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 tread on the heights.
For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
We have already read that the purpose of Habakkuk’s writings is to inform the Israelites, and distinctly the righteous, of what is about to befall them. God has given him the prophecy that the Chaldeans will come and judge their nation, and then the Chaldeans will also be judged, but at a later time – a time not set. We know from history that all of this did indeed come to pass, and there was a remnant of Israel that was not killed, but dispersed throughout the surrounding lands.
In his prayer up to this point, Habakkuk recalls certain histories where God had delivered His people when times looked foreboding. This was to give those who put trust in Him hope, and certainty that God does fulfill His promises, and that they are His chosen people. The prophet also desires a call of repentance and knowing that this judgment of Israel is for a reason. If they had not strayed from their God then He would not need to judge them in such a way.
So now in verse 16 we see Habakkuk acting on behalf of those chosen by God to continue. He says his lips quivered and his body felt decayed at the sound of what means God would use for judgment. The words he uses create a great imagery of dread, of which we can all relate to some extent. Imagine that you knew your city was about to experience some horrible nuclear atrocity, but you also knew that there would be a remnant of people left who were followers of God. Would you not be scared? Would you not agonize over the why and how this could be? Would you not take it upon yourself to repent for the people as you knew they would ridicule you at the sound of this foreboding? But as we are called to do, Habakkuk resigns to trust and have faith in God.
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10
Once the decree has gone out from God’s lips there is no going back. His will must be done. The prophet has recalled all of God’s faithfulness to His people, and in that he must rest. There is no promise that Habakkuk will survive, but that is not something that scares him. God’s promises to us of an eternal life are not for this world but for the next. What should we fear if we know that we will always be with and in Him? Habakkuk is fearful for those who do not know the Lord. Verse 17 begins the prophet’s witnessing of the people that surround him. He first describes Israel as a fig tree with no buds, and a vine with no grapes.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” – John 15:1-2 (Words of Jesus)
It seems to the prophet that there are none who are worthy to be called branches, and none who produce fruit. He continues in seeming agony to describe this land without a crop. God has laid the foundations, and given the prophets and fathers of generations past to remind Israel over and over that they are His people, that they should follow and worship Him. But Habakkuk witnesses no such turning, and the fields are laid bare with no righteous crop.
“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” – Luke 8:15
He sees no followers of God, no sheep in His pen. The prophet speaks of there being no cattle, none set aside for God. But through his woes, Habakkuk reminds himself and the righteous who may read it, that faith is not seeing and believing, it just believes. He puts his eyes upon the Lord, and places his trust in the One he knows works everything out in His time. Verse 18 brings the conclusion of all that Habakkuk has been witness to. In all the knowledge of what is to come, and what lay uncertain, he rejoices in the Lord.
The Sovereign Lord – the God who is in control, and who does not make mistakes – is the one who has delivered this prophecy, and who will bring about it’s fulfillment. What a lesson we can learn from Habakkuk! When all seems lost around us there is only one thing we can do; only One in whom we can trust. Fix your eyes upon Jesus.
1 I love you, Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18