A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.
I. The first part of the prayer is, that God would revive His work. (1) God's working is the great subject of man's study, that on which man depends, and that which conditions all man's work. (2) God waits on man's working. He initiates, and yet He waits on account of the sin and sloth and heedlessness of man, God's work seems to decline, and God seems to withdraw. It is here that the place for revival is found. (3) What a force there is in the expression when we get down to its simple meaning: Make thy work to live; put power into thy work. How often has the work seemed to have everything but life. Life comes and all is changed. Men feel that God is working. There is a sense of God's glory. There is a restlessness, and yet a deep peace, and a strong and invincible hope that truth and God shall win the day. (4) The prayer is also that God would make known,—that He would not only work but reveal, not only impart energy but give those wide and clear views of truth which are the food of energy and its guide.
II. Let us inquire what weight, direction, and colouring are given to the prayer by the phrase attached to both petitions—"in the midst of the years." It is evident that there is an argument or plea in the words. (1) Is there an argument in the thought that many years are gone beyond recall, and that so many years fewer are to come? (2) The midst of the years seems suggestive of the confusion and darkness of time. (3) The words speak of calamity and loss characterizing the years outwardly, but more than counterbalanced by the prosperity of God's work. (4) The fleetingness and evanescence of the years rise before us in contrast to the immutable and eternal permanence of the Divine life. (5) The monotony amid all the changefulness of life is suggested by the phrase. To break through this and escape into real change and freshness is the ever needful effort. A revival of God's work accomplishes this for us.
J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p. 258.
References: Habakkuk 3:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 725; vol. xxv., No. 1474; J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 129; J. F. Haynes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 294; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 304.
Habakkuk 3:4I. In the realm of nature there are hidings of God's power. Though we might become acquainted with the whole created universe of God, we have not exhausted Him. We get lost in our thought of God, and discover afresh that the finite cannot know all the Infinite, and that we have, and must have, only glimpses of His ways and works. See all you can, and after every manifestation you will have to declare there was revelation, but there was the hiding of His power.
II. In revelations of spiritual truth there are hidings of God's power. Revelation, like all other things, has been progressive. There has been growth, education, steady and gradual unfolding of the nature and will of God to men. But while much was given, how much was withheld! Are there not flesh revelations to come, through the power of the promised Teacher of the Church in every age? Have we exhausted the treasury so that the scribes of the kingdom can henceforth bring nothing out of it. The prayer, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth," will suit every life.
III. In His providence there are hidings of God's power. He does not reveal all He has in store for us, or all that He intends us to be at any one moment, or even in successive periods of our history. "His mercies are new every morning, and fresh every evening," and so their beauty is not lessened, but awakens morning and evening our joy and thankfulness. We do not know for what we are now being prepared. God is educating and disciplining us by various processes. We can see His hand in our life today, but what He intends to bring out of it to-morrow, who can declare? In all human lives there is a hiding of His power, and we have to wait the clear unfolding of His wise and glorious purpose.
W. Braden, Sermons, p. 43.
References: Habakkuk 3:4.—J. A. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 235; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 221. Habakkuk 3:6.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 347.
Habakkuk 3:16We know things which do tremble that they may rest. "I tremble that I may rest" say the magnet, the planet, the bird. So says the heart in its language, the soul in its sorrowings. I tremble that I may rest. "The text is not a melancholy and prophetic foreboding. It is a wise repression of a too vehement self-consciousness,—the assurance that our labour is not guaranteed by our present exuberance, but by a wise and thoughtful fear.
I. The principle of fear is excited by the sense of God. Job said: "When I consider I am afraid of Him." When we think wisely and thoughtfully of God we may well tremble. It is the dictate of natural religion. When we look within, so as to know ourselves and what we are, when we meditate and revolve our own imperfectness and impurity, and the holy character of God—well may we say with Job: "When I consider I am afraid of Him."
II. Thus, then, there is a use in this trembling, which the Holy Spirit recognizes. We are often shaken by undefined terrors. There seems nothing to make us afraid; but the spirit is overwhelmed—all within us sinks. We are away from home; we are returning from a journey; we feel a weight upon the soul; surely it is the shadow of the invisible God passing by the spirit.
