God is good and God is sovereign, and in addition we must never forget that He is good all the time, and sovereign all the time. In our passage this morning, we begin with a staggering display of His sovereignty, and the passage ends with Habakkuk able to rest in His goodness.
“. . . Although the fig tree shall not blossom, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labour of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no meat; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall 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, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, And he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Hab. 3:1–19).
Outline of the Book
Remember the overall structure. Habakkuk complains about injustice in Judah (1:2-4). God answers by promising the invading armies of Babylon (1:5-11). Habakkuk says that this is no improvement (1:12-17). God tells him to wait. Wait. The just shall live by faith (2:1-5). God then gives an answer to the second complaint (2:6-20). The great force of Jehovah’s army contrasts with the army of Babylon (3:1-15). Habakkuk finally resolves his dilemma (3:16-19).
Summary of the Text
The prayer of Habakkuk is offered up (v. 1). He prays that God would finish what He had begun (v. 2). Revive your work. In wrath remember mercy. Teman and Paran were near Mt. Sinai, and this appears to be the import here—God came from Teman, and His glory was great (v. 3). God manifested His power, and even while holding it back, brightness suffused all, and horns came out of His hand (v. 4). Calvin calls the pestilence and burning coals “God’s officers.” This is likely referring to the deliverance out of Egypt (v. 5). God measures the earth, divides the nations, scatters the mountains and the everlasting hills bow low (v. 6). His ways are everlasting. The Jews are to be encouraged by remembering the great victories over Cushan and Midian (v. 7).
When God dried up the Jordan so Israel could cross over, was He angry with the river? Or was He delivering His people (v. 8)? God pulls out His bow, and again, this is for the deliverance of His people (v. 9). Mountains are afraid of the armies of Jehovah (v. 10). When God’s glittering spears went by, the sun and moon stood still (v. 11). God went through the land, and He threshed the heathen in His anger (v. 12). God went out in His strength in order to save His people, and to do so with His Christ (v. 13). He captured all the regional towns, even though the unbelievers came out like a whirlwind (v. 14). God went through the Red Sea with His horses; the waters were gathered in a heap (v. 15). And the next phrase brings us to a strange fusion—the prophet is overwhelmed with an abject fear, and with the kind of fear which is the strongest possible foundation for a great hope (v. 16).
And so Habakkuk comes at the last to his hope. Even though everything seems lost and gone (v. 17), yet he will rejoice in the God of his salvation (v. 18). God the Lord is his strength, and He will make us walk in the high places (v. 19).
As Scriptures Describe It
As the just live by faith, they are called upon to wait. What are they to do while they wait? They are to see? And what should they see? They should see with their mind’s eye, with their imagination, the majesty of God as Scripture describes Him.
Picture the fist of God holding a bright fury that looks like lightning, and radiates everything. The ends of whatever it is come out and bend around like horns. The armies of Jehovah march by and the Grand Tetons flinch. The light glints off the tips of these millions of spears, and the sun and moon stand agape.
The right kind of poetic imagination is in fact the fear of God.
Our God is Able
When the three Israelite captives are threatened with the furnace in the book of Daniel, they reply that God is able to deliver them. But they also say, regardless of whether God delivers them, they are not going to bow down to the idol in any case (Dan. 3:17-18). God is able to deliver us, but we will serve Him whether He does or not. God is able to deliver us, and we will serve Him while we wait for that deliverance, even when it may appear to us that the deliverance got interrupted on the way.
And so this is the confidence that Habakkuk ends with. We are talking about a complete crop failure, which means that we would have no way to sustain ourselves. Though the fig does not blossom. Though the vines bear no fruit. Though the olive trees do not produce. Though the fields produce nothing. Though the flocks do not return to the fold. Though the stalls in the barns are clean and empty. Though we look around us, and see nothing but bare wasteland in every direction. What?
Habakkuk says that he will rejoice in the Lord. He says he will joy in the God of his salvation. Notice that he is not rejoicing in what his eyes can see because all he can see with his eyes is miserable ruin. He trusts in God and, more than this, he rejoices—not in what God has done, but in what God will do. And what will God—his strength—do? He will make the believer’s feet like a deer’s feet on high places.
The wasteland is below. Christ is our high place, and we have been set securely there. It doesn’t matter what failures are going on down below. What matters is what is happening where God has placed us. And God has placed us on Christ.