Someone has observed that the book of Habakkuk begins with a sob but ends with a song. Even so it is a strange song to many of us, one that many of us could not or would not sing. Here it is: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places” (3:17-19).
We are tempted to ask, “What kind of peculiar person is Habakkuk?” He speaks of circumstances that are not merely inconvenient, not just very difficult, but potentially life-threatening. After all, if all the crops and livestock disappear, there is nothing left to eat, and how they might survive is uncertain. Yet Habakkuk neither prays for deliverance from this judgment nor strength to endure and survive it. He sees the severity of the situation, recognizes the possible consequences of the situation, but takes no account of them. Though he is facing them, his attitude is almost that of an historian: dispassionately observing some long-completed situation that cannot be changed but that has no real impact on him.
Instead of mourning, worrying, fearing, beseeching, or interceding, Habakkuk does a strange thing: he rejoices. The reasons for this attitude are as clear as they are rare. First, Habakkuk recognizes the necessity of judgment on his rebelliously sinful nation; second, he rejoices that a holy God will be vindicated in the punishing of unrepentant sinners; and third, his entire focus is on the eternal, not the temporal. If this is God’s work (and it is), if God is holy and righteous (and He is), then what is about to befall the nation will honor His God. And for those reasons, Habakkuk can rejoice. It is his earnest desire that the God of His salvation, whom he has come to know, to reverence, and to love, be manifested in the glory of His holiness.
Furthermore, he is assured that the Lord God is his strength and will provide him with the sure-footedness of a deer to ascend to the heights of faith in and fellowship with his Lord, however severe the circumstances, however brief his existence. For Habakkuk, “quality of life” has nothing to do with natural circumstances but everything to do with the vindication of the Person of his Lord.
Now that is atmosphere more rarefied than the air breathed by the deer in the heights of the mountains. But it is the air that the Lord would have us all breathe—clear, pure, and unpolluted by the pleasures or cares of the world beneath. We all know what it is to harbor aspirations for those we love. We desire them to achieve and delight in their accomplishments. Such is the unvaried nature of genuine love. Should we not, then, rejoice in the Lord, despite unpleasant circumstances? After all, nothing happens by chance or accident; God ordains all things in accord with His sovereign will and holy perfection. Should we then rejoice over “miserable” circumstances in our lives? Or should we view with glee the “come-uppance” of the unrighteous? No, but we still should “rejoice in the Lord” and “joy in the God of . . . [our] salvation.” For when all is said and done and as the ages of eternity roll along, the stuff of time will not matter. All that will remain will be our Lord and what He has done for and through us. Waiting on Him in confidence and hope and submitting to His will in all things are the substance of genuine blessing. May it be so in your life and in mine.
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