Sorrowful Yet Rejoicing
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall 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, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Habakkuk’s outburst of praise recorded in this Scripture is one of the greatest expressions of faith found in the whole of the Word of God.
In his prophecy he had considered the lamentable condition of the people of God. He saw that judgment was coming upon them for their sin. The Chaldeans—the rod of God’s wrath, were soon to sweep down upon their cities with unsparing severity, and in overwhelming victory. Their invasion of the land at that time pointing on to the onslaught of the foe in a still future day.
As he views it all he cries “Art not Thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, mine Holy One?” (1:12). And then soliloquising says, “I will stand on my watch and hear what He will say to me” (2:1).
Jehovah answers him with words of comfort and encouragement, “The vision though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, and will not tarry . . . the just shall live by his faith.” The spirit of which is found for us Christians in the epistle to the Hebrews.
“For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:37-38).
There is always an appointed time for God’s intervention among men. And He is unhurried.
“He never is before His time,
And never is behind.”
There is a schedule which He will observe. Everything has its due time with Him. This was truly kept in the case of Israel going forth from Egypt (Ex. 12:41). It has been observed in the coming of Christ (Gal. 4:4); in the preaching of the gospel (1 Tim. 2:6), in the revelation of the truth of the church (Rom. 16:25-26). And in His times the appearing in glory of the Lord Jesus will be accomplished (1 Tim. 6:15).
It is this appearing which is prophesied of in Habakkuk. The vision will have its fulfilment. He the coming One will come and will not tarry.
Meanwhile faith is called for. The wicked may continue for a while, but his soul is not upright within him and the wrath of God will be visited upon him. Meanwhile the apparent prosperity of evil leads to the earnest cry of the godly, “How long?” And then the exhortation to patience is given. It has ever been that “through faith and patience” the promises have been inherited, and these are looked for and necessary for the saints of today. Wickedness abounds and increases, the apostasy advances with giant strides, godliness seems at a discount and Laodicean lukewarmness is evidenced in the professing church. The coming of Christ nears, but faith is called into exercise that the godly one may overcome and endure until His manifestation. “Overturn, overturn, overturn” it must be until He come. His is the right and God will give it to Him at the appointed season (Ezek. 21:26). The passage “The just shall live by faith” is quoted three times in the New Testament. In Romans 4 the one counted righteous is so reckoned on the ground of faith (1:17). There “just” is to be emphasised. In Galatians faith is in prominence in contrast with law-works (3:11). In Hebrews the word “live” is to be stressed. There it is the practical life of the believer which is in view (10:36).
This faith is shown in the triumphant utterance of the prophet as he breaks out in the expression of his confidence in the faithfulness of God.
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat: the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 1 will joy in the God of my salvation.
“The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet and He will make me to walk upon mine high places“
His words recall for us Christians, the apostle Paul’s summing up of the first part of the epistle to the Romans, “Being justified,” as to the past, having peace with and access into the favour of God, in the present and rejoicing “in hope of the glory of God,” as to the future. In view of all this the believer can boast even in the midst of tribulation. He knows it will work for his good, for the love of God has been shown in its fullness in the death of Christ. Thus he cries “We joy (or boast or glory) in God.” God Himself is now his delight.
The most distressing and depressing conditions were manifest throughout his land. No fruit on the trees, no harvest in the fields, no flocks in the folds, no cattle in the stalls, told the sad story of famine for the nation. But amid universal failure God Himself is faith’s resource, and the prophet cries “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and joy in the God of my salvation.”
God! salvation! joy! God is and He is for His own. He abides the same, He fails not, He delights in the confidence of faith—the confession of trust in Himself.
But there is more. He who is our salvation is our strength. He can make our feet like hinds’ feet and give us ability to reach and enjoy the high places of blessing.
So Romans 6 and 7 tell of power to rise over all the dominion of sin while the eighth chapter lifts us in thought into the “high places” of the counsels of God, showing our relationship as children and sons, our heirship of God and joint heirship with Christ.
Well may we join the chief musician with our praises as in the midst of the church He sings praise to God His Father and our God and Father too by grace.