An Attitude of Praise

Bible Book: Habakkuk  3 : 1-16
Subject: Thanksgiving; Praise; Gratitude

Habakkuk 3:1-16

One hot July afternoon in 1967 Joni Erickson Tada dove into a shallow lake and her life changed forever. She suffered a spinal cord fracture that left her paralyzed from the neck down, without use of her hands and legs. Lying in her hospital bed, she tried desperately to make sense of the horrible turn of events. She begged friends to assist her in committing suicide.

She believed in God, but after the accident she had so many questions. She was angry with God and reasoned “if He is supposed to be all-loving and all-powerful, then how could what happened be a demonstration of His love and power? Surely He could have stopped it from happening. How can permanent, lifelong paralysis be a part of His loving plan for me?”

A good Christian friend helped her to get beyond her anger and her questions. Today, she is a godly woman who has helped many people. She writes books and paints. Joni has written, “A sacrifice of praise will always cost you something. It will be a difficult thing to do. It requires trading in our pride, our anger, and most valued of all, our human logic. We will be compelled to voice our words of praise firmly and precisely, even as our logic screams that God has no idea what he's doing. Most of the verses written about praise in God's Word were penned by men and women who faced crushing heartaches, injustice, treachery, slander, and scores of other intolerable situations.”

At the beginning of this little book, the prophet Habakkuk could not understand why injustice prevailed and the wicked were allowed to hem in the righteous. God answered Habakkuk’s concerns by telling him that He was going to send the Babylonians to bring judgment upon God’s people. Since Habakkuk did not understand how God could do something like that, he cried out to God in prayer and waited for God to answer him.

God’s answer led Habakkuk to offer a prayer. In this prayer we see an amazing attitude of waiting. Regardless of the circumstances, Habakkuk would praise the Lord. Praise is insisting on the greater, spiritual truth rather than relying on visible evidence. How can we have an attitude of praise in the midst of circumstances that we do not understand?

I. Review God's History with His People

Israel based its religion on God’s calling and God’s work. The prophet based both his confidence and his petition on the work of God in the past. For Habakkuk, God’s leading the people of Israel out of Egypt provided hope and instilled confidence that God would continue to work in the future. For example, when God’s people escaped from bondage in Egypt, they were keenly aware of what God had done. When God caused the Red Sea to divide, God’s people walked through on dry ground.

When the Egyptians pursued them, God caused the Red Sea to return to its previous state. The Egyptian army drowned in the sea. Seeing the Egyptians dead on the seashore provided conclusive evidence of God’s protection. Israel could never have escaped from Egypt. Only God’s intervention saved Israel. Habakkuk looked at the situation of his day, but did not despair. He drew his faith from what God had done in the past.

How can you praise God during the difficult times when you cannot seem to see or feel God in your life? Review what God has done in the past. He has acted greatly in the past to redeem his people and to meet their needs. We see this time and time again in Scripture. Has God acted in the past to deliver you from sin? Has He ever helped you through a difficult time? He has promised never to leave us. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will provide in our present and future circumstances. Jesus tells us not to worry about food, drink, or clothes (Matthew 6:25-32). Then he commands, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Reviewing what God has done in the past increases our faith, brings spiritual insight, and encourages us to await God’s actions in our current situation.

II. Review God's Character

In this prayer Habakkuk focuses on God and not on human beings or circumstances. The prophet declared his awe at the work of God. In the NIV, Habakkuk indicates, “I stand in awe.” This comes from the Hebrew word for fear. As the KJV indicates, “O Lord, I have heard Your speech, and was afraid.” In the Old Testament, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Beginning in verse 3, Habakkuk’s prayer is in the form of a theophany. In a theophany God is personified in nature. Most of the verbs used in this theophany are in the perfect tense. A prophetic perfect verb indicates an action done in the past that has continuing results into the future. He uses this perfect tense to show that we can count on God. We would say “it’s money in the bank,” that is, “you can count on it, it is sure to happen.” This means that the events God revealed to Habakkuk would occur in the future.

