A Letter on Habakkuk 3

John Alfred Trench

Dear J—, I fear that I shall not be able to make Habakkuk 3 intelligible to you unless you are able to follow what I say in the Old Testament, or, even then, without some previous knowledge from the prophetic portions of Scripture of what leads up to that which is announced in the strongest imagery of Hebrew poetry in this fine prayer of the prophet.

First as to the expression that puzzles you, “God came from Teman.” This has nothing to do with His eternal existence. Compare the expression in Deuteronomy 33:2, “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from Mount Paran,” evidently expressing the same action of majesty on His part. Or again, Psalm 68:7, “O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people, when Thou didst march through the wilderness.” So Judges 5:4, referring to the same triumphant progress of the Lord at the head of His people Israel, as they emerged from the wilderness to threaten the nations that tried to hinder them taking possession of the Land of Promise. This as to the past. Habakkuk 3 looks on to the future, when, after the Lord resumes His ways with Israel (when the Church period is over, by His coming for us) there will be a confederacy of the nations to dispute His once more putting the true remnant of Israel into possession of the whole extent of the land promised to Abraham, which Psalm 83 speaks of, and many other scriptures. The last of the series of judgments executed upon them will be in Edom, the land of Esau (Teman being his eldest son, Genesis 36:15), for their undying hatred of Israel. Isaiah 63:1-6, celebrates the same judgment executed by the Lord in Person, at the head of His people. But in wrath He remembers mercy (v. 2). The judgments will result in the thousand years of the kingdom of Christ, and the earthly blessing of Israel and the nations under His universal sceptre.

But bow blessedly the chapter closes with what is true to the believer at all times (v. 17), though nothing seems to prosper—all gone that the flesh would lean upon—“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” And how it turns “prayer” (v. 1) into praise; when no poor musician either will do to play the tune—nothing less than the “chief singer” (v. 19) to give expression to such joyful song. May this be your and my portion fully through the deepening knowledge of the precious Saviour. It was Paul’s experience in Philippians to the full—in prison, everything wrong in the Church, which was his deepest interest, because it was Christ’s. His chief note is, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice.”

J.A.Trench

Words of Grace and Encouragement 1909