We have in this Chapter the Prophet still at his devotions; in which he celebrates the wonders of redemption, and yet more the glorious God of redemption.
Various have been the opinion of the learned concerning the word Shigionoth; The word itself is no doubt the plural of Shiggnion, which the Septuagint have rendered Song. But some derive it from the Arabic Schaga, to be in trouble. Be this however as it may, one thing is certain, and that is the most important for us to know, the prayer of the Prophet is in the full view of the glorious redemption by Christ, and therefore it is a prayer of faith.
The Prophet we left at his watch tower, in the opening of the foregoing chapter, to receive the Lord's answers, to his humble supplication, and here we find him again thankfully acknowledging the faithfulness of Jehovah, in hearing and answering his petitions. But, Reader! do observe how all he saith hath an eye to mercy, and to God's own work. And what were both in the Old Testament Church, and Old Testament language, but the Lord Jesus Christ? Is not Jesus, as Christ, the Christ of God; the work of God in redemption? John 9:4. And is not Jesus the mercy promised; yea, the first born in the womb of mercy? Luke 1:72.
Teman was a city in the land of Edom: Jeremiah 49:7 and Mount Paran near to Mount Sinai, for when the Israelites left Sinai, we are told that they came into the desert of Paran. Numbers 10:12. Indeed, from the account of Moses, it should seem to be one and the same, or so near each other as not to be separated at any great distance; for he describes the Lord's coming from it, as Habakkuk hath done in this chapter; from whence it is probable the Prophet borrowed the account. See Deuteronomy 33:2. The opening of this verse is a most blessed and glorious description of that visible display the Lord made at Mount Sinai, when he came down in a cloud. See Exodus 19:20. Here it was he gave the law. But who was this glorious person? I speak with reverence, as one treading on holy ground, when I say I humbly conceive not the person of God the Father: neither of God the Son, as God only; for we are told in scripture, that no man haft seen God at any time. But certain it is, that upon this, as well as many other occasions, there was a visible manifestation of divine glory. I therefore humbly conceive, that it was the display of the God-man in our nature; for the same scripture tells us, that the only begotten Son, who lay in the bosom of the Father, he math declared him. John 1:18. And Reader! who so proper to give the law, as He who with the Father and the Holy Ghost made the law; and as GodMan-Mediator in after ages fulfilled it? Who could give the Sermon on the Mount as He who gave the Law on the Mount, and was, and is the sum and substance of the whole? Matthew 5:1, etc. I detain the Reader one moment longer, just to make a remark on the word Selah, in the midst of this verse, which is found three times in this Chapter, and seventy times in the Psalms. The opinions of learned and godly men are so divided concerning its real meaning, that it is extremely difficult to determine about it. Some have concluded that it is a note of admiration, as if to say, take notice; and others have translated it, verily; forever. Amen. But I must not omit to mention one writer of the name of Paschi, who wrote an express treatise upon the word, to show that it is a name of our God. I have just noticed it in this cursory manner, but shall not enlarge. If the latter opinion be well founded, it makes it more interesting than any. We have to lament that the certainty is not discoverable.
It is impossible by any comment, even if written with the pen of an angel, to add any beauty to this most sublime passage. I retire from it therefore, and only beg the Reader, as he reads it, to connect with it what is uniformly said of Jesus. Surely the whole scriptures, with one concurring voice, speak of Him as the only visible Jehovah. And who that remembers Christ's transfiguration on the Mount, and compares it with what is said of glory here, can doubt but that it was a renewal of the same scene as at Sinai. Who that calls to mind Peter's observation at that vision, can question whether the same spirit did not rest upon him and his companions, James and John, as filled the mind of Moses? Compare Exodus 24:10 to the end, with Matthew 17:2-5 and 2 Peter 1:19.
