“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19a
These words from the prophet Habakkuk are a fitting summary of all three chapters. They are the last three verses of Habakkuk and are by no means erected without all the prior verses in mind. What is verse 17, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,” but the extrapolation of all the warnings and judgment with which Habakkuk has placed on God’s people. More than half of Habakkuk are words of judgment and coming pestilence for the wicked deeds of the people. So, Habakkuk here in verse 17 covers the consequence of the peoples hard hearted waywardness; he shows that God’s judgment will be swift and will bring pestilence and famine to the land. No one is safe from the judgment of God, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
But…and even though these afflictions of an earthly nature bombard the people, Habakkuk sets our soul upright in the midst of peril. For food and livelihood (figs, fruit, vines, olives, flock, herd) are merely outward prosperity in all of our lives. Habakkuk reminds us that our only need is the inward joy we find in God our savior:
“We may hence gather a most useful doctrine,–that whenever signs of God’s wrath meet us in outward things, this remedy remains to us—to consider what God is to us inwardly; for the inward joy, which faith brings to us, can overcome all fears, terrors, sorrows and anxieties” (Calvin’s Commentary)
Our Joy, in other words, should not depend on outward prosperity, a stable income, a healthy car, a large home, network sitcoms, but on the inward joy we find in God alone. For we have no strength but in God alone. For there will always be desolation and judgment enacted in the world, for we live in a fallen time full of selfish desires in every human, Christian and non-Christian, that draw pain upon one another. For we are fallen creatures and create much of our own desolation and peril out of selfish ambition. But two things are certain in every moment of life:
1) Distress, peril and/or judgment is certain to be in our future 2) God alone gives us the strength and joy to find Him in times of distress
A stable relationship with God our father through faith in Jesus Christ is the means by which true joy enacts itself in our life. Without God, distress and peril overrun us and we seek to find happiness in worldly pleasure and worldly pursuits. For how often does a depressed woman try to suppress the pain by shopping for new clothes, or how often does a man fail at the task before him and try to make himself feeling better by buying a new toy, too often. Outward prosperity means nothing when it has fallen from the tree. Everything finds it’s perfect place and purpose in God’s hands. Therefore we must first seek our Lord, knowing that pain will come undoubtedly, for He is the reason for life and He is the one who gives us pure joy in midst of the pain and sorrow so that He may be glorified and that we might have eternal life as He has called us to. Amen.
(ORIGINALLY POSTED: July 7th, 2008)