Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets: Habakkuk (Cont.) November 11,2016
This week we begin our study with Chapter 3, the last of the book of Habakkuk. In the previous chapters, he described the level of insolence demonstrated by the Chaldeans that would mandate Divine judgment to save humanity and eliminate any doubt G-d’s judgment. Missing G-d’s intervention, Habakkuk turns to G-d in the first chapter with one question; “Why?” In the second chapter G-d answered him. Although it was true that the final judgment is a long time in coming according to man’s perception of time, it will come as G-d decreed. He who puts his trust in G-d must learn to patiently await the final coming of justice and must draw renewed strength from this faith. This has profound significance for true believers in any generation, past, present, and future. We find similar admonition to trust that YHVH/Yahshua has a reason for the humanly perceived delay for Yahshua’s return in 2Peter 3:9 and Hebrews 10:37. Let’s look at these scriptures:
Peter 3:9: The L-rd is not slow in keeping His promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary. He is patient with you; for it is not His purpose that anyone should be destroyed[lost], but that everyone should turn from his sin s[saved].”
Hebrews 10:37: “For there is so little time! The One coming will indeed come, He will not delay.”
Habakkuk’s prayer is the lesson derived from his previous erroneous doubts. Studying this should help us to remove or avoid our own doubt that Yahshua either will never return or is slow to exact judgement.
Malbim divides Chapter 3 into three sections. The first is a general prayer that G-d should protect Israel (in fact all true believers) while they are in exile. Section two that extends to verse 13 is an elaboration of the prayers from the first section with an additional prayer for G-d’s revelation at the time of Israel’s redemption. The third section that extends to the end of the chapter is a prayer regarding the tribulation that will take place in the Messianic times. What kindness and mercy our G-d has for true believers of all ages that He provided information to His prophets that applies throughout the ages. If only people would read and re-read the Torah with heartfelt humility and a desire to ascend to G-d and live with Him for eternity.
Habakkuk understands at this point, that G-d does not always punish the wicked immediately for their sins. He gives opportunity, often many times over, for repentance. In the beginning verses of Habakkuk’s prayer, he prays that Israel (biological and spiritual) will endure the hardships of exile and praises G-d for the miracles He has performed for them throughout history. Again, this has application to believers of all ages. We are reminded of this as we obey the command to celebrate Pesach, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits, as a few examples. The Torah is replete with reminders that G-d performed many miracles for the first Israelites, including non-Jews such as Noach and Avraham, in order to multiply and sustain those He would use to set an example for the world of how G-d wants us to live for Him. We must understand that G-d’s laws extend to Gentiles and fellow travelers and not just “Jews” as modern society claims. All we need do to understand who is a “true Jew” is to read Romans chapters 2-3 where Yahshua defines the term. This should leave no room for argument, yet biological Jews who do not read the B’rit Chadashah miss this information, and Christians deny it based on their doctrine. There is blindness on both “sides of the aisle.”
The reality of hardships and the optimum response on our part is described by Sha’ul (Paul) in the B’rit Chadashah (“New” Testament), lest Christians and others who subscribe to this “half” of the Bible as the only part that “counts” miss the teaching (Romans 8:28; 2 Cor. 12:10; James 1:12; Matt.5:10-12).
Verse 2: “O HaShem, I have heard Your news [of impending exile]; I was afraid O HaShem, in the midst of the years, keep Your accomplishments alive; in the midst of the years, make it known. In wrath, remember to be merciful.”
Rashi explains that Habakkuk was worried about the fate of his people because he heard that G-d meters out punishment to those who anger Him. Yet, he did not see such punishment for Nebuchadnezzar. Habakkuk was given a vision that the people would endure a lengthy and difficult exile and he feared for them. He must not have been able to comprehend how the people could possibly survive in the midst of such enemies for so long.
Habakkuk prayed for swift punishment for His enemies (Rashi; Mahari Kara). Alternatively, Radak sees this verse as Habakkuk’s prayer on behalf of Israel: that HaShem would let Israel live during their long exile, and not to allow them to be destroyed among their enemies. It is easy to imagine Habakkuk’s humanity through his writing. He is humble, concerned for his people, and has naturally questions why HaShem seems to hold back punishment on a cruel enemy when punishment is planned for Israel. An illustration is the questioning of a sibling who is punished for a behavior when the other child seems to go unpunished for a behavior that is either similar to the one being punished, or perceived as being much worse. Children do not understand parental wisdom and rationale for punishing one child immediately, and another at a later time. We too, are children who cannot know G-d’s ways. Just as for a child, we must learn to trust the judgement of our Father and not complain at what appears to be injustice. King David exhibited similar behaviors in Psalm 109. G-d mercifully and lovingly provide these examples to encourage and admonish us. Using King David as an example, G-d shows us that we are all human and exhibit human weaknesses through the expression of our animal soul. However, He also uses examples such as Habakkuk’s prayer and G-d’s response to show us that He is faithful to keep His promises and that we need to develop a trusting faith that will endure through the most difficult times. We need to learn to behave counter-intuitive to the animal soul within us that cries for self-gratification, revenge, entitlement; “our fair share.” This is what G-d’s Torah teaches; that our lives are “all about Him” and glorifying Him, not about us.
“… in wrath, remember to be merciful.”
In Your wrath that You display against the wicked, be compassionate to Israel (Rashi). Alternatively, “Even if, in Your wrath, You wish to deliver Israel into the hands of their enemies, be compassionate with them and save them” (Mahari Kara). Radak adds homiletically that the numerical value for the Hebrew word for mercy (rachem), equals the numerical value of Avraham, (248). The prophet is saying, “During the time of Your wrath remember (rachem), the covenant made with Avraham.”
In verses 3-6 Habakkuk enumerates the many miracles G-d performed for Israel during their wilderness journey before entering the Land of Israel. We who are living beyond this time realize others that occurred beyond the writings and time of Habakkuk. Indeed, I submit that protecting us from day to day in an increasingly evil world is miraculous. Habakkuk prays that G-d again revive His love for Israel and redeem them from the present exile with miracles that are just as great and awesome as those preformed in the wilderness (Radak). As Messianic believers, we know G-d has such plans for those who love and follow Him (Israel). He brought the Israelites out of Babylon and returned them to Jerusalem in the past, and will deliver us from our wilderness journey of life in the future. All true believers will be included as the Bride of Yahshua described in the book of Revelation (Rev. 19:7-8).
Verse 3: “G-d came from the south; the Holy One from Mount Paran, Selah! His glory covered the heavens, His praise filled the earth.”
This verse is referring to the revelation on Sinai when G-d came to give the Torah (Rashi; Radak). Habakkuk is referring to the miracles that G-d performed for Israel when they bypassed the territory of Edom and fought against the two powerful Canaanite kings; Sichon, and Og (Deut. 2:31,3:3) (Metzudos). According to Malbim, has an interesting perspective on this and the following verses, 4-13. He maintains that verses 4-13 foretell the events that will occur at the time of the ultimate Redemption of Israel, with this verse as an introduction. He explains that during the last exile, Israel will be oppressed by two kingdoms, the Edomite (Rome), and the Ishmaelites (Arabs). As in the days of Moshe, G-d will again confront the Edomites [ referred to in Scripture as Teiman], and the Ishmaelites [referred to as Mount Paran], but this time to show them that the religions they accepted upon themselves are contradictory to that which He offered at Sinai.
“Selah”: There are many interpretations and explanations of this term. Targum Yonasan translates as forever or everlasting, referring to G-d’s everlasting strength. Ibn Ezra maintains that selah is synonymous with “emet” which means truth. Radak (Psalms 3:3) notes that other than in this song of praise, the word is found only in the Book of Psalms, Using Isaiah 62:10 as his source, Radak translates the word to mean elevate. It is an instruction for the one reciting the psalm or praise to elevate his voice at that point. Malbim writhes that selah is used in Scripture to signify the conclusion of a certain idea. The true meaning of the word in the context of this scripture can include any or all the translations provided.
“His glory covered the heavens, His praise filled the earth.”
When Israel accepted the Torah at Sinai, G-d’s glory covered the heavens and His Praise filled the earth (Rashi; Mahari Kara). This is in reference to the lightening that lit up the heavens, the thunder, and the smoking mountain. We have evidence of this phenomenon in Exodus 20:15: “All the people experienced the thunder, the lightning, the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled.” Notice there was no associated storm, and there was no active volcano. The thunder, lightning, and smoking mountain was a unique phenomenon.
Next week we will continue our study beginning at Chapter 3:4.
Rabbi Tamah Davis