on Habakkuk 3 :2
In the midst of the years - בקרב שנים bekereb shanim, "As the years approach." The nearer the time, the clearer and fuller is the prediction; and the signs of the times show that the complete fulfillment is at hand. But as the judgments will be heavy, (and they are not greater than we deserve), yet, Lord, in the midst of wrath - infliction of punishment - remember mercy, and spare the souls that return unto thee with humiliation and prayer.
on Habakkuk 3 :2
O Lord, I have heard - i. e., with the inward ear of the heart, "Thy speech," (rather as English margin, Thy report, i. e., the report of Thee) i. e., what may he heard and known of God, or, what he had himself heard . The word contains in one both what God had lately declared to the prophet, the judgments of God upon the wicked of the people, and upon those who, with their own injustice, done upon them the righteous judgments of God, and that the work of the Lord would be performed in His time for those who in patience wait for it; and also still more largely, what might be heard of God, although, as it were, but a little whisper of His greatness and of the majesty of His workings.
And was afraid - not "fearful" but "afraid in awe," as a creature, and amazed at the surpassing wonderfulness of the work of God. Well may man stand in awe "at the incarnation of the only-begotten Son, how earth should contain Him uncontained by space, how a body was prepared for Him of the virgin by the Holy Spirit, and all the works whereby He shall work the salvation of mankind, the cross, the death, resurrection and ascension, uniting things opposite, a body with one incorporeal, death with life, resurrection with death, a body in heaven. All is full of wonder and awe." Rup.: "This is not a servile fear, but a holy fear which endureth forever, not one which 'love casteth out,' but which it bringeth in, wherein angels praise, dominions adore, powers stand in awe at the majesty of the Eternal God."
O Lord, revive Thy work - God's Word seems, often, as it were, dead and "come utterly to an end for evermore" Psalm 77:8, while it is holding on its own course, as all nature seems dead for a while, but all is laid up in store, and ready to shoot forth, as by a sort of resurrection Rup.: "The prophet prophesying prayeth, that it should come quickly, and praying prophesieth that it shall so come." All God's dealings with His people, His Church, each single soul, are part of one great work, perfect in itself Deuteronomy 32:4; glory and majesty Psalm 140:3; all which the godly meditateth on Psalm 77:3; Psalm 143:5; which those busied with their own plans, do not look to Isaiah 5:12; it is manifested in great doings for them or with them, as in the Exodus the Psalmist says, "We have heard with our ears, yea, our fathers have told us what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old" Psalm 44:2; "They proved Me and saw My work" Psalm 95:9; with it He makes His own glad Psalm 92:3; after it has been withdrawn for a while, "He sheweth it to His servants" Psalm 90:6; it issues in judgments on the ungodly, which people consider and declare .
The great work of God on earth, which includes all His works and is the end of all, is the salvation of man through Jesus Christ. This great work seemed, as it were, asleep, or dead, as trees in winter, all through those 4,000 years, which gave no token of His coming. Included in this great work is the special work of the Hand of God, of which alone it is said, "God said, Let Us make man in Our image after Our Likeness" Genesis 1:26; and, "we are the clay and Thou our Potter, and we are all the work of Thy Hands" Isaiah 64:8; and "Thy Hands have made me and fashioned me together round about" Job 10:8, man; whom, being dead as to the life of the soul through the malice of Satan, Christ revived by dying and rising again. He was "dead in trespasses and sins," and like a carcass putrefying in them, and this whole world one great charnel-house, through man's manifold corruptions, when Christ came to awaken the dead, and they who heard lived John 5:25.
Again, the Center of this work, the special Work of God, that wherein He made all things new, is the Human Body of our Lord, the Temple which was destroyed by death, and within three days was raised up.
The answer to Habakkuk's enquiry, "How long?" had two sides: It had given assurance as to the end. The trial-time would not be prolonged for one moment longer than the counsel of God had fore-determined. The relief would "come, come; it would not be behind-hand." But meantime? There was no comfort to be given. For God knew that deepening sin was drawing on deepening chastisement. But in that He was silent as to the intervening time and pointed to patient expectation of a lingering future, as their only comfort, He implies that the immediate future was heavy. Habakkuk then renews his prayer for the years which had to intervene and to pass away. "In the midst of the years," before that "time appointed" , when His promise should have its full fulfillment, before those years should come to their close, he prays; "revive Thy work." The years include all the long period of waiting for our Lord's first coming before He came in the Flesh; and now for His second coming and the "restitution of all things." in this long period, at times God seems to be absent, as when our Lord was asleep in the boat, while the tempest was raging; at times He bids "the storm to cease and there is a great calm."
