Fruitless Vines and Failing Olives; Finding Joy in Difficult Times
“Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” – Habakkuk 3:17-19
The book of Habakkuk provides a glimpse into one of the darker chapters in the story of God’s people. The people of Judah were held in captivity by the Chaldeans. Because of this, the prophet Habakkuk makes a passionate plea to the Lord on behalf of the people for deliverance. Essentially, the story reads like a conversation between Habakkuk and the Lord. First, the prophet questions why God has permitted the people to be held captive (Ch. 1 vs. 1-4). God responds by telling Habakkuk that His reasons for doing so would seem unbelievable to Habakkuk (Ch. 1 vs. 5-11). The conversation continues and eventually leads to a beautiful prayer penned by the prophet expressing His faith in the Lord (Ch. 3). At the end of the prayer, He concludes that no matter how difficult circumstances might become, he would find joy in the Lord. And his unwavering joy would be based upon three beautiful promises. So what were these promises?
To begin with, the Lord was his source of salvation. At the time, it was not God’s will to deliver the people of Judah from captivity. But Habakkuk rested in knowing that God provided salvation for his soul. He knew that spiritual deliverance was more important than earthly deliverance. And so it is with us; we too can rest in knowing that spiritual deliverance is of greater importance than temporal, earthly deliverance.
Secondly, the Lord would be his source of strength. Habakkuk understood his vulnerabilities, and knew that he on his own could not muster up enough strength to endure difficult times, but the God would be His source of strength. Oh that we would see this to be true in our lives as well and that we would lean upon the Lord in tap into His the daily provisional strength he offers His children. Trusting in Him means leaning upon Him (Proverbs 3:5-6); for He is our strong tower (Proverbs 18:10). We are frail and fragile people who are helpless without the strong and sturdy hand of our Lord.
Finally, the Lord would be his source of stability. Habakkuk says that the Lord makes his feet like the feet of a deer, allowing him to reach high places. This is a symbolic expression of the sure and stable footing God provides for him during times of instability. Though everything around him might seem to be a slippery slope, He knows the Lord will firmly plant His feet on solid ground. We too can rest in this promise. The Lord is our solid Rock, and it is He who sets our feet on solid ground (Psalm 40:1).
There are other life truths that we can learn this story. For instance, it is okay to ask question God, as long as we do so reverently. Habakkuk asked God some tough questions about why God had permitted Hos chosen people to be held captive. Yet He asked these things with a spirit of humility. We are also reminded that joy should not be contingent upon external circumstances. In chapter 3 verse 17, Habakkuk lists possible scenarios of devastation. Yet he determines that if they actually happened, his joy in God would not be stifled. Oh that we would have that same resolve!
The book of Habakkuk begins with words of concern and brokenness and ends with words of joy and praise. I pray this great gem of truth hidden within the Minor Prophets spoke to you as it did to me. Consider these promises of God’s future blessing, and allow them to be the catalyst to spark deep satisfying joy in the Lord.
– Pastor Eric