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Anchored, Part 4
Singing in the Storm
Bruce A. Hess
If you would please take out your Bibles now and turn in them, in the Old Testament, to the book of Habakkuk, and chapter number 3.
You know, in 1952 there was a movie musical that came out by the name of ‘Singing in the Rain,’ and it featured a song by the same name. That movie starred Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. The storyline of that movie was set in the 1920’s and in the 1920’s there was a shift going on in Hollywood from silent movies to talkies. Those of you who are younger may not know that when movies first started, there was no sound in them at all. It was a little bit like closed captioning. Eventually they added sound. So, the movie was set in that kind of an environment and to many people today, ‘Singing in the Rain’ is considered to be the top musical ever. In fact, the song, ‘Singing in the Rain’ the American Film Institute made a list of the top one hundred movie songs of all time and, ‘Singing in the Rain’ was ranked as number three. You might wonder, what was number one? Well, number one was the song, ‘Over the Rainbow’ from the Wizard of Oz.
Now, you hear all of that and you say, ‘How does that relate to the book of Habakkuk?’ Well, the title that we have given to today’s message is, ‘Singing in the Storm.’ This week and next we will be looking at how Habakkuk chooses to sing in the storm.
I simply want to remind you that this book opens up with Habakkuk in distress. He is discouraged and he is experiencing difficulties that lead to that distress and discouragement. He is experiencing anxiety. He is experiencing confusion by all the circumstances, the difficult circumstances, that were coming upon him. As he gains perspective from the Lord, he begins to sing in the storm.
Now, I want to remind you that the book of Habakkuk begins with Habakkuk grumbling. It ends with Habakkuk glorifying God. How does that happen? Well, the lesson we can all focus on, in the book of Habakkuk, is how he makes the transition from grumbling to glorifying God. And, that is going to be part of our focus this week.
I want to simply remind you of the way the book of Habakkuk functions. Remember, in chapters 1 and 2 there is a series of questions that he has, and answers that God gives. Remember, in chapter 1, verses 2-4, his question to God, as these things were coming upon him and he was experiencing this difficulty, he says, ‘Where are You, God? You seem to be inactive. I don’t sense that You are here in this.’
Then, we have the first answer from God in verses 5-11, of chapter 1, where, basically God says to him, “Be astonished!” “I am going to bring the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, to discipline the nation of Judah.’ He was basically saying, ‘My plan is bigger than you know.’ And, that is what He would often want to say to you and me.
Then, we have the second question that comes in verses 12-17 of chapter 1, and in light of what he has just learned, ‘Why, God? Why would You do this? How could You; how would You allow…’ and could put whatever you want in the blank, ‘God, how could You allow…blank?’
The answer that God gives in all of chapter 2, which we saw last time, is He says, ‘I will make it right. You don’t have to worry about this, I’m in charge of the universe, I will make it right. Wait and watch. Judgment is going to come.’
Now, Anne of Austria said this to Cardinal Richelieu, I love this, “God does not pay at the end of every day, my Lord Cardinal, but, at the end, He pays.” Great truth in that statement.
Again, just to remind you of the flow of the book, because we are moving into chapter 3, we see that in chapters 1 and 2 we see Habakkuk’s perplexity. Now, we come to chapter 3 and we see Habakkuk’s praise. His focus in the first two chapters is on life’s problems. That begins to shift in chapter 3, where his focus is on God’s person.
The question we need to be asking ourselves in our life, as we experience various kinds of things that are difficult and adverse, is where are our eyes? Is our focus on life’s problems? Or, is our focus on God’s person? So, where you are right now today, where are your eyes?
I’ve got an outline here of chapter 3 that we are going to be looking at. We are going to look at the first fifteen verses.
- First of all, we are going to see in verse 1, Habakkuk’s song.
- Then, in verse 2, we are going to look at Habakkuk’s request.
- Then, third, we are going to look at Habakkuk’s praise of God, in verses 3-15.
So, let’s begin by looking at Habakkuk’s song in verse 1. I would invite you to follow along, it is a very short verse. Here is what it says in verse 1. “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.” What was Shigionoth? Well, it was a type of tune. This is, in chapter 3, a prayer song that was written by Habakkuk. We know that because this Shigionoth is a type of tune, we also know that this was a song by the very last phrase of the chapter, verse 19, at the very end, it says, “For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.” He plays the stringed instruments.
It makes us wonder if Habakkuk was actually a Levite. In other words, in modern lingo, we wonder if he was not on the worship team in the temple. We also know that it is a song, a prayer song, because the word, ‘Selah,’ occurs to the right in our Bibles three different times in this section. Selah was a musical notation. In fact, it is used regularly in the Psalms, but this is the only place in the entire Old Testament where this term, ‘Selah,’ shows up outside of the book of Psalms. Remember, the book of Psalms is really a book of songs.
