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.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength,
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)
In the Old Testament, God’s hand of blessing and approval was made manifest through His abundant provision of visible resources. These are characterized by Habakkuk as figs, grapes, olives, grain, sheep and cattle. Whenever the Israelites departed from the Lord, these would be withheld for a time. Upon their return to the Lord, these provisions would again be granted. In our day, the Lord not only provides His grace to us in the provisions as mentioned by Habakkuk, but He also showers His grace upon the work done in His name. This is manifested by what we would term as visible results of the ministry to which He has called us. These include the people who come to know the Lord, the changes that take place in the lives of His followers, and the enlargement of the scope of the ministry He has given. Although sin in the lives of His servants may prevent these blessings in our ministry, it seems that periodically the ministry to which we are called may seem dry and barren. Have you ever experienced, for example, discouragement over the lack of interest of people in the gospel? Have you been disheartened in how few followers of Christ manifest change in their lives? Have you contemplated with dismay how few there are who have a hunger to know God’s word and who are willing to pray faithfully?
There was a time in my life about thirty years ago when I was greatly discouraged. Few people were coming to the Lord. Those who had made a profession were manifesting little change in their lives. Even those who had at one time been faithful to share the gospel with others were now content to live like the rest of the world. Fewer people were interested in studying the Bible and memorizing scripture. The more I thought about this, the more discouraged I became. It was at this time reading through Habakkuk that I came to the last three verses in his short book. As I looked carefully at what the prophet was saying, I began to see that the focus of my life was misdirected. My eyes were inclined to look at the results of the ministry, not at the Lord himself. I was contemplating the visible, not the invisible; consumed by the temporal, instead of the eternal. My desire had been to enjoy the gifts instead of the Giver. The more I thought about this, I realized that in His great love, He was removing me from that which is of transient enjoyment (changeable) to that which is permanent enjoyment (unchangeable). He wanted to satisfy me with Himself, not with His gifts. He knew, infinitely better than I did, that my heart was designed to be fully satisfied only in Him. In His Grace and Mercy, He had withheld for a time what came from His Hand, that I might walk hand in hand with Him.
In Habakkuk’s experience, he describes his realization of the sufficiency of the Lord in these terms. “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful 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 on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:18-19) G. Campbell Morgan, in one of his sermons as recorded in the Westminster Pulpit, describes the passage from the literal expression of the Hebrew words in this manner.
“The words he made use of are remarkable words; ‘I will rejoice in the Lord,’
I hope I shall produce no shock when I translate them literally. Take the first
Hebrew word and express it quite literally, and this is it: I will jump for joy in
the Lord. Take the second of the words and translate it with equal literalness,
and this is it: I will spin around in the God of my salvation.”
When our oldest granddaughter was barely two years old, we met her at an outlet mall in Iowa. Her mother had planned to meet us there and had not told our granddaughter that we were coming. I can still remember the reaction of our granddaughter as we entered the McDonalds near the mall. When she saw us, she broke into a wide smile, and began jumping up and down. She kept on jumping repeatedly even after we had walked over to her. Her joy and excitement at seeing us could not be contained. This, I think, is a vivid picture of what Habakkuk is describing. Considering her response in light of this passage in Habakkuk, we should ask ourselves “Do we have this joy in the presence of our Lord?” “Do we have such excitement that we jump and spin around?” “Do we know Him well enough that we are able to trust Him to always work in our lives that which is for our eternal good and for His Glory?” If so, then like Habakkuk, we will be able to wait for His supply of Grace to be made manifest in and through our lives. Indeed, this trust will change our view of these so called low points so that we may view them no longer as valleys, but see them as high points of revelation of the Lord to our lives as described in the Amplified Bible. “The Lord God is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds feet, and will make me to walk (not to stand still in terror, but to walk) and make (Spiritual) progress upon my high places (of trouble, suffering or responsibility)!