Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.
(Habakkuk 3: 17 – 19)
On Saturday we read these extraordinarily pertinent words as part of our daily morning prayer. Habakkuk is prophesying about a nation and country that will be destroyed by war and by the betrayal of their calling. He foresees the rise of Babylon, its invasion of Judah and the devastation and the subjugation this will bring. All seems hopeless and lost. Reading through the book day by day over the last week has seemed very familiar, like hearing about what is happening in the Middle East now. And alongside the reading, as we have interceded for the world, I have felt that same kind of dismay and powerlessness that I think most of us feel when we listen to what is happening in Iraq and Syria, let alone all the other theatres of war in our world.
But then Habakkuk surprises and jilts us into a different point of view in the very last verses of the last chapter. Suddenly we are looking out from a wider horizon. Almost seemingly as an effort at self-determination, Habakkuk states, that despite the signs he “will rejoice in the Lord; (he) will exult in the God of my salvation.” He reminds himself that God is his strength. With a determination to persevere in faith he states that he will not give up on hope for the future because ultimately God will be there to help him.
Habakkuk might have prophesised around 607 BC but his word is a gift and a challenge in our time. Encountering events as horrific and fearful as we see through our media, feeling the same kind of powerlessness we might feel, perhaps being tempted to give up on God or at least believe that God doesn’t care / isn’t interested, Habakkuk determines otherwise. His action reminds me of a message scrawled by a Jewish author who hid from the Nazis in a dark and damp cellar in Cologne, Germany, which was discovered not long after the end of World War II.
“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when not feeling it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.”
The biggest victory of evil is to destroy hope. The most effective response we can make is to determine to persevere in faith and hope, following Jesus, practicing the things of the kingdom: peace, mercy and justice and knowing that our strength lies ultimately not in ourselves but in God.