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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Hab 3:14-16; Rest in the Day of Trouble

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Portraits of Christ
“Rest in the Day of Trouble” (Habakkuk 3:14-16)

Rest for God’s people is a “Sabbath-life” and not a just a “Sabbath-day.”

  • Rest is characteristic of God, therefore His people are called to share in His rest.
  • He is not only pleased but at peace being God.
  • He is never frazzled, frustrated or fatigued from being God or from ruling His creation.
  • He calls His people to rest in: His grace, His love, His hope, His providence and His Son.
  • For example, He set aside one day a week, Sabbath, to remind us of His completed work in creation and to remind us of His Son’s completed redemptive work.
  • The Sabbath day is a call to “Sabbath life”—resting in Christ, Who is “Our Sabbath.”
  • However, the curse of sin has robbed His image-bearers of “Sabbath life.”
  • Man is by nature restless, fatigued, frustrated and fretful.
  • Some toil for temporal things, while others labor for acceptance from God and man.
  • Neither of these pursuits bring peace and tranquility, because they continually require more work and more reliance upon our own efforts.
  • It is like running on a rusty treadmill or riding around on a worn out merry-go-round.
  • Both endeavors require thankless toil and endless labor.
  • They never arrive at a state of rest, because neither can find rest in God’s grace.
  • The final resting place of the unbeliever is eternal restlessness in the place of torment with fire and brimstone.
  • However, the child of grace has been promised rest for the soul by resting in the Spirit.

Perhaps the greatest test of faith for the Christian is to rest in the promises of God’s Word, while living in a chaotic world of violence and injustice.

  • Uncertain troubling days tempt to rob us of our rest in God’s providence.
  • The Lord gave to Habakkuk, Paul, and the church, a prescription for restlessness in troubled times—“The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
  • “Sabbath-life” comes through living by daily faith in the sufficiency of God’s grace.
  • Habakkuk discovered rest in restless days through an all-consuming vision of Christ ruling and reigning over planet earth.
  • He saw the “coming Christ” standing over the nations in judgment, as well as in mercy.
  • Christ was seen coming like a mighty man of war bringing death and destruction upon the wicked, as well as life and consolation for His people.
  • Having beheld “Christ sent forth” for the salvation of His people, renewed His hope.
  • He wrote the last chapter of his book, as a praise psalm for the saints to sing in worship.
  • The vision and the song were intended to call God’s people to rest and rejoice.
  • Our passage, Habakkuk 3:14-16, offers hope of “rest in the day of trouble.”
  • It is to be sung by the church entering troublesome times.
  • Habakkuk’s psalm is building up to a crescendo of majestic, “all stops out” worship.
  • In our text, we not only have a look at how worship is an expression of our rest, but also how faith gives us rest in Christ.
  • The first application of experiencing God’s rest is understanding the place of worship in our lives.

In the day of trouble, we are to rest in our majestic God when we worship Him.

  1. All-consuming worship of our majestic God puts our troubles in perspective.
    • Habakkuk records his observations in worship as a temple prophet.
    • We first saw him casting his burdens upon the Lord in worship!
    • He cried out to the Lord to lift the heavy burden placed upon him.
    • Next he prayed for the salvation of Judah during a turbulent and troubled time.
    • His song was the cry and yearning of his heart unto God.
    • He told the Lord he would wait and look for an answer from the Lord.
    • This is the expectancy every child of God must have as he enters worship; this is not routine, not ritual and not even religion; worship is encountering God!
    • With a sense of entering God’s holy temple in prayer, the prophet became aware of his own need to confess sin.
    • Those who stand before their God, seated in His holy temple, are aware they are creatures and He is Creator—they are sinners and He is Holy.
    • God-honoring worship must bring with it the realization of our continual need to confess our sins and appropriate His grace.
    • True worship will give the troubled saint a clear conscience!
    • Our worship should also help identify the fears that trouble us in the world!
    • Recognizing our fears enables us to find rest in the promises of God’s Word.
    • Like Habakkuk’s worship, we are to call upon the Lord for a sovereign work of His grace, by which He brings revival and reformation to ourselves and His Church!
    • We are to pray that He will reform and conform our thinking to the truth of His Word.
    • Both revival and reformation are needed in troubled times—an all-consuming vision of Christ that puts our troubles in perspective.
  2. In our worship, we also need an all-consuming appreciation of God’s great and majestic historical works of salvation.
    • In worship there are to be hymns and songs that recall and celebrate God’s work in history.
    • We are also to read the Word as a congregation, as well as hear the preached Word to remind us of God’s rest made available by faith in His Son.
    • He has given us an all-consuming vision and history of God’s work through His Son that is intended to give us more than “a day of Sabbath-Rest” but “a life of Sabbath-rest.”
    • Our worship is to point us to Christ and His cross.
    • This is where we learn to rest from our works and our worries and trust in Him.
    • Rest is a result of living by faith in Christ’s work and Word.
    • This prayer-psalm continues to offer hope and rest to the troubled saint living in turbulent times, as we gain an all-consuming view of God’s redemptive work in history.