This blessed verse serves as a key to open to us the whole passage, and according to my apprehension, defines at once the glorious visible Jehovah, spoken of through the whole, to mean Christ. The words may be rendered, thou goest forth; Micah therefore had authority to say, whose goings forth were from everlasting; and expressly declared it to be Him, who in after ages should come forth from Bethlehem. Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6. And indeed of Him, and Him only, could the expression be warrantable, and that in his mediatorial character as the God-man, the Glory-man, Christ Jesus. For considered only as God, in the immensity and ubiquity of his essence and nature, there can be neither goings forth, nor retirings. I beg yet further to remark on this blessed passage, that some read this passage, thou wentest forth, or thou goest forth to save thy people, thine anointed ones. I apprehend that the Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint version so translates it. Hence, if so, the point is still yet clearer; for then it will be, Jehovah Jesus goings forth was for the salvation of his anointed ones. So called from being one with Christ, and anointed with Him, and in Him. Ephesians 4:7. I beg the Reader to observe, that I do not presume to determine the matter. But I beg to say, that according to my view, it seems to correspond on this grand point to the tenor of the whole Bible. I cannot think it necessary to detain the Reader with any further observations of what salvation the Prophet is speaking. Surely he must see that it can be no other than the eternal salvation of the Church from death and hell: which the deliverance from Egypt, and afterwards Joshua's carrying the Church into Canaan, were but types and shadows.
These verses form a part in the sublime description of what went before the preceding verse, on which I do not think it needful, after what hath been said, to detain the Reader.
If we read these verses as we ought to read them, implying the spiritual effect wrought upon the mind of the Prophet, and in like manner what may be supposed in the same way to influence every child of God; they describe to us the wonderful and blessed consequences wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost, in the contemplation of Jesus and his great salvation. Convinced by God the Spirit of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, there will be trembling under a sense, of iniquity, and like another Prophet, our comeliness will be turned into corruption. Daniel 10:8. While from the same sovereign and Almighty teaching, the soul of the poor self-condemned, and self-loathing sinner, will rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation! I beg the Reader, while admiring the beautiful expressions of the fig-tree blossoms, and the fields yielding meat; not to overlook the infinitely more important things veiled under those figures; for the whole is but figure. Fig-trees do not blossom; neither is the grass of the field food for man. But these expressions are all spiritual, and highly descriptive of the rich provision in Christ; when ordinances, which are like the pleasant plants and fruits of the earth, and all things else fail. These words of Habakkuk, are the strong faith of the man living wholly upon Christ, when the fig-tree of ordinances, when the fruit of the vine, in all the means of grace, when there is even a famine of hearing the word of the Lord; yea, believers, which are the flock of the fold, are cut off; so that like Elijah, he considers himself alone, and not one of the herd remaining in the stall. Ezekiel 34:31; Micah 7:14. The close of Habakkuk's prophecy is, as might be expected in a man of strong faith like him. And every true believer in Christ, who can from the heart adopt the same language of faith, to rejoice in the Lord Jesus himself, the fountain of joy, when the streams of all creature comforts fail, may, and ought to say with Habakkuk, the Lord God is my strength, he will make me to walk upon mine high places. For my poor opinion on the address of this prayer of Habakkuk, I refer the Reader to what I have offered on the title of Ps 4; which is to the same purport.
HAIL! thou Almighty Lord Jesus! do I not behold thee in this precious scripture, set forth as the great Saviour and Redeemer of thy Church and people? Truly, Lord, thy goings forth have been, in this divine character, from everlasting. Before the earth was formed; yea, before thou hadst gone forth in any acts of creation, thou didst stand up at the call of thy Father, thy Church's glorious head and husband, from all eternity. And until the fulness of time appointed in the counsel of peace arrived, what were all the manifestations in the Old Testament Church, but tokens how ardently thou didst long openly to come and tabernacle in our nature, for the redemption of thy people. Didst thou reveal thyself to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob; didst thou call Moses at the bush, and go before thy Church, when bringing the Church out of Egypt; didst thou give the law at Sinai, and make the inhabitants of Palestina and Midian to tremble; what, dearest Jesus, what were all these, and numberless other revelations of thyself, but to testify how assuredly thou wert come forth for the salvation of thy people. And what is it now, O Lord, now thou hast finished redemption work, and art returned to glory, but every day, and all the day, renewed manifestations of the same, that Jesus will bring home his ransomed ones finally, fully, and completely; that where he is, there they shall be also. Hail then, thou glorious, gracious, great I AM the visible Jehovah of thy Church and people! Oh! grant, that like thy servant the Prophet, whether fig-trees blossom or withhold their fruit; whether the olives fail, or fields yield their meat; Jesus lives and loves, and will live and love forever. He is a rock, his work his perfect: and He is the rock of my salvation. Farewell Habakkuk! thy God is my God; and He is the horn of his people. Blessed be the Lord for this sweet ministry of thine; and blessed be thy labours. Above all blessed, blessed forever be the God of all mercies in Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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