Photo credit to Betty Westmoreland.
“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17
Habakkuk lived through some really good things and some terribly awful things. He saw the end of King Josiah’s reign as King over the people of God. With King Josiah had come a revival. But after the death of King Josiah, came a change in the heart of the people toward God. Habakkuk was witness to invasion by a conquering people. He saw judgment rain down on his people. He was foretelling of judgment that would come by God upon their oppressors, the Chaldeans. With the terrors that he had witnessed, he could have embraced the horror, the depression, the hopelessness, the lostness, but he didn’t. He was radical. Just think about it.
“An embrace” is the meaning behind Habakkuk’s name. He could have embraced what was going on around him, embraced the circumstances and gotten caught up in them by allowing them to control his character. He could have just acclimatized to the new culture, embraced it, and adapted to it and its gods. But he didn’t. He embraced God through it all, and he embraced Your character and conduct. He embraced every thought about You. He listened to Your words and kept his eyes on Your vision, the vision of You.
That embrace is apparent in chapter 3. You would think that this prophet would just write about You or tell about You vehemently to get people to believe and hope or change their ways. But what Habakkuk does is write a song. “I’m going to sing a song that tells about the greatness of You, God, and what You are preparing to do. I am going to write a song and give it to those who make it into music to be sung by others. And then they will teach others to join in and sing this song.” How do I know that? Because verse 1 tells me this was his prayer upon Shigionoth. Easton’s Bible Dictionary tells us shiggayon “denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.” That’s pretty radical thinking, isn’t it? In the midst of rough times, looking forward to God’s victory and restoration, but still in the midst of the tragedy, he sings.
But what is the song about? What is this song I should be able to sing? It’s a song about the fear of the Lord, this God who puts nations in place and removes them in His timing. It’s about a God who in the midst of His wrath never forgets mercy. It’s about a Holy God whose glory covers the expanse of the heavens and whose praise fills the earth. It’s about a God whose brightness outshines the sun and who has real power coming out of His hands yet He controls that power and withholds it as He wills. He is what everything is measured against. The mountains and the water, the sun and the moon tremble at Your voice and obey more readily than we do. But You don’t go forth for the salvation of the mountains and water and sun and moon. You come and go to the extremes for the salvation of Your people, for every one who will one day turn to You as their only salvation and as their only hope.
This is the attitude, this is the character of those who believe and trust in You, the God who uses nations to bring His people back into relationship with Him. This ought to be our attitude toward the God who rebukes nations for their treatment of His people. This ought to be the character of those who love You and owe everything to You, the God who all of nature obeys. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
I want to thank You, Lord, for using Habakkuk to speak to the people of his day and to speak to me today. I want to be continually reminded that no matter what else, You are what matters most. I could lose everything, yet You are still my God. Of all things that could turn against me or could be stripped from me, it won’t be You because You are ever faithful and everlasting. You are worth more than the figs on the trees or the fruit on the vines or the olives or the flocks or the herds. They may sustain me for a time, but only temporarily. You sustain me forever and ever in You. So even when my life is threatened, I still have reason to rejoice because though I die, yet shall I live. (John 11:25) Like Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) I think Habakkuk had that same notion about God. And Job got it too when he said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)
The thing is, we usually are in the process of learning, like Job, who wanted to argue his righteousness before God. We get caught up in arguing why these things shouldn’t happen to us. Lord, this is why I shouldn’t have this sickness, or why my loved one shouldn’t die, or why I shouldn’t lose my job, or why these people shouldn’t block my goals, or why my husband or wife should respond this way. The list goes on and on. But if we saw things the way Habakkuk saw the reality of You, we wouldn’t have room to complain any more because we would hear Your voice and our bodies would tremble at Your holiness and power and mercy. Our own lips would quiver at the sound because we’d think of what has come out of them and disappointed Your holiness. Rottenness would enter our bones and our legs would tremble as we saw ourselves for who we are apart from You. We would look a lot more like the ones we want justice met upon than we would ever care to. But the good news is, if we start realizing that You alone are our righteousness and wholehearted surrender is the only way to experience the fullness of You, then I can begin to learn to quietly wait for You and Your day. Then I can learn to rejoice in You, the God of my every moment salvation. Then I will surrender to let You be my strength. Then I will let You lead my attitudes and invade my character. So I guess it’s not just about You invading the enemy. It’s about You being invited by me to invade me with Your Spirit so that Your character becomes mine, so that I can sing and rejoice where others balk.