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. 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 Saviour.
Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790) was a brilliant all-rounder. He had been a co-author of the American Declaration of Independence and became the United States ambassador to France (1776-1785). He was not a Christian but he had great respect for the Bible. When he was in Paris he heard a group of sophisticated intellectuals mocking both the Bible and Franklin too for his admiration of it. One evening he told this group that he had a manuscript with an ancient poem which had impressed him. He read it to them and they responded with high praise. They then asked where they could get copies of it. Franklin simply told them to read Habakkuk 3:16-19! We will look at verses 16-18 now and tomorrow Matt will finish this book with his reflection on verse 19.
The prophet was physically ‘all shook up’; truly overwhelmed by both the awesome power of God and the devastation that He had promised. Judah was to be invaded and defeated by the Babylonians. Habakkuk and his people would lose everything they had accumulated over many years. After his early complaints about the violence and injustice that surrounded Judah, Habakkuk had come to trust in God’s plans through his prayerful dialogue with Him. The immediate future looks bleak as there will be an awful famine and a dire breakdown in the nation’s agrarian economy (v17). In spite of this, Habakkuk is content to “wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (v16). He then writes one of the great statements of faith in the Bible: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (v18). Joy in God is an act of the will, not just of our emotions! So what or who makes you joyful?
Here are two more big questions for us to answer today: i) how would we have coped in similar circumstances to the prophet’s?; and ii) how well have we coped with the past 16 months of pandemic and the undeniable suffering, anxiety and sadness that it has generated. This book reminds us that we should take all our troubles, complaints and worries to God in prayer. We can regain His strength when humanly we are ‘all shook up’ and fearful about the future. We can also act upon four great truths from these inspiring verses: i) we can trust and rely upon God whenever we are scared; ii) we can know God’s joy and His strengthening presence even (or especially) when humanly we can’t cope; iii) we can rejoice and stand firm when things appear to be hopeless; and iv) we can share in God’s ultimate victory even when we are at our weakest. Our faith and joy should never be dependent upon our circumstances but upon God. Habakkuk came to rely upon the above truths, and so can we.
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Today’s Prayer: We thank you Father that our future is in your hands. Whilst you don’t promise any of us easy or trouble-free lives, we praise you that you are just and holy; a loving God whom we can trust, rely upon and take joy in, always. Amen. (MMW)