8 Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
9 You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10 the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.
11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.
Continuing from the previous verses which help to add sight to the faith which we profess, verse 8 speaks of the great miracle of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. Habakkuk poses questions to arouse our thinking on how God works. Was He angry at the river Jordan or at the Red Sea when He split them? No, on the contrary, God cannot be angry with elements. Instead, His anger against the unrighteous causes Him to use the elements against them. Though we cannot visibly witness what is happening in the spiritual world, God’s army clears the path and makes a way. In the Geneva Bible & in the King James verse 9 says:
9 Thy bow was manifestly revealed, and the oaths of the tribes were a sure word…
The prophet describes in this verse the love and protection, as well as the promises, that God has for His chosen people. He draws out His bow – creating protection but also symbolically representing Israel as His means of a weapon against evil. The NIV above says there are many arrows – this combined with the oaths of the tribes reminds the reader that God has continued to bring forth His prophets and leaders to reassure and promote the promise of a people set apart and deliverance. God is active in His church. He makes a way, leads the people through, and cleanses the righteous from the unrighteous. Habakkuk adds that even afterwards, when hope was lost, the rock was split and the rivers below gave up their water for the people in the wilderness. No obstacle was before them as verse 10 continues to show God’s hand over creation to move where He deems so His will for the people may stand. God’s power is over the mountains, the seas, the rivers, the creatures, and even so much more over our hearts.
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
8 Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. – Psalm 66
With more examples of God’s providence in protection, Habakkuk recalls that great battle between Israel and the Amorites when Joshua prays for the sun and moon to stand still so that the entire army might be destroyed without wait (see Joshua 10). It is no coincidence that Habakkuk recalls these great miracles. After all of the revelation God has bestowed upon him as to what will befall the Chaldeans, he reminds himself and the reader that all the hope and deliverance we need is found through God. He is sufficient. Christ is sufficient. In that knowledge of sufficiency the prophet continues again in verse 12 to remind the people of God’s power in crushing the nations before them while entering the land of Canaan – a land not their own, flowing with milk and honey – the Promised Land. Without God actively going before them the Israelites could not stand.
In 13 the prophet emphasizes God’s care and concern for the deliverance of His people. His will does not change. This is His choice in election, which will in the future produce the ultimate Savior of God’s people: Christ. Habakkuk, moving forward, goes back and forth between present, past, and future tense. Part two of 13-14 refers to what will soon take place in Israel. The Chaldeans will come and judge the nation, but shortly after will also be judged (see Hab 2 commentary). It is not odd to think of Habakkuk writing this down before it happens because this revelation was just given by God. The job of the prophet was to take what God had said and revealed to them and share it with the people so they would all have a chance to repent and prepare. God’s mercy is exceedingly great, and though He desires that none should perish, there are those that will inevitably reject Him.
With words of remembrance and hope, again the prophet gives push to remembering the past. If God has saved His people so many times in the past, He will surely do it again, because God is a God of truth and He does not change. When God makes a promise it must stand. His will must always come to pass or He is not all powerful, which means He is not God. In His covenant with Abraham God does not require Abraham’s participation, rather God signs the ‘dotted line’ for both Himself and His chosen vessel. He does this to illustrate the fact that we are incapable of holding up our end of the bargain. Only God cannot lie. Only God will be able to save His people, no matter how hard they may try to save themselves.
Prayer: Oh Lord, thank you for your providence and your hand that is always upon me. Thank you that it is because of your work in my heart that I am now called a child of God. I am yours, and you hold me. You watch over me and protect me. You sanctify me in the daily trials you have reserved for me. Help me to always look to you in my times of trouble, doubt, and need. I know that it is only by your will that I am made righteous.