A WILD CELEBRATION!
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet on shigionoth.
“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (Hab. 3: 1-2).
What is the meaning of shigionoth?
“Shiggaion, from the verb shagah, “to reel about through drink”, occurs in the title of Psalm 7. The plural form, shigionoth, is found in Habakkuk 3:1. The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.”
A dithyramb is a “usually short poem in an inspired wild irregular strain” http://i.word.com/idictionary/dithyramb
Why am I probing the meaning of shiggionoth? I believe it is significant to explore the wild emotion of Habakkuk’s prayer. This was his response to the revelation God gave him regarding his problem. This was far more than an intellectual issue. What he wrestled with touched him to the core of his being. Why did God seem not to care about the moral mess his people were in?
God’s response shook him because he was not anticipating the horrifying thought that not only did his holy God tolerate the actions of heathen nations against His people, He actually admitted to being directly responsible for raising them up to punish Israel. How could He? It was as though Habakkuk was betrayed by a trusted friend. His second dilemma was even worse than the first. What God was doing was unthinkable – He was in bed with the enemy!
Only when God revealed the final phase of His reply did the prophet get it. Aha! God placed every individual, heathen or Israelite, on the same footing – accountable to Him and responsible for his actions. No one was off the hook. His people could not hide behind their collective covenant relationship with Him and the heathen could not use the excuse that they were God’s instrument for dealing with His people.
It was this truth that sent the prophet into a frenzy of anticipation. He remembered God’s deliverance of His people from slavery and His judgment on Egypt. This great event in the history of His people marked the beginning of their life as a nation. In graphically poetic language, he related the effects of God’s coming on the natural world and on the enemy who seemed invincible.
With his confidence in the sovereignty of his God restored, he celebrated God’s mighty victory over the Egyptians. Surely, just as He fought for His people over their oppressors then, He would stand by them again against the Babylonians when His purposes for them were complete.
God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and His praise filled the earth. His splendour was like the sunrise; rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden. Plague went before Him; pestilence followed His steps. He stood, and shook the earth; He looked and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed – but He marches on forever (Hab. 3: 3-6).
God is unstoppable in His power. Nothing stands in the way of His march towards fulfilling His purposes. He demolishes every natural obstacle with ease. Even the mighty waters give way when He passes by.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, Lord? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and chariots in victory? You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high (Hab. 3: 7-10).
He proceeded to review the horrendous and systematic destruction of Egypt through the eyes of a worshipper. From the other side of the Red Sea, in the land of Midian His people watched God come in majestic splendour to sweep away the Egyptian army through the writhing waters of the Red Sea.
As the prophet remembered, he worshipped. It was this God, this mighty Sovereign whose power was unstoppable, who would intervene again to rescue His people from the devastation of the Babylonians. Just as Egypt has served God’s purposes and then were crushed like bugs in God’s hand, so He would mete out judgment on another nation which thought it was God.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide