Well the weather sure did turn this week, didn’t it? Believe me, its much worse when you spend a week in Florida where its 80 each day, then come back to find that Indiana has decided to finally get its act together and become fall. I turned the heat on, how about all of you? When I sat down to write this sermon, it was Wednesday this week. If you recall Wednesday, it was raining, it was cold, it was miserable. I had to leave the house once to drop something at the school and I regretted every moment of being out. I looked out my window at a bare field, covered in cold, wet rain and I couldn’t help but think of the coming months, when this weather would become the norm. That’s when I found myself in scripture and being reminded of a story from the Old Testament that I want to share with you all today. Please turn with me to Habakkuk 3:16-19.
16 I hear, and I tremble within;
my lips quiver at the sound.
Rottenness enters into my bones,
and my steps tremble beneath me.
I wait quietly for the day of calamity
to come upon the people who attack us.
17 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,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights.
Alright, first thing we are going to do is talk about the book of Habakkuk because I’m guessing that very few of you have done any sort of study on this Old Testament book in your days. The book is only three chapters long and this passage comes from the very end of the book and at the end of the “Song of Habakkuk” which is contained in the entire third chapter. So the book is really just two chapters long and a song at the end. Habakkuk was a minor prophet for the Lord in the time just before the Babylonian captivity. He was a prophet during a time when the populace of the Hebrew people had turned away from God and had embraced the worship of idols. For those of us in Bible study who have been walking through the book of Judges, you’ll all see that this common theme continues beyond just that one book. Habakkuk’s message to the people was not a popular one. “Turn back to God or there will be consequences,” and then he shared with the people a list of upcoming consequences. He had been preaching this message for some time now. Those consequences were upon now upon them. Just as Habakkuk had predicted, the three harvests from the fields were failing. There would be no wheat, no figs and no olives; the three crops around Jerusalem that the people depended on for much of their food as well as their trade commerce. The animals that the people depended upon for meat were either going to be killed or taken. Finally, they were under constant attack from the Babylonians, who would soon overrun them and take them into captivity. All of this was happening because of the Jewish people’s failure to follow God.
So this is does not start us off in a very happy place. Life is hard in Jerusalem right now and things are about to get worse. The people were suffering, although it was by their own fault. One of the worst things to happen to the Jews since they left Egypt was about to occur, the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Habakkuk, as a prophet, saw this all happening and knew what was to come. He was literally looking over the edge of a chasm into the darkness that was going to take them all. Things were going very bad for Habakkuk’s people, despite his best efforts to save them.
Yet Habakkuk couldn’t contain his joy. The joy of the Lord filled him. It lightened his feet and caused him to remember how great and awesome God is. It caused him to sing songs and worship God.
As a human being reading this bit of scripture in today’s world, I have to wonder if perhaps Habakkuk was mentally ill, or maybe he had suffered a recent head injury. What in the world does he have to be joyful for? The world is literally crumbling all around him. Yet he is skipping and singing as he walks down the street? These are not the actions of a prophet, but the actions and attitude of a crazy person.
What Habakkuk had that we often times forget about in our own lives is a belief in the eternal nature of God. Here’s another way to say it; Life is not just about the here and now, it’s about eternity. Things may look bad right now, but God has fulfilled every promise He has ever made and will continue to fulfill promises forever.
Is there anyone in here that gets seasonally depressed? That feeling that comes along in either January or February that winter will never end and life is dark and dreary like the sky is during those months? I’ve fought that in the past and will probably fight it again in the future. Its just hard when there’s so little daylight and you can’t get out much, then things start to go bad. It gives me a feeling of hopelessness that is difficult to overcome.
What I learned years ago is that no matter how hard February seems to be, it is just part of one season of one year. The earth will keep spinning. The days will get brighter. The weather will get warmer. And it is because of those February days that I have learned to have a better appreciation of the sun and the warmth when it is here. That reassurance and joy that the weather will change again because it has always changed in the past, is the joy that we are talking about today.
It would be easy for Habakkuk to curl up and whimper with what is happening and what is about happen. Life is about to get very complicated and difficult for the Jewish people. However, God has delivered His people in the past and He will deliver them again. They are God’s chosen people. And regardless of what sins they have committed and how far they may have turned away from His worship, God still has chosen them and He still loves them. That is the joy that Habakkuk feels and it is the same joy that we should feel today. We are followers of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. We are grafted into the Tree of Life and are now among the chosen people of God.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, being a Christian in the world is not an easy choice. No part of what we choose to do makes life any easier. Things are going to go wrong in your life. Sicknesses will happen. Accidents will occur. Relationships will fall apart. At some point, you may find yourself looking into a chasm of darkness with no way to get away from it. But you have the Lord. You have a relationship with God in your life. No matter what happens on this earth to cause you pain or stress or darkness, you have the ultimate answer in Jesus Christ. You have been promised eternity in Heaven. God has made that promise to you and He has fulfilled every promise He has ever made, so don’t think for a minute that He’s not going to fulfill this one. You can have peace and joy in any situation in the knowledge that you are a follower of Christ. That is the Joy that Habakkuk sings about in this passage and that is the Joy we should live each day within our own lives.