Psalm 65:9-13 – God has given us many material blessings. And we have as many reasons to be thankful.
But what if there is nothing? What then?
Ch 1 – Habakkuk’s complaint. The Lord’s reply. Habakkuk’s further complaint. 2:1 – He sets himself to watch and wait for what God will say.
Ch 3 – Nothing in Habakkuk’s circumstances has changed. He is still facing an appalling prospect: the ravages of war, the horrors of invasion, the devastation of resources, the removal of all basic necessities.
Hab 3:17f ‘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, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’
This is real joy. It is not
- Mere bravado, ‘whistling in the dark’.
- Resigned stoicism, ‘hallelujah anyway’.
- Grim determination, ‘gritting his teeth’, or ‘hanging in there’.
He’s come from frustration to faith, from sighing to singing, from worry to worship. How? And how can we?
1. We can rejoice, because of who God is
Habakkuk has recited his creed, 1:12f – God is eternal, holy, faithful, and pure. But now, he encounters experientially the living God. Increasingly personal: progression from ‘he’, 3-6 to ‘you’, 8-15, to ‘I’, 16-19.
V3 – the ‘Holy One’, whose ‘glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.’
He is unspeakably and unchangeably glorious.
1st reaction: awestruck. Verse 2, ‘I stand in awe.’ Verse 16. ‘I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.’
But then leads to joy. Aslan’s roar – fearful, yet a great comfort to those under the great lion’s protection.
‘Fear him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear’.
2 Cor 4:6 ‘God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’
‘The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.’ (Tozer)
Rejoicing in God because of who he is, not just because of what he can do for us.
2. We can rejoice, because of what God has done
Verses 3-15 recalls the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, the wanderings in the wilderness, the giving of the law at Sinai, and the entry into the promised land.
These might easily be described from a purely secular perspective. But for Habakkuk, ‘God came’, v3.
V12f –‘In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations…You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.’
Wrath and rescue: what was judgment for the Egyptians was rescue for the Israelites.
Habakkuk knew his history. Do we? Only as we become acquainted with God’s actions in the past can we say, ‘Lord, do it again’. So,
3. We can rejoice, because of what God will yet do
Only v2 has any petitions: ‘In the midst of the years renew [thy work]; in the midst of the years make it known. In wrath remember mercy.’
Although many of God’s people would be marched off into exile, a remnant would return. And, 400 years on, there would be faithful souls, ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, whose patience would be richly rewarded.
‘I will be joyful in God my Saviour,’ v18. How much more we, ‘on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come’?
There is one place more than any other where God in wrath remembers mercy. That place is the cross, where Christ ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us’; that ‘trysting-place, where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet’.
The cross is the great turning-point. But there’s more to come. God has promised to put all wrongs to right, to wipe away every tear, to usher in a new heaven and a new earth.
And in the here and now, Jesus pronounces us ‘blessed…blessed…blessed’. And, ‘even though we do not see him now, we believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.’
One Christian asks another how she is: “Alright, I suppose, under the circumstances.” But we can live ‘over the circumstances’.
Phil 4:11ff ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do [all this] through him who gives me strength.’
Hab 3:19 – ‘The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights’.