Today’s passages: Habakkuk, chapters 1-3; John, chapter 8
Scripture: Haggai 3:17-19 (NRSV) – 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.
Observations: Two things stand out to me from these verses. First, the situation described in the first part of the passage is a total failure of all the usual sources of food: fig trees, vines, olive trees, fields of grain, and flock and herds. Yet the prophet declares that even if all of those things fail, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. This catches my attention because I notice more and more the fear that seems to grip and control our culture. Governmental leaders do something, or say something, and people immediately begin to fear what will happen. How will this affect the economy? How will this impact our peace and safety? The prophet’s declaration is a bold reminder to us that our trust is not in any of those things – not in economic security, not in political security, not in our own power or reputation. When we remember the Lord – the God of my salvation– we can continue to rejoice, even in the midst of difficult circumstances, because we know that God is in control. Jesus told us that our heavenly Father knows what we need, and if he takes care of the sparrows and the flowers, he will surely care for us.
It also catches my attention because I read an article last week that said that 4 in 10 people who attend evangelical churches are being taught the “prosperity gospel.” While I don’t believe that God takes any pleasure in seeing us go through difficult circumstances, I know that his priority is on our spiritual health and development – and many times material “blessings” are a hindrance to our spiritual growth. Habakkuk declares that he will rejoice in God even when the usual sources of provision dry up – because God is our strength. As Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
The second thing that stands out is the imagery which Habakkuk uses in the last verse: God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights. It is very common driving around northern Michigan to see deer. As I was driving home last night, I saw a doe and a fawn standing in the road ahead of me. I slowed down, and watched as they ran across the road and jumped over some bushes into the woods. As I read this passage this morning, I thought about that – the strength in their legs, the sureness of their feet, and their ability to climb up very steep slopes as though they were nothing. God is our strength, giving us feet that are sure to keep us on his path and protect us from slipping down the slope, giving us the strength to climb the heights of the straight and narrow way that leads to him. No matter what circumstances we face, we can rejoice in the Lord, and exult in the God of our salvation!
Applications: There have been several times over the last year or so that I have been discouraged by circumstances and situations that I have faced. Whether the challenges which we face are personal, or connected to the church, Satan loves to try to discourage us and drag us down. But God has always reminded me of his goodness and faithfulness, and he has reminded me again today. When things are tough, I will rejoice in the Lord; when things are going well, I will remember that every good thing comes from God. In the end, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) I will rejoice in the knowledge of his glory today!
Prayer: Father, I thank you for the reminder of your faithfulness, no matter what the circumstances. Help me not to fall prey to the enemy’s deception, that invites me to see circumstances as a reflection of your favor or displeasure. Help me to remember that although there will be trouble in this world, Jesus has overcome the world – and he has promised to never leave me nor forsake me, but to be with me to the end of the age. May your Kingdom be revealed in greater measure today, as I seek to do your will. Amen.