III. Rest is the issue of trembling. And is it not a great thing to rest in the day of trouble? He who can look death in the face will start at no shadows. Although flesh and heart may faint, the soul rests; and thus, again, we have to say that holy fear is the guardian of the soul, the sentinel of the soul; and that, like an Erl-king, it bears us into real life, into a soothed life, a living and a living faith,—unhurt and unlost through the forest of life and its falling trees, and its perils and storms. A kingdom of peace is set up in the soul. Rest has followed on trembling. (1) Rest from the threatenings of the law; (2) rest from fear of punishment; (3) rest from the assaults of malignant spirits; (4) rest in the day of affliction and death. And perfect will the rest be when it is said: "The trembling is for ever over; thou hast trembled: now rest." While the dead planets may drift upon their way, and the melancholy and hectic ages roll, we shall be as God is, at rest only, sheltered for ever in the life of the resting Lamb.
E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 45.
The maxim contained in the words of the text may be thus briefly and simply expressed: "Fear, excited by the threatenings of God, issues in 'rest' followed by the mercies of God."
I. If we regard this maxim simply as a moral proverb, it will be susceptible of much powerful and practical illustration. We need only notice the tremendous distance which, in the estimate even of natural religion, separates us from God; we need only consider the greatness of the Creator's power, the fearful might of His uplifted arm, the sweeping torrent of His indignation, and all these the more overwhelming when set in contrast with the weakness and imperfection of man; and then we might ask whether, on the simplest principles of reason, we could venture to think there could be safety in scorning God's threatenings. It is the part even of the commonest prudence to bow meekly before the Lord, and to receive with trembling the messages of His will: and thus the maxim of our text demands to be classed with those sage and sententious proverbs into which is gathered the accumulated wisdom of centuries.
II. The maxim of our text presents itself in accordance with the whole Gospel of Christ. Notice (1) the use which the Holy Spirit makes of the threatenings of the word—the sinner is brought to tremble in himself. In writing to the Corinthian Church, St. Paul makes use of the following expression: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." Though there be much in the Bible at which the heart may well shrink and be stricken with dread, it was never designed that the threatenings should seize on a man with a paralyzing grasp. They were rather intended to serve the purpose of solemn, salutary warning, and to lead men to Christ, while the Saviour still waits to receive. He who trembles beneath the Spirit's teaching, trembles in himself. You may discern nothing on the surface; there may be the same aspect, the same evenness, the same composure; and yet all the while there is passing within the man a vigorous process of renovation, the whole fabric of intellect being shaken. He is trembling in himself; he is actually transformed into a new creature. "Old things have passed away, and all things have become new." (2) Consider to what this internal trembling leads. Resting follows on trembling. He within whose soul a new creation has arisen on the ruins which have been left by the tremblings of the old: is not he at rest from the threatenings of the law?—for is not Christ the end of the law, for righteousness to every one that believeth? He is at rest from the fear of punishment, at rest from the assaults of malignant spirits, at rest from the terrors of death and the grave.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,038.
Habakkuk 3:17-18The prophet herein declares two things which are of supreme importance in the highest life of man.
I. He declares the possibility of having joy independently of all external things. Here is a man who has a secret—a man who rises amid the pomp of nature, the productiveness of summer, and says: "Though every light be put out, and every root be withered, I have a joy that cannot be impaired." Men of that kind stimulate us; they excite inquiry—they turn our hearts into a new direction of thought, expectation, and purpose.
II. The prophet declares that all his concern is about salvation. Not about secular prosperity. There is a law which says the greater includes the less. Habakkuk has followed the meaning of that law, and made an application of it to his own life and experience. "I will joy in the God of my salvation." Not in the God of providence only. Salvation includes providence. He who is careful about his soul gathers up his whole life, and is master of the whole situation of his being, prospects, and destiny.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 273.
References: Habakkuk 3:17, Habakkuk 3:18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 85. Habakkuk 3:17-19.—J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 51. Habakkuk 3:19.—A. Raleigh, Old Testament Outlines, p. 277. 3—Pulpit Analyst, vol. i., pp. 33, 144.
O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?
Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.
Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.
Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.
Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters.
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.