Habakkuk 3

Habbakuk 3 Devotional
by Pastor Bowlin

The context of the marvelous expression of praise in our text today is the potential failing of a country, the failing of the economy, and the failing of all good provisions for life—the very things that we all worry about in these days as well.   

Yet the prophet says, “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, (not in my circumstances), I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior.” 

What brought about this great declaration of faith?  At the time of this prophecy Judah was at a low ebb spiritually speaking.  It seems that the wicked were prospering at the expense of the righteous and injustice was prevalent in the land, so the prophet cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered him.

         The Lord promised Habakkuk that he was going to send men from the east, the Babylonians, to come and punish the wicked in Jerusalem.  But this word did not comfort Habbakuk at all, rather, it bothered him considerably.  So he once again complained to the Lord about a wicked nation punishing a nation more righteous than they.  And so once again he waited for the Lord’s answer, and the Lord told him that the evil of the Babylonians would be turned on their own heads as well and that the Lord would still be in his holy temple.  Therefore “let the whole earth be silent before him.”  And it is this vision from the Lord that comforts the prophet.  It’s not that the Lord promises peace and prosperity to Jerusalem.  Rather, he promises that no matter what happens, the Lord will still be in his temple.  And in response to that vision, Habakkuk breaks out into song saying essentially ‘let it be.’  Take away everything, if you must, for ultimately my strength is in the Lord.  

         In the early 17th century the Thirty Years War ravished Germany.  Pastor Martin Rinkart had just taken his position in the walled city of Eilenburg when the war broke out.  Within months of beginning his ministry, the city was plundered three times, once by the Austrians and twice by the Swedes.  Consequently 800 of the 1000 homes were demolished.  Because it was a walled city, many refugees from the surrounding areas had already flooded into the crowded unsanitary streets, which caused a plague to break out in the city.  So in addition to the loss of infrastructure, in one year, 8000 people died of the plague behind the city walls, including the pastor’s wife.  What little the pastor did have for his own family he gave to his suffering flock, so he and his children had very little to eat or wear.   Most of those remaining in the city were starved and they would at times fight in the open streets over a dead cat or a crow. 

         It was in the midst of this most inhumane situation that Rinkart wrote the words to the hymn: “Now Thank We all our God with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices, who from our mothers’ arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is our today.”  He says these countless gifts of love are still ours today.  For the city of Eilenburg “today” was a day of mourning, loss, hunger and devastation yet for pastor Rinkart it was a day filled with countless gifts of love from God.

         What causes a man to give thanks like that in the midst of trying times, in the midst of terrible circumstances? It all has to do with his view of God.  In the third verse of that same hymn, he focuses not on his circumstances but on the Lord himself.  He says, “all praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son, and him who reigns with them in highest heaven, the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.”

         May the Lord give to us that same glorious vision of the everlasting God who sits above the circle of this earth and thereby may we rejoice in the Lord, regardless of what tomorrow holds.