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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: A Faith to Cling To

Don Smith :: Habakkuk 3:8-13

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A Faith to Cling To — A Call to Rejoice in the God of Our Salvation

Part Eight: “The God of Our Salvation” – Habakkuk 3:8-13

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? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. 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. You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. 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

Our generation grew up in Sunday School with flannelgraph pictures depicting Jesus holding little children on His lap and carrying a little lost lamb around His shoulders.

  • We were taught a softer, gentler Jesus.
  • However, never did I see a flannelgraph lesson showing Jesus swinging a sword while riding a fiery chariot pulled by war horses with smoke coming out of their nostrils, a cloud of dust swirling around Him and blood flowing up to the horse’s reigns.
  • It is true, Christ is both a gentle Shepherd, as well as a mighty warrior.
  • Rather than using flannelgraph pictures this morning, we will hear graphic word pictures used by Habakkuk to see Christ both as a man of war, as well as a man of salvation.

Habakkuk, Judah’s watchman, waited for God to respond to his prayer for deliverance from the troubles he and his generation were facing.

  • He cried out to the Lord, “…In wrath remember mercy!”
  • The Lord appeared to the prophet in a vision of staggering proportions.
  • The Holy Anointed One of Israel stood over the nations like a colossal warrior wearing battle armor and holding weapons of war.
  • His glory covered the earth with a bright, brilliant white light.
  • Lightening bolts flashed from His hand.
  • Before Him went pestilence and plagues.
  • He stood and measured the nations in preparation for battle.
  • His eyes penetrated the hearts and minds of every man so nothing was hidden from Him.
  • Majestic mountain ranges quaked and hills bowed before Him out of fear of their Creator.
  • God’s enemies scurried into tents like bugs hiding from the light because they love darkness rather than the light.
  • As the vision unfolded, Habakkuk must have wondered if in wrath, God would remember mercy.
  • Was this a bad omen or a reason to hope for God’s people?
  • He sought to interpret this apocalyptic vision.
  • The prophet recognized these images as symbols and reminders of God’s wrath and mercy contained in the Scriptures.
  • They were taken from written descriptions of God’s power used by Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.
  • The vision began to come into focus.
  • It was a manifestation not only of Biblical past, but a foretaste of things to come.
  • The figure dominating the scene was the Christ promised from the beginning of days.
  • The God of our salvation was coming to judge the earth, as well as to deliver His people.
  • The prophet’s fear began to turn to comfort.
  • Habakkuk’s vision is song or psalm composed by him for worship.
  • It is a vivid portrait of Christ to be pondered by the Church living in the 21st century.
  • Let us pick up the imagery of the God of our Salvation in Habakkuk 3:8

We see the God of Our Salvation Coming in Wrath – Habakkuk 3:8

1. In answer to the prophets prayer God remembers mercy in His wrath – Habakkuk 3:2

  • Habakkuk called out to the Lord three rhetorical questions—
  • “O Lord, were You displeased with the rivers?”
  • “Was Your anger against the rivers?”
  • “Was Your wrath against the sea…?
  • These were questions asked against the backdrop of Biblical history.
  • Was God’s wrath against the River Jordan when He enabled Israel to cross over it?
  • Was God’s wrath against the Red Sea when He delivered Israel from Egypt?

2. The answer is “No!” He came with anger and wrath against the wicked – Habakkuk 3:8, 12-13

  • Creation was but the means of His judgment, as well as His deliverance.
  • His wrath was kindled against the wicked and His mercy poured out upon the righteous.
  • We see the severity as well as the goodness of God portrayed in both Testaments.
  • In Nahum 1:2-8, we see similar apocalyptic language as that used by Habakkuk.
God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies; The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, And dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither, And the flower of Lebanon wilts. 5 The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves at His presence,Yes, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him. 7 The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. 8 But with an overflowing flood He will make an utter end of its place, And darkness will pursue His enemies.
  • These were the kind of visions the prophets recorded for future generations to ponder.
  • The Apostle Paul described Christ’s coming like that of the prophets.
  • Notice as we read 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, God comes in wrath as well as mercy. God is just.
6 He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
  • Habakkuk and Paul saw Christ’s coming as both judgment as well as salvation.
  • To the disbelieving, Christ’s coming is filled with fear and terror.

