Remember Mercy

We’ve reached the final chapter in our study of Habakkuk. God has told the prophet his plans for both the Israelites and the Chaldeans. Now, we see Habakkuk’s final response.

Gail talked last week about her heart being heavy. Not surprising. We’ve just slogged through a lot of lamenting and woe-foretelling. I’m sure Habakkuk’s heart was heavy as well. God has told him things are only going to get worse for him and the nation of Judah. God’s answer to the evil Habakkuk is seeing all around him is judgment. Disaster, famine, captivity, and death are on the horizon.

How does Habakkuk respond? Verse 1 of chapter 3 tells us the prophet prays.

But this is not just any prayer. “According to Shigionoth” is a musical term, meaning the prophet expected his prayer to be turned into music. He expected his prayer to be shared and even sung, so his people would not forget its message.

No one really knows for certain the meaning of the word shigionoth. It is used only one other time in the Bible in Psalm 7. Both songs paint a picture of dire trouble. Because of this, most commentators believe the Hebrew word means: to praise with strong emotion and impassioned triumph. Let’s sit with those words for a minute. Strong emotion, I can understand. But praise? Triumph? Where is the triumph in what Habakkuk and the nation of Judah are facing?

One commentator explained it like this: “The shigionoth is the praise that resists the trial! It resists the darkness and spirit of heaviness.” Why can Habakkuk praise in the midst of darkness? Because he knows the God he worships. Let’s look at the opening stanza to this song. I’m using the Message paraphrase, so we can get a broader meaning of the text.

God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you,
    and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what you did among them.
    Work among us as you worked among them.
And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
    remember mercy. [MSG]

Habakkuk knows the God he serves. He knows the awe-inspiring power of the Creator God who can, with just one word, level the mountains He created. He knows a holy and just God cannot ignore evil or allow sin to run rampant among his people. He knows God’s judgment will always be right. But he also knows his God is compassionate. He can call on God’s mercy, knowing that God will work all things, even the hard, for the good of His people.

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