PFOA: Habbakuk 3
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. (Hab. 3:17-19, NLT).
In the first two chapters Habakkuk asked God: "You see we are suffering, why are you not doing anything?", "How can You use a nation more wicked than us to inflict judgment on us?", "The situation is getting worse, how long do we have to wait?" Habakkuk began to understand that God is sovereign, He is in active control. He reveals himself as both a God of mercy and of wrath. If the just shall live by faith, then there are dire consequences for those who do not or choose not to live by faith. Sin will be judged, and God may bring His people through tough times for their growth and maturity.
Until Christ returns, let us not kid ourselves that the world is getting better and better. Jesus has said otherwise in Matthew 24:4-14. ISIS fighters in Syria are targeting Christians, forcing them flee or be killed. The situation in refugee camps are horrendous. In the U.S. a Christian baker has to close down his business because he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. In many countries, Christians cannot gather for worship, it is a crime to share the gospel, and one can be hauled before the courts for blasphemy or 'being insensitive'. Many more Christians suffer persecution and are killed for their faith today than in centuries past.
Habakkuk could see the situation for Judah getting worse as Babylon's power increased and the nations around were conquered. And he would personally suffer with his people, perhaps he would killed or die of starvation. Yet in such a state, Habakkuk was able to compose this hymn we find in the third chapter. And the hymns ends with verses 17-19. Please read it again.
The prophet Habakkuk is not naïve. He knows that there are tough times ahead. Even if the world collapses around him (v. 17), he will still rejoice in the Lord (v. 18). He can rejoice always because God is the God of his salvation (v. 18). God will save him, even in the midst of judgment. God will protect him and watch over him. God will be his strength and see him through (v. 19). This is what it means to live by faith (2:4).
We will go through tough times. As sinners living in a sinful world, we will experience some of God’s wrath over sin. We will experience suffering and ultimately death. Our suffering may be due to our personal sins; other peoples’ sins; our country’s sins or the sinful world we live in.
Remember Joseph? In the end he was able to say "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." Certainly it was the brothers' sin that put Joseph through a whole series of adversities, but He trusted in God and was able to rejoice and bless his family in the end.
And what about Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Faced with certain cremation at the mouth of the super-hot furnace, they said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. but even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up". "But even if he does not" - That is living by faith.
I trust we will not be tested to such extremes, but "the temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Cor. 10:13).
Let us memorise these verses from Habakkuk 3:17-19, so that by faith we are assured of God's love and mercy. And let us be joyful.