3. Habakkuk foresaw Christ’s coming like Moses did, a Mighty warrior, the Lord of hosts, riding into battle on a horse-drawn chariot of salvation – Habakkuk 3:8

  • Like Habakkuk, Moses composed Exodus 15:1-5 to be sung to the Lord in worship.
I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone.
  • Search the Scriptures further and you will find other references to the Christ as a mighty warrior delivering His people, as well as defeating their foes.
  • Joshua beheld the Angel of the Lord outside the city gates of Jerusalem on the eve of battle at Jericho
  • .
  • The Angel, the pre-incarnate Christ, appeared as a Man with his sword drawn.
  • He referred to Himself as the “Commander of the army of the Lord.”
  • Psalm 68:17 also envisions the Lord leading the host of heaven in battle.
  • Isaiah 42:13 describes Christ’s war cry going into battle,
He shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies.
  • In the Revelation of the Christ, recorded by the Apostle John in Revelation 19:11-16, His appearance is described in even more detail, bringing wrath as well as mercy.
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
  • These are the apocalyptic flannelgraph lessons missing from our view today of Christ.
  • As He delivered Israel from Egypt, so He will deliver His Church on the last day.
  • .
  • Christ is more than a gentle shepherd, He is a mighty warrior.

Next, Habakkuk in his Praise Psalm, reminds us of how Christ came and will come in Power – Habakkuk 3:9-12

1. Habakkuk reintroduces some of the same Biblical examples of God’s deliverance to give future generations hope in Christ’s future coming to deliver them from evil – Habakkuk 3:9

  • Verse 9 is not only another description of Christ coming in wrath with His sword ready to do battle but also a re-statement of God’s promise to deliver Israel in Deuteronomy 32:39-43.
  • This was God’s sworn vow to deliver not only Israel but also the Gentile church.
Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. For I raise My hand to heaven, And say, “As I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, And My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, And repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, And My sword shall devour flesh, With the blood of the slain and the captives, from the heads of the leaders of the enemy.” [Notice the Lord also exhorts church of the future.] “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.”
  • Luke offers this hope of deliverance by the Christ to the Gentile church through Zacharias’ prophecy in Luke 1:68-75.
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,(that is Christ) As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
  • These prophetic messages from Moses, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zacharias and Paul are Biblical examples of God’s deliverance in the past, to give us in this age, hope in Christ’s coming.
  • Habakkuk concludes God has sworn to bring vengeance upon our enemies and to give us deliverance by His arrows of wrath.

2. Habakkuk once again reminds us of how God used creation to bring judgment upon the wicked, as well as deliverance for His people – Habakkuk 3:10-12

  • The Lord divided the Red Sea not only to deliver Israel, but to destroy Pharaoh. (Exo 15:1-10; Josh 3:14-17; Psa 77:17-18)
  • He also divided the River Jordan so Joshua and his people could pass over to enter the Promise Land and execute judgment on the Canaanites.
  • In each of these instances, creation obeyed the voice of the Creator to save His people.
  • The skies thundered like His voice, lightening was like His arrows, and the earth shook as if He were walking on the earth.
  • When Israel was thirsty, God divided the Rock and water flowed. (Num 20:10-11)
  • When Joshua and his armies were chasing his enemies from Gilgal, the Lord not only extended the light of day so Israel had light to pursue them, but also as the enemy ran down the Valley of Aijalon, the Lord threw lightening bolts and hail upon the enemy.
  • He not only made the sun and moon stand still for Joshua, but the same phenomena also brought down His wrath on His enemies. (Josh 10:10-11; Psa 68:8)
  • Even though we attribute to Moses and Joshua conquering their enemies, it was the Lord who was marching and trampling down the nations. (Psa 68:7)
  • In each case God was leading His people like a shepherd but also like a mighty warrior.
  • Our Lord in Matthew 24:29 foresaw His coming for His Church with similar signs and wonders,
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
  • We are reminded that just as those in Habakkuk’s day needed to be reminded of God’s vow to bring justice as well as salvation, so we today need to remember Christ is the God of our Salvation bringing wrath and mercy.
  • Habakkuk in verse 13 now reminds us that it was God who sent forth His anointed One to save His people not only from their enemies but also their sin.

