Lord , I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord . Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. 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. – Habakkuk 3:2-10
Writhing mountains and splitting rivers – this passage is filled with interesting earth imagery. A veritable smorgasbord of similies. This passage is part of what has been referred to as “Habakkuk”s prayer”. It sounds like a nostalgic yearning for a mighty “Mad Max” sort of God who will come and kick some a**. The God being described here has both might and mercy – the Lion and the Lamb. The reference to “Mount Paran” appears to hearken back to the Israelite’s sojourn in the desert and the tangible God who provided for them there.
Habakkuk acknowledges the eternal nature of God “The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed— but he marches on forever.” This is reassuring when it feels like the physical world around you is crumbling and under siege.
Then comes these three really interesting questions: “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?” The short answer to these rhetorical questions is “no”, God’s wrath is directed at rebellious and flawed people not places or phenomena like floods, rains, and waves.
God’s wrath has rained down on the Egyptians, the people in the time of Noah, and even on Job for a season. In each of these cases God was interested in restoring relationship rather than rearranging the earth. The “earth splitting” with rivers and “writhing mountains” were merely the megaphone to get people’s attention who had become hard of hearing and seeing.
Part of me wants to cry foul at this use of nature to achieve God’s relational restoration. Why should God take out His anger on the earth when it is people who are to blame? But then again who am I to question the wisdom and ways of God. I think perhaps most of these seemingly random acts of destruction and calamity are actual part of the spiritual cycle that is largely invisible to our earthly eyes. We have become too accustomed to the “dark” for our eyes to see clearly in the “light”.
The passage ends with some powerful water imagery: “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”. There is a very clear sense that God is Father of the Rain and Lord of all creation. Interestingly, from a water science perspective, the earth is actually “split” by rivers through erosion. The earth is dissected by water and it is what shapes our planet and moves millions of tons of earth every day.
I think the take home message for me is that God is capable of doing the same thing sort of dissection and shaping in the spiritual realm for all of the souls that are willing to be shaped in this Land of Oblivion. He may choose to do this through what seems like hard or “destructive” things from an earthly perspective.
Prayer: God shape our souls into the people you need us to be.