Advent Psalm reading for December 14, 15, 16, & 17: Psalm 126.
Continuing with Habakkuk 3: The Second Half
The first reflection on Psalm 126 looked at the psalm’s context as a song of ascent. The second reflection examined similar themes in the liturgical reading from the first half of Habakkuk 3. Building upon previous reflections, let’s explore the second half of Habakkuk 3, beginning at verse 13, to uncover further depths of this prophetic narrative.
Finding Peace Amidst Despair
In yesterday’s reflection, I noted how majestic and powerful God is portrayed by the prophet Habakkuk. The chapter continues along this theme describing how God’s anger should come with wild and destructive vengeance against the wicked ones who do not hesitate to crush the vulnerable. Once again, the author of a biblical psalm wishes for and even imagines divine vengeance, but God does not respond, and the psalmic prophecy shifts again. In verse 16, the invoker of God’s judgment stands in wait, knowing they will be destroyed by their enemies, yet recognizes peace in place of fear, trust and hope in place of despair. His response to the realization of loss and suffering around him is to praise: “Yet will I rejoice in GOD, exult in the God who delivers me.” (3:18)
The Strength of Peace in Habakkuk’s Conclusion
Verse 18 marks a pivotal shift in the chapter, where the author, amidst impending destruction, discovers an unexpected sense of peace and trust in God. And in conclusion, rather than returning to an invocation of violent vengeance, the psalm concludes with a verse about God’s strength of peace.
The Sovereign GOD is my strength,
Making my feet like the deer’s
And letting me stride upon the heights.
The reference to making my feet like those of a deer also appears in Psalm 18:34, a psalm that cries out to God for support, strength, refuge, and safekeeping when there is nothing in sight but despair. It is tempting to wonder why we should remember such despair during a season that is marked by adjectives like joy, peace, well-being, and love. And while the nativity is a reminder of one still moment in history, the events surrounding the coming of the Messiah were tumultuous and violent. The imagery of having feet like a deer, as seen in both Psalm 18:34 and Habakkuk 3, offers us a poignant metaphor for God’s support and guidance through times of despair.
Embracing God’s Refuge in Advent
In conclusion of this reflection on Psalm 126 and Habakkuk 3, we are left with a poignant image of divine strength in times of turmoil. The prophet’s journey from calling for vengeance to a place of rejoicing in God, even amidst suffering, is a powerful testament to the transformative nature of faith. Habakkuk’s realization that in the midst of inevitable despair and destruction, there can still be peace and strength in God, is a message that resonates deeply, especially during Advent. The reference to ‘feet like those of a deer,’ reminiscent of Psalm 18:34, symbolizes agility and stability provided by God even on the most treacherous terrain. This image beautifully encapsulates the essence of trust in God’s sovereignty, no matter how unstable the world may seem.
This Advent, as we reflect on these scriptures, let us remember the complexity of the human experience and the multitude of emotions that come with it — from despair to joy, from fear to peace. The tumultuous events surrounding the coming of the Messiah remind us that even in times marked by joy, peace, well-being, and love, there can be undercurrents of strife and hardship. Yet, in all these, the enduring promise of Advent remains — God as our refuge and strength. As we journey through this season, may we find comfort in the knowledge that God steadies our steps and lifts us to higher ground, offering us a perspective that transcends our immediate circumstances, and fills us with hope and peace.
Coming Up on Advent Psalm Reflection
The next reflection features a final look at Psalm 126 as an Advent reflection.
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.