But there is more. There is in the joy in the Lord of which the prophet speaks an element of perfect trust and childlike confidence. He that rejoices in the God of his salvation knows that He is good, and that His mercies endure forever. He is always good to us, and always gives unto us that which tends to our eternal salvation. Plainly this confidence that the Lord does all things, and that He does them well, is the basis of the confession of Habakkuk. God is God, and He is the Lord of all. He is the sole Governor of the entire universe, and the reins of government never slip out of His hand. I know that the Lord is almighty, and that He doeth whatsoever is His good pleasure. All power is His, even the power of the creature, yea, even the power of evil men, and of Satan and his hosts. There is in all the universe no power that is not His; the power in nature, of sun and moon and stars, of rain and sunshine, of cold and heat, of health and sickness, of life and death; the power of all the rational creation, of men and angels, good and evil; the power of mighty dictators and warring nations,—it is all His, and He directs it all to His own purpose. I will not, therefore, divide things dualistically into those that are sent to me by my heavenly Father, and those that come to me from some other source, but I know that all things, even also those things that are apparently evil, are sent to me by the Lord in whom I rejoice. I am confident, therefore, that He accomplishes all His good purpose. And I know, too, that all His work is characterized by perfect wisdom. He never fails. He never makes a mistake. I may be able to see only a very small part of the perfect work of God; and as I consider what God does from the viewpoint of my personal interest, things may often appear to go wrong; but J know, nevertheless that His work is perfect, and that in the end the glorious perfection of His work shall surely become manifest. But if I rejoice in the God of my salvation I know, too, that in and through all things the Lord almighty seeks and accomplishes my good, my eternal salvation. How shall He, that loved me, and that revealed His unfathomable love to me in the death of His Son, not freely give me all things with Him? And so, I am confident, that all things work together for good unto me. My joy is in the Lord! And whatever may be my way and my lot, my rejoicing shall still be in Him, and I shall give thanks unto His holy Name!
Yes, then we are able to give thanks in all circumstances of life. Joy in the Lord is an abiding joy. It is ever victorious. It transcends all things and is independent of them. Very evident this is in the words of the prophet. Notice, that in describing the circumstances under which he will rejoice in the Lord, he speaks of two groups of apparently evil events. The first of these take place in nature and constitute complete crop failure. The fig tree does not blossom, there is no fruit in the vine, the olive labors in vain, and the fields yield no meat. Everything fails. There is utter want and destitution. And the second of these two groups of circumstances concerns the enemy, devastation caused by hostile men. For the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls. The enemy made an invasion and plundered the country, so that there is nothing left. Does this calamity affect the prophet’s joy? Not at all. He knows that in last analysis it is the God of his salvation that doeth all these things. In Him, therefore, he shall still rejoice, even though all things fail!
And do not mistake the meaning of the prophet. He is not an abnormal person, a sort of a morbid soul, that hates prosperity and rejoices in calamities as such, and for their own sake. Nor do we. No Christian does. We do not rejoice in famine and want, in sickness and pain, in death and destruction such as are rampant in the war-mad world of the present time. We are not coldly indifferent, when our sons are called away from our homes to fight in the bloody battles of the world. On the contrary, these things fill us with fear and trouble, and they cause our hearts to bleed. It was so with the poet. We must remember that at the time when the prophet made this glorious declaration of his joy in the Lord, the calamities he mentions had not yet become real, but it had been revealed to him that they were impending. In a vision he saw the Lord come from Teman, the Holy One from mount Paran. He saw Him in the brightness of His glory as He came to send His judgments upon the land. And as he visualizes the reality of this impending judgment, and of the approaching catastrophe, what is his natural reaction? Does he rejoice in them? On the contrary, listen to his own words: “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” He was afraid. He was amazed and perplexed. So that it is evident, that when in the closing words of his song he expresses his joy in the Lord, and his faith that he will rejoice in the God of his salvation, even when the expected calamities shall come, it is not the morbid joy of one that delights in suffering as such which he expresses. Who of God’s people would not far prefer prosperity to adversity, plenty to want, peace to war, if it so could be the will of the Lord?
Again, we must not explain the meaning of the prophet’s words, as if he merely contrasts his joy in the Lord with the impending calamities, as if his joy in the God of his salvation is something apart from the approaching sufferings. He surely does not mean to say: when these calamities come, I shall still rejoice in the Lord, because I know that He shall remove them, or that I shall escape them,. No, but he is convinced that these very calamities are from the Lord, that they are sent by the God of his salvation. When the fig tree does not blossom, is it not the hand of the Lord that prevents it from blossoming? When there is no fruit in the vine, who causes the vine to be barren? When the enemy invades the land and cuts off the flock from the fold, who sends the enemy? Is it not the same Lord that is the God of our salvation? And thus it is with all things, not only with the products of the soil, but also with all the affairs of men, social and economical, national and international. It is so with the present war. Back of all the confusion and madness of the present time, back of all the apparent power of mighty dictators and their battling hosts, back of all the destruction and devastation caused by the powers of this world; yea, working through it all and infallibly controlling it unto His purpose, is the Lord, the God of our salvation, Who doeth all things well. His invisible hand is at the controls. We cannot see the wisdom of His work. His ways are past finding out. His judgments are unsearchable. How all these things fit into perfection of His work, we cannot now discern. But we know it. We understand it by faith. He assures us of it in His Word. And, therefore, we may even now, though it be with bleeding hearts, and with trembling lips, rejoice in the God of our salvation, and with all God’s people, over the whole earth and in whatever circumstances they may be at present, raise our voice in praise and thanksgiving, knowing that the Lord is good, and His mercy endureh forever!
Let us, then, also this year of our Lord 1942 give thanks unto the Lord, though it be with fear and trembling. Let us beware, lest, when He accomplishes His good pleasure, and causes His kingdom to come, we murmur and rebel against Him, because we must participate in the sufferings of this present time. If we pray as we should, “Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” let us beware lest we grumble in dissatisfaction, when He glorifies Himself, and reveals His power, and causes His kingdom to come, and executes His holy will, in the way of judgments. The prophet beheld the judgments of the Lord in the calamities of which he speaks. The Lord came from Teman and from Paran to judge. And always He comes from Paran to judge the world. And when He judges, war and famine, earthquake and pestilence, calamities of every kind accompany Him. The hand of the Lord is heavy upon the world today. But we know that all these things must come to pass, and that in the way of these judgments He will finally usher in the everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Does the present world conflict presage that it is the very eve of His coming? I know not. No one knows. The signs of the times are not given for us to be able to calculate the day and the hour. But one thing is certain, according to His Word He is coming in exactly such ways as those in which He is now leading the whole world. If then, the Lord is coming from Paran, and if in the present distress and confusion we may see the brightness of the glory of His coming for judgment, shall we, as silly children, grumble because we cannot have our usual abundance and sweetmeats, and go to the throne of grace to ask Him to change His ways, and give us peace and prosperity again? God forbid! Rather shall the Church proclaim to the world that the Lord reigneth, and that He doeth all these things. And rather shall we take the confession of the prophet Habakkuk on our own lips, and say: “Though peace and prosperity never return, though all the world go mad, and everything should completely fail, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. I will give thanks in the remembrance of His holiness!