Advent Psalm reading for December 14, 15, 16, & 17: Psalm 126.
The first reflection on Psalm 126 looked at the psalm’s context as a song of ascent. Today, I will look at some similar themes that arise in the liturgical reading from Habakkuk 3.
Exploring Justice in Habakkuk
Habakkuk is one of the “Book of the Twelve,” or “Minor Prophets,” so called because they are a series of twelve short books. Habakkuk seeks an explanation from God to account for the success of their enemies, the Chaldeans. Again, we encounter a question about justice that has already been raised in this Advent series. Why is God silent in the face of injustice? And like Psalm 126, we have here a sense of grief mixed with a sense of joy.
O ETERNAL One ! I have learned of Your renown;
I am awed, O ETERNAL One, by Your deeds.
Renew them in these years,
Oh, make them known in these years!
Though angry, may You remember compassion.
The Majesty of God in Habakkuk 3
Habakkuk 3 is one of my favorite types of poetry in the Bible, in which God is described as coming to the rescue as a great being whose clothed with the sky and moves as a giant throughout the earth. As God trudges across God’s own creation, with power and glory, the skies acknowledge the divine presence and there is a great sense of awe that fills all of the earth.
God is coming from Teman,
The Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.
God’s majesty covers the skies,
Such splendor fills the earth:
It is a brilliant light
That gives off rays on every side—
And therein God’s glory is enveloped.
Divine Presence Across Boundaries
The reference to Teman and Mount Paran might have seemed unexpected to an ancient Israelite, because it suggests that God came from a neighboring land, a land belonging to someone else, rather than from their home region. It is also a reference that foreshadows the next verse, describing God’s coming as a sunrise. Teman is a eastern region. The word selah appears after this location reference. Selah is commonly found in the Psalter as an instruction that indicates a pause. We might pause to reflect on the idea that our God comes from another place, and whose soverignty extends across a world far greater than the small corner we inhabit. In these verses, the prophet gives the people a reason to hope for God’s salvation and a visual reminder of God’s sovereignty with every sunrise.
Connecting Sorrow and Joy in Advent
Habakkuk speaks to the joy that will be reaped by those who sow tears in suffering mentioned in Psalm 126. In the Advent season, we may recall God’s greatness across the world. The world is not a small place, and God is not small in it. The incarnation of a great and mighty God is a magnificent act of love and compassion, for a God of great power and soverignty to come experience life as a human in order to show us how to live compassionately and know love fully. As we connect these scriptures with the Advent season, we find a resonant theme: the transformation of sorrow into joy, and the anticipation of God’s compassionate act.
Conclusion: Embracing Hope and Sovereignty in Advent
As we conclude our reflection on Psalm 126 in conjunction with Habakkuk 3, we are left with a profound understanding of the duality of grief and joy, and the omnipresence of a compassionate God. These scriptures, rich in imagery and emotion, invite us to ponder the vastness of God’s sovereignty and the depth of His compassion, especially during this season of Advent.
In these verses, we see a God who is both immense and intimate, whose greatness fills the skies, yet who chooses to come close to humanity. The imagery of God clothed with the sky and radiating splendor across the earth serves as a powerful reminder of His majesty and the awe it inspires. Yet, this same God, in His boundless love, chooses to incarnate as a human, making His presence known and felt in the most humble and relatable of ways.
This Advent, as we reflect on the incarnation, we are reminded that the divine is not limited to our understanding or confined to our region of the world. God’s sovereignty spans all creation, and His compassion reaches every corner of the earth. Habakkuk’s vision of a God coming from Teman and the reference to Mount Paran challenges us to expand our perspective, to recognize that God’s love and salvation are not limited to a specific people or place but are universal.
Coming Up on Advent Psalm Reflection
In the following reflection, I will continue to read Psalm 126 alongside other liturgical scripture.
This entire series and a link to the liturgical readings on the Advent Psalm Reflections page.
*The translations are JPS from Sefaria.org
Dr. Erica Mongé-Greer, holding a PhD in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen, is a distinguished researcher and educator specializing in Biblical Ethics, Mythopoeia, and Resistance Theory. Her work focuses on justice in ancient religious texts, notably reinterpreting Psalm 82’s ethics in the Hebrew Bible, with her findings currently under peer review.
In addition to her academic research, Dr. Mongé-Greer is an experienced University instructor, having taught various biblical studies courses. Her teaching philosophy integrates theoretical discussions with practical insights, promoting an inclusive and dynamic learning environment.
Her ongoing projects include a book on religious themes in the series Battlestar Galactica and further research in biblical ethics, showcasing her dedication to interdisciplinary studies that blend religion with contemporary issues.