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.

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,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16-19

Have you ever been in awe? I’m talking, eyes-wide-mouth-gaping-I-think-I-just-stopped-breathing awe. Perhaps it was at some natural wonder you beheld, fantastic or long awaited news, the sweetness in a time of worship, or perhaps just a realization that you had never had before, and the implications could change everything.

After all his wrestling with God, Habakkuk discovered that at the end of the day, he really only has two options: he can either praise or he can pout. To praise will usher in a trust, awe and surrender to God’s ways, which are higher than his own, and will take both courage and vulnerability. To pout will be to assume a stiff-necked and stubborn posture, and shrink back from God’s goodness, grace and sovereignty in the moment and future. Habakkuk wisely remembers both his humanity and God’s supremacy, and opts to praise.

But how does he praise? This isn’t just merely a spontaneous spouting of joy. Habakkuk looks back through history at what God has done, and that gives him the courage to hope and trust in God for the future, despite the outcome. He knows God will see both him and his nation through.
The invading Babylonians were known for being utterly ruthless and wreaking havoc. For an agricultural economy, ruin was eminent if a crop or herd failed. Yet notice the progression. It begins with simple inconvenience and progresses to more egregious losses:

  • figs not budding, a symbol of pleasure
  • failing grapes, a sign of joy and prosperity,
  • lack of olives, used for comfort, food, light, and to anoint,
  • vanquished crops, no food, and finally
  • pens empty of sheep and cattle, used for food, clothing and sacrifices.

What Habakkuk is saying is essentially, “Lord, no matter how bad it gets, even if you strip us bare of all we know, of our very way of life, still will we trust and praise you”. This echoes the prayer of Job in similar circumstances when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.” Job 13:15
Habakkuk’s unwavering trust in God is what enabled him to not only to praise in hard circumstances, but to have the strength and nimbleness of a deer on the heights, steady and sure.

This week, take a moment to reflect on all that God has brought you through in your life and current circumstances. Then write a prayer of praise of your own, like Habakkuk’s.

By Sheila Rennau