Anchored #5: Singing in the Storm, part 2 – Habakkuk 3:16-19

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Anchored, Part 5

Singing in the Storm, Part 2

Habakkuk 3:16-19

Bruce A. Hess

I would like to invite you now to take out your Bibles and turn in them, in the Old Testament, to the book of Habakkuk. It is toward the end of the Old Testament. I want you to turn to chapter number 3.

You know, times come in all of our lives that we find to be very unsettling to us. Maybe, maybe you are feeling that unsettling feeling even today. Sometimes, these times come to us collectively, that are unsettling. For example, having a bewildering Covid-19 pandemic, that is unsettling to all of us. Or, maybe the mass shootings that we see from time-to-time in our culture. Or, the racial unrest that we’re all feeling deeply right now in our nation. Or, the decimated economy that we have, which gives us an uncertain present and an uncertain future. So sometimes unsettling times we experience collectively.

Sometimes we experience them individually, maybe a diagnosis of a debilitating disease that you receive for yourself or for a loved one. It is very unsettling. Maybe just an avalanche of adverse circumstances that might come in our life. Or, a dismaying relational crisis that occurs. Or, the devastating death of a loved one. Just the instability of wondering what is the new normal. All of those things are unsettling to us.

The encouraging thing though, to me, is that we are not the first people to have experienced that.  The question really is, where is our hope? And in the Old Testament, Isaiah brings an answer for us in that regard. He said this, he says, “The Lord is exalted for He dwells on high.” I love this next phrase, “He will be the stability of your times.” From Isaiah 33, verses 5 and 6.

So, Isaiah brings an answer for us, but in addition to that, Habakkuk also brings an answer to us. You know, over these last number of weeks many of us have been introduced, for the first time, to Zoom calls. I know my family does a Zoom call. We are spread over three states and two different countries so for a while on Sundays at 4:00 pm, we’ve been having a family Zoom call together. Now, I know that I have experienced times like this, and perhaps you have too, that you can remember, when you just wish that you could have a Zoom meeting with God. You know, where you have this Zoom meeting and you say, ‘Where are You, God? What are You doing? Why are You allowing these things in my life? Do You really care?’ Have you ever felt that way? I think all of us have from time-to-time.

Here is what is interesting, in one sense Habakkuk has already had a Zoom call with God. He has already done it. That is what we really find ourselves looking at in our Anchored series from the book of Habakkuk, which is really an insider view of the struggle to have faith in the face of adverse circumstances. An alternate title we could give to this whole series would be, Faith Under Fire. That is what he was experiencing, fire in his life and we experience that, too.

Now, again, Habakkuk is a Minor Prophet. That only means that it is a shorter prophet. Yet, Habakkuk’s message and truth is a major need for each one of us. One of the things I appreciate about the book of Habakkuk is there are no cheap or shallow hallelujahs in this book. Habakkuk is on a true emotional journey. In our series we have seen that it is really a matter of some questions and answers between Habakkuk and God, like a Zoom would be. Habakkuk asks questions like, ‘Where are You, God? Why, God? How could you allow…” and you could fill in the blank. God’s answers are, ‘My plan is bigger than you know and I will make it right…wait and watch.’

What is interesting in the book of Habakkuk is, the more exposure Habakkuk has to divine viewpoint, the better Habakkuk’s attitude and spiritual altitude in the book. In chapter 3 we saw that he begins to compose a worship song. We entitled last week’s message, ‘Singing in the Storm.’ That was part number 1. We’ve looked at Habakkuk’s praise of God in verses 3-15. Remember his praise of God, Our great God is always at work, Our great God is always in control, Our great God always provides salvation.

Today we come to ‘Singing in the Storm,’ part number 2. What we see in part number 2 is Habakkuk’s position of trust, in verses 16-19. If you have your Bibles there, I would like to read verses 16-19 and invite you to follow along in your Bible as I am reading. Habakkuk writes and he says,

“I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones. And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”

Harlan Betz said this, he said, ‘Singing in the storm does not indicate ignorance of the storm. It indicates confidence in God.’

We have a very similar kind of experience that happens in the New Testament, in Acts, chapter 16, verses 22-25. What is happening there is Paul and Silas, on the second missionary journey, in Philippi, end up being beaten and thrown into prison. Here’s the way it is described in Acts 16. It says, “The crowd rose up together against them (that is, Paul and Silas) and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them (that’s Paul and Silas’ robes) and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they (the officials) threw (Paul and Silas) into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely.’

