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(Habakkuk 3 v17-18).

By J Stuart Holden 

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour”

  Can anything be more irrational than this call to rejoice under such conditions?  Habakkuk was trying to lead his people back to God’s way.  He was not boasting of his own faith, but he was witnessing to God’s faithfulness with the intention of gathering others to the same faith.  It seems irrational to rejoice when things are as bad as they can possibly be.  Or to rejoice in the Lord when it almost seemed as if God had ceased to be interested, and the prophet himself had suffered as much as anyone.  He had not been feasting while others starved.  His faith had been hard pressed and all his faith could do was to ask God how long the Lord intended things to go on as they were.

Searching for a Basis for Faith.

It was not anymore natural for this prophet to rejoice when he felt himself caught up in a tornado of problems than it is for us today.  At first he did the opposite and he was upset with God.  He did not like the fact that the Chaldeans, whose sins were notorious, should be used for God’s correction of Israel. The cure seemed so infinitely worse than the disease, that he disagreed with God, and he did not feel that this was wrong.  As a matter of fact, he feared God more than ever in the face of such an exhibition of His power, but he felt that he no longer understood God.  He felt that he needed to have an answer to his question which would form a solid basis of life.  He wanted to serve God and to interpret Him, this would mean everything to him and to the nation of Israel, but as things were could he?

This prophecy is a record of Habakkuk’s cry to the Lord.  He  was literally taking hold of God.  There was nothing impersonal in his prayers, as there can be in many of ours.  Prayer only means something to God when it means everything to the person who offers it.  Prayer reaches Heaven when it comes from the depths of our soul and is only effective from heart to heart.  The prayer that encouraged Habakkuk, and subsequently his nation, was not only words, rather it was a positive attitude before God.

Habakkuk sat on the watchtower, viewing terrifying things that  everybody could see, but he looked to the power of God which was at work in the background.  In his mental distress he says, “O God, don’t you know what is happening to your name in all this?  Don’t you realise that unless there is some explanation of this bewildering confusion which has fallen upon us, there will be no faith left in you?”  Something happens when a person prays like that, God spoke to Habakkuk, and after darkness came light.  God said that He would deal with the Chaldeans, after they had accomplished His purpose in Israel.  He said the establishment of His own glory was His objective in everything and He assured Habakkuk that He remembered His people. 

After Habakkuk was reassured and encouraged he stood before the people and declared his faith.  If he had not faced facts, then facts would have finished him.  He found God at the heart of these facts, and nothing could scare him.  Circumstances are used by God to make character, strength and integrity.  There was rarely such courageous faith as Habakkuk expressed.  After exhausting every metaphor of disaster which could befall any people, he says, “I will rejoice in the Lord”, in the face of it all (Habakkuk 3 v 18).  

How irrational it seemed.  We can understand if someone who had the favour of God was praising Him, but we must show great respect for a man who, under these circumstances, did not panic.  Let’s translate this into a current experience, so for example instead of figs and olives read credit in your bank account.  Instead of the Chaldean invasion, let’s use the example of an economic disaster that is sweeping through the world and then see where you stand.  Under such circumstances would you still choose to rejoice in the Lord?

Linking life to divine purpose.

Of course this is impossible without some supernatural help.  Habakkuk could not have done it, nor can we.  He learned that life cannot be like a musical solo performance, it is more like a duet performance.  A duet means harmony, just like when human life is linked to the Divine purpose and power.  Habakkuk’s experience shows that you have lost nothing if you have not lost God.  You have strength to endure and carry on when things are at their worst.  It is upon God’s eternal plans that you are building your house.

Therefore, I pray that you renew in life’s journey your faith in God and renew your knowledge of Him at first hand so that your faith will become vocal, just as Habakkuk’s became vocal.