Habakkuk: The Day of Distress & Hinds’ Feet

Read the Bible in 2011Week 43: Friday

“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4

Friday’s Bible reading is the book of Habakkuk. You may have noticed I haven’t been writing about the minor prophets. One reason is so you could see that you can learn from Scripture—including prophecy—even if you are unfamiliar with the background of the prophet or the people to whom the prophet is giving God’s message. As you read you learn about God through His commands, His interactions and His judgments. You also learn about people—those in rebellion and those who follow God with a whole heart. Most of the minor prophets are short enough to read in one sitting and doing that helps you see the value of getting an overview of a book of the Bible.

I do want to share some thoughts with you on Habakkuk. This is a book I’ve previously studied and taught in a women’s Bible study, and it’s also a book I’ve heard preached through by at least one pastor. It’s a book to give courage to us in our time because it’s a record of the questions and dismay of a righteous man, and it’s a witness to us of his trust in God in his day of distress.

Habakkuk contains two well-known phrases. One is in 2:4 when the Lord says, …the righteous will live by his faith. This is one of the most important declarations in the New Testament. It is quoted three times: twice by Paul in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11, and once by the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:38. Habakkuk exemplifies a righteous man who lives by his faith.

Habakkuk lived in Judah and was a contemporary of Jeremiah. His initial distress is caused by his dismay at the wickedness he sees all around him, and his cry to God of “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear?” echoes words of the psalmist. God’s answer to him in 1:5–11 is that He is going to raise up the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) as judgment upon Judah. This obviously isn’t the answer Habakkuk was expecting because in his next group of questions, 1:12–17, he asks God, “Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?”

In 2:1 he waits expectantly for God’s answer. Gleason Archer writes:

…the Chaldeans will pose a serious problem to reconcile with the doctrine of the holiness of God, for they are a bloody and ruthless people who have no respect for moral law. But instead of falling into an impatient cynicism, Habakkuk sets a salutary example of waiting upon the Lord for His answer (2:1). In time, the answer comes: the proud, self-confident sinner shall be condemned, his time is ripe, and only the faithful believer shall stand acquitted before God’s judgment….God has taken notice of the sins of the Chaldeans and will gloriously vindicate Himself in the end as He brings judgment upon them (2:13–14).1

And then Habakkuk offers up to God a prayer that is a poem of praise and wonder at God’s glory and power that “harks back to the days of the exodus, the conquest, and the times of the judges, to recall past instances when God similarly vindicated His righteousness and demonstrated His sovereignty to the world.”2

Habakkuk may tremble because of the day of distress he knows will come, but he closes his writings with his own personal affirmation of joy and faith in God. It is one of the most remarkable and moving expressions of trust in God in all of Scripture.

“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.”

For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
Habakkuk 3:16–19

Habakkuk’s closing words about hinds’ feet are familiar to many. We once saw a television program about mountain goats. Their balance and surefooted leaps from a foothold that’s not really there to another foothold that’s not really there were breathtaking. In fact, to call those crevices and niches footholds is a misnomer! Seeing those goats was seeing these verses in Habakkuk come to life.

We, too, may live through days of our own distress in which we experience the conse-quences of evil done by other men simply because we live in this world. Look at Habakkuk’s words. Although everything around him should be desolate, he will exult and rejoice in God.

How? How can Habakkuk do this? Because the Lord is his strength. Because the Lord makes his feet like hinds’ feet, he is surefooted and secure when it seems there are no safe footholds to be found.

Know your God. He is our strength when we have none. He makes us surefooted in the most precarious of times.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publication
Jeune bouquetin sur un rocher (Young Alpine ibex on a cliff), Martouf: Public Domain.
1, 2Gleason Archer, “Nahum, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 357–358, 358.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

5 thoughts on “Habakkuk: The Day of Distress & Hinds’ Feet

  1. I wrote about Jeremiah’s grief at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in Lamentations: Desolation & Hope.

    Lamentations contains these famous words of Jeremiah:

    Surely my soul remembers
    And is bowed down within me.
    This I recall to my mind,
    Therefore I have hope.
    The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
    For His compassions never fail.
    They are new every morning;
    Great is Your faithfulness.
    “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
    “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
    The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
    To the person who seeks Him.”

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