Then, I want you to notice what it goes on to say, “The jailer threw them into the inner prison (which was the ugly place to be) and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Now, at this point Paul and Silas had no idea what the outcome was going to be and it brings us back, again, to the thought we saw earlier from Harlan Betz:  Singing in the storm does not indicate ignorance of the storm. It indicates confidence in God.

Now, here is the basic outline we have for our section we are looking at today, in chapter 3, verses 16-19, Habakkuk’s position of trust, first of all we see Habakkuk’s initial response, in verse 16. Then, we see Habakkuk’s resting and rejoicing in the Lord, in verses 17-19.

So, what we want to do is take a look at this first section, Habakkuk’s initial response to the whole situation that he has been hearing about. If you look at verse 16, he says, “I heard and my inward parts trembled.”  Literally, in Hebrew, it says, ‘My belly trembled.’ Now, he wasn’t saying, you know, ‘I’m overweight and my belly was jiggling around.’ What he is really communicating here is, ‘As I am facing all this instability in my life that is coming, my insides were churning.’

In verse 16, he says, “At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones.” He began to feel physically weakened. He said, “In my place I am trembling. I must wait quietly for the day of distress.” There was difficult, hard experiences ahead that were going to include pain and heartache.  It kind of reminds me of what we saw earlier on in the book, in chapter 2, verse 4, where that principle is given, “The righteous will live by faith.” Really, part of what he is communicating here is, ‘God, I want to trust You and I want to trust Your promises.’

Men and women and young people, it is important that we understand that this is not an automatic, or natural, reaction for any one of us. When we are facing very difficult circumstances, adversity and instability in our life, our emotions say – worry, fear, panic. Our minds say – I don’t really think that’s fair! I deserve something better than that. Our hearts are prone to grumble and complain. The world would say to us, as these difficult times come on us, ‘You know what you ought to do? Just forget God, reject God, just walk away from Him.’ But what trust means is that we are trusting that God, even through these circumstances, is working out His plan and purposes in the midst of the turmoil that we are experiencing.

Now, the details, and the reasons, and the why, are hidden in the heart of God. He says basically in this section, ‘I want to be trusting You, God.’ I just love how honest all this…can’t you feel the honesty there in verse 16? It is not unspiritual to struggle through the process. That is what he is doing, he is struggling through the process.

So, we’ve looked at Habakkuk’s initial response, there in verse 16. It is very real. It is very human. But then we move to the second part where we see Habakkuk’s resting and rejoicing in the Lord. These next verses, men and women, in Habakkuk 3, are both captivating and encouraging verses. I want to read them again. He says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

This description that he gives in verse 17 of course comes from an agrarian culture:  the fig tree not blossoming, there’s no fruit on the vines, the yield of the olive fails, the fields provide no food, the flock is cut off from the fold. Like the NIV says, there are no sheep in the pen, there are no cattle in the stalls. The picture he is making here is one of poverty and destitution and a culture that is in shambles. He is making a picture of utter havoc.

How would it look in our world today, you know, all these things happening? Maybe in our day we would say, though the health report is dire, though the bank account is empty, though the car is broken down. We would even say, though the toilet paper is gone from all the shelves in the store [smile}, though the church is unable to assemble in person, though the stock market crashes, though there are riots in the streets, though I’ve lost my job, though there is no place for me to live, though the pain is unrelenting, though my retirement account has dwindled to near nothing, though there is a pandemic, though there is no electricity or internet. All that being true, you have the word, ‘Yet.’ Three letters in English and three letters in Hebrew. A small word, yet in some ways it is the biggest word in this whole section of Scripture.

He says, in verse 18, “Yet.” With all that devastation and havoc, he says, “Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

 You know, Job said something very similar in Job 13:15. He said, of God, “Though He slay me,” (though it might mean physical death, even, for me), he says, “Yet,” there’s our word again, “Yet I will trust Him.”

Now, Habakkuk’s focus was not on the circumstances, it was not on his possessions or his lack of possessions, it was on the promise-keeping God who loves Him. That’s where his focus was. His trust was that God has a plan. His trust was that God is working that plan. His trust was that God reigns in every situation. Even when everything seems to be falling apart, He is still reigning.

I want to pause and I want to ask you a question. You don’t need to answer it out loud, but you think about it. When life avalanches down on us, when it falls in on us, what do we tend to doubt the most? I want you to just think about that for a second. When life avalanches and falls in on us, what do we tend to doubt the most? Here is what I think: when dire and difficult things come to us, I think the first question we really ask is, does God really love me? If He does love me, why does He allow these things to come in my life?

