Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. . . .
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 God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go to the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:2, 16-19, NIV)
The Book of Habakkuk is unique in Scripture. Although included among the “Minor Prophets,” Habakkuk’s writings were not addressed to others, but were rather an account of the prophet’s dialogue with God. As a contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk experienced the difficult, violent times when the Jews were caught in the midst of the struggle between the large aggressive military empires of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
Chapter 1 records Habakkuk’s anger that evil and oppression in Judah were going unpunished by God and God answers Habakkuk’s plea by telling him that the Babylonians will be used as an instrument of judgment against Judah. This is not an answer Habakkuk wanted to hear. The first chapter ends with Habakkuk’s frustrated response: how can a just God use people even more wicked than the Jews to punish his people? In chapter 2, God informs him that although Babylon will punish Judah, Babylon will herself be punished for her sins and that through it all the faithful would be rewarded.
Today’s verses record the magnificent prayer of Habakkuk in which the prophet expresses his complete trust and confidence in God. Despite all the hardship graphically depicted by Habakkuk in terms of fig trees that do not bud, vineyards that are barren, the failure of the olive crop, and the death of livestock – all the result of war and foreign occupation: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (v. 18). The practice of peacemaking, as illustrated by the righteous prophet Habakkuk, means rejoicing despite the circumstances. Even when the situation is desperate and beyond control, the Biblical message is clear: “the Sovereign Lord is my strength.” (v. 19a) – therefore rejoice in the Lord. There will be times when the cause of peace appears hopeless and working for peace a futile exercise. There will be times when all peacemakers can do about a situation is cry, as Jesus did over Jerusalem. But Christians are people of hope who can rejoice despite the circumstances.
Almighty God, we praise you for your mighty deeds in history, for saving your people and offering them hope and a future. You are our strength. Help us to trust you completely so that even in times of hardship and desperation, we can “rejoice in the Lord” and be “joyful in God our Savior.” Amen.