In the day of trouble we are to rest in God’s historic triumph over our enemies. (Habakkuk 3:14-15)

  1. Habakkuk worships the Christ by acknowledging how He causes his enemies to destroy themselves by thrusting through each other with their own arrows. (Habakkuk 3:14)
    • The “head” of his enemy is crushed by their own infighting and confusion.
    • Judah’s enemies came upon them like a whirlwind, but destroyed themselves.
    • His reflection back in history gave Habakkuk reason to praise God’s faithfulness to His Word.
    • There are numerous biblical examples of God causing Judah’s enemies to destroy themselves.
    • For example, in 2 Chronicles the Spirit of the Lord pronounced to Judah and King Jehoshaphat deliverance from their invading enemies. (2 Chronicles 20:20-30)
    • Surrounded by a confederacy of nations, Jerusalem’s future looked bleak.
    • The Lord told Judah not to be afraid or dismayed because this battle was the Lord’s.
    • He told Judah they did not even need to fight in this battle.
    • They were to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, Who was with them.
    • So early the next morning, the inhabitants of Jerusalem stationed themselves along the battlefield to have a view of God’s fight against their enemies.
    • Their part was to sing praises to the beauty of God’s holiness, while He did the work.
    • As Judah praised the Lord in loud voice, He set ambushes against the enemy by working confusion in their camps.
    • The enemy turned against itself in battle.
    • The Ammonites and Moabites fought against the Meunites until they were defeated.
    • Then the Ammonites and Moabites fought against each other leaving the battlefield littered with dead bodies.
    • When the battle was over, Judah gathered to thank the Lord for His loyal enduring love.
    • So obvious was it that this battle was God’s triumph—other nations now feared the Lord and His people.
  2. A similar victory is described in Judges Chapter Seven.
    • Gideon and his army were greatly out-numbered by 300 to 135,000.
    • The Lord promised Gideon a decisive triumph over the massive Midianite army.
    • He was instructed to divide his army into three companies of 100 men each.
    • Each man was equipped with a rather odd arsenal—a trumpet and an empty clay vessel.
    • Gideon’s men were instructed to lay in wait close to the enemy and put burning torches inside their clay pots.
    • At a critical moment late at night when the Midianites were changing the guard, Gideon blew the trumpet like Joshua did at Jericho.
    • Each soldier broke his clay pot to let out the light.
    • Then they blew their trumpets with all their might.
    • Gideon’s troops kept yelling, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!!!”
    • The sudden burst of light, the deafening sound of the trumpets and the victorious voices of the soldiers created utter panic in the camp.
    • Confused soldiers, awakening from sleep, grabbed their swords and began wildly swinging at the shadows—thinking they were Israelites.
    • In bedlam they kept killing each other, until the Midianites fled in full retreat.
    • These historic battles remind God’s people in every generation that they are to rest in Christ’s triumph over those things that trouble us.
    • He gives us peace when nothing else can.
    • There is no enemy we face that we must face alone!
    • Our battles are not just against flesh and blood, they are His as well.
    • They are also spiritual in nature against the forces of darkness, as well as the power of our flesh.
    • Against them He gives us not only a day of Sabbath rest, but a life of Sabbath rest.
    • We experience God’s rest when we live by faith in the adequacy of His grace.
  3. Habakkuk reminds us that even when the enemy rejoices while secretly devouring God’s elect, they are never alone against their enemy.
    • Our battles are His battles—our victories are His victories—our strength is His strength.
    • As mentioned before, as we come to worship it is important to recognize our fears and call upon the Lord to deliver us from our enemies, as well as ourselves.
    • This moment, think of the things that frighten you!
    • Is it a fear of terrorism? Is it a fear of rejection by a friend or loved one? Is it fear of a child’s rebellion? Is it a fear of personal failure? Is it a fear of loneliness? Is it a fear of being discovered? Or is it fear of death?
    • These are the things Christ defeats by His power and grace.
    • Never let an enemy raise the flag of triumph when Christ is in the battle with us.
    • That is the confidence Paul offered the church in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.”
    • So what are the battles you are fighting today?
    • In our day, we need an all-consuming vision of Christ and His power.
    • This becomes the basis of our faith that ultimately leads to rest.

