“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there 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; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 NKJV
The Story of Habakkuk
Life isn’t shy when it comes to problems, puzzles, or confusion. Every day we are faced with a wide variety of decisions to make. What is one area in life in which you have been left frustrated and asking questions? For me it would be hard to think of just one area as almost everything confuses me to some extent—math, directions, IKEA instructions, or even men.
Certainly, on a much greater scale, the way the Lord works is mysterious and leaves me puzzled much of the time. This is true for many of us, if not all of us. And it was certainly true for Habakkuk.
Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament. The entire book is actually a conversation between Habakkuk and God. This dialogue took place as Habakkuk was ministering at the end of the Assyrian Empire and the rise of the Babylonian Empire. His people were in danger, they were without many basic life necessities, and they were hurting. The people who loved and served God were being overcome by those who rejected God. How does this make any sense? Don’t the good guys always win?
Habakkuk Questions God
In the first chapter of this book, Habakkuk questions God. He complains. He cries out for answers to questions that must have been painful to even ask. How could God possibly allow injustice to prevail (v. 1:2-4)? God responded by telling him that He would send the Chaldeans to punish Judah, his people (v. 5-11)—not the answer this hurting prophet would have been hoping for.
Habakkuk then complained about God’s answer—why would God use the more wicked Babylonians to punish the less wicked Judeans (v. 1:12-2:1)? How long will God allow evil people to dominate the world (1:17)? God responded by agreeing that the Babylonians were wicked, but He had a bigger and greater purpose. Though they were arrogant and would eventually be judged, He would still use them for His purposes—despite our confusion.
Trials In All Shapes and Sizes
In verse 17 Habakkuk gives a somber depiction of the circumstance he and his people were going through. He lists various trials and pressures—a fig tree that does not bud, vines with no fruit, crops that fail, fields that yield no food, and missing flocks and herds. This is a significant trial.
Without the budding of a fig tree, they would be without comfort and protection. Without fruit on the vines, the people would be without nourishment. Empty fields mean their work was done in vain—they labored with nothing to show for it. Pens without flocks and stalls without herds was their daunting sign of a lack of assets and resources—our equivalent of an empty bank account or foreclosed home.
Certainly, what Habakkuk and his people were experiencing was no small pressure, nor were they pressures that we do not face today. Life trials come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing remains the same—how will you choose to respond?
Rejoice Through Trials
Habakkuk chose to rejoice. Verse 18 says that he actually celebrates in the Lord! What a stark contrast from the Habakkuk we read about in the first two chapters. In the darkest of times and weightiest of pressures, Habakkuk put his skepticism aside and surrendered to the will of God—the very One he questioned. Such a response is not sensible nor is it natural, so how did he do it?
He accredits this to the God of his salvation. Because of the salvation he received, he was not obligated to the power of sin and darkness. Because of the salvation he received, he had the freedom to have faith. What is this salvation?
Salvation is a helpless and hopeless sinner being saved from his own sin because of the saving power of the gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. When Christ died on the cross, our sins died with Him! But the difference is this: He didn’t stay dead. He is alive. Because of this salvation that we have received, just as Habakkuk did, we have freedom from our sin, we can have fellowship with the Father through prayer and through His Word, and we have a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. That is how you and I can choose to rejoice in the God of our salvation just as Habakkuk did.
Because of the great salvation we have obtained through the free grace given through Jesus Christ, we can choose to respond with joy when the burdens of life weigh us down.
Not only this, but we are given strength to endure these trials. In verse 19, Habakkuk declares that the Lord is his strength! Following this bold statement is a rather unexpected one—he has been given feet like a deer.
If you are anything like me, this doesn’t seem as powerful or awe-inspiring as his earlier declaration, but Habakkuk knew something we didn’t. Unlike human beings, as a deer walks forward, his hind feet step exactly where his front feet step. This enables him to tread rough terrains with grace.
Habakkuk is careful not to say that he is given an easy route or a walk in the park. It is not about his circumstance anymore, but it is about how His God will help him through. Instead, he declares that even on the mountain heights where the wilderness offers the unknown and where the trail has not yet been tread, he will embark gracefully where His God would have Him because the Lord’s purpose must stand—even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
What Can We Learn From Habakkuk
We can learn a lot about Habakkuk and his conversation with God. Take courage, Christian: Habakkuk did not end in the same place he began.
Although he was initially skeptical, complained, and questioned God—the book closes with him choosing joy in the God of his salvation.
What are some practical truths we can take away from the book of Habakkuk?
Our circumstances do not determine our response. In fact, there are no circumstances that can keep you from rejoicing in the Lord. Instead, we must surrender our skepticism to the Lord and trust in Him. It is also true that although our circumstances may leave us without, the strength from the Lord is ever sustaining. Joy is found in the God of our salvation – do you know Him?
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Wife to Corbin Henderson // BBC – Biblical Counselor // Ash Grove FBC