Rejoice in the Lord Without Pretense

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. Habakkuk 3:17-18

We discussed these verses previously in light of verse 18. This is a picture of total disaster in an agrarian society, no security and no livelihood, but it is also a picture of barrenness.  His stores are empty, he has a great lack. This is a cause of great suffering, yet he will rejoice.

Let us not miss the will rejoice and that he does not deny the suffering and the barrenness. He does not smile and pretend his storehouses are full and praise God for what he does not have. He does not feel guilty and sub par as a person or in his faith for what is barren in his life. He does put on a show, faking like everything is fine.

Before Habakkuk rejoices, he declares honestly before God (and men, since we’re reading this) what his true state of affairs is. His stores are empty because his people appear to be under attack by their enemies and also suffered severe natural disasters.  In verse sixteen, Habakkuk says:

16 I hear, and my body trembles;  my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;   my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble  to come upon people who invade us.

In context, what he is hearing is the report of the current events that have led to his great losses. This rejoicing in the lord that Habakkuk does is not a Pollyanna joy or a delusional/deceitful joy thanking God for the harvest that didn’t happen. It doesn’t deny the reality of the present sorrow. No, first he acknowledges the losses and suffering and emptiness of the present. He feels honestly, fears honestly, trembles honestly, even questions God honestly (if you read the whole book.)

Through this process, he finds the faith to trust in God to save him and draw near to God and take joy in the close fellowship with the God who is with us even in the darkest hour.

Lord, forgive me if I have drawn near to you to praise you with my lips, while denying the true sorrow in my heart. I pray that I would worship you in truth, being honest before you. Help me not to present a false image, praising God before men when my heart is breaking out of false guilt and needless shame.  Teach me to rejoice in you honestly, drawing near to you from the heart, even though my limbs or heart might be trembling in fear or great sorrow. Should I stumble into temptation in this area, prick my heart and grant me the courage to be honest before you and men about my feelings rather than merely going through the motions of what I think a good Christian in my shoes should say/do.

My Commentary on Today’s Verse of the Day