Joy and Faith?

by Catherine McNiel on May 07, 2020

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.

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 Savior.
 

                        —Habakkuk 3:16-18 

The topic for this week is “Joy and Faith” but why? After dialoguing with God about the injustice perpetuated by both Israel and Babylon, Habakkuk remembers God’s dramatic deliverance from evil leaders and nations in the past. Today’s verses continue the song with these words: 

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.
(3:16) 

No wonder Habakkuk is having palpitations. Yesterday’s passage was alarming. If God tramples the sea and makes the mountains crumble—if He has done that in the past and is about to do so again—a bit of trembling is in order. But he continues:

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 Savior.
(3:17-18)

We often think of faith as our response to something comfortable. We expect God to make our lives straightforward, and if He does, we will rejoice and put our faith in Him. I doubt we’d put words to this, but our theology, our songs, our expectations, and our doubts often reveal this assumption.

But that’s not the faith and joy that Habakkuk demonstrates. He’s looking ahead and realizing that the world as he knows it may be coming to an end. The crops may fail. Business—and civilization itself—may end abruptly. And yet he will rejoice, he will be joyful in God. And more, he will be joyful and realize that even in this incredible suffering, God’s actions are arcing towards salvation. Habakkuk puts his faith in God faithful sovereignty, no matter what suffering may be coming. 

Questions for reflection and discussion: What about us? In the coming weeks, if the stores run out of food, if we lose our jobs and the economy crashes beyond the ability to recover—will we be joyful in God our Savior?

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