I believe that Habakkuk found confidence and comfort in God’s love. Remember, we noted earlier in our study that he was likely part of the temple worship team and I want to bring our attention to some of the worship songs of his day. One of them was found in Psalm 59, written by David. Of course, David knew about a lot of difficulty and adversity in his life. So, this is one of the songs…the Psalms really means songs…song number 59, this is David, he said, “I will sing of Your strength: I will sing aloud (notice here it comes) of Your steadfast love in the morning, for You have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You: for God is my fortress, the God who shows me (here it comes again) steadfast love.”

There is another psalm, Psalm 138, verse 8, and it says this, part of the song again, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me (and here we go again) Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”

So, here is the question, as followers of Jesus, have we ever found ourselves doubting God’s love? I have to answer yes, I do. Whenever we doubt God’s love, as a follower of Jesus, you know what we need to do in my opinion? We need to always be drawn back to Romans, chapter 5, and verse 8. Anytime we begin to doubt, does God love me?, we should go back here. Notice there in Romans 5:8 it says, “God demonstrates.” I want to just stop there. Thet verb that is translated, ‘demonstrates,’ one of the primary meanings of the word is, ‘to provide evidence of something.’ It means to publicly display something. So, it says that God demonstrates, He provides evidence of, He publicly displays, “His own love toward us,” in what way? “In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Men and women, the truth is that, after the cross God has nothing left to prove about whether or not He loves you and me. The cross demonstrates it, it’s total evidence, it’s a public display of His great love for us.

We see this theme occurring in other parts of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul, in Romans, chapter 8, verses 35-39, this is what he says, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” He is talking about these times of difficulty and adversity in life. “Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him (here is the assurance again) who loved us.” He goes on to say (this is an amazing passage of Scripture), “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing,” will be able to do what? To do what? “To separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now, I believe that there is a great aide that can help us to remind ourselves of the love of God for us. It is a very interesting thing called, the Father’s Love Letter. You can actually find it at It is available in 122 languages, including Latvian. There are options on that website where you can watch the love letter, you can listen to the love letter, you can read the love letter, or you can download that love letter. That love letter is really too long for me to read all of it, but I do want to read to you part of that love letter, that Father’s love letter, at You might just want to close your eyes and listen to part of what it says. It says this is a letter from the Father to us,

My child, I know everything about you

I know when you sit down and when you rise up

I am familiar with all your ways.

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered

For you were made in My image

In Me you live and move and have your being

I knew you even before you were conceived

I chose you when I planned creation

You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book

I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live

You are fearfully and wonderfully made

I knit you together in your mother’s womb

And brought you forth on the day you were born

I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me

I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love

It is My desire to lavish My love on you

Simply because you are My child and I am your Father

I offer you more that your earthly father ever could

For I am the perfect Father

Every good gift that you receive comes from My hand

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope

Because I love you with an everlasting love

My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore

And I rejoice over you with singing

For you are my treasured possession

And I want to show you great and marvelous things

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine

I am your greatest encourager

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles

When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to My heart

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes

And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love My son, Jesus

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed

Jesus is the exact representation of My being

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled

His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you

And nothing will ever separate you from My love

One of the cool things about that letter is all the Scripture references to those statements are included there. What a great, great thing to remind us, a great tool, to remind us that God loves us.

Now, we’re back in Habakkuk here, we want to think about what was happening to him again. I mean, his life was fully unraveling. He was facing ruin and destitution. The devastating experiences that he was going to be experiencing were really leading to utter havoc in his life and yet, yet, he says, I will exult in the Lord and I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

If we’re honest, I think our first reaction is deep down, ‘I can’t do what he did.’ I can’t do that. I mean, if I’m going to face utter havoc in my life and all these devastating circumstances, and it means all kinds of just the unraveling of everything in my life:  our emotional reaction is, I can’t do what he did—to say, ‘Yet, I will exalt in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.’ The truth, men and women, is we can’t do it. We can’t do it apart from His provision, His power and His grace.

You know, all along, in our whole series, we’ve had as basically our verse of emphasis, our theme verse in the study, Habakkuk 3:19, which is the verse we’re coming to today. “The Lord God is my strength.”

We could have used chapter 2, verse 4, “The just shall live by faith,” as our theme verse, but I chose this one to be our theme verse because, part of where our faith goes is faith and reliance on His strength in our life. That is why this is maybe the most important verse in the book, “The Lord God is my strength.” The utter truth, men and women, is that I am incapable and we are incapable, but He is more than capable.

We see this in the Scriptures in these worship songs from the Old Testament. In Psalm 118, verse 14, he sings there, “The Lord is my strength and song.” Again, we have King David with another song in Psalm 55:22, he sings there, “Cast your burden upon the Lord (here comes the key phrase) and He will sustain you.” He is the sovereign King of the universe and He is always there. He is always there. He is always there. He is always there calibrating life’s circumstances in our life. He is always there dispensing the grace for whatever place He has me in.

