This verse, read independent of its surrounding verses, speaks of joy and worship and delight in the Lord. And yet, when taken in context, it is an even richer testimony of faith and giving thanks in all circumstances, especially circumstances that appear less than, that appear intended to undermine our hope and our trust in God’s promises.
Here is the verse in its full context:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (For the choir director: This prayer is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)” Habakkuk 3:17-19 NLT
Read in the context of these surrounding verses, the fact that the writer exclaims his vow to rejoice in the Lord as well as to be joyful takes on a much different interpretation, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to rejoice in the Lord because He is the Lord; it is another thing altogether to rejoice in the Lord despite circumstances under which we typically would not give thanks or be joyful. Under circumstances, in fact, that might cause us to shake our fist at the Lord rather than to give Him thanks.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty. Did you catch that phrase? Even though.
Of course, the things described within these verses do not hold as much meaning for us as they did for the writer, but we have our own lists of things that are equally important to us, don’t we? Things that define who we are in the world and to the world: our job; our income and finances; the home in which we live; the cars we drive; the successes we’ve had; the accomplishments of our children. The list of what matters to us and what defines us is long.
And from within the comfort of the things on these lists, it is easy to give thanks and be joyful. But, what if that list of things begins to dwindle? What if the even though statements the writer makes in these verses were applied to us and our list of riches and blessings?
Even though I lose my job and do not know what tomorrow brings;
Even though our income is cut or our finances take hits because Wall Street falters and stocks plummet and we thought we had it all figured out;
Even though we lose our home and our cars and we all we can do is declare bankruptcy;
Even though all we see is loss and emptiness and failure and fear, God is with us still and therefore we can rejoice and, yes, even be joyful.
God is our refuge and He is sovereign and He knows the number of hairs on our head. God is with us, still and always. Because He loves us and He cares intimately for us.
If we turn to Him, He is our strength. If we turn to Him, He will raise us up and lead us on paths of righteousness and we will see His goodness. Achievements and financial stability and carving out a niche for ourselves in this world are good things; but they don’t define us and they do not provide us ultimate security.
When we become a child of the One True King, we become so much more than a list of the things we have collected. We become an heir to the promises of the eternal, sovereign God. We become an heir to His righteousness and His kingdom. In other words, we are defined by His love, His grace, His delight in us.
Even though I have not all I thought I would or should, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
I pray that these words will remind you today how much you are loved and that the God who created the world cares intimately for you.