The Long Look


I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us (Hab. 3:16).

What a difference in the prophet’s attitude now! Gone were the accusations that God was seemingly indifferent; gone was the frustration with his own people for their unrestrained wickedness; gone was the confusion about God’s ways. God had taken him step by step through a process from fear to faith. He was now on God’s side, watching the unfolding of history and recognising the purposes of God in the rise and fall of empires because God had given him understanding.

This did not lessen his fear of the immediate future. His description of his physical reaction is realistic and vivid. He did not underestimate the terrible suffering the Babylonians would inflict on his people.

But, at the same time, his perspective had changed. He was no longer angry and frustrated because his people had forsaken the Lord and were as wicked as their neighbours and God was doing nothing about it. He now knew that God was not indifferent and that He had planned a strategy which would shake them out of their stubborn rebellion and disobedience and bring them back to faith in Him as their covenant God.

Not only did Habakkuk express his fear of what was soon to fall on his people, he also expressed his willingness to look beyond the devastation to the day when just retribution would fall on the evil nation that God would use to whip His people. God’s promise of perfect justice brought him comfort and reassured him that God was still in charge, no matter how bad things appeared to be. No one would get away with wickedness because God rules in justice and truth over all the earth.

This reassurance caused him to break out in a song of praise and an expression of confidence in God that rose above earthly events to the realm of God’s everlasting nature – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. Yes, He would punish His people by confirming to them the consequences of their waywardness. Yes, He would deal justly with all parties, even those who inflicted punishment on them but, in the end, God was still their God and a shelter for those who trust Him even in the midst of the worst that could happen.

And so Habakkuk concluded his dialogue with God with a song that anyone can sing with confidence even when it seems that the sky has fallen on their heads!

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 be 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 Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights (Hab. 3: 17-19).

This is the expression of the highest level of trust that anyone can have in God. It’s not about whether everything is going well for me. It’s not about how much He has done for me or what He can do for me.  It’s not about whether He has answered my prayers or not. It’s not about how blessed I am or not. It’s about Him. In the end, everything that happens about me and to me is God painting His bigger picture, writing His bigger story.

Instead of my being the centre of the universe and everything revolving around me, God is the centre of it all and everything is designed to work out His universal plan – the one He started at the beginning and the one He will complete when Jesus returns to bring it all together.

On the strength of that, Habakkuk could sing. No matter how rough the terrain he had to climb, God had equipped him with enough grace to climb the heights. He had given him “the feet of a deer”. Like a mountain goat he had the confidence to navigate the precipices and not fall because he was sustained by the promise that God was working to all out for His glory and the good of His people.

Can you sing, like the prophet, on the highest cliffs and the most dangerous places, when everything in your life has fallen apart and you are, as it were, staring down the barrel of a gun – physically, economically, relationally, whatever – “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour”? 

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Luella Campbell

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