Habakkuk Bible Study Commentary: The Book of Habakkuk – Then & Now
Habakkuk Chapter 3: The Coming Deliverer
By I Gordon
The message of Habakkuk is extremely relevant for the age in which we live. In the last study, on chapter 2, we saw God give 5 ‘woes’ upon Babylon that, as I think you will agree, apply equally as well to today’s society as it did Habakkuk’s. It’s not the ‘lightest’ chapter in the Bible to study but God gave these woes to show Habakkuk that He was not blind to the sins occurring in the world and that a time had been set aside in which judgment and recompense for these actions would be made. We saw in chapter 2 that God also gave Habakkuk a vision that spoke of the end. Here is the quote:
Then the LORD answered me and said, "Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. ( Habakkuk 2:2-3 )
Now you may remember that the writer of Hebrews quotes the later part of this verse in Heb 10:37 but shows us that this ‘revelation’ actually concerns a person that is coming. It is a ‘He’ and not just an ‘it’. Well, it is that very revelation that Habakkuk chapter 3 is all about - the coming of the Messiah to rescue His people and judge the earth. Now, I don’t want to over-promote it or blow the trumpet too loudly (or too early), but prophecy wise, this is a marvellous chapter. Chapter 2 told us ‘why’ the judgement will take place. Chapter 3 shows us ‘how’ it will take place. He is coming. Let’s have a look.
One full on Prayer-Song!
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. ( Habakkuk 3:1-2 )
Chapter 3 is Habakkuk’s prayer of praise in the form of a poetic song. He had been given the vision from God concerning the end; he had heard the Lord’s response to his questions and concerns. Now he can only stand back in awe and in reverential fear of the One who will act on behalf of His people. Habakkuk’s prayer and song in this chapter is one that encompasses the past, yet stretches forth thousands of years and reveals details of the Lord’s coming in glory to defeat all His enemies at the end of the age! Something we too long and look for! But his prayer starts with a plea for the Lord to renew His great deeds in Habakkuk’s own day. Or as other versions say ‘O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!’  While this verse is often used as a prayer for revival today  , the type of revival that Habakkuk knew was coming involved judgement upon both Judah and Babylon. Yet Habakkuk still knew that this was best. Like the days of Israel’s youth, in the times of the Judges, when God had to repeatedly raise up an enemy to come against Israel before the hearts of the people would again turn to Him, so God would use Babylon for such purposes. And so it shall also be in the end. For both a far greater judgement, and a far greater revival, awaits the nation of Israel in our generation than what was seen in the days of Habakkuk. This shall be explored as the rest of this prophetic chapter and prayer is revealed.
The glorious coming ‘Son-rise’
God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. ( Habakkuk 3:3-5 )
With these words Habakkuk’s prayer begins to reveal the vision that he has been given. He starts with a ‘theophany’ (which is just a fancy word for an ‘appearance of God’) saying ‘God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.’ This is followed by the first of three ‘selahs’  in the chapter. So let’s do a ‘selah’. Let’s stop, pause, and think about this. Where was Teman? Where is Mount Paran? Had God come from there before? Will He come from there in the future? Was Habakkuk revealing this because it was something that had happened in the past, the future, or both? So many questions... So few answers (so far!). Let’s fill in some blanks. Teman was a large city in Edom, very close to Petra  . God is said to have come from here in the past  but will do so again in the future. The important aspect for us is the future coming of Jesus Christ from Edom at His return  . From here He shall come in great glory. Habakkuk, like the apostle John in Rev 1:16 , can only relate this glory to the power of the sun shining in all its strength.  There is nothing else in creation that can compare to the brilliance of the risen Lord Jesus! Habakkuk also mentions the plague and pestilence that will be related to the second coming of Jesus. This is a reference to specific seal, trumpet and bowl judgements, mentioned in the book of Revelation, that occur in the lead up to Jesus’ return. If they weren’t worried before, now would be the time for the nations to be really concerned!
Yes, now is the time to tremble oh nations!
He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal. I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots? You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah. You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. ( Habakkuk 3:6-11 )
The Lord’s return in Habakkuk is said to shake the earth. Other
passages declare that even the heavens will be shaken. Jesus said in
‘Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be
darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall
from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
And what’s the result? The shaking in the heavens will quickly spread
to the legs of mankind. Cush is distressed. Midian in anguish. In fact
all the nations tremble. Big time.
No part of creation is left unaffected. Rivers, streams, seas,
mountains... even the sun and moon stood still as the Lord of all
creation comes in power and majesty to judge. The prophet Zechariah saw
that day and called it ‘a unique day’. He wrote: ‘
In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle.
For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day
nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will
be light.’ (
The prophet Isaiah said that deep darkness will cover the earth and the
when the glory of the Lord is revealed (
). The Habakkuk passage tells us that the Lord at this stage is
‘uncovering His bow’ and ‘calling for many arrows’. And rest assured
that there is one person in particular that He is looking for.
Going after the Head of the house of evil
In indignation You marched through the earth; In anger You trampled the nations. You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil - To lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah. You pierced with his own spears The head of his throngs. They stormed in to scatter us; Their exultation was like those Who devour the oppressed in secret. You trampled on the sea with Your horses, On the surge of many waters. ( Habakkuk 3:12-15 NASB )
The prophecy concerning the Lord’s return continues with chronological accuracy in these verses. We see that the Lord marches through the earth in indignation and wrath to trample the nations. This is entirely consistent with the revelation of other prophets such as in Isaiah 63, Joel 3 and Revelation 14 (as we would expect!) The ‘trampling’ of the nations is called ‘the Winepress’ in scripture and is not for the faint hearted so I’ll keep it in the fine print for those interested.  And look at why Jesus goes forth in such wrath – It is for the salvation of His people! The word of God in this Habakkuk passage tells us that the nations have stormed in to scatter and decimate God’s people Israel. Many other passages speak of the fact that at this stage Israel will cry out for their Messiah to come and protect them. And He will! 
Now note also that this passage in Habakkuk has another ‘selah’. It states that the Lord, at His return, ‘struck the head of the house of evil’ and then asks us to ‘selah’ for a while (that is – pause, think about this and praise God for it). This one... this so called ‘invincible one’ who was satanically empowered will come to naught. The plan and actions of rebellious men shall come to naught. The Antichrist had conquered many nations. He had killed the two witnesses whom no one else in the world could touch. He had deceived the entire world as the Apostle Paul spoke about:
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 )
Yet, when this counterfeit king meets the true King of kings, there will be nothing that he can do against the one who has been given ALL authority and ALL power:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8 )
The head of the house of evil will fall. And with him, so will the kingdoms of this world. The King in exile is coming to reclaim His kingdom! The ‘times of the gentiles’ are coming to a close and the glory of the Messianic Kingdom, spoken and longed for by all the prophets, will soon be a reality. Make sure you are found on the right side dear reader when Jesus returns!
Habakkuk’s amazing statement of faith
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. ( Habakkuk 3:16-19 )
Finally in this great chapter we have Habakkuk’s response to this vision that he had seen. To sum it up quickly, he felt like collapsing into a heap! Literally. He experienced that same pounding heart, quivering lips and trembling legs that Daniel had when he too saw a vision of the end times! ( Dan 7:28 , 8:27 ) Habakkuk knew that judgment was coming for his people in his day. He probably had inkling as well that this revelation exceeded just his own day and that Israel would again experience terrible times leading up to the coming of the Messiah. These thoughts filled his heart with dread. And yet there is also recorded in these verses one of the most beautiful and amazing declarations of faith found anywhere in scripture. With a heart overly burdened by what he has seen, Habakkuk could still say
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. ( Habakkuk 3:17-18 )
What a testimony! What an attitude to take! What faith!  Why does Habakkuk take this view? What gives him such a confident and grateful heart despite the coming difficulties? Because ‘The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places.’ In other words, God is able, that’s why! He gives me strength. He supplies what I need to get through these troubling times. He enables me to walk in places where I would normally slip!
The Bottom Line
Jesus is coming back. Times are getting tougher. While I don’t personally believe that the Church will experience the tribulation (the period of God’s wrath against the world), we can still expect things to become more difficult for Christians in the days ahead, leading up to that period. The world is becoming more distrusting and antagonistic to things ‘Christian’ and we cannot expect this to become better if we believe and understand Bible prophecy. Yet at the same time the Christian should have the greatest hope and expectation of all… For God has an amazing plan! The darkness is for a limited time and the night will be replaced by the dawn of a new day. It will be a day in which righteousness rules, for the King of Righteousness will return to reclaim His kingdom! Habakkuk saw it all and recorded it for us. And the God who strengthened Habakkuk will do the same for us.
If Habakkuk’s day was ‘in the midst of the years’ then the ‘early
years’ would have been the work and deeds of God in bringing Israel
out of Egypt and all the many great wonders that entailed. So
Habakkuk is saying ‘perform your mighty deeds once again, even in
our day, like you did in the days of old when Israel was born.’
