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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Hab 3:17-19; Rejoice in the God of Our Salvation

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Portraits of Christ
“Rejoice in the God of Our Salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Is God alone enough to support our joy in troubled times?

  • Is it true the restless soul finds no repose until it rests in God?
  • When all the supports of earthly pleasure and security are knocked out from under us, will we find God’s grace all-sufficient and His love all-satisfying?
  • These questions have been answered in the affirmative by many who have persevered through hardship and adversity only to discover their desire for Christ did not disappoint.
  • Asaph, in Psalm 73:25-26, expresses the satisfaction of one who found God alone enough to support his joy…“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
  • The Psalmist in Psalm 42:1-2 compared his yearnings for God with the image of a wandering, weary deer. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
  • These are the confessions of saints who once desired other things and drank from other watering holes.
  • Having filled themselves with diminishing pleasures, they concluded after years of restlessness—only God’s grace is all-sufficient and His love all-satisfying.
  • They began to pursue the pleasures of unseen things above where Christ is seated in His holy temple.

That is why Habakkuk, the prophet, compared himself to a deer continually pursuing the high country for pleasures above.

  • These are the closing images of his magnificent praise hymn written to the Lord, after he received a vision of the Christ ruling and reigning over the nations.
  • These verses are an expression of a heart resting, rejoicing and relying in the Lord.
  • He didn’t arrive at this place, however, without first facing his fears and frustrations with God’s providence in announcing judgment on Judah, through a people more sinful than themselves.
  • He is first introduced to us as a prophet bearing a heavy burden for his people.
  • Judah had rebelled against the Lord in idolatrous worship and sensuous pleasures.
  • They prided themselves on their outward works as law-keepers, while conveniently neglecting to admit their utter inability to keep the unseen attitudes of the heart.
  • Eventually, the culture itself deteriorated into an unjust judicial system.
  • Legislators proliferated an endless stream of laws that proved powerless to curb a violent society bent on senseless crimes.
  • Watching his country slide into the abyss of sin was deeply troubling.
  • The Lord, however, appeared in two visions to comfort His prophet.
  • He received an all-consuming vision of the Christ through Biblical images and prophetic promises to give him an unshakable confidence in the God of history.
  • He realized what the Lord meant when He said, “The just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
  • When he saw the supremacy of Christ in these visions, he knew he could rest in the promises of God’s Word, rejoice in the pleasures of the Lord, and rely on God’s strength.
  • To live like this during troubled and turbulent times is evidence of God’s sovereign grace.
  • That is why our generation needs to re-discover this forgotten prophet of old.
  • So let us examine how this troubled prophet was awakened by his vision of Christ to rest, rejoice and rely on Him.
  • In Habakkuk 3:16, the prophet recorded his reaction to this awesome vision of the Christ standing over the nations in judgment, as well as in mercy.
  • The Word of the Lord made his body tremble and his lips quiver.

He realized the just shall live by faith, resting in the Lord during troubled days! (Habakkuk 3:17)

