Going Deeper – “King of the Mountain” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19)

El Shaddi bannersIn Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways.Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, the prophet Habakkuk invites us to trust in God in the face of over- whelming disaster.

Habakkuk 3: 17-19 (MSG); “The King of the Mountain”

“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
    and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
    and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
    and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
    I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
    I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
    I feel like I’m king of the mountain!”


Habakkuk is a prophet about whom we know next to nothing.He was probably a con- temporary of Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Nahum, prophesying to Judah in the decades before the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its people. Habakkuk is a crucial prophet to read at this time in history. He points out that vice and repressive policies have deepened the spiritual crisis in Judah. He observes that even the spiritual leaders are corrupt.  Evil is rampant even among God’s people.  Sounds very contemporary.

Habakkuk begins his conversation with God by saying, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not listen?” (Habakkuk 1:2). He proceeds to list the evils of Judah and Judah’s enemies. He cries out, “Are you not from of old, O Lord, my Holy One? (Habakkuk 1:12) In other words,”Where are you God?!”  He then promises, “I will stand at my watch post and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he [God] will say to me.

The book of Habakkuk has only three chapters long,but the spiritual journey it describes is a long one – and familiar to many of us. First the prophet pleads that God will not desert his people. He shares that he longs to understand God and God’s ways. Then he challenges and confronts God. In the end, he comes to grips with his questions and doubts and writes Chapter 3:  a psalm of praise and trust. His faith in God’s prevailing rule in the world inspires him to “take heart and gain strength.” His promise to “stand at my watch post” to “see what God will say to me” is a discipline and statement of trust that all Christ-followers should take seriously as we wonder how to respond to a world in chaos.  


♥  In this beautiful psalm of praise, Habakkuk lists some major problems in his world: crops are failing, sheep are not being produced, cattle are not available.  Make your own list of the issues of 2018. What problems is our society facing? What impact are those problems having on your life?   Share your list with God . 

♥  In The Message, Eugene Peterson poetically describes Habakkuk’s joy at coming to a place of trust in God’s compassion for his people and Habakkuk’s country: he is “turning cartwheels of joy,” “running like a deer,” and feeling  like the “king of the mountain.” This a real turn-around from his complaints and nearly impertinent questioning earlier in the book. Can you find that kind of joy in the face of the problems you listed above? How can you express it? 

How often have you pleaded as a person and a citizen, “How long, Lord?” Throughout his book we see Habakkuk pressing God about the evil he sees.  We also see him commit to listening for God’s response. Dedicate two hours of silence to talk with God about the problems you see; listen for how God is responding to you particularly about the issues you raise.


“Habakkuk’s experience demonstrates that bewilderment and affliction are not signs of spiritual immaturity or unfortunate distractions from faith. Indeed these episodes con- tribute to the development of strong faith and are the raw materials of prayers and worship. . . . Habakkuk demonstrates that asking probing questions that challenge God is very much a part of the life of faith. Habakkuk is a model for boldly going  to God with our questions and confusion about what does not make sense for us. God wants to be in conversation with us, as he is with Habakkuk. . . . Also, Habakkuk’s faithfulness is not in law keeping, but trust in God’s word in the face of overwhelming disaster. Habakkuk is an example of the kind of faith that justifies, a faith that the apostle Paul advances several hundred years later (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11)” (Barbara M. Musselman in her introduction to the book of Habakkuk in the Spiritual Formation Bible).

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4 Responses to Going Deeper – “King of the Mountain” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19)

  1. Conrad says:

    you probably already know, but there is a significant difference between a “translation” (David Bentley Hart’s The New Testament: a Translation) and a “paraphrase” (for example, Clarence Jordan’s work). Peterson’s work belongs to the second group. Sometimes paraphrases are useful, even inspiring. Sometimes paraphrases give me somebody’s idea of what the passage says instead of what it does say. i recognize that the division between the two groups can blur.

    • I do know. And with Peterson I don’t even want to use paraphrase. But sometimes his poetic renderings especially with psalms and prophetic writing helps us see it fresh – and then we can think if it adds something to our understanding or prefer the version we have always read. In this case I said, “Peterson poetically describes. . .” I don’t think that implies “translation.”

  2. I am blessed by your comment!

  3. Barbara Steen says:

    This is powerful. Good suggestion/challenge to go silent. Thanks. Your blog voice is strong!

    On Sat, Jun 30, 2018 at 9:38 AM Living as Apprentices wrote:

    > livingasapprentices posted: “In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us > to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in > practical ways.Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process > Lectio Divina. In this passage, the prophet Habakkuk invites us” >

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