“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 Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Several years ago I did an intense study of the book of Habakkuk and the concept that continues to resonate with me after all this time is that of “yet I will rejoice.” In the midst of uncertainty, Habakkuk struggles with what he sees everywhere he looks: “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab. 1:13) And as he witnesses the destruction and desecration of his nation, Habakkuk becomes impatient: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Hab. 1:1-3)
How often do we ask those same questions when we look around and see all of the brokenness in our society? How often do we wonder aloud if God is still in control when we observe evil apparently triumphing over good in our world? Do you question God when your family faces financial hardship, or the prospect of utter devastation as a result of circumstances completely beyond your control? And do you begin to doubt that God is in the midst of the whirlwind when you watch helplessly as your family faces unemployment or health concerns with no access to insurance; perhaps the forclosure and loss of your home, or the continual stress of watching the bills pile up and the paycheck shrink?
What about all of the evil all around us in our world? Yesterday a young man walked into a high school in Ohio and shot five other students. As I write this, I hear that two of those young people have died, and three of them are still hospitalized. Why? There is no excuse for this behavior, but I suspect there might be a reason . . . . I don’t know, but I wonder if this young man was bullied, teased mercilessly, humiliated, mocked, ridiculed, and tossed aside because perhaps he was “different” than the “cool” kids. There is enough blame to go around, so when we see all of this pain in our world, do you ever cry out to God: “Where are you and what are you doing about all of this?”
Habakkuk saw clearly the evil in his world and he demanded an answer from God. And the answer was quite amazing: “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that rughless and impetuous peopl, wh sweei across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; a law to themselves and promote their own honor . . . . . guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” (Hab. 1:5-7; 11)
Habakkuk again approaches God with this observation: “Why do you tolerate the treacherous? . . . (he who) sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?” (Hab 1:13, 16-17) Does this not seem very much like what we observe all around us daily?
But then Habakkuk makes a decision: “I will stand at my watch, and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me . . . . “ (Hab. 2:1) Even yet will I trust, and wait for You to reveal Yourself to me, my God. And God answers Habakkuk: ” Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (Hab. 2:2-3)
Here is where we see the eternal truth that speaks to us moment by moment, day by day: “. . . the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab 2:4), and God reassures Habakkuk that He does, indeed see the evil, and will not allow it to continue forever: “Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain . . . .Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed, and establishes a town by crime! . . .But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Hab. 2: 9, 12, 20) He reveals to Habakkuk the ultimate plan for those evil-doers:
“Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on? Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? . . . Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain.” (Hab. 2:6-7, 9) God tells Habakkuk that He is using the “dreaded” Babylonians to teach Israel a lesson: “O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.” (Hab.1:12), and Habakkuk recognizes that this is why God is allowing the wickedness to continue, but for a time: “O Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die.” ( Hab. 1:12)
That is why Habakkuk could face his fear of the future; that is why he was able to rest in God’s promises: “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 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, through 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 Savior.” (Hab. 3:16-18)
In spite of what we are observing around us, we can know that God is still in control. He knows what is happening, He perhaps is using even who are evil to teach us obedience. The last chapter may have been written by the hand of God, but we do not know all of the details . . . . yet we can trust Him and rejoice in His grace, mercy, and love. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
If you would like to join us this week for “In Other Words,” please visit Miriam Pauline at her blog, MiPa’s Monologue, and leave a link to your post on this quote. Then be sure to visit the other participants and leave a comment so they know you stopped by! Have a great Tuesday, Nina