17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
- Rest (3:16-17).
The third step is to wait patiently. Verse 16: “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” Habakkuk decided to rest in God’s timing, even though He didn’t like what was about to happen. Being willing to wait means that we stop trying to work it out ourselves and rest in His plan. When you don’t understand what God is doing, wait on Him, so often instead of resting in Him we choose to rebel. Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of England once said, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.” But we must remember that we are not waiting to get our way. In this prayer there is a tiny word “Selah” repeated three times after verses 3, 9 and 13, it is a word that appears 74 times in the Bible, the rest occurring in the book of Psalms. This curious phrase is most likely a musical rest, in which the singers stopped. This phrase can also signify a musical crescendo that is then followed by silent reflection, carrying with it the idea of “meditation.” We’re called to pause and meditate three different times so that we can apply what the Almighty is saying to us. If you want to move from worry to worship then you must wait. Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Habakkuk is told to wait in 2:3 “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” and here we see him obediently waiting. We view waiting as work and a waste even in the good times but verse 17 reminds us that he waited through the worst times. He sees the horror and the hardship of failed crops and feeble flocks which in an agricultural dependent society was disaster. In the Bible grapes often speak of joy but what about when the grapes are gone will we wait? Without the staple foods to sustain they would starve. It’s hard to be still in the midst of the storm, to rest in the wreckage. What if you had just heard from God and He had told you that your country would collapse, the economy would become empty and money would become meaningless. Unemployment would rise, peace would recede and food would disappear. That at your moment of greatest weakness and vulnerability enemies would arise and attack, your country would be destroyed and its people deported. How would you react if this was the message you received? Would you revere, review and rest or would you unravel?
- Rejoice (3:18)
Because of the small word yet in verse 18, disappointment does not have to lead to despair. “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Even though there will be no food and no flocks, Habakkuk determines to rejoice, because rejoicing isn’t based on results it’s based on the Redeemer. Three “thoughs” are followed by this “yet”, which is very similar to the process Jeremiah went through in the Book of Lamentations. He was filled with “why” questions and he listed his grievances to God but when he finished, he forced himself to think about what was true. In Lamentations 3:19-23 he wrote “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope, because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” The great revivalist of the nineteenth century Charles Finney had this to say about rejoicing and his words cut to the heart today. “Many seem to have no enjoyment in religion any longer than the providence of God seems to favor their particular plans and favorite schemes. Forsooth, God does just as I want Him to do, all my notions are exactly realized…God is good and I am happy…But let Him thwart them, run across their track, turn upside down their cherished plans…and what then? They tolerate God perhaps, perhaps not even that; they by no means rejoice now in their God…They have no true religion…When God was so good and kind to them, they thought they loved Him, but it was themselves they loved, and Him only because He was subservient to them. They were pleased to have God for an almighty servant, surely they were; but to have Him on the throne, that was another matter…Instead of rejoicing in God’s will, whether or not it was theirs, God must succumb to them, or they are displeased and grieved.”
There are times when we need to filter our feelings through our Fathers truth and when we do we find our foundation.
- Rely (3:19)
The final step is to rely on our Sovereign God for strength. “The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk holds on to the fact that God is sovereign, which refers to His unlimited power and absolute control. God’s sovereignty should always have a strengthening impact because if the Sovereign Lord is our strength, then our strength is more than sufficient. Only when we submit to the sovereignty of God do we discover strength. Noah in Genesis 6 was given a specific blueprint of how to build the ark; everything was described except for a rudder. Noah’s responsibility was to rely on God, who would steer him where He wanted him to go, God is in control, not us. Today we want to live by explanations and expectations instead of promises. The truth is that even in the sorrow and suffering God is sovereign. In chapter one Habakkuk was down. In chapter two he climbs up to the watchtower to wait for God’s answer. And in chapter three he is walking on the heights. He has steadily progressed on an upward arc toward the Almighty. Are you ready to move from pain to praise? The way for that to happen is to revere, review, rest, rejoice and rely. So today I invite you to pray this simple prayer with me from Psalm 85:6: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”