By Katie Kafka
This week in our lesson, through the prayers of a prophet, our focus was turned toward God as the Divine Deliverer. We are in the middle of Habakkuk‘s third and final prayer of the book. Along the way we have come to see the prophet as a man of prayer, and, my, how the shape and tone of his prayers have changed over the course of the book. At first, Habakkuk‘s prayers were the hard questions that many of us ask God. These types of prayers can transform our faith so that we are living on watch for God.
I am sure you are beginning to notice how chapter 3 is a different type of prayer. This prayer that we started studying a couple weeks ago is more of a worshipful prayer. Habakkuk is acknowledging who God is and what He has done. It is what we, here at Equip Her, would call upward prayer.
Our passage today keeps our gaze upward. What I noticed as I was studying the passage was how the prophet used the practice of remembering in His worship. He toggled between remembering who God has been for him in the past which naturally caused a reminder to who God is in the present, but also looking forward into the future of how God will continue to be faithful. We have these moments of remembering and moments of reminders. If you remember at the beginning of chapter 3, Habakkuk humbly asks God, in His wrath, to remember mercy. We are going to see examples of this in our passage today. In the midst of devastation, the prophet’s prayer will see great mercy from the Divine Deliverer. God goes to battle for his people to deliver and rescue and bring victory over sin and evil. It is the good news, the greatest news.
The passage begins with remembering God’s wrath and anger. This can be hard to grasp and we tend to avoid the topic because…well…it’s just not fun. The literal translation of the word anger in this verse means flared nostrils. Verse 12 helps us to understand more about God’s wrath and anger by providing us with illustrations and word pictures to give us a visual of an intangible quality. There is military imagery with the notion of God marching in fury. It is a picture of the beginning of a battle, and God overtaking the earth. There is also a picture of God, in his anger, separating nations. The word threshed is an agrarian term and a process used in harvesting grain crops. The grain that is edible and nourishing is separated from the chaff that is generally discarded. This is picture of what God does in response to the devastation of sin. He goes to battle and separates what is good and useful from that which is waste.
Why do you think it is important to acknowledge the wrath of God alongside acknowledging his love? As I thought about my answer to this question, it brought up a couple of more thoughts that I think are relevant here as well. When we think of anger or act in anger, it comes from a place of sin in our lives. As people who falter in many ways, I think the object of our anger is often other people, or circumstances and situations that we wish were different. These are the things that stir up anger in our lives.
When we think of God, who is perfect and blameless and sinless, how can He be an angry God? What does perfect and sinless anger look like? If we notice the things that stir up God’s anger and wrath, it isn’t circumstances or people or things He wishes were different. The object of God’s anger is always sin. The act of sin. This was true in Habakkuk‘s day, and it is very much true current day.
And so, with sin in this world, God’s wrath is certain. But also with sin in the world, God‘s love is also certain and needed. This is why we must realize God’s wrath alongside His love. It will always be a part of the good news. In God’s wrath, there is always His mercy. As we seek to understand why God shows anger, we can trust that He is ultimately using it to deliver his people, to lovingly rescue and bring victory over sin.
This takes us to verse 13 where God’s ability to save his people is highlighted. Well, if we have to talk about God’s anger alongside His love, then the inverse is also relevant. We have to talk about God’s amazing love alongside His wrath. This is the good news! His love was perfectly expressed with an act of salvation. This verse shows us how God pursues us, so that we might be saved. He went out for the salvation of his people. He did the saving work. He went out to deliver and rescue, and bring safety and welfare and victory for his people, for the salvation of his anointed.
Lets camp on this word anointed for a bit because it is significant to the meaning and timeframe of this verse. Habakkuk is reflecting here on God’s powerful saving work in times past, but there is a vitally important future aspect to verse 13. The anointed were people set apart by God for a special calling. Our workbook guides us to think that Habakkuk was likely thinking of Israel’s kings when referring to the anointed. It is a remembering of the fallen state of Israel’s kings. This word reminds us of past failures and disappointments, but it also serves as a reminder for a true and better anointed that the Israelites have been waiting to realize.
They are waiting for the Messiah, which is the literal translation of this word. The word anointed, in Hebrew is actually where the word Messiah originates. Moving forward to the New Testament, the Greek equivalent of the word anointed is christos. It’s where we get the word Christ. This verse is clearly pointing toward Jesus Christ the Messiah, our savior. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Habakkuk’s words. This is what I love about God’s word. It is undeniably, showing us the good news all throughout. The story of a God, who saves his people and rescues and delivers.
The last part of verse 13 takes us back as a point of remembering. Does the language “you crushed the head” remind you of any other spot in the Bible? Particularly in Genesis? It takes us to Genesis 3:15 when sin enters the world and God gives the serpent a curse. This pronouncement against the serpent – this prophecy – was actually a promise of blessing for God’s people. The seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent will bruise the heel.
In this verse, there is a toggle between the past and the future. For the first reader, it is remembering the journey of the Israel nation, the covenants and the promises that God had made to them along the way. It is also forward looking. We’re reminded God will ultimately fulfill these promises with the anointed one, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
For us as a 21st-century reader, and believer in God, it is also remembering back and looking forward. We look back and acknowledge the good news of how God pursued us and went out for our salvation. We remember how He sent His one and only Son into this world to pay the price of our sins sparing us the punishment that we deserved. We have been delivered, rescued, and set free from sin. It is our victory in Jesus Christ. This should be a Selah moment. A moment to pause and create space for worship. Hallelujah! Praise God. He is our Divine Deliverer.
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