“Recipe for Rejoicing”

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hill. (Hab. 3:17-19)

The pocket-sized book of Habakkuk tackles one of the toughest questions ever asked in the Christian life; can a good God be trusted when there are so many bad things happening?

The prophet Habakkuk lived during a particularly bleak time in the history of Judah. The book opens with him complaining to God that he sees violence and injustice throughout Israel, yet no punishment is visited upon the evildoers (1:1-4). The Lord’s reply is not what Habakkuk had expected. God states that He has a plan to discipline His wayward nation, but the tool of chastisement He will use against the rebellious children of Judah is the Chaldean’s (1:5-11). This leaves Habakkuk further perplexed, for the Chaldean’s (Babylonians) were a much more depraved people than his Jewish brethren. The puzzled prophet asks how a holy God can use these wicked heathens to discipline a people who are so much more righteous than they (1:12-17)? Habakkuk huffily ascends to his watchtower and awaits God’s response. There, the Lord shares with this surly servant that His plan and will come to pass shortly (whether Habakkuk likes it or not). And those who trust in the Lord must embrace His plans even when they do not make sense or feel good (2:1-4).The name Habakkuk means one who embraces or clings. Embracing the new light he has received, Habakkuk proceeds to divinely deliver five woes against the ills Judah’s society suffers from (2:5-20). However, Habakkuk ends his oracle with one of the most faith filled prayers in all of the Old Testament. In his prayer he embraces God’s will, placing his unwavering trust in the Lord’s plan, no matter the outcome (3:1-19).

I sympathize with Habakkuk’s slowness to accept God’s sovereignty. How hard it is for the flesh to truly be content with the gift of eternal life, spiritual salvation. We are quick to put our trust in what we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Like Habakkuk, we are discouraged when our senses perceive negativity and encouraged when our senses are stimulated positively.

In Luke chapter ten, the seventy disciples showed this same frailty, returning with joy from their missionary excursion, exclaiming, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Jesus’ response was meant to shift their perspective from the temporal to the eternal, “do not rejoice in this, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

In Ephesians chapter three Paul shared how he prayed for the church at . He did not pray for tangible blessings upon them, instead he pleaded with the Father that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is only when this prayer is applied to the lives of those of us who believe that we are granted the ability to see things from a God’s-eye view and experience an inner contentment that is not contingent on circumstances. Truly, as Paul write to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain (1Timothy 6:6).” Contentment comes when we ascertain that nothing catches our all-knowing Father by surprise, His ways are most certainly higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), in every situation He is working out His purposes for the furtherance of His glory and, above all, that His grace alone is sufficient for you and me (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is then that we can, “rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4).”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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