Summary: In these final verses the prophet Habakkuk shows us how to stand strong in true joy the next time the winds of adversity blow our way.
This is the sixth and final message in my series titled, “Making Sense of Today’s News.” Let us read Habakkuk 3:16-19:
16 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.
17 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,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:16-19)
Benjamin Franklin, though not a Christian, always had a deep admiration for the Bible. While in Paris, France, as an ambassador for the United States, he found himself being mocked by several skeptics for his appreciation of the Scriptures. So he decided to find out how well these skeptics knew the book they professed to scorn. One evening he approached them with a manuscript that contained an ancient poem he said he had been reading. He told them he had been impressed with its stately beauty. They asked to hear it. He then read to them Habakkuk 3:17-18.
Franklin reported that his reading was received with “exclamations of extravagant admiration.” They said, “What a magnificent piece of verse! Franklin, where did you find that? How can we get copies?” He took great joy then by informing them that they could all obtain copies quite easily by turning to Habakkuk 3:17-18!
Today I invite you to examine that same passage of ancient Scripture with me so that we might discover together the answer to the question, “What is it that makes these verses so magnificent?” I believe it is the courageous way that Habakkuk had learned to embrace all of his adversities and still have true joy in life.
As we come today to our final study of Habakkuk, I want you to see that the key to Habakkuk’s experience of joy in the face of adversity was his faith! In the trenches of real-life struggles, Habakkuk had learned a lot about the nature of true faith in God.
Over the last several weeks we have followed this personal and somewhat painful journey of the prophet after he learned that the Babylonians were about to invade and attack his nation. And we have seen him progressively transformed by God from the point of a paralyzing fear to a mature faith.
In these final verses I want you to see two faith facts so that you will be prepared to stand strong in true joy the next time the winds of adversity blow your way.
I. True Faith Often Includes an Element of Fear (3:16a)
First, true faith often includes an element of fear.
Habakkuk wrote, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled” (3:16a).
Habakkuk no longer had any theological or philosophical problems like he did earlier. He saw everything now with perfect clarity. But even so, he was still very afraid about the Babylonian invasion that God had told him was coming.
Note the many anatomical terms he used to describe his fear. He says his heart pounded, his lips quivered, decay crept into his bones, and his legs trembled. He used these terms to show that he was shaking with fear throughout his whole being.
“Now, wait a second!” you say, “I thought you just said that Habakkuk had finally come to a mature faith. What is all this fear business then? Surely a person of true faith doesn’t have fear like that? Or does he?”
A fallacy going around today is that true faith is never accompanied by fear, that the concepts of faith and fear are antithetical and incompatible. And yet we see in this verse that nothing could be further from the truth. We discover here that this mighty prophet of God, this great man of faith, trembled like a leaf in the face of his threatening circumstances.
God’s greatest men and women of faith have often been those who at their most intense times of testing found themselves racked with fear.
We find in the pages of Scripture that Abraham, that great father of the faithful, knew time and time again what it meant to be fearful when he faced the uncertainty of his future. King David admitted that at times his heart was failing him in spite of his faith. The prophet Jeremiah felt at times that he just could not face the obstacles that were before him. John the Baptist, while languishing in prison, found himself struggling with fear at what was lying ahead.