Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.Habakkuk 3:17-19
Years ago, my sister drew my attention to some Bible verses that I had not noticed before. My wife and I were struggling to make ends meet for our large and growing family. Our worn-out van had over 200,000 miles on it, and we had no means to replace it. In my mind’s eye, I can still see where I was standing in the church parsonage when my sister phoned and read the above Scripture to me. Since then, I have come to see them as some of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible. During seasons of suffering, they’ve been the lifeblood of my soul. Perhaps these closing lines of the prophet’s song have become yours, too. If not, then I hope they grow on you, beginning today. Read them again, this time, slower.
The book’s namesake is the frustrated and confused prophet who first received its mournful warning. It is Habakkuk’s lament. His “oracle,” meaning, heavy burden (Hab. 1:1) didn’t make sense to him. His name means embrace or wrestle. By embracing God’s calling, he wrestled with the inconsistency of the holy God seeming to tolerate wickedness in Judah while at the same time employing those more wicked as instruments of chastisement. This burden prompted him to voice his agonizing, “How long?” questions to God (Hab. 1). God answers the prophet by essentially saying, “I’m working behind the scenes. Trust me” (Hab. 2). Finally, God’s prophet is humbled, ready to listen and trust, and he bursts forth in praise.
Habakkuk 3 is a musical prayer with one simple message: God is fully trustworthy and unlimited in power and is, therefore, our only hope. It’s an example of how “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4), especially when we don’t understand God’s ways. Here we see two actions that proceed from God-centered faith.
Recount the saving works of the Lord (Hab. 3:1-16). Reports of the mighty works of Yahweh fill the prophet’s heart with awe: “…your work, O Lord, do I fear” (v. 1) Yet the works of God in the past also bring him hope in the here-and-now. So, he pleads with God to “revive” his work among his people as the time for judgment draws near (v. 2). God’s glory flows from him—like the rays of the sun—as pestilence, plagues, and all nature bow to his sovereignty and express his wrath against the wicked (vv. 3-12). Still, God goes “out for the salvation of [his] people” (vv. 13-15). When troubled by life’s troubles, recount the mighty deeds of the Lord. Look to him for rescue and the judgment of your enemies. God’s timing is almost always slower than yours, but it’s never late. Rest in him.
Rejoice in the Lord, not in circumstances (Hab. 3:17-19). When life feels like a fig tree that doesn’t blossom, or an olive grove that fails to produce fruit, set your sights on the Lord. Like Habakkuk, say with a determined heart, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (v. 18). Learn to root your joy in the grace of God. Say, “I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (v. 18). Then, no matter what life throws your way, you will be able to leap and bound up rocky terrain with “feet like the deer’s” (v. 19) Why? Because “God, the Lord, is [your] strength” (v. 19).
Perhaps Habakkuk’s famine and drought illustrate your current financial situation, marriage, employment, or something else. Take heart. No matter what your suffering looks or feels like, the beauty of biblical truths like these will refresh your weary soul when you make the choice to rejoice.
- Talk to Yourself. Can you think of a season in your life when you felt fruitless and without hope? Do you remember a time when God disciplined you, yet he did so with mercy?
- Talk to Yourself. Make a “Works of God” page or two in your journal. Begin recounting the saving works of the Lord that you see in your life.
- Talk to God. Pray through Habakkuk 3:17-19 with your personal “drought” or “famine” in mind.
- Talk to Others. Write a note of encouragement to a brother or sister in your church who is in a difficult season of life. Use today’s Scripture to give them hope.
Listen to the sermon, Take Joy in the God of Your Salvation.