You know, it was written in 1719, Isaac Watts wrote these words three centuries ago. But I think these words could have been written by Habakkuk 2,600 years ago. Isaac Watts writes,

O God, our help in ages past

Our hope for years to come

Our shelter from the stormy blast

And our eternal home

Go back to verse 19, in chapter 3. I want you to see what he goes on to say, he says, “The Lord God is my strength,” Oh, what a key verse that is! Then he goes on to say, “and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet.” That is the way the New American Standard translates this. The NET Bible says, “He gives me the agility of a deer.”

It is possible that he is talking about a deer here, but many people feel like he is talking about an ibex, which is a species of mountain goat that still lives in Israel to this very day. The thing about an ibex is, an ibex is incredibly sure footed in rocky terrain. You can see right in this picture that I have to show you, a picture of an ibex, you see him right on rocky terrain here.

So, when he says in verse 19, “He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,” or like an ibex, “And He makes me walk on my high places.” There’s a key word there, my high places. The NET Bible translates it, “He enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.” Sometimes that is what we are facing in life, rugged terrain.

When we rely on the Lord as our strength, we become sure-footed wherever we find ourselves, or whenever we find ourselves in a rocky place in life. Really, in essence, what he was saying is, ‘God is enough for you and me.’ No matter what the situation may be, God is enough.

I want to take you to another song from the Old Testament, Psalm 73, verse 26. Asaph here writes this, here is what Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart may fail.” That is going to happen to us. “My flesh may fail and my heart may fail (I love this!) But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Men and women, all of us are going to come face-to-face with difficulties. We are going to come face-to-face with darkness. We are going to come face-to-face with despair. What we need to remember, first and foremost in our minds, is that God, God is enough. What a great thought! God is enough!

Now, as we pull back for a moment and we think about what life response we can have, how can we apply some of these truths that we’ve looked at, even today? I’m going to suggest two things. The first thing is, find some time, from time to time, to Remember and revel in His overwhelming love for you. We must do that. Remember, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. So, remember and revel in His overwhelming love for you.

The second key life response is to Draw deeply on His presence and power. Remember, God is not a something, He is a someone. That someone is the sovereign ruler of the universe. When we draw deeply on His presence and His power, with Habakkuk we can declare “The Lord God is my strength!”

In 1952, Scott Wiseman wrote a song and I just want to end our whole series with this song. Great lyrics. He writes,

Tenderly He watches over you, every step, every mile of the way

Like a mother watches o’er her baby

He is near you every hour of the day

When you are weak, when you are strong

When you’re right, and when you’re wrong

In your joy and your pain

When you lose and when you gain

Tenderly He watches over you, every step every mile of the way

Let’s pray together. Father, we again thank You for the word of God, the power of the word of God. We thank You for the life of Habakkuk and how honest and how real he was, and all that he experienced, and all that he shared as he wrote this whole account down for us. Father, may we remember that when you take us through those dark times, those difficult times, the times when it feels like there’s just havoc everywhere around us, that we remember that the Lord God is my strength and He loves me and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord. We thank You for these things and we thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Questions for Reflection

Habakkuk 3:16-19
“Singing in the storm, pt. 2”

1. In 3:17 Habakkuk expresses what great adversity would look like in an agrarian

    society. How might you re-word verse 17 to reflect your world?

2. Bruce quoted Harlan Betz who said:  Singing in the storm does not indicate ignorance

     of the storm; it indicates confidence in God.  Why is that true?

3. What passages from Scripture help you to trust the Lord in turbulent times?

    Share why.

4. Trusting the Lord can be viewed by some as complete passivity.  How is trusting the Lord

    by faith different from mere passivity?

5. Habakkuk makes an amazing declaration in 3:17-18. What factors enabled him to take

    that stance?

6. There is an incredible statement of honesty and transparency in 3:16.  Share or reflect

    on a time when you may have experienced similar feelings.

7. Through the study of Habakkuk how have you grown spiritually?  What has God

    taught you?

8. One day…

                        What is unexplained                               Will be explained

                        What is lacking                                         Will be made full

                        What hurts                                                Will be healed

                        Injustice                                                    Will be fully rectified

                        Our faith during the dark times             Will be rewarded generously  

       Express some praise to God for these truths.

9.  Bruce said, Whenever we begin to doubt God’s love we should be drawn back to

     Romans 5:8.  Take a few moments to memorize that verse.

10.  Explore the website:  Alert some of your friends to it.

       Praise our Heavenly Father for His overwhelming love.

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