So, that is what this is, this is a prayer song. Let’s go back to verse 1, where he says, “It is according to Shigionoth.” What was a Shigionoth? Well, it seems best to understand it as a tune that was to be sung with intense feeling and emotion. Today, we might say it is a prayer song to be sung enthusiastically.
The next thing we are going to look at, having looked a little bit at this song that he is composing, is Habakkuk’s request in chapter 3 and verse 2. Notice there he says, “Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear.” I really like the alternative reading in the margin of the New American Standard, it says this, ‘I stand in awe of Your work, O Lord.’ He is in the process of setting aside this attitude: ‘I need all the answers, God.’ Now, he is beginning to start a shift where he wants to submit himself to the sovereign will of God.
He goes on in his request, you will notice in verse 2, he says, “O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known.” That little phrase, it the midst of the years, is a phrase that would mean: “in our day, in our time.” Lord, in our time, in our day, revive Your work, be at work. He is really saying, ‘Do what is necessary, God, to accomplish Your purposes. Prune, purify, if that is what You must do.’ He is simply requesting that God would show to everyone, really, what He is about and what He is seeking to accomplish. Part of his attitude here, in his request is, he is saying to God, ‘Your will be done. Your will be done.’
Then, at the very end of this request is the only personal request that Habakkuk has. You will notice there in verse 2 just a couple of words, his personal request to God, “In wrath remember mercy.” In Your holy anger, Lord, remember mercy. Remember that mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we deserve to receive. So, his request, in a special way is: would You show us mercy, God? It is a statement of humility on the part of Habakkuk.
That leads us to the third division we have in the book, having looked at his song and his request, we have Habakkuk’s praise of God in verses 3-15. Now, as we look at this praise of God, I want you to understand that there is a blend here of past, future, and the ultimate future. There is a little bit of the past, when he is going to look back at the nation’s deliverance in the Exodus from Egypt and the events of the Conquest. There is going to be a focus, a little bit, on the future, the future deliverance they were going to have, because of the promise of God, from the Chaldeans. Then, there is a little element also in here as he is praising God, of the future—the ultimate future—of the Messiah and the End Time.
So, this is a song, a prayer song. Let’s begin by looking at stanza number one. Stanza number one in the song is, Our great God is always at work and we see that in verses 3-9. If you look at verse 3 in your Bible, it mentions how God comes from Teman and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Now Teman was near Sinai, which is part of the wilderness experience and Mount Paran was also near Mount Sinai. So, part of what he is focusing on here, is on how God was at work in the Exodus and in their time in the wilderness.
You will notice that he says in verse 4, speaking of God, “His radiance is like the sunlight. He has rays flashing from His hand.” This seems to be a poetic allusion to the pillar of fire that was with the nation in the wilderness. Now, we need to remember that the time of the Exodus for the nation of Israel was a very, very difficult time. Sometimes we forget that. Yet, as difficult as that time was, and remember they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, God was with them at every step. God was leading them. God was always at work; God was providing for them. Again, sometimes we just jump over all of that and we don’t really have a good picture of what that means. It was astounding for God to be at work and to provide for them over those years.
Harlan Betz has done a really great job of summarizing what God had to do during this time. He said, if you just think of the manna alone that God had to provide those tens of thousands of people. The manna alone, not counting the quail, the manna alone would amount to two hundred railroad box cars every day of manna that would need to be provided. He also calculated out, if you talked about the water that God would have to be at work providing every day—water for people and animals—that amount of water would take 2,800 railroad tanker cars every single day. God was always at work; He was always at work providing and He did that for forty years. Forty years!
Notice in verse 5, it says, “Before Him (God) goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him.” Probably an allusion here to the plagues of Egypt that would go on.
By the way, when we start talking about plagues, I’ve been getting a question from many people about the pandemic of Covid-19. People have asked me; do you believe that Covid-19 is a judgment of God? Now, remember, there have been a lot of epidemics and pandemics and disasters and other things that have gone on over the years. Are any of them the judgment of God? My first answer to that is, ‘That is way above my pay grade. That is a God question, not a Bruce question.’ But I do have three comments about this whole idea.
Here is the first one, I believe that Covid-19 is another reminder that we live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is infested with disease and difficulty and suffering and evil. All of those things come from mankind’s rebellion. For followers of Jesus it is important, even at the time of a pandemic, that we remember this place is not our home. We’re only camping here. This isn’t our home at all.
