Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall  fruit be in the vines; the labor 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. To the  chief singer on my stringed instruments.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

The book of Habakkuk is a book that is little known  and, accordingly, little is known about its contents  except perhaps chapter 2:20, which is commonly used  in worship services to call God’s people unto silence and  awe before the holy God in His holy temple.

Yet it is a book replete with precious instruction, an  example of which is found here in these verses that  conclude the book. With a burning and shining zeal  for the Lord that he demonstrated throughout the  book, Habakkuk ends his prophecy with an astounding  confession made in the midst of deep adversity. It is  a confession of true and joyful thanksgiving, containing  precious instruction that we do well to give heed  to, especially in anticipation of the national holiday and  celebration of Thanksgiving.

Astounding confession

“Yet I will rejoice”! is the astounding confession of joyful  thanksgiving by the prophet. The striking character of  Habakkuk’s joyful thanksgiving at once comes to light  when we consider the occasion in which it was made.

What was the occasion? This was the time in the Old  Testament church when the prophet served the Lord  during the early kingship of King Josiah in Judah. Josiah’s  father, Ammon, was a wicked king who led the  nation into terrible idolatry and apostasy. In contrast,  Josiah was a godly king, who did much reformation  work for the nation throughout his lengthy reign. However,  he had ascended the throne as a young boy and it  was during that time that the prophet Habakkuk was  in active ministry. The occasion, therefore, under the  terrible religious circumstances in Judah, was that of  heavy chastisement by the Lord for the sins of His people.  They would eventually be carried away captive by  the Chaldeans.

But they would also suffer a terrible, all-comprehensive  economic disaster. This the prophet tells us in verse  17: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither  shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall  fall, 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.” In the land of Israel, the fig tree and olive  tree represented very basic food for the people. Figs  were used to make bread and cakes, and the oil from  the olive was used for baking and a host of other food  preparation methods. So when there are no figs and  no olives; and when, in addition to that, the fields are  barren so that there is no crop and agriculture fails; and  when there is also no livestock, the entire nation is in an  economic disaster that is deep and wide.

Under such circumstances, how would anyone exult  in joyful thanksgiving? Dear reader, how is it with you?  During this holiday season of Thanksgiving, will you  exult in joyful thanksgiving? Perhaps like the prophet,  you are experiencing great economic difficulty. Or  perhaps, other troubles are plaguing you at this time:  a serious illness, the death of a spouse or child and its  lingering effects, great uncertainty over your future, or  division within the family and close extended family  brought about by schism in the churches. Whatever  the circumstance, you are saddened, troubled and even  overwhelmed by it. Will you exult in joyful thanksgiving?

Remarkably, this is exactly what Habakkuk did:  “Yet I will rejoice”! That was the sound of joyful thanksgiving  the prophet uttered to God from the heart! Astounding  confession this is! To be sure, he had struggled  with God’s revelation of chastisement—a struggle  well documented in the preceding chapters of the book.  But here and now in these verses, Habakkuk had experienced  peace within his heart. He was content with God’s difficult but right and good way for him and for  the people he loves dearly.

“Yet I will rejoice”! This cry of joyful thanksgiving  from the prophet teaches us two things about true  thanksgiving. First, it teaches us that true thanksgiving  is not dependent on our external circumstances. Those  circumstances may be so very bleak, as was the case  with Habakkuk. Or perhaps those circumstances may  be so very bright: when we have peace, health, and  enjoy much in earthly abundance. Either way, it does  not matter. True thanksgiving is not dependent on our  external circumstances. The prophet’s confession of  joyful thanksgiving demonstrates this. And if that be  the case, then second, his astounding confession also  teaches us that true thanksgiving is for all times and  all seasons. For if true thanksgiving is not dependent  on our external circumstances in any way and especially  endures in the bleakest of circumstances, then it  stands to reason that there will not be a time or season  in which thanksgiving ceases. It ever abides! “Yet I will  rejoice…”!

True thanksgiving is joyful thanksgiving! True  thanksgiving is not dependent on our external circumstances!  True thanksgiving abides through all times  and all seasons! Such was the nature of the prophet’s  astounding confession.

Only explanation 

What explains such a confession? There is but one  explanation and it is set forth in verse 18: “I will joy  in the God of my salvation.” There are two parts to  this answer. To begin with, take note that the idea  underlying the word “salvation” in the original is  “freedom.” Salvation is freedom! Freedom from what?  And freedom unto what?

This is a freedom from the bondage of sin. That is  right: sin is bondage! Be not deceived by the devil: sin  is not pleasure! It is bondage! Sin takes hold of us, takes  us captive, and makes us slaves to it. It is a corrupting  power! And with that corruption and power, there is  also the guilt that afflicts the one who is sinning. This  is due to the fact that we know what is right and wrong,  and when we sin, we know that what we are doing is  wrong. Accordingly, our souls are smitten with the guilt  of our sin. Salvation frees us from both the corruption  and guilt of sin. This is what the cross of our only Savior  Jesus Christ does. The blood of Jesus Christ atoned for  our sins through and through! It washed away the guilty  stains of our sins once and for all! And more and more,  by the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, the sinful  but elect sinner overcomes the corrupting power of sin.  More and more, we become like our holy Savior and live  in greater love unto God and unto our neighbor. We are  freed from the bondage of sin.

But more, such is the greatness of our salvation that  we are also set free unto communion and life with God.  We are freed to live as friends with our absolute Sovereign  and Friend, the covenant God of friendship. In  Christ we are freed to love Him, serve Him, and walk  with Him in His ways. The bondage of sin only makes  us to flee from Him. But the greatness of God’s grace  is such that it causes us to do just the opposite: to seek  Him, flee unto Him through His Son for all we need,  and cleave unto Him as friends with Friend for our help,  our refuge and our strength.

We have God; we have Him living in us and taking  our hand by His hand. He is leading and guiding  us through life—even in adversity—onward and upward  to heaven! In this God with whom we are freed  unto sweet communion and friendship we exult in joyful  thