Habakkuk is one of those books seldom read. This is a great shame for not only is it part of Holy Scripture but also because it features in one of the most stimulating chapters in the Bible - Romans chapter one. Paul directly quotes from it as a means to establish his thinking in respect the righteousness of God as being revealed from faith to faith (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4).
This minor prophet also furnishes much for our spiritual gain. One of its prominent features is that of prayer. God's people ought to know that prayer is a must but how and why we pray when surrounded by outward chaos and threatening sorrow is when true prayer shows its face.
Habakkuk, a Judean Priest and a pre-exile Prophet from God, understood that the chastening Hand of God in the form of the Babylonian invasion was both imminent and unavoidable. However, there was always a reason to pray on. To pray on, not as one fumbling around in the dark but as one assured that the same God who delivered His own people throughout the ages would preserve His own work to the very end (Habakkuk 3:2-15). God keeps His own work alive.
This then is the true setting of Habakkuk's final but triumphant words:
'Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation' Habakkuk 3:17,18
It is here that a tested but unshakeable trust is witnessed. This trust is witnessed in its relationship to perceptible loss. None could deny what was about to come upon these people. The prophet himself both relays his own fear and trembling at such a prospect (3:2, 16). He understood that sin in the lives of those who professed to be God's had been incredibly sinful. His acute awareness of God's purer eyes while moving him to intercede on their behalf kept him from interfering in God's will (1:13). The chastening experience would happen but how would he and the people pray in response? The loss would be very real. It was expressed in their own relative experiences e.g. the fig not blossoming, no fruit on the vine etc. However, did this present loss mean permanent loss? Would noticeable and actual suffering mean that God had wiped His hands clean from His own promises? Of course not - this is why the word 'although' is of such value to us. It hints at much more than just hoping for the best. It reveals the true character of the believer's faith. Although the loss will happen yet I will trust Him. The practicality and sincerity of our faith and trust in God is more fully seen when set side by side with the loss of all things. That is how we measure it.
This trust is further seen in its resignation to Almighty God. Habakkuk sounds out this note of victory as he plants his flag upon the mountain of loss and pain, 'yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation'
The Christian's joy and rejoicing is never out of season. It is a fruit of the Spirit seen holding true during the cold, chilling nights of our pilgrimage when dark mornings and dark nights are all we see. It is seen just as clearly when all is bright and well. It is Biblical to exhort 'joy' and 'rejoicing' as an everyday experience. Yet many will respond,
'But I can't, it's not possible, I am depressed...'
And others will offer up their physical pain, which shows no sign of abating, as a reason why they cannot possibly rejoice. The call of Philippians 4:4 'rejoice in the Lord alway...' seems almost a word of mockery to some. Is rejoicing while sorrowing even possible? Of course it is, No where in God's Word are we asked to smile or laugh without ceasing. One of the most tragic mistakes made in Christendom is the idea that rejoicing in God and expressions of pleasure over temporal experiences are one and the same thing. They are clearly not. This man of God, Habakkuk, trembled in his bones over the judgment that was soon to fall but still was able to rejoice in something that no Babylonian invasion could take away - the God of his salvation. Dear believer the same holds true for you. Although our faith may be tested yet by virtue of an unfailing Christ we can respond with unshakeable trust, '...yet I will rejoice in the LORD'.