The second comment I would have is that I think the Covid-19 pandemic is a foretaste of things that are to come that are going to be far worse than this, in the era and the time in which God begins to return to this world, when He begins to judge this world. In Revelation, chapter 6 and verse 8 it tells us there is a time coming when—think about this—one quarter of the world is going to die of an outbreak of violence, disease and famine. We can read about that as part of the future judgment of God on this world, and we can just jump right past it. But one quarter of the world’s population, that is just less than two billion people! Two billion, what does that mean? That is two thousand million people who are going to die from a future event. So, when we experience something like this now, it is just a foretaste of what is to come. Now is the time to turn to Jesus.
The third comment I would have is: as much as we get upset by this pandemic, there is an everyday pandemic that we routinely ignore. It is here every day, every month, and every year. That is the pandemic of physical death. Annual deaths in the United States of America are about three million. We are alarmed at having deaths, so far, of a hundred thousand from this pandemic. But every year there are three million Americans who disappear from the planet. Now, that is a real pandemic. Annual deaths in the world, about fifty-six million every year die. So, we need to remember that there is a more critical pandemic overall and that is the pandemic of death. What we have experienced in the Covid pandemic is just a fraction. Men and women, the truth is that you, myself, all of us, we are one breath away from eternity. The question is, who holds the keys to death and Hades? and the answer to that is, Jesus does.
Look at verse 6, in chapter 3, it says, “He stood and surveyed the earth: He looked and startled the nations,” probably a reference to the conquest again, when they came into the land and God was with them.
Look over to verse 8 for a moment. He asked a question here, “Did the Lord rage against the rivers, or was Your anger against the rivers, or was Your wrath against the sea?” Again, these are allusions, it appears to be referring to the dividing of the Red Sea and the dividing of the Jordan River. You see the dividing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14 and 15. You see the dividing of the Jordan River in Joshua, chapters 3 and 4. When he asks these questions, it seems best to think of them as questions that anticipate a ‘no,’ answer. God wasn’t mad at the Red Sea; He wasn’t mad at the Jordan River. No, He was at work.
As we look at all of these things, there is a principle or a thrust that we must understand. I think this is the principle we draw from all of this. When we reflect back on what God has done in the past, our trust deepens in the present. That is a key thought. Let’s think about it again. When we reflect back on what God has done in the past, our trust deepens in the present. That is exactly what Habakkuk was experiencing.
So, we’ve looked at the first stanza, which is where he declares in his praise to God that our great God is always at work. The second stanza is this, Our great God is always in control. We see that in verses 10-12. Look with me at verse 10. He says, “The mountains saw You, (God) and quaked; the downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, it lifted high its hands.” What is he picturing here? Well the picture here is that the mountains see the Lord—think about this—and shake before Him. He talks about here how the deep, that is really a reference to the sea, lifts its hands in praise.
In verse 11 he talks about how the sun and the moon stood in their places, again a reference to what happens in Joshua, chapter 10. What is going on here? What is he communicating? He is communicating that our God is in control, He is always in control. And the symbols of power and influence in nature that we know—the mountains, the sea, the sun and the moon—he says, all of them, God, all of them submit to You. Our great God is in control.
Notice verse 12. He says, “In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations.” He is just acknowledging here that God is large and in charge. All the nations, and all the peoples, and in every place, You are in control of them. I think here in verse 12 we even see an allusion to the second coming of Christ from the book of the Revelation, and chapter number 19. You can go and read about it. I mean, He is totally sovereign. Our great God is the sovereign King!
Sometimes when we talk about God being sovereign, we misunderstand some concepts. It is important to understand that God’s sovereignty is not fatalism. Fatalism is purposeless inevitability, there is just no purpose to anything, it just inevitably happens. That is fatalism. That is not what the Biblical truth of sovereignty is. Sovereignty says this: that there is a living, loving God, who is in control of everything. He is in control, yes, of all of our setbacks. He is in control, yes, of all of the losses and calamities that we might experience in our life. He is in control of every circumstance and every event that may unfold in our life, even when we don’t understand why, our God is always in control.
He is sovereign, yes, even in the face of evil. When it comes to evil, here is what the Bible teaches us: it teaches us that God permits it. We see that in Acts, chapter 14, and verse 16, even related to the crucifixion. There was evil there and yet God permitted it to happen. We know that God brings good out of evil. We see that in the life of Joseph. Again, we see that in the book of Acts, in chapter 2 [God permitting the crucifixion to occur]. God allows evil to test and discipline His children. We see that some in the book of Job. But, most importantly, God promises to punish evil and fully deliver us from it. Men and women, our God is always in control. That is what Habakkuk is praising Him for.
Twila Paris wrote a song a number of years ago called, ‘God is in Control’ and I just want to look at the lyrics of this because I think it is so wonderful. The song goes like this,
There is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination
Don’t lose the vision here
Carried away by the motion
God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
What a great truth that is. Notice she goes on to write these in the lyrics of her song,
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
God is in control
He has never let you down
Why start to worry now?
She goes on to write,
He is still the Lord of all we see
And He is still the loving Father
Watching over you and me
Yes, Habakkuk says in his song, Our great God is always at work. He says, our great God is always in control and then, in verses 13 and 15, stanza number three, Our great God always provides salvation. Look at verse 13. He says there, the first phrase, “You went forth for the salvation of Your people.” That is what God did at the Exodus. That is exactly what He did. That is what God did at the cross of Jesus Christ and that is what God will do at the End Time. You can turn to the book of Zechariah, chapter 12, verses 4-9 to see that.
Notice in verse 13, he says, “You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of evil to lay him open from thigh to neck.” That is exactly what God did to Pharaoh in the Exodus. That is exactly what God was going to do later (part of the allusion to the future), what God did to Satan at the cross. And, that is exactly what God is going to do in the End Time to the Anti-Christ, himself.
Verses 14 and 15, he is talking about those who had evil intent against them and he says there, ‘You rescued and saved us by Your power, God, that is what You did.’
Now, we’ve moved through a big portion of the book, but there is one final section to come and he is going to end with four powerful verses that we are going to look at in our time together next time. After Habakkuk’s praise of God that we’ve looked at this week, we are going to look at his position of trust in God next time.
You know what I really believe was happening here? I believe that Habakkuk was practicing what Psalm 103 says. I want to look at Psalm 103, just some selected portions of Psalm 103. This is what Habakkuk was doing.
Psalm 103 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits…the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” It goes on to say, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities,” I love this part, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him…The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom over all.” What great truth!
Let’s just pause for a moment, what are some of the benefits and some of the blessings that God has provided for those of us who follow Jesus and know Jesus? I just want to look at a few of them. Some of His blessings and benefits that we’re not to forget. For example: He grants us (this is amazing to me, I will never get over this), He grants us full, once-for-all, forgiveness without earning it. Whoa! He transforms us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. That is amazing, what a benefit! He adopts us into His forever family. The greatest adoption process there could ever be! A few more of His benefits, these are just some of them: He provides us a home in heaven for all eternity. He offers us, I love this one, too, personal access twenty-four hours a day. You know, there are a lot of important people in the world we can’t get in to see, but God says, ‘You’ve got twenty-four-hours-a-day access.’ Then, another one of His blessings and benefits is this: He gives us a new heart after His heart. You know what, men and women? We have a great God! We have a great God! A great God!
Let’s take a moment just to sort of draw it all together. How can we respond to what we’ve looked at today? What is a life response we can have? I’m going to suggest two things. The first one, we can all do this, is to Make a list of His benefits and His faithfulness to you. Actually take the time to write it out. My wife and I were talking about this the other day together. There are things we so often forget and as you begin to make a list, you remember, oh yes, how about that and how about this?
So, the first step is to make a list of His benefits and His faithfulness to you. Here is the second life response, Hold a praise party and thank Him. Hold a praise party to thank Him. Now, that praise party, it might be just a party of one. It may be a praise party for your family, maybe a praise party for your friends. It may be a praise party for your small group, but it is one way that we can remember all of His benefits. Make the list. Hold a praise party and thank Him.
Let’s pray together. Father, again we thank You so much for the living word of God. It is just amazing what this book teaches us, Lord. Thank You for showing me how valuable the word of God is and thank You for demonstrating to all of us, as we’ve gone through the series so far in Habakkuk—getting ready to end it next week—how valuable this book is to give us perspective about the kinds of things we experience in everyday life. We thank You for who You are, we thank You for what You are teaching us, we thank You for all the benefits that You have given to us. We are grateful, grateful, grateful people. We thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
“Singing in the storm, pt. 1”
1. When life crashes in on us—where do our eyes (our focus) tend to go? Where should our
eyes focus instead? What kind of difference would that make?
2. Storms appear suddenly in Oklahoma and in our lives. What can assist us to prepare for a
sudden life storm which—in turn—can help us respond with an attitude of “singing in the
3. God is the Holy and Sovereign King, right? What can help us to retain a sense of
reverence and awe in a world that often emphasizes casualness and informality?
4. In what ways does the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty help us in everyday life?
5. What tends to dominate our prayer lives (make a list)?
Why is that? In what ways do our common prayer practices differ from Habakkuk’s
6. What does “looking back” mean for followers of Jesus? What types of things are we
called to remember?
7. One study cites stats that indicate some people tap, swipe, or click their smartphone
2617 times a day, resulting in what one researcher calls, “continuous partial attention.”
How could the syndrome of partial concentration adversely affect our relationship with
8. List as many ways as possible showing how God has worked in your life. Bruce said,
“When we reflect back on what God has done in the past, our trust deepens in the
9. Read Psalm 103 out loud. Then take a few moments to express your gratitude to Him.