  1. Like Habakkuk, we need an all-consuming view of God’s majesty in worship if we are to put our troubles into proper perspective. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
    • In other words, we cannot afford to shrink God down for finicky religious consumers.
    • Instead, worship must build our faith in God’s supremacy rather than appealing to a man-centered, self-help prosperity gospel.
  2. Like Habakkuk, we need an all-consuming view of God’s work in history, if we are to find rest in His faithfulness today. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
    • We cannot afford to neglect any book in the Bible.
    • They are all invaluable, helping us gain an appropriate and adequate view of God.
    • The Church can no longer afford to preach easy formulas and self-help principles if we are to know the power and glory of the cross.
    • Thinking less of ourselves and more of God is necessary for the Church facing uncertain times.
    • We must see the relevancy of God’s redemptive history to our own day.
    • He shall be found faithful and more than adequate to equip His Church to bear up under extreme pressures and problems.
  3. We need an all-consuming view of God’s promises in His Word, if we are to find hope in our troubles today. (Psalm 16:9; 43:4-5)
    • When the full counsel of God’s Word is preached and taught, we will discover innumerable and applicable promises to rest our hope in God alone. (Psalm 16:9)
    • There will be a context in which to understand God’s ways even in our days.
    • Only when we are prepared to rest our hope in Christ and His Word alone will we be able rejoice in Him.
    • Hope in God alone inevitably creates a yearning in the heart to rejoice in Him.
  4. That is why the prophet next describes how those who live by faith rejoice in the Lord during troubled days. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
    • Habakkuk’s praise hymn continues building up to a splendid crescendo of hope and praise!
  5. He further explains how the joy of God’s children is not dependent upon their circumstances. (Habakkuk 3:17)
    • The prophet has viewed the prophetic future.
    • He saw Judah’s devastation and destruction.
    • The blessings of the land would vanish when the Chaldeans pillaged and plundered their cities, farms and homes.
    • All pleasures of food, drink and clothing would be no more.
    • The only remaining pleasure would be God alone.
    • Habakkuk’s satisfaction was faith in God’s mercy. (Psalm 90:14-15)
    • In wrath, he believed God’s mercy would ultimately prevail by the coming of God’s Anointed One. (Psalm 4:7)
    • This vision of the Christ coming in wrath and mercy put gladness in the prophet’s heart.
    • His faith enabled him to count these coming trials as a reason for joy because his joy would not be dependent upon good times, but rather upon God Himself—Habakkuk’s ultimate pleasure.
    • Like those caught up as sand in a windstorm, Habakkuk would need to learn contentment in God’s providence because He is the ultimate joy of heaven and earth. (James 1:2; Philippians 4:10-12)
    • The apostle Paul gained this kind of faith through relentless opposition and adversity.
    • He shares the secret of contentment in Philippians 4:11-12, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
    • His contentment came from resting his burdens in Christ alone.
    • Believing that God, in His good providence works all things together for good, Habakkuk found a growing desire to rejoice in Christ.
    • This is exactly what Habakkuk was determined to do.
  6. Our joy is to be found in “God our Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:18)
    • In spite of all the ensuing troubles coming upon Habakkuk and his countrymen, he had chosen to rejoice in the Lord.
    • “Rejoicing in the Lord” means delighting in Christ above all other things.
    • It also means the pleasure of one justified by faith alone in Christ alone.
    • Habakkuk adds, “I will joy in God my Savior.”
    • Augustine’s translation of this phrase has stood up through the centuries: “I will joy in God…my Jesus.”
    • Rejoicing in Christ is resting in His grace—His triumph over sin and death.
    • This is a joy that surpasses all human comprehension. (Psalm 85:6-7; 51:12; John 16:24)
    • Jesus exhorted His people to pray in His name that “our joy may be full.” (John 16:24)
    • Entering into His presence through prayer, we discover the fullness of His joy. (Psalm 16:11)
    • He restores the joy of our salvation by the generosity of His Holy Spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
    • As we learn to delight ourselves in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)
    • Paul exhorted us to “rejoice in the Lord always” because Christ is our endless source of joy that will never diminish, especially during our times of strife and suffering. (Philippians 4:4)
    • Our joy is God’s joy—Christ and His cross that took away all our guilt and shame.
    • The longing heart for Christ also believes someday we shall see His face in righteousness because of what He accomplished for us on Calvary.
    • We shall be eternally satisfied when we awake in His likeness—freed from sin and enjoying the pleasures of heaven with glorified bodies. (Psalm 17:15)
    • For Habakkuk, his all-consuming vision of Christ’s grace and mercy sent him to the temple to rejoice in the Lord Jesus, his Savior.
    • Thus far the prophet has found his faith resting in God’s all-sufficient grace and praising his all-satisfying Savior.
    • Habakkuk’s praise psalm closes with a powerful and dramatic crescendo.
    • He wrote his doxology for the trumpets to blare, the percussion instruments to be beaten, the strings to be strummed and the choir to be fortissimo.
    • They are magnifying the God of their salvation with all the joy He intended for them.
    • To rest and rejoice in Christ calls for reliance upon Him.
    • The last reframe of Habakkuk’s worship psalm is borrowed from the imagery of Psalm 18:1-3.

He closes with a grand affirmation of the Lord’s strength rather than his own. (Habakkuk 3:19)

  1. The prophet declares the Lord is the strength of his life
    • There is no other source of pleasure or strength that can compare to being in the Lord.
    • He loves the Lord, Who is his rock, fortress, shield, stronghold and deliverer.
    • All his enemies shall be destroyed by faith in Christ’s power. (Psalm 18:1-3)
    • When he experienced weakness, he found renewed strength by trusting in the Lord.
    • In his sorrow, he believed his all-satisfying joy in Christ would get him through the darkest night and deepest hurt. (Nehemiah 8:10; Philippians 4:13)
    • He learned the Lord takes great delight in giving His fathomless grace and matchless power to the weak and broken-hearted.
    • As he waited on the Lord under stress, he believed the Spirit’s strength would lift him out of the pit like an eagle that wings its way high above. (Isaiah 40:31)
    • He would run and be not weary; walk and not faint.
    • The Lord not only gives the sojourner His strength, but also His very self.
    • This is the confidence of one who has learned to rest, rejoice and rely on the Lord.
  2. But Habakkuk is aware that the path of faith that leads upward is slippery.
    • He is not describing man’s tireless effort to scale Jacob’s ladder by his works.
    • Rather the prophet imagines himself looking up from a deep, dark forest glade and casting his eyes upward to the celestial glory of the mountains above.
    • The way up is the way of faith—faith in God’s all-sufficient grace.
    • In reliance upon Him he trusts the Lord will keep his feet from slipping. (Psalm 18:31-33)
    • He imagines God’s strength granted him to be like that of a sure-footed deer.
    • Like the mountain gazelle created to bound from rocky crag to rocky crag, so the soul consumed by the pleasure of knowing God, bounds from adversity to adversity but always presses upward and onward to glory.
    • The Lord guides His own along a unique path ordained for every child of God.
    • The path of the cross is glorious because it is the path He pioneered for us.
    • He leads us to God’s high place where we meet to worship at His feet.
    • The heart was meant to find its pleasure in glorifying God.
    • Therefore, by God’s right hand He upholds those who have denied themselves, picked up their crosses and followed Him, until they meet Him face-to-face satisfied in His righteousness.
    • In Ephesians 2:4-7, Paul described God’s elect as already seated with Christ.
    • Even though their journey to the throne is often long and arduous they are to believe their place and position in Christ is reserved with Him in heaven.
    • “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ [by grace you have been saved], and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
    • Habakkuk caught a glimpse of Christ’s glory in his vision.
    • He was a man who clung to his faith while resting, rejoicing and relying upon the Lord.
    • This is a vision the Church must regain as it faces troubled days.
  3. If you have heard the Spirit speak to you from Habakkuk, today would be a good day to ask yourself some questions about your walk with Christ.
    • Are you restless and yearning for more out of life?
    • Are you dissatisfied with the toil and tyranny of the daily treadmill?
    • Are you feeling an emptiness that nothing seems to fill?
    • Are you done with your vain works and secret sins?
    • Is God alone enough to support your joy in troubled times?
    • If all the supports of earthly pleasure and security were knocked out from under you, would you find God’s grace all-sufficient and His love all-satisfying?
    • Have you slipped along the path of faith and settled for lesser things?
    • Is bitterness and disappointment consuming all your passion?
    • If the Spirit has created a desire for a closer walk with Christ and a consuming desire to kneel before the throne of grace, perhaps you will join me in this prayer.
    • It is the prayer of a longing heart for God taken from a Puritan Prayer Book.

    “Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to thee, and love thee, and long, and plead, and wrestle with thee, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my whole heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its Beloved. Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring thee, always humble and resigned to thy will, more fixed on thyself, that I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.”

Hab 3:14-16; Rest in the Day of Trouble ← Prior Section
Zec 9; Jhn 12; The Coming King Next Section →

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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