I wish I knew the tune, and had a score for the instrumentation of this closing song of Habakkuk. I’m guessing it was one of the greatest hits of its day, and there are still notations assuming we know the style of Shigionoth, how to do a ‘selah’, and have a leader for the stringed instruments. How did they sing the Lord’s song as they explored how ‘you can’t go home again’?
Why do we appropriate African-American spiritual songs, when we ourselves are not slaves? Why are the streaming services flooded with shows about fighting Nazis in the 1930s and 1940’s when we know how the war will end, and very few of our forebears were resistance fighters, more likely working for ‘Bomber Harris’ carpet-bombing civilians or fire-bombing Dresden? The editors of Habakkuk are inviting us into the imaginative space of a people living under imperial rule, without explicitly naming the current oppressions.
Once more, we are invited to ask ourselves: disruption of the status quo by divine intervention would be good news for some – bad news for other. What side of the fence are you on, and who’s there with you?
Habakkuk 3 (NRSV)
1 A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk according to Shigionoth.
2 O LORD, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O LORD, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
4 The brightness was like the sun; rays came forth from his hand, where his power lay hidden.
5 Before him went pestilence, and plague followed close behind.
6 He stopped and shook the earth; he looked and made the nations tremble. The eternal mountains were shattered; along his ancient pathways the everlasting hills sank low.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction; the tent-curtains of the land of Midian trembled.
8 Was your wrath against the rivers,* O LORD? Or your anger against the rivers,* or your rage against the sea,* when you drove your horses, your chariots to victory?
9 You brandished your naked bow, sated* were the arrows at your command.* Selah You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you, and writhed; a torrent of water swept by; the deep gave forth its voice. The sun* raised high its hands;
11 the moon* stood still in its exalted place, at the light of your arrows speeding by, at the gleam of your flashing spear.
12 In fury you trod the earth, in anger you trampled nations.
13 You came forth to save your people, to save your anointed. You crushed the head of the wicked house, laying it bare from foundation to roof.* Selah
14 You pierced with their* own arrows the head* of his warriors,* who came like a whirlwind to scatter us,* gloating as if ready to devour the poor who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the mighty waters.
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.
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.