Habakkuk 3:16-19

Sermon preached on January 19, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In the early 90's John and Peggy G. lived in Rensselaer Falls and their house burned down. I remember that day. It was about 3:30 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon when I got a call from Doug. At the time Doug lived near Rensselaer Falls and he was on his way home from school on a back road when he saw smoke in that area. He wasn't sure it was John and Peggy's house but he phoned me and told me that he thought it was. I went right over there and when I arrived the fire department was there and a bit of a crowd and the house was going up in flames. There was nothing they could do to save it. Both John and Peggy were at work so they were both safe but they did lose a dog and some puppies in the fire. I think it was just after I got there that John arrived. For a few minutes he just stood there with us and we all watched it burn. It wasn't long after that that John started singing a hymn. I can't remember what hymn it was, but he started singing praises to God while his house was burning down.

It was incredible. Watching your house burn down, losing your house, your possessions is one of the most traumatic things you can go through. There are some things that are worse, great sickness in a family, death—those things are much worse. Yet I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose your home.

John's singing was impressive. Could you praise God when you've lost everything? Would you lift your voice high in the midst of losing your home to fire?

I'm sure the non-Christians that heard John singing must have thought there was something wrong with him.

In our text the Holy Spirit shows us how deep our love for God is to be. The truth that we see in our text is that

you should praise God even when everything good is taken away from you.

Consider what Habakkuk says here.

"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."

The book of Habakkuk describes the great disaster that came upon the nation of Judah when the Babylonians invaded. This came upon Judah because of the sin and disobedience of the people. 2 Chronicles 36:15–21 records why the nation of Judah fell. It says,

"The Lord, the God of their fathers,
sent word to them through
his messengers again and again,
because he had pity on his people
and on his dwelling place.
But they mocked God's messengers,
despised his words and scoffed
at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord
was aroused against his people
and there was no remedy.
He brought up against them
the king of the Babylonians,
who killed their young men
with the sword in the sanctuary,
and spared neither young man
nor young woman, old man or aged.
God handed all of them
over to Nebuchadnezzar.
He carried to Babylon all the articles
from the temple of God,
both large and small,
and the treasures of the Lord's temple
and the treasures of the king
and his officials.
They set fire to God's temple
and broke down the wall of Jerusalem;
they burned all the palaces and
destroyed everything of value there.
He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant,
who escaped from the sword,
and they became servants to him
and his sons until the kingdom
of Persia came to power.
The land enjoyed its sabbath rests;
all the time of its desolation it rested,
until the seventy years were completed
in fulfillment of the word
of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah."

So when Habakkuk predicted that the fig tree would not bud, and there would be no grapes, that there would be no cattle in the stalls—he's not talking about some hypothetical possibility. O. Palmer Robertson, writes, (The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, NICOT; p. 245)

"The passage describes a series of facts that shall transpire. These dreadful things shall happen."

Robertson goes on to say that the fig true, the grapes and the olive oil represent 'the choicest products of the land', while the grain of the fields, the flocks and the cattle 'encompass the necessities of bread, milk, and meat.' (p. 245)

The people that were left in the land, during which God gave the land its Sabbath rests, were facing starvation. That's the context here.

So what does Habakkuk do?

The first thing we see is that

he says that he will exult joyfully in God.

He says,

"yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."

There are two words that he uses here to show the heights of his joy in God.

There are several things to note here.

First, he tells us that he is going to have great joy.

He rejoices in the Lord. The Hebrew word that is translated 'rejoice' does not refer to having a little bit of joy. It means, 'to exult, triumph'. It is sometimes translated, 'jubilant', indicative of great rejoicing. For example, in Psalm 96 the Psalmist is urging the creation to rejoice because the Lord is coming to judge the earth. If we add to this the New Testament thought of Romans 8 that the whole creation is groaning in bondage, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed and the whole creation to be liberated from its bondage to decay—the psalmist is urging the creation to have great joy. Psalm 96:12 says,

"let the fields be jubilant,
and everything in them."

Great jubilation is called for.

We see the same thing in Psalm 28 where David praises God because God has heard his cry for help. David says, (verse 7)

"My heart leaps for joy and I will
give thanks to him in song."

His heart exults. It's the same Hebrew word. It's used in Psalm 68:4 which says,

"Sing to God,
sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds—
his name is the LORD—
and rejoice before him."

The second Hebrew word that is used also conveys the idea of great joy. It's usage in two places shows us that. For example, it's used in Zechariah 9:9 which is a prediction of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It says, (Zechariah 9:9)

"Rejoice greatly,
O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Wow. What an occasion for great joy. How the people should have been rejoicing on Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.

The second place it's used is in Isaiah 65:18 where God says that He will create a new heavens and a new earth. God then said to His people,

"But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem
to be a delight and its people a joy."

Can there be any greater rejoicing for God's people than that of the new creation when He tells them that it will be for them?

So this rejoicing that Habakkuk tells us that he will give to God—it's rejoicing of the greatest kind.