Sometimes we too need to pray for such things for our own lives. It
is easy to get complacent and drift in ‘the midst of the years’
once the wonder of our early salvation has become a slightly hazy
memory. In regard to this, note three things –
1. It is God’s work to revive. Habakkuk said ‘Revive YOUR work’. Trying to bring about personal spiritual revival based on human effort and will power is the fast road to dashed hopes! Admit it, even your new year’s resolution was probably broken by Jan 3 rd or 4th!
2. Without a desire (leading to prayer) to see revival, it isn’t going to happen in your life. God wants to be wanted. And He wants you to want to get to know Him better! He can even give you the desire to want to know Him better if you need to start there! But you do need to acknowledge your need to Him.
3. You have to see clearly ‘where you are at’. You have to see your need. If you think you have no need then the status quo will continue. Habakkuk had to see Judah’s great need for God to move before he could see and then ask, for revival.
 ↩ If people praying for a revival knew it meant that God would first judge, would they still want it? I doubt it. Even Habakkuk kind of wished he hadn’t asked God to move once he found out how God was going to act! Ever since I have been a Christian I have heard people speaking about the ‘revival’ that is about to come. Biblically speaking, the Bible says more about a ‘falling away’ in the last days. A revival would be a good thing but we should remember that in parts of the world God is already doing great things and moving powerfully, with many miracles and people being saved. It just so happens that many of those same countries experience persecution and very real difficulties for living as a Christian. Would people in the West still want revival if it meant that? Habakkuk came to see that God’s way were best and still prayed for this ‘revival’ even though it meant initial judgement for God’s own people in Judah. But he does add the little sub-clause – ‘In wrath remember mercy!’
 ↩ ‘Selah’ is found in the Psalms 71 times. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says ‘ The Hebrew verb from which the term comes means “to exalt, to lift up.” It may mean a pause (a) to elevate to a higher key or increase the volume, (b) to reflect on what has been sung and exalt the Lord in praise, or (c) to lift up certain instruments for something like a trumpet fanfare.’ As a general rule, when you see a ‘Selah’ in God’s word, then ‘stop and think about what has been written – praise God for what has been revealed.’
Dr John Gill writes:
"from Teman" as he of old came from thence, a city in the land
of Edom (
), it was five miles from Petra, in Idumea, where was Mount
Seir, from whence the Lord arose, and shone forth from Mount
Paran at the giving of the law, (Deu 33:2) to which the
allusion is here.
Now that is all true, and you will find most commentators just think that Habakkuk is referring to a past event. But it is only HALF of the story! The fact is that the passage in Deut 33:2 is a ‘Midrash’ or picture of that which will occur again at the end of the age! Commentators with a clearer prophetic understanding such as Arnold Fructembaum and A.C Gaebelin recognise that this reference in Habakkuk will play out at the coming of Jesus Christ. See the footnote 6 for more in-depth details of how this occurs.
‘Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. He said, "The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.’
Thus, the deliverance from Egypt that God gave to Israel in the early days shall be played again in the latter days when Jesus shall come once again, with thousands of His holy ones ( Jude 14-15 , Rev 19:11-15 ), and deliver Israel from a sure destruction at the hands of the nations of the world.
Most of the time when we talk or think about the second coming of
Jesus, we think about the Lord coming back to the Mount of Olives
as prophecied in
(incidentally, the Mount of Olives is the same location from which
Jesus ascended into Heaven in
). But at some stage during His return the Lord Jesus MUST come
from Bozrah (also known as Petra) in Edom (modern day Jordan). The
key prophecy concerning this is
‘Who is this who comes from Edom, Withgarments of glowing
colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel,
Marching in the greatness of His strength? "It is I who speak
in righteousness, mighty to save."
Why does Jesus come back there? Because that is where the Jews flee
to for protection from the Antichrist and his army during the
second half of the tribulation. (
Micah 2:12 KJV
- Bozrah is where the remnant of Israel assemble,
– Edom is specifically kept from the control of the Antichrist,
– Israel has to flee to the mountains as a hiding place. The
closest being those in the south of Jordan (Edom/Petra/Bozrah) With
the nations closing in on the Jews hiding in Petra, Jesus will
return there to save them first (more on this later) before moving
his way back to Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.
 ↩ And of course Jesus gave three of the disciples a glimpse of what His 2nd coming and Kingdom would be like on the Mount of Transfiguration and in recording what they saw it was this revealed that ‘ He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.’ ( Matthew 17:2 )
 ↩ You see, you have to picture the scene at that time. The nations will hate God and will take their stand against Him according to Psalm 2. Under the rule of the Antichrist, the Jews and any believer in Jesus will be punishable by death. With ALL the armies of the world united in their desire to destroy the Jewish people, who could possibly stop them? They have the Antichrist leading the way and as all the world has already said about him "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" ( Rev 13:4 ) Yep... the plan of a united world under the Antichrist without Jews and believers in God is finally set to come to fruition. It is a sure thing... well, right up till the heavenly bodies no longer gave forth their light, the heavens split open and as lightning up the east to west, there comes one in brilliant light riding upon a white horse...
