Joy of eternal duration!
What is the thing in your life that brings you your deepest joy? I was very joyful this past week when my children and grandchildren visited us from Michigan and my mom stayed with us for the Easter weekend. Family is one of the most important sources of joy that we can ever experience. But Habakkuk in his short little book that we have been considering in recent blogs describes a joy that goes beyond just family connections. Remember that Habakkuk had begun his prophecy asking God, “Why don’t you do something about the prevailing evil in Judah?” God then told him that he was going to do something, that God planned to bring the Babylonians into judge the nation of Judah. This was a very shocking response for Habakkuk but remember his words at the end of his prophecy when he writes, “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. For the director of music, on my stringed instruments,” (Hab.3:17-19 NIV). This is an amazing response of faith to the very bad news that God has told Habakkuk. But let us consider for a few moments the lessons of joy that we see from Habakkuk’s response.
First of all, we see that joy can be independent of earthly possessions. He states in verse 18a, “I will rejoice in the Lord,”. Habakkuk’s eyes were not focused on the circumstances that were approaching, but rather were focused on God. His rejoicing is not based on earthly possessions, but on the God who cared for him. It’s wise for us to consider how uncertain all our material possessions are. Habakkuk’s weak physical state contrasted with his incredible spiritual strength. In the midst of the bad news about this judgment on Judah, God was Habakkuk’s everlasting fountain of bliss. He’s saying that when the silo is empty God is still the fullness of joy for His child. Those who enjoy God in all things can enjoy all things in God. The Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts is better than grapes on the vine. The inadequacies of external objects to furnish our soul with rational fulfillment is demonstrated in the disappointment of those who have made the acquiring of things and fame the chief end of their lives. Think of the number of high-profile suicides in recent years of people who had all the things that leads the world to call them successful.
We also see that Habakkuk found his joy in the Lord when he writes, “I will be joyful in God my Savior”, (v.18b). This joy implies a deep knowledge of the God of the universe. You can’t rejoice in the Lord unless you know Him. In Exodus 15, following the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptians, Israel broke out in a song of praise. Habakkuk supposes the loss of all things and yet he had unwavering faith in God and a supreme love for God. Christianity is not a system of laws and regulations and burdens, but rather it is celebration of the kindness and great love of God for us through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. When we cheerfully enter into our service and ministry to one another and bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ we are bringing a pleasing sacrifice to our God. There is one message that Habakkuk had come to realize – that he could trust God even when he didn’t understand or comprehend what God was doing. Have you come to the place of personal growth where you can say this is true in your life?
When Habakkuk referred to “God as his Savior”, (v.18b) he was also teaching us to have true joy in our salvation. God is an inexhaustible source and infinite spirit of joy. Because He is the God of our salvation and has done all that He could to make eternal life possible for us, we too can have deep joy in our lives. It was in the God of his salvation that Habakkuk rejoiced. That can be the object of our confidence and joy as well, when we think of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us, even in the face of the stresses and difficulties, we can find comfort and encouragement. The highest subject for our consideration is God Himself, His attributes and His works. Can we learn to trust Him in those most difficult of places, as Habakkuk did?
Finally, we see that Habakkuk would teach us that we need to have joy in anticipation of God’s work. Notice the statement in verse 19 where we read, “the Sovereign Lord is my strength”. The term “Sovereign Lord” is a very remarkable statement of faith in God’s blessing even in the very midst of disaster. Habakkuk openly declares the source of his joy and strength, and he believes that if God strengthens us nothing can weaken us. He even illustrates that for us by talking about having “feet like the feet of a deer”. The deer here is a picture of strength, surefooted, speed and beauty. Deer have the ability of walking securely and silently on steep and slippery summits. For a short season when I lived in Michigan, I took up deer hunting, but I never came close to shooting any deer, as they were always so quiet when I was anywhere near them. The Christian life is not only one of joy, but it is also one of progress. We are to be climbing from one place of grace to another, laying hold on the beauty of our Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The high places here represent the best things in life and experience. At the high places we are at a point of vision where we have a clear view of divine truth. Habakkuk came to see that God lifted him to a high place of seeing how truly great the living God is, even when we can’t understand what He is doing. Habakkuk had come to a place of deep conviction that was rooted in faith that the existence of our personal and benevolent God can produce joy in our lives, even in the face great difficulty. Have you come to that place yet in your spiritual journey?
All for God’s glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo