Rejoicing & Finding Strength
In The Lord

Habakkuk’s Prayer Of Submission

Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, Mar-Aug 2014
Part 6 of 7

In the previous article, we looked at Habakkuk’s prophecy of the utter ruination of Judah in verse 17. How did Habakkuk respond to the revelation of what was soon to come? This brings us to the sixth section this chapter, from verses 18-19a, which we may describe as rejoicing and finding strength in the LORD.

Rejoicing and finding strength 
in the LORD (vv. 18-19a)

Verse 18 says, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Remember what Habakkuk had just said in the previous verse, “even though the fig tree shall not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, and even though the flock be cut off from the fold and there shall be no herd in the stalls,” Habakkuk is saying that even in the midst of all this disaster in the land, he will rejoice in the LORD and joy in the God of his salvation.

This verse represents the final resolution to the conflict that began at the beginning of this book.

After two rounds of dialoguing with the LORD, Habakkuk no longer questions the justice of His ways and the inevitable judgment that must come upon all of them in Judah.

Habakkuk, as we have noted before, was a totally changed and transformed man, by the time we arrive at chapter 3. Very different was his response to the word of the LORD compared to what one might expect from most people. In fact, very different was his response to the way that he himself responded in chapter 1. 

Now remember that Habakkuk and the few other faithful believers in Judah would not be exempted or spared the effects of the fearsome invasion and awful devastation. There would not be a repeat of what happened during the days just prior to the Exodus when the Israelites were spared many of the plagues that the Egyptians suffered.

No, Habakkuk himself would suffer the loss of all those basic necessities of life just like the rest of the people. He too would be deprived of them and thus experience hunger and pain and grief like the rest. Yet he shall live! And yet he shall rejoice! And yet he shall be joyful!

But notice what the source of the prophet’s joy and rejoicing is. It is none other than the LORD, the God of His salvation. This is very important to note and remember. Why? Because if the source of our joy is found in material things, then when we are deprived of them, we will also be deprived of our source of joy, and we will not be able to rejoice. The same is true if our source of joy is found in other people. Things pass away, people pass away. Things fails us, people fail us.

But we can have joy despite the loss of things and the passing away of people if the source of joy is found in the Person of Yahweh Himself, He who is unchanging and everlasting.

Notice too that Habakkuk does not rejoice in the destruction of the land. The prophet takes no pleasure or delight in the suffering and death and devastation that was soon to come upon them. He recognizes those terrible things for what they are. They are not good in themselves. Yet, he can rejoice in the midst of them because of the LORD and because of the good that He can and will bring out of all of this.

Habakkuk describes the LORD as the God of his salvation. “I will joy in the God of my salvation” or “in God my saviour.” By salvation, Habakkuk is thinking about it in the fullest sense of the word.

Too often when we think of the word salvation, we think only of the salvation of a person’s soul or spirit from hell. But there is more to salvation than that. It includes both soul and body, both this life and the next, and very importantly, both initial and ongoing salvation. Remember the phrase “the just shall live by his faith.” It is this ongoing faith and life of a believer that is in focus here. Habakkuk will persevere in the faith despite all the trials and troubles that he will experience. He will not abandon his faith and confidence in God.

Why? Because God is the God of his salvation. Not only is God the One whom Habakkuk looks to for help and deliverance but He is also the One who sustains and upholds the faith of the prophet.

In fact, the very transformation of Habakkuk from a complaining and questioning prophet to one who rests and rejoices in the LORD is entirely the work of God’s sovereign grace. Truly, He is the God of our salvation and He is the only reason why we can still rejoice in the midst of troubling circumstances.

Verse 19 goes on to say, “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

The phrase “the LORD God” is literally “Yahweh my Adonai” in Hebrew, and it emphasizes the great power and majesty and faithfulness of God. Habakkuk is basically employing the strongest names for God available in his language.

And as an aside, Habakkuk 3:19 is the only place outside the Psalms where the phrase “Yahweh Adonai” is used, which further strengthens the view that this chapter is indeed a Psalm.

So not only is the LORD the source of his joy, but He is also the source of his strength. Habakkuk was in great need of the LORD’s strength both inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly, he needed the LORD to sustain and support his heart and to keep him from being overwhelmed by many discouraging thoughts and fearful feelings and emotions. It was very easy to be disheartened by all that was going on. But outwardly, Habakkuk was in need of the LORD’s strength to live and to walk according to His ways; and to be willing to do so in the face of great opposition.

Remember that the prophet was living during a time of great wickedness in the land, from the king down to the common people. We read in chapter 1 that the wicked had surrounded the righteous, the law was paralysed and justice was perverted and so on. In other words, the environment and the times were highly unconducive to godly living.

Then besides the outward threat from the wicked people around, there was also the outward danger from the approaching Babylonian army and the economic hardship as a result of their invasion. Where would Habakkuk find the resources and the courage and the strength to meet all these challenges, and not only that but to do so in a godly and faithful way?

He had no resources of his own. His only hope and confidence was found in the LORD. Yahweh my Adonai, He is my strength. Apart from Him, there was absolutely no hope of survival or ultimate triumph.

Habakkuk then employs an illustration of the LORD’s strengthening of him. He says, “he makes my feet like hinds’ or deers’ feet; and he makes me to walk or tread on my high places.” The hind is a female deer and is noted for its surefootedness in high and dangerous places. It walks securely even along very steep and perilous cliffs.

But stability and security amidst great danger is not the only idea that is being conveyed in this picture. There is something else. The light-hearted prancing or skipping of the hind from point to point also conveys the idea of joy and rejoicing. This ties in with what Habakkuk said in verse 18 about rejoicing in the LORD. The LORD is both the prophet’s joy and his strength.

Dr O Palmer Robertson writes, “Surefooted, untiring, bounding with energy, the Lord’s people may expect to ascend the heights of victory despite their many severe setbacks.”

In the next article, we’ll look at the final section of this passage where the prophet sings to the Lord and leads the whole congregation to do so. …

Linus Chua