Why the “YET”? You guessed it. Something is wrong. Seriously wrong.
That isn’t strange. Life has its problems for all of us, of one kind or another.
But this “YET” is an override because JOY is the positive note. It means there is JOY anyway, in spite of what went wrong. Even the worst isn’t cancelling the JOY.
How far should we interpret this “Yet I will rejoice”?
“Rejoice…” When you see your nation falling apart economically, socially, politically?
“Rejoice…” when you see people all around you going deeper and deeper into debt?
“Rejoice…” when you know that more trouble and more suffering are ahead?
“Rejoice…” when thousands have died with the Corona virus, and no one is yet certain where or when it will end?
For Habakkuk it would be “YES!” to all of above. And he was the initial speaker. He was looking at his own experience. Because it seemed that everything that COULD go wrong had gone wrong. YET he still had confidence and joy in God. He knew if he stayed on God’s side, nothing would overwhelm him. In fact, if God saw fit, he could take even bigger trials if God would stay with him.
Habakkuk’s message is specially meaningful for us today, because life for Habakkuk was not smooth and easy, nor is it for us. In fact, he lived in one of the most turbulent periods in Israel’s history, right at the end of the kingdom of Judah.
Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. That says a lot.
What is the text we are sighting?
Habakkuk 3:17–18 17Although 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:
18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Translated into language for our times, this text might read:
Though the bank fails and all my savings are gone, though I lose my job and my home and my health and all that I depend on in this world, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Even before Habakkuk was born, God had been warning his people that judgment was coming on them if they didn’t change their ways. They had not heeded the warnings. There had been good kings, and bad kings, another good king, and more bad kings, even a few times of revival. Even so, things went from bad to worse.
And this was not all. Not long before, the dreaded Assyrians had invaded and slaughtered mercilessly in Israel. Habakkuk had seen the nation overthrown by the Egyptians. Then he had seen Judah, under Josiah, try to cut off the Egyptians. The two nations met at Megiddo on the plains of Armageddon, and Judah was soundly defeated. Then the Egyptians had been defeated by the Babylonians.
Soon Nebuchadnezzar’s troops would be camping at the gates of Jerusalem. Disaster and defeat loomed large on the horizon.
“Yet I will rejoice…”?
Habakkuk’s victory was not without struggle. He is troubled. He cannot see why things must be so bad. And so he takes his problems to God. He says in effect, God, why don’t you do something about all this?
Habakkuk is wise. He does not allow trouble to remove him from his faith, but rather he uses it to draw him nearer to God. Instead of withdrawing and abandoning his faith, as so many were doing, he brings his distress directly to God.
God listens, and replies. He says in effect, I am doing something, Habakkuk. How do you think that all this trouble that has come upon Judah is by chance? Do you think that Josiah and Judah just happened to be overthrown? Do you think that the Egyptians were defeated by chance?
NO, you do not need to worry, says God. I am in control, and I am working out my purposes. The Babylonians are going to be the instrument of my judgment on Judah.
Habakkuk’s approach to trouble is recorded for us. He does not doubt God’s existence, he does not question God’s right to act according to his superior wisdom. In fact, he even praises God’s right-ness.
Habakkuk 1:13 13You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?
It is a question we can ask today. In a world where there is so much trouble, suffering, injustice, and abuse, we too may feel like asking, “God, why are you silent? “
We are typically impatient. We want things to happen immediately or sooner. Don’t we need to listen to Habakkuk’s advice and bide God’s time? For as God assured him, there is no delay, no uncertainty. The outcome is fixed. When the time is right, God will act, but not one minute before.
Habakkuk 2:3 3For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.
God is going to deal with the problems of the world. He’s going to dispense justice to everyone. Our concern is to be faithful in the trust that is left to US.
The Septuagint includes this thought clearly. God says:
Habakkuk 2:4 (svt) 4If [any] should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him: but the just shall live by my faith [by faith in Me.].
Habakkuk does what we must do also—he turns his attention from the problems of the nation to the smaller realm which is his own responsibility. HE – Habakkuk—must be faithful to God. God will take care of the nation—and the world—and all the rest.
And so Habakkuk voices his prayer to God:
Habakkuk 3:2 2O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.
Somehow in our distorted way of thinking we want to claim an inalienable right to constant good health, constant good finances, constant stable government, and so on. We want to be able to live in peace, undisturbed, and have everything we want. This is simply not God’s promise, and not God’s way of working.
And it isn’t likely to happen. God does not promise a life without problems, but only the strength and the fortitude to go through them triumphantly. Then too, we have his promise that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.
Isn’t this reason enough to rejoice? Isn’t it reason enough to say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will rejoice…”? How could Habakkuk do it? Because he was putting his trust in one who was greater than the difficulties. He was saying, Lord, my life and all that I have is in your keeping.
Habakkuk was not alone in this approach to problems. Jesus taught it in his first sermon,
Matthew 5:10 10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Are we reading Jesus correctly? Is this indeed what he said? Yes, and more.
Matthew 5:11–12 11“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What could be worse than persecution, slander, and suffering because one is doing right?
Was it really a time to be “exceedingly glad”? YES!
The apostles practiced what Jesus taught. Captured, imprisoned, and beaten, still they had this surpassing “heart joy.”
Acts 5:41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
They were rejoicing to be counted “worthy” to suffer for Christ! It was an honor to be like Jesus in suffering!
Peter’s approach to trouble was the same as that of the apostles and Jesus.
1 Peter 4:12–13 12Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Why Peter’s joy? It was in prospect of the glory ahead. “When His glory is revealed…”
And what glory it will be! Who can compare even a full 70 or 80 years of intense suffering with ages upon ages of celestial happiness and joy? Do we wonder that Habakkuk could say, “Yet I will rejoice”?
Habakkuk was looking ahead and trusting God. And in the meantime, he was determined to be faithful himself. One fact he had settled forever, that God’s ways are not man’s, but if we will align our thinking with God’s and follow His way, we can look forward to joy everlasting in the kingdom of God.
What about the great apostle who had his share of troubles—and then some?
Paul had his own ultimate “YET I will rejoice”in his letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 6:14 14But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Severed from the world, Paul “gloried” in being crucified to the world and the world to him. What matter the losses or crosses or trials of the road, he said, if only they are working out for us a place in God’s eternal, glorious kingdom on Earth!
Who but Paul could say,
2 Corinthians 7:4 I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
There is no statement to surpass that. “Exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Not, I feel some genuine joy at times. He was joyful in ALL the troubles.
What have we to complain about? When we think about the reward God has set before us, our joy, too, should be overflowing!
Think about living with angels on a clean, glorified ALL-NEW earth. What will it be to be there! Like our song, what “JOY” there will be in the morning!