That is why Habakkuk briefly mentions, by way of review, how the Lord has proven to the child of God His faithfulness in times of trouble. (Habakkuk 3:15)

  • Habakkuk previously recalled in his psalm God’s work of deliverance for Israel.
  • When they came to the shore of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s charioteers close at their heels, the Lord came with chariots of salvation and enabled Israel to walk through on dry ground.
  • When Pharaoh sought to pursue them into the Sea, the Lord caused the waters to drown them like sinking rocks. (Habakkuk 3:8)
  • This is the kind of hope the Lord gave Israel and every child of God many years later through the prophet Isaiah. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
  • My troubled friends, in days brewing with violence, impending disease, economic downturns and uncertain spiritual attack, we must learn to rest our lives in the hands of a compassionate and sovereign God.
  • He gives us rest as we learn to live by faith in the sufficiency of His power and grace.
  • How much more practical can theology get than this?
  • Habakkuk continues in his praise psalm to tell us where to find an all-consuming vision of Christ and His power. The answer is clear—in God’s Word!

In the day of trouble we are to rest in the promises of God’s Word. (Habakkuk 3:2,16)

  1. Habakkuk recorded His vision of the Christ with trembling.
    • When He beheld the Christ, Habakkuk’s body trembled in His presence.
    • His lips quivered when Christ spoke. (Psalm 119:120; Daniel 7:28; 8:27; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:17)
    • The bones in his body were unable to hold him up, when he beheld Christ coming in wrath and mercy.
    • An all-consuming vision of Christ in His Word will do that, especially when we enter into His presence to worship Him.
    • Habakkuk wasn’t the first man to realize this.
    • The Psalmist trembled out of fear of the Lord and His judgments.
    • The reason? No man can stand before the Lord in his own works or merit.
    • The countenance of Daniel the prophet was disfigured when he heard Christ’s Word.
    • He even fainted and was sick for days from the astonishing vision of Christ’s judgment.
    • The Apostle John fell at Christ’s feet as though he was dead, when He heard the voice of the Master speaking to him.
  2. However, Habakkuk has given the hope of rest to those who believe in God’s Word.
    • Our hope-Eternal, Sabbath Rest will be fulfilled when Christ invades the camps of His enemies and ours in judgment.
    • Hebrews warns those who reject Christ’s preached Word that they shall not enter His peace.
    • Instead, they shall forever live in dark restless agony and separation from Christ.
    • This should drive every rebellious sinner to his knees, begging for His mercy.
    • However, those who live by faith in Christ’s righteousness will find rest from their struggle with sin and their enemies.
    • Only faith in Christ’s work on the cross can give us Sabbath life.
    • Listen to the voice of the Lord speak “peace and rest” to the worn and weary sojourner, who is tired of riding the performance merry-go-round and exhausted from running in the treadmill of works-righteousness according to the Law.
    • Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
    • Psalm 37:7 admonishes the restless to “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him.”
    • Christ spoke to His troubled disciples to give them comfort in John 14:27-28.
    • “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
    • The Apostle Peter later calls the sin-weary Christian living in troubled days to, “…rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  3. Christ, our Sabbath Rest beckons those who are tired of carrying around the yoke of their own righteousness in Matthew 11:28-30.

    • “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
    • Will you enter His rest this day?
    • We need an all-consuming vision of Christ in redemptive history to give us a proper perspective to our worship and rest in our present-day troubles.
    • We must have faith in God, Who is greater than our sins and our troubles.
    • We need to cling to the promises of God’s Word if we are to resist discouragement and despair in these days.
    • When our faith is expressed by praise of Christ’s triumph, we shall find rest for our souls.
    • Christ has offered us more than a Sabbath Day of Rest.
    • He has offered us Himself—to be our Sabbath Life.

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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