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Habakkuk 3:16-19 – I Hear, and I Tremble Within... I Will Exult in the God of My Salvation


The received testimony to God's deliverance is both traumatic and liberating when received as a present experience of what is yet to come.


Past, present, and future come together in Habakkuk 3. The past is present in the rearticulation of an old hymn celebrating God's deliverance. The present urgently needs to be changed as the laments of Habakkuk make clear in the prior two chapters. Do the past now--again!--is the fervently expressed prayer for the present. But then the old hymn also evokes the future; that which is to come is shaped by the received testimony celebrating the past. The change to come will not only fix the present but will reorder the known reality. The received hymn about the past is not merely about the past; it also celebrates the future, and the future reshapes the present. The shaking of the earth, the shattering of the mountains, and other images depicting past and--by implication--future deliverance also reshape the experience of the present. The upheaval is thorough. "Reality" as it is known is broken open. Habakkuk's trembling responds to the upheaval in the transformation; his exultation responds to the deliverance in the transformation. Waiting entails quiet (3:16) and exuberance (3:18-19).

Habakkuk 3:16-19

16 I hear, and I tremble within;
   my lips quiver at the sound.
Rottenness enters into my bones,
   and my steps tremble* beneath me.
I wait quietly for the day of calamity
   to come upon the people who attack us.

Trust and Joy in the Midst of Trouble

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
   he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
   and makes me tread upon the heights.*

To the leader: with stringed* instruments.

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