The Exodus to Come

by Catherine McNiel on May 06, 2020

God came from Teman,
    the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
    and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
    rays flashed from his hand,
    where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
    pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
    he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
    and the age-old hills collapsed—
    but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
    the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

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?
You uncovered your bow,
    you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
    the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
    the deep roared
    and lifted its waves on high.

 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
    at the glint of your flying arrows,
    at the lightning of your flashing spear.
In wrath you strode through the earth
    and in anger you threshed the nations.
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.
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.
 You trampled the sea with your horses,
    churning the great waters.

                        —Habakkuk 3:8-15 

Yesterday, we saw how Habakkuk—who lived as long after Moses as we live from the invention of paper money and gun powder—called on God to act in the present as He had acted in the past. 

Now, as his song continues, he invokes memory after memory of Israel’s past, like a dramatic movie montage. Scroll up and read through this passage carefully. What do you see? 

With the empire on its way to deport the exiles to Babylon, Habakkuk layers this song with imagery from the Exodus, the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. He adds imagery from Mt Sinai, where God made mountains tremble with smoke and sounds, and promised to be faithful to His people forever. There are echoes of former prophets such as Micah, who called on God’s strength as the Assyrians gained power.

Habakkuk is calling on God to do again what He has done in the past and promised to do in the future: stop the corrupt leaders (our own and other’s) who wreak injustice and suffering on the vulnerable and save His people

When God shows up against evil, the whole world pays attention.

“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.

Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.

“In the greatness of your majesty
    you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
    it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils
    the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;  the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?

“You stretch out your right hand,
    and the earth swallows your enemies. In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.

You will bring them in and plant them  on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.

(Exodus 15:1-3, 6-8, 11-13, 17) 

Questions for reflection and discussion: Where do you see echoes from Exodus, Sinai, and elsewhere in Habakkuk’s song? What do these memories mean for his current situation and suffering—as well as the coming defeat and exile? What does this mean for us today?

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