How can this be? How can Habakkuk rejoice when he sees great suffering coming on him and on Judah?

Verse 16 shows us that Habakkuk is already feeling the hurt.

"I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, (From Fear to Faith, p. 70)

"The prophet is in a state in which he is unable to control his physical reactions. He cannot stop trembling, try as he will."

So how does Habakkuk know that He will be able to rejoice and have joy? There are two things here.

First, note carefully what Habakkuk says. He's not just going to exult and have joy—notice how he says that he will rejoice in the Lord, he will be joyful in God his Savior. It is the Sovereign Lord who is his strength.

Habakkuk knows He will be able to exult because of who God is.

He has faith in God as revealed in the Scriptures. He's going to exult in 'Yahweh'. Yahweh is the name of God that revealed to Moses at the burning bush. It is the covenant name for God. It stresses his sovereignty. He is the great I am. He will be what He will be. It also stresses His faithfulness. He told Moses that He will be for him what He had been for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Herman Bavinck says that God is telling Moses, (The Doctrine of God, p. 105-106)

"he will be what he has been for the patriarchs, what he is now, and what he will remain: for his people he will be everything. The One who appears to Moses is not a new or a strange God, but is the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable the Immutable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, the One who never leaves or forsakes his people but ever seeks his own and ever saves them, who is unchangeable in his grace, in his love, in his succor, who will be what he is, since he ever remaineth himself."

He is the faithful one. We see an example of this in Joseph's life. Genesis 39 tells us how Joseph was thrown into prison after Potiphar's wife falsely accused him. We read, (Genesis 39:21, ESV)

"But the LORD was with Joseph
and showed him steadfast love
and gave him favor in the sight
of the keeper of the prison."

God's 'steadfast' love was with Joseph. His loving kindness was with him.

The second word that Habakkuk uses to address God here is Elohim. This is the name for God used in Genesis 1:1. He is the great creator. It points to God as the strong and mighty one. It, (Bavinck, p. 100)

"describes the Divine Being in his original relationship, and in his continuous causal relationship to the universe."

Then in verse 19 Habakkuk puts the word, 'Sovereign' with the name Yahweh. This is God's name, 'Adonai' which refers to God's rule. He is the Ruler, to whom everything is subject. That's what Habakkuk knew his God was like.

Secondly, Habakkuk knows he will rejoice in God because he has faith.

John Calvin writes,

"our joy shall not depend on outward prosperity; for though the Lord may afflict us in an extreme degree, there will yet be always some consolation to sustain our minds, that they may not succumb under evils so grievous; for we are fully persuaded, that our salvation is in God's hand, and that he is its faithful guardian."

One of the major themes of the book of Habakkuk is of that the righteous are to live by faith. The book of Habakkuk deals with a great difficulty. He looks around and sees that the wicked are prospering. He asks God why this is so. God replies that He will judge the wickedness of Judah by having the Babylonians are invade Judah. God says He is going to judge the wicked people of Judah with an instrument even more wicked than the sinful people of Judah. That's hard to understand. It seems that those who are really wicked are the ones that prosper. Then in Habakkuk 2:4 God says,

"See, he is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous will live by his faith."

That's what God told Habakkuk—that he had to live by faith. That's what we need to do. When it seems that God has abandoned us, when it seems that His promises could not possibly come true—we are to have faith. We are to believe.

Even when things seem to be at their worst, there is hope. God still rules and He will save His people. Habakkuk knew that, (Raymond B Dillard and Tremper Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 413)

"in spite of all appearances to the contrary, and no matter how difficult conditions might become, he must continue to believe, continue to trust the promises of God and have confidence that the Lord of all the earth would do right (Hab. 3:16–19). Habakkuk was learning to live by faith (2:4). In the face of calamity, the prophet was learning to sing the praise of his redeemer and Lord."

That's what Abraham teaches us. In Hebrews 11:17–19 we read,

"By faith Abraham,
when God tested him,
offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
He who had received the promises
was about to sacrifice
his one and only son,
even though God had said to him,
It is through Isaac that
your offspring will be reckoned.
Abraham reasoned that
God could raise the dead,
and figuratively speaking,
he did receive Isaac back from death."

Anne Askew was burnt at the stake at Smithfield, London, aged 26, on 16 July 1546. She was burnt after being tortured on the rack. At one point, either during her torture or execution, when they were trying to get her to recant, she said,

"I am not come hither to deny my Lord and Master."

You need to have faith like that.

The third thing that enabled Habakkuk to have faith was the fact that

he knew that if you have God, you have everything.

In Matthew 13:44–46 Jesus said,

"The kingdom of heaven is
like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it,
he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and
sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is
like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
When he found one of great value,
he went away and sold everything
he had and bought it."

If you have Christ you have everything. How much does He love you? He died for you. You were a sinner and he did that for you.

If you don't know Jesus, you need to go to him. Yes, you probably have many good things of this world. But if you don't have Jesus, you will lose them.

Go to Jesus today.