Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
Neither shall fruit be in the vines;
The labour of the olive shall fail,
And the fields shall yield no meat;
The flock shall be cut off from the fold,
And there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength,
And he will make my feet like hinds' feet,
And he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
“All of our crops will be destroyed. The livestock will all die. We will have no food or any source of livelihood. Our people will suffer loss and there will be little hope for our future. Yet … I will worship God.”
What was Habakkuk thinking?
Habakkuk and the people of Judah were in dire straits. They were facing a Babylonian invasion and were greatly outnumbered by their enemy. The situation seemed--no, it was--hopeless.
How could Habakkuk—or anyone, for that matter—worship God so steadfastly with death encroaching on every side? Not only does Habakkuk decree that he will worship God, but he also proclaims that God will cause him to rise above devastation to revel in high places. Not crawling through deep, dark valleys where danger lurks and there’s no possible way to see what awaits on the other side. No, but God would lead him to mountain peaks where Habakkuk would ascend with the sure-footed agility of a deer.
It’s not that Habakkuk wasn’t fearful. Who wouldn’t be facing the approach of an intimidating enemy?
Just before Habakkuk declares his faith and trust in God, he makes this confession (vs. 16):
“I heard (about the Babylonians approaching) and my inward parts trembled. At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones and in my place I tremble. For the people to arise who will invade us.”
There was no avoiding it. The enemy was advancing and an invasion was certain.
Think about Habakkuk's words: “I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us.” Deep fear, facing destruction. But, still, he trusts in the God of his salvation. With unmoveable words of faith, Habakkuk proclaims, “ . . . he WILL make my feet like hinds' feet, And he WILL make me to walk upon mine high places (vs. 19).”
Yes, God could and he eventually would, but there was no miracle or healing YET. Habakkuk and his people’s existence was disintegrating into destruction, but Habakkuk holds firm to those words … God will.
Words of hope. A declaration of faith. Unwavering confidence.
I think of the hymn by Horacio Spafford, “It is Well With My Soul.”
Spafford wrote the words to this moving hymn during a time of deep grief and horrific loss. He'd suffered the loss of a young son to scarlet fever, and then much of his fortune was destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871. As if that wasn’t agonizing enough, Spafford’s four daughters died when the ship they were on sank as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Only his wife survived. Yet, even in the midst of his intense grief, Spafford’s faith in God remained steadfast.
While on a ship that traveled over the place where his daughters perished, Spafford penned these words:
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Oh, to have that kind of faith. To possess that level of trust in the midst of fear, grief, and loss.
Maybe you feel that you're surrounded by an unseen enemy and it seems that all hope is lost. Everything you’ve built your life on--your family, your career, your relationships--is failing you and you can’t see any hope for restoration or preservation. Destruction seems unavoidable.
Yet, you worship God.
Not because of what you have or don’t have, but just because he’s God. Faced with either drowning in the Red Sea or being slaughtered and enslaved by old enemies, you do the only thing you can do: Worship. God is still worthy and has complete control of every outcome, no matter what enemy forces you are up against.
Even if you lose ground to the enemy and the battle goes bad for you, your existence isn't over. Even during times of fear and distress, God can lead you to the mountaintop, where you can rise above your situation and walk in high places of restoration and hope.
NOTE: I read the book, Hind’s Feet on High Places when I was a young girl. The book follows the message of Habakkuk 3:17-19 through a moving, allegorical story. This book brings great comfort to me every time I read it and has for many years. I recently discovered a beautifully illustrated collector’s edition (see photo below). You may want to read the story as well!