 ↩ By the time of the last rebellion against God and His people at the end of the tribulation, this darkness will be both spiritual and physical. It is a spiritual darkness for the nations joined to the Antichrist will have given themselves over completely to this wicked world ruler. The darkness will also be physical for the sun and the moon will not give their light on that day. But the coming of the true Son will overcome the darkness for He is the light of the world... spiritually and soon to be literally!
 ↩ When I was a young Christian I read a book called ‘The Pre-Tribulation Rapture’ by Allen Beechick. In it was a chapter called ‘The Winepress’. There are lots of things I have forgotten about that book but that particular chapter is not one of them! At the time I did not know what ‘the Winepress’ was in relation to Jesus’ 2nd coming and I didn’t realise that so many scriptures spoke about it. I have recently seen that this whole chapter and book is available online so if you are interested have a look here: http://www.rapturesolution.com/beechick/Book/Wine.htm
Beechick starts the chapter by saying “ The most terrifying ordeal for any human being, outside of hell itself—what is it? The winepress.” Here is a far shorter (but inferior) version. Previously in this study I quoted from Isaiah 63:1 which shows that Jesus will come back to Bozrah in Edom (modern day Petra in Jordan). From there He begins His defence of the Jews and His warfare against the nations. Here is the following part of Isaiah 63 that I didn’t quote earlier (on purpose!):
“Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?" I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. "For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. "I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; So My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld Me. "I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth." ( Isaiah 63:2-6 )
When Jesus came the first time it WAS NOT the day of vengeance – it ushered in (and still is) the day of grace. His return though is in the day of vengeance. The book of Revelation even tells us how far the blood flows for and how deep it is during this trampling of the nations in ‘the winepress’:
‘So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.’ ( Revelation 14:19-20 )
It is possible, as Beechick suggests, that the blood will be from Jerusalem to Bozrah and down to the Red Sea. Have a read of his chapter using the link above. Other passages to read in the Bible are Joel 3 and Isaiah 34:1-8 .
 ↩ Messianic scholar Arnold Fructenbaum, in his book Footsteps of the Messiah (page 331), states there are two conditions that must be met by the nation of Israel that lead to the second coming of Jesus. First, there must be the confession of Israel’s national sin ( Lev 26:40-42 , Jer 3:11-18 , Hos 5:15-6:3 ); and second, a pleading for the Messiah to return ( Zech 12:10 ; Matt 23:37-39 , Isa 64:1-4 ). The pleading for His return will occur in difficult days as we have seen. With all the nations of the world coming against them, and all hope lost, they will cry out for their Messiah. AND HE WILL COME! Larry Norman’s song ‘Messiah’ captures this event:
“Messiah took this world by force, Messiah took this world by
I could see people dying, I could hear the children crying
I could see cities falling, and I could hear the Savior calling
Messiah, Messiah, He took this world by force
Messiah, Messiah, He took this world by force
Red clouds blotted out the sun, Darkness fell on everyone
Rivers of blood were running, I could hear the armies coming
I could see the weapons falling, I could hear the angels calling
The bear from the north and the dragon from the east
Descended upon the armies of Israel... and slaughtered them
And in that day the chosen of Israel cried out for Messiah
And Messiah came... Messiah!! MESSIAH!!!
 ↩ We live in an age that rejoices and thanks God quite often... when things are going well. What about when nothing is going well? Our testimony and track record has not been so good then. What are your thoughts concerning God in such times? Do you still love Him? These are the times when your faith is seen or exposed. And I do need to be real concerning such times for I have struggled with thoughts about God during prolonged times of difficulty that are certainly not worthy of the Almighty. Darkness causes doubt to rise. But how wonderful when faith rises even further and lifts you above your circumstance so that you can say with Habakkuk that I too will praise and rejoice in God even though ‘the fig tree does not bud, nor the fields produce any food.’
J. Vernon McGee writes: “My friend, God is the answer to your questions. God is the answer to your problems. Therefore, it does not matter who you are or where you are; you can rejoice in Him, and you can rejoice in His salvation. You can say with Habakkuk, who was such a pessimist in the beginning, "I will joy in the God of my salvation." This book opened in gloom, but it closes in glory. It opened with a question mark, but it closes with a mighty exclamation point. And it ends with his wonderful song. May you and I be encouraged today by the Word of God!”