Habakkuk – Lesson 8
“Yet I will exult in the Lord”
(Look HERE for other lessons in this series)
I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
The physical trauma of the coming grief.
In verse 16 of chapter 3, we come to the end of Habakkuk’s prayer song in response to his conversations with God. The Lord has revealed to Habakkuk what the future will hold. There will be devastation and suffering at the hands of the evil Chaldeans as chastisement for Israel. Eventually, God will also judge the Chaldeans. But, first, Habakkuk and his people must suffer. The knowledge that Habakkuk has gained causes his body to react. Shaking, trembling, and weakness like a disease take over his body.
Have you ever faced something so devastating that it took its toll on your body or your health? I have not faced something as dire as knowing that my nation is going to be invaded and I am going to be taken captive by an evil nation. However, I have faced life and death situations and extremely upsetting situations with loved ones that have caused my body to react. While I was outwardly going through the same motions of normal life and inwardly doing my best to lean on the Lord, the greatness of the situation caused weakness, shakiness in my body. My mind went into a “maintain-the-bare-minimum” mode, where I couldn’t handle requests that went beyond the basics. It was just too much for my body to handle.
Everyday, Christians face even greater disasters than I have ever faced. Some have lost loved ones to murder or disease. Some suffer abuse daily. Many are being imprisoned, tortured, or even martyred for their faith. For many, their daily lives are just what Habakkuk is experiencing here– physical trauma to their body based on their earthly circumstances. It is not wrong or a lack of faith to react physically this way– Habakkuk was in the midst of declaring his great faith as he experienced these symptoms.
God has promised that in this world we WILL see tribulation. But, He has also promised that He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Waiting on the Lord.
At this point, Habakkuk has had his conversation with the Lord. He has asked questions, complained, and tried to comprehend. In the end, God speaks and ends all questioning. Now, Habakkuk must wait for what is coming. There is nothing more to say.
But, Habakkuk has LEARNED to wait on the Lord. He is no longer demanding that God answer, “How Long?” He knows that God’s timing is perfect, yet beyond comprehension. It will not delay, it is surely coming, and if it tarries, he must wait for it. (Habakkuk 2:3)
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
The worst case scenario.
In these verses, Habakkuk envisions the coming judgment as the worst that could happen to his nation. There would be no prosperity, no livelihood, no hope of future survival, if all of the crops were destroyed, and the livestock taken. The people of Judah would have nothing left of the whole civilization that they had built so far.
It is through times of great loss like this that we see where we really put our trust. Do we trust our current job? Or, do we maybe count on our long family heritage to see us through the hard times. Perhaps even, it is a full retirement account that makes us feel secure. But what if they were all taken away? What if, like Job, we were left with nothing on this earth before the Lord? What if, like Habakkuk, we knew that our whole nation would be taken captive and all our cities destroyed?
When the great depression began, and 14 billion dollars were lost in one day on Black Tuesday, many revealed that they were indeed trusting in their amassed fortunes for their security. When those fortunes were gone, they saw no hope in their future. Many took their lives by jumping out of the windows of tall buildings.
Such a total loss is what Habakkuk sees in the future for his nation. But, notice his response!
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
As Habakkuk waits, trembling and weak, destruction and total loss looming before him, He speaks one of the most beautiful praises of God and His salvation in Scripture! Through all that is happening, He will exult in the Lord. He will go beyond enduring. He will even rejoice!
This is Habakkuk’s true moment of shining faith. He now knows that there is nothing that he needs other than the Lord. He knows that the only thing that matters– his salvation before the Lord– can not be taken away. This alone is cause to rejoice!
I don’t think that Habakkuk felt like rejoicing– his body was traumatized by the upcoming events that he and his nation would face. His rejoicing, rather, was an act of his will. He chose to exult in the Lord in the face of his greatest trial in this world. That is a true example of faith.
His body has no strength. His bones feel weak and diseased. Yet, God will give him strength to be like a deer on the mountain. This is supernatural strength, beyond the circumstances he is dealing with.
Isaiah 40:31 tells us that there are benefits when we learn to wait upon the Lord. In fact, Isaiah has learned the same principle that Habakkuk is stating here– When we wait, fully trusting in the Lord, then God himself will give us strength like eagles soaring in the sky, like deer running on the mountains, to endure the future that is in store for us.
1. The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
I shared with the ladies in our Bible study that for many years as a new believer, I did not understand this concept. When hard times came, I did not doubt the Lord, but I thought that joy was an earthly emotion. So, if I was sad or suffering, I thought I had no joy. How, then could joy be my strength? I didn’t understand until God showed me, like he showed Habakkuk, that if everything I desired, everything I owned, and everything I loved in this earth were taken away– God would still be there. And, He is a good, loving, wonderful God. In fact, He is all that I need! Other things are merely extra blessings I can enjoy for a time. The joy of the Lord is our future, eternal joy, that nothing evil or painful in this world can destroy, because God himself protects it.
2. The process of growing in the Lord through difficult circumstances.
Sometimes we don’t understand when difficult trials come our way. We pray for God to solve the problems and take away the evil. But often, the point is that God wants us to grow through the circumstances. Habakkuk at the end of chapter 3 was a different man than at the beginning of chapter 1. He has grown in faith and wisdom because of the situation that he was in. His time spent seeking the Lord and struggling with His answers resulted in sanctification.
3. The peace of knowing that nothing in this world that can give you strength or security.
The details of this life can cause great stress. We worry about having enough money to live on, or we worry about family members in bad situations. Maybe we worry about health. All of those worries steal our peace. Yet, none of those things that we worry about can give security or strength. Only the Lord can give us peace and security.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. II Cor. 5:1”
4. The example of Jesus.
As I read about Habakkuk’s physical distress at the coming trials, I thought of Jesus praying in the garden before his crucifixion. The Bible records for us that Jesus prayed so hard that his sweat was like blood. The immensity of what was before Jesus took a great toll on the physical body that he lived in here on earth. Yet, Scripture also tells us that “for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.” Jesus shows that, it is not a lack of faith for our bodies to have physical symptoms from our circumstances. His body reacted to the upcoming trials and crucifixion by sweating blood.
Jesus was the ultimate example of looking not to present circumstances, but to future joy for the strength to live our lives.
As we close our study on the book of Habakkuk, I hope that we have all learned to look at our trials differently. That we can trust the Lord for any outcome, knowing that He is good. That we look beyond this world to the secure future provided by our salvation and there find our joy.
God Bless you! It was great studying with you all!