The book of the prophet Habakkuk is not well known by many Christians because a large number of them have never taken the time to read the book in its entirety and meditate on its message.
The book was written in response to an event in the life of the people of Judah that probably created a crisis of faith in which the people doubted the power of God to defend the nation. That tragic event was the death of King Josiah at the hands of Neco, the Pharaoh of Egypt.
In a previous post on Habakkuk, I dealt with Habakkuk’s view of God. The following introduction to Habakkuk is taken from that post:
In Habakkuk 1:1-2:5, there are two dialogues between the prophet and God. The first dialogue is Habakkuk 1:1-11 and the second is Habakkuk 1:12-2:4. In both dialogues, Habakkuk is complaining about the horrible political and religious situation in Judah.
He begins his first dialogue in unequivocal terms: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). God responds in 1:5-11 by saying that he is bringing the Babylonians as his instrument of justice.
Habakkuk did not like God’s reply. In his second prayer, Habakkuk’s words to God do not show respect and reverence. Rather, the expression “Are you not” (Hebrew: halô’) has the force of a rebuke. The prophet, in another words, is rebuking God for sending the Babylonians, a wicked people, to “swallow those more righteous than they” (Habakkuk 1:13).
After God answered Habakkuk’s questions, that he, God, was in charge of history and that what was happening was his doing, Habakkuk was in such awe of God that he composed one of the most beautiful declarations of trust to be found in the Hebrew Bible. Habakkuk wrote:
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
The fig tree, the fruit of the vine, the olives, and the produce of the fields were the most important products of the land and were considered the essential staples for human survival. The flock and the cattle were measures of a person’s wealth. In this passage, Habakkuk spoke of the worst possible consequences that could come upon the nation and upon the people as a result of a Babylonian invasion.
Faced with a possible complete failure of the crop and the loss of all that he considered to be his fortune, Habakkuk was determined to trust in God. Using contemporary language to express Habakkuk’s confidence in God, his words could be expressed as follows: “Even though I am hungry and even though I am broke, I will still trust in God.”
The reason for the prophet’s confidence was because he knew how the Lord would deliver him: “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.”
The Hebrew word for deer refers to the doe or to the wild goat as a surefooted animal, able to climb mountains and dangerous heights without falling. This is the same confidence the author of Psalm 18 expressed in God. The psalmist rejoiced because he was sure that the Lord would deliver him from his enemies by making his feet like the feet of a deer: “He made my feet like the feet of a deer, and set me secure on the heights” (Psalm 18:33).
Habakkuk used similar words to express his confidence in God. Confronted with the reality of the coming devastation, Habakkuk said: “My legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us” (Habakkuk 3:16 ESV).
Habakkuk knew that when the day of calamity came upon his people, he would have inner peace because his trust in God would give him confidence to face that hour. As Habakkuk wrote: “Even then, I will be happy with the LORD. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me” (Habakkuk 3:18).
This confidence in the God of the Bible is available to any person who is facing problems or challenging circumstances in their lives. When Habakkuk was confronted with the possible loss of food, wealth, and all his material possessions, he faced the future with confidence because of his faith and trust in God.
To watch a video that shows a vivid demonstration of the surefootedness of the wild goats of the Bible click here.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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