3 God comes from Teman,
And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.
His splendor covers the heavens,
And the earth is full of His praise.
4 His radiance is like the sunlight;
He has rays flashing from His hand,
And there is the hiding of His power.
5 Before Him goes pestilence,
And plague comes after Him.
6 He stood and surveyed the earth;
He looked and startled the nations.
Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered,
The ancient hills collapsed.
His ways are everlasting.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan under distress,
The tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.
(Habakkuk 3:3-7 NASB)
As we examine today’s passage, we see Habakkuk entering into deep praise and worship of the Lord.
Normally, I use the NIV translation to quote the Scripture passage we are studying for the day. Today, I switched to the NASB because I felt it more accurately portrayed the passage’s truths.
As we look at this passage, it’s important to figure out the timeframe that Habakkuk was writing about. Was he writing about the past, his present, or the future?
A few scholars think that Habakkuk’s words were time-bound to the past. Most scholars, however, disagree with that viewpoint and see this section remembering the past, as well as pointing to the future.
First, let’s look at Habakkuk’s references to the past. This first phrase (v. 3) is very similar to the beginning of Moses’ blessing he gave to the Israelites before his death:
“The Lord came from Sinai,
And dawned on them from Seir;
He shone forth from Mount Paran,
And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones;
At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.
(Deuteronomy 33:2 NASB)
Habakkuk, like Moses, was remembering the Lord’s hand leading His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, surrounding them with His protection, provision, and love. These landmarks (Sinai, Seir, Mount Paran, and Teman, Mount Paran) were descriptions of the general direction the Israelites followed out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
How does Habakkuk’s passage relate to the future? Many scholars believe this is a parallel passage to Isaiah 63:1-6, where the prophet Isaiah describes the path that the Lord will take in His second coming.
Notice that Habakkuk stops after the first two lines of his worship song and interjects the word “Selah”. This word is used three times in Habakkuk’s worship song (v. 3, v. 9, v. 13). The only other place this word is used is in the Psalms. Psalmists use this term 71 times in the various Psalms. “Selah” is a musical term, asking the worshiper to pause and ponder what was just said. In this case, Habakkuk invites us to consider the majesty, glory, and righteousness of God – what He has done in the past as He led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, and how God promises to come back one day for His own, in all power, glory, and righteousness.
The rest of today’s passage reminds us that God is God, and He is sovereign over the universe. Even the rocks and mountains, inanimate objects with no breath or soul or mind, cower in His presence (verse 6).
Habakkuk says that God’s presence is felt even among the ungodly that do not recognize Him or fear Him (v. 7).
Take some time and reflect on God’s power and righteousness reflected in Habakkuk’s thoughts today. Be comforted as David was, as he reflected on God’s love and power and righteousness:
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
(Psalm 27:1 NASB)