“O LORD, I have heard the report of You; … In Your wrath, remember mercy!” Habakkuk 3:2
God is terrifying, if we understand Him correctly. It is when we take God for granted, when we dismiss Him as a great and distant Clockmaker, or a figment of our “wishful thinking”–an entity that is better left to think of “later”–that our destruction begins.
That is yet another paradox: When I raise my fist in His face or, worse, turn my back on Him, then I will know His terrible justice. I will feel the full horror of that judgment. Yet when I am duly aware of His terrible righteousness and I am keenly aware of my lowly place before Him, then is when He draws near in tenderness and mercy to hear our prayer of repentance. Then I feel the love and Fatherhood of God.
God’s majesty is supposed to bow us low. But we don’t like being bowed low. Our pride attempts to build towers that reach into the heavens to escape Him. Our pride will cause us to protect ourselves from His intrusion into our lives. God’s majesty only draws us nearer if we have a hope to bridge the chasm–that it can be crossed. “Is there such a hope?”
Consider the poetry of this chapter. God is represented as larger-than-life. He is represented in fury, and wrath, sending His arrows, plague and pestilence. These are the plagues that God sent to Egypt to crush the logic of worshipping each of the false gods of that culture. The warning was for Gentile and Hebrew alike: You need a blood covering to shield you from the judgment of your sin.
Yet this same God mercifully provides a way of escape. The death angel passed over Israelite’s homes which had the blood over the door showing their obedience, but death entered into every Egyptian home without the blood. A way of escape provides choice.
The blood reminded them (and us) that “the wages of sin is death” and a blood sacrifice was required for the forgiveness of sin. The blood represented the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, Jesus Christ. God looked upon the blood of His Perfect Son, the Promised One, as the just satisfaction of our own sin.
This is a gory picture. It is a shocking picture. If we’d lived during the original Passover night, we would not have been dancing in the aisles, we would have been deeply grieved, death wails of the lost emanating from the houses all around us. Can we hear them?
“Hold us close, O LORD! Have mercy on us!”
This is the refrain of Habakkuk’s song here. This is the rightful response–the right choice.
Habakkuk guides his people to remember God’s justice and mercy, so that they would grieve and mourn and repent of their sins and find reconciliation for their exile, redemption from their shame, and peace from their deepest fear.
This is a good stance for us as well. Has there been a loss of memory for you? There has been for me. I need to remember Who God is in ALL His character. He is severe, righteous and holy! He is merciful and all love. Have you forgotten God’s work in your life? Oh, how quickly I forget! One little look around my home and I find landmarks of God’s work in my life, little things that help me to remember where I have come from and what He has done to raise me up from my prison cell. Consider the many times we have known or felt God’s mercy delivering us from the consequences we deserved, or from the sins of others.
Does it not strike us that the right thing to do when we are in the most vile of sins is to humble ourselves in light of these memories? To return to Him in the devotion we once knew, or to begin to devote ourselves now if we have never done so in the past?
Habakkuk couldn’t remind His people of the work of Jesus Christ, the once-for-all sacrifice for our sin nature. That fulfillment of God’s Promise lay in the future for Habakkuk. He could only draw them to remember the Promise and to see how God had kept them in accordance with that Promise. God divided the mighty waters so they stood up to let God’s people through to the Promise. Can He not divide the waters that lie between us and Christ?
God is a miracle-working Promise-keeper. We have every reason to hope that repentance will bring His deliverance. God’s Greater Plan will be fulfilled not only for us, but through us because of Christ.
© June 2019 by www.ReadPsalm119.com.
This is part of a series of reflections on the book of Habakkuk. See Habakkuk's Lament (Pt1). "Habakkuk's Song" will continue in Pt. III and with "Habakkuk's Song of Faith" as pre-scheduled posts this week.