolatry of Judah, God warned that He was about to remove His protection, allowing them to be invaded and captured by the wicked Babylonians (a.k.a. “Chaldeans”, see 1:6). It was a radical move on God’s part, and it sounds harsh and uncaring. The prophet Habakkuk, whose name means “to embrace, hug”, struggled to embrace the fact that God would punish His own people while seemingly rewarding the Babylonians. In time Habakkuk learned that God’s plan, which was fulfilled shortly after he “wrote the vision” (see 2:2), was actually an expression of His steadfast love. God was so committed to His relationship with His people that He would stop at nothing to get their attention — even allowing them to be invaded and displaced.
Habakkuk came to accept that truth and to brace himself for the punishment he knew his people deserved. But then he went a step further and expressed extraordinary faith in God’s will. With eyes of faith he looked past the impending doom and saw a God of unlimited power, unstoppable holiness, and unbending commitment. Here in the last chapter of Habakkuk’s prophecy we find him singing a prayer of praise that ended with one of the most beautiful statements of faith ever written.
In the middle section of the song, Habakkuk sees God as the all-powerful judge of the earth, marching in as an army of one to set things right. The purity of His justice is pictured in verse 4, a figure full of light with darkness-killing photons of holiness streaming from His hands. With a look He can “shake the nations” (v.6). With a thought He can stop time (v.11). The mighty forces of nature react to Him by scattering, sinking, splitting, and stopping (v.6, 9-11). This vision of God’s judging power, and knowing that it would soon be unleashed on Judah, shook Habakkuk to the core (v.16). In that state of holy fear and humble surrender the prophet makes an amazing statement of faith.
Habakkuk’s beautiful doxology in verses 17-19 should be understood in terms of his culture, which was agrarian. Everything depended on the land and how well it produced. If the land stopped producing food the consequences would be devastating. If the groves, orchards, vineyards, and farms failed to yield nourishment the entire economy would crumble. Life as they knew it would be over. Knowing that, consider the quality of Habakkuk’s faith when he says, “If everything fails, if I am left with nothing, if the worst-case scenario plays out — yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (v.18).
That kind of faith makes our whining and complaining seem pretty lame, doesn’t it? I want to have Habakkuk’s perspective today. I want to trust God so completely that no matter what happens I will keep singing, keep praising, and keep trusting Him. And if I must endure His discipline, I want to receive it with joy, knowing that God is committed to me — even when I am not committed to Him.