This, in those long intervals, when God seems to be absent, and to leave all things to time and chance, and love waxes cold, and graces seem rare, is the prayer of Habakkuk, of prophets and Psalmists, of the Church Psalm 80:14, "Return, we beseech Thee, O God of hosts, look down from heaven, behold and visit this vine Psalm 74:1, Psalm 74:11-12. O God, why hast Thou cast us off forever? Why withdrawest Thou Thy hand, Thy right hand? For God is my king of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Isaiah 51:9-10 awake, awake, put on strength, Thou Arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not It which did smite Rahab, didst wound the dragon? Art thou not It which didst dry the sea, the waters of the great deep, which didst make the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? Psalm 80:3. Stir up Thy might and come, save us Lamentations 5:21. Renew our days, as of old." So our Lord taught His Church to pray continually, whenever she prayed, "Thy kingdom come," longing not for His final coming only, but for the increase of His glory, and the greater dominion of His grace, and His enthronement in the hearts of people, even before its complete and final coming. "In the midst of the years revive Thy work," is the Church's continual cry.
In the midst of the years make known - literally, "Thou wilt make known: in wrath Thou wilt remember mercy;" and so (as we use the word "wilt") the prophet, at once, foretelleth, expresseth his faith, prayeth. God had made known His work and His power in the days of old. In times of trouble He seems "like a God who hideth Himself." Now, he prays Him to shine forth and help; make known Thy work, before Thou fulfill it, to revive the drooping hopes of man, and that all may see that "Thy word is truth." Make Thyself known in Thy work, that, when the time cometh to Daniel 9:24 "make an end of sin" by the Death of Thy Son, Thy Awful Holiness, and the love wherewith Thou hast John 3:16 "so loved the world," may be the more known and adored.
In wrath Thou wilt remember mercy - So David prayed Psalm 25:6, "Remember Thy tender-mercies and Thy loving-kindnesses; for they are from old." "Thou wilt remember" that counsel for man's redemption which has been from the foundation of the world: for we seem in our own minds to be forgotten of God, when He delayeth to help us. God remembereth mercy Luke 1:54, Luke 1:72 in anger, in that in this life He never chastens without purposes of mercy, and His Mercy ever softeneth His judgments. His Promise of mercy, that the Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head, went before the sentence of displeasure Genesis 3:19, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Jerome: "He reveals His wrath that He may scare us from sin and so may not inflict it;" and when at last He inflicteth it, He hath mercy on the remnant who flee to His Mercy, that we be not like Sodom and Gomorrah. Romans 5:8, "while we were yet sinners," and God was angry, "Christ died for us," and, Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not for works which we had done, but out of His great Mercy," and took away sin, and restored us to life and interruption.
God had already promised by Micah M1 Corinthians 7:15, "According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt, I will show him marvelous things." Isaiah had often used the great events of that deliverance as the symbols of the future. So now Habakkuk, in one vast panorama, as it were, without distinction of time or series of events, exhibits the future in pictures of the past. In the description itself which follows, he now speaks in the past, now in the future; of which times the future might be a vivid present; and the past a prophetic past. As a key to the whole, he says, "God shall come," indicating that all which follows, however spoken, was a part of that future. In no other way was it an answer to that prayer, "Revive Thy work." To foretell future deliverances in plain words, had been a comfort; it would have promised a continuance of that work. The unity and revival of the work is expressed, in that the past is made, as it was, the image of the future. That future was to be wondrous, superhuman; elsewhere the past miracles had been no image of it. It was to be no mere repetition of the future; and to mark this, the images are exhibited out of their historical order.
on Habakkuk 3 :2
3:2 Thy speech - In answer to the inquiry made chap.1:13,14. Was afraid - Trembled at what thou speakest. In the midst of the years - Even before the seventy years are expired. Make known - Thy truth, wisdom, power, and compassion.