Habakkuk recognized God as “The Holy One.” This title for God came into prominence in the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah used the term (thirty times) as a favorite title for Yahweh. He thought of the “Holy One” as perfect moral purity. The term “The Holy One of Israel” means above all else that Yahweh keeps close to Israel, that he could not abandon them without denying himself. The entire history of Israel is the work of God’s holiness. Psalms 77:14 and 68:25 indicate “Thy way, O God, is in holiness’ (Psalms 77:14; 68:25).” This holiness implies that God is radically different than all others.

The prophet had already complained that God was not showing forth his holiness when he let an unholy nation like Babylon attack his people (1:12). Now having seen the larger plan and purpose of God, the prophet could take up the ancient tradition of theophany and talk of the Holy One coming in judgment on the nations.

Habakkuk describes God’s coming in all His glory. The prophet compares God’s glory to the light that streaks across the morning sky. As one commentator pointed out, “God’s radiance is both emanating and concealing. It reveals His glory but veils His power. It is easy to forget that the light and warmth which showers the earth with blessing comes from a ball of fire that could consume the globe in a moment. So God’s power is hidden in His glory. His revelation is restrained lest it consume its beholders.”

When God arrived the earth shook and the nations trembled. God is perfectly capable of acting in power to execute His justice. He is terrifying to those who oppose Him. God is not simply some white-haired grandfather who dotes on His creatures. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty.

In verses 8-15, the prophet turns his attention from God’s appearance to His might acts. Was God directing his wrath toward the creation? Of course not, He was directing His wrath towards the nations (verse 12) in order to deliver His people (verse 13).

When we find ourselves in crisis and do not understand what is going on, we need to remind ourselves of God’s character. He is the Holy One of Israel. He is God Almighty. He acts on behalf of His people to deliver them. We need to remember that God alone supplies our needs according to his riches in glory. We are to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. We need to praise God for who He is: a holy God who keeps his covenant with his people.

III. Expect God to Act on Your Behalf

Even though we know what God has done in the past and who He is, sometimes in the midst of trials, we do not expect God to act on our behalf. In fact, at times we believe that He is not interested in us and our problems.

In verse 2 Habakkuk makes a petition for God to do something and in verse 16, he waits patiently for God to act. Based on the work of God in the past, the prophet called on God to “renew” his deeds in the present day. The prophet called upon God to work in the present day in the way he had worked in the past. ?In a sense, Habakkuk meant for God to work a new redemption from the tyranny of Babylon, just as he had done when He delivered Israel from the tyranny of Egypt. The prophet showed his profound knowledge of the ways of God. The Lord is a God who acts on behalf of his people. “He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel” (Ps 103:7).

The prophet saw in a past event the work of God. God’s power and majesty were the answers to Habakkuk’s needs. Having seen the awesome God who led his people from Egypt into the land of promise, the prophet understood that God could deal with the sin of Judah and with the arrogance of Babylon.

In the midst of the trials and tribulations of life, we need to remember that God has acted in the past to deliver his people from all kinds of problems and call upon him to act on our behalf. We can expect God to act on our behalf because as David said, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” (Psalm 34:15) He also said, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm28:7)

That does not mean that God will act on our time schedule or in the exact way we want Him to work, but that God will act to bring about his perfect will to his honor and glory.


The Lord who does not change is sovereign over history, not only in the past but also in the present and future as He works for his own glory and the redemption of His people. The prophet saw the work of God in the past and knew that God would also work in the present and the future. He came to understand that Israel’s victorious Redeemer in the past “could be counted on to save once more a repentant and submissive people.”

As Tada indicated, praising God in the midst of heartache and pain is a difficult thing to do. How do we make it when our world is crumbling around us? We must remember God’s faithfulness in the past, remember God’s character, and after praying, expect God to act.