The God of Our Salvation Comes in Triumph - Habakkuk 3:13

1. Habakkuk reaffirms that the Christ went forth for the salvation of His people.

  • He was the one whose garments were soaked in blood from the winepress of battle.
  • He was also the one Isaiah 63 described:
Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them, Who led them by the right hand of Moses, with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them To make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they might not stumble? …And the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest, so You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name. (Isa 63:11-14)

2. Isaiah further attributes that it was God the Father who sent forth His Anointed into the world for the salvation of His people. (Isa 63:16)

  • He is the one anticipated by Abraham.
  • He is called, “Our Redeemer from Everlasting.”

3. He was sent forth to crush the head of the enemy. (Gen 3:15; Judges 4:21, Judges 9:53 Psa 68:21; Psa 110:5-7)

  • Habakkuk’s words find fulfillment in the Lord crushing the head of the Chaldeans so Judah can return from captivity.
  • This the Lord did by destroying the house of the wicked city of Babylon.
  • But Habakkuk is also reminding us of God’s faithfulness to His promise in Genesis 3:15 to destroy the enemy of man, the serpent, by sending forth the Christ.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.;
  • All of the Old Testament is the history of God’s vow to bring forth the Christ by preserving, providing, and protecting the seed of the woman until Christ came through her seed.
  • We have some wonderful examples of this in Judges.
  • In Judges 4:21-22 we are told of a man named Sisera, the hated enemy of Israel.
  • He was determined to destroy the seed of Judah.
  • One day Sisera fled from battle and entered the tent of an Israelite woman named Jael.
  • When he went to sleep Jael quietly took out a tent peg and a hammer.
  • She then drove the peg into the temple of Sisera…giving him a splitting headache.
  • The woman crushed the head of the serpent’s seed to preserve the seed of Christ.
  • In Judges 9:52-57 a man by the name of Abimelech killed seventy of his brothers to secure his place as king of Israel.
  • He pursued his enemies up to the wall of a city named Thebez.
  • There was a certain woman hiding in a tower over the gate.
  • When she saw the king standing below, she dropped a millstone on his head.
  • The woman crushed the head of Abimelech, the man who attempted to destroy the seed of the woman for personal gain.
  • Psalm 110:5-7 echoed this same hope that Christ would come to crush the head of their enemies, as well as the serpent. The Psalmist says,
The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; Therefore He shall lift up the head. (Psa 68:21-23)

Habakkuk has composed a magnificent apocalyptic flannelgraph psalm for us to ponder.

  • He portrayed Christ not only as the kind Shepherd who leads His sheep, but also as a mighty warrior who comes with wrath to destroy His enemies.
  • He demonstrated how Christ came and will come in wrath as well as in mercy; in power as well as in salvation.
  • He reminds us that God has sworn an oath to deliver His people.
  • As God came in the days of Moses and Joshua so He will come again with signs and wonders both to destroy, as well as to deliver.
  • In preparation for Communion, we are reminded of God’s wrath as well as His mercy.
  • The Father sent forth His Son to save His people from their sin.
  • The Son was nailed to the cross.
  • There the Father poured out His wrath on Christ for our sin and to satisfy His justice.
  • At the cross, God shook the earth and caused the sun to cease from shining.
  • At the cross, the serpent dug his fangs into the Son bruising His heel with a death wound.
  • But in dying Christ’s work of atonement was finished and resurrection power was revealed.
  • The serpent’s head was crushed, leaving him still wiggling, rattling, hissing, and snapping at men, but his destruction is sure.
  • As we come to the Lord’s Table let us remember not only Christ our Shepherd, but also Christ our Savior and our coming Mighty Warrior.

Questions for Further Discussion & Discovery

  1. Christ is portrayed as a mighty warrior in both Testaments. How do you reconcile the other portraits of Him as being meek and tender?
  2. Why is God said to be angry and indignant at sin?
  3. What does this say about the nature of God?
  4. If God has sworn to deliver His people, where do you turn in the Bible to find these promises?
  5. Which of the Biblical examples given by Habakkuk 3:1-13 of God’s deliverance is the most amazing to you? Why?
  6. If God delivered Israel by miracles of nature, how do you think He delivers us today?
  7. When God came in wrath and mercy the wicked were destroyed and His people were delivered. How are we to see His same wrath and mercy on the cross?
  8. The Lord promised, in Genesis 3:15, triumph over the serpent through Him who would come through the seed of the woman. How do the following Scriptures point to this fulfillment in Christ’s death on the cross?
  9. When the church gathers around the Lord’s Table, how are we to consider Christ and the cross? What do you pray as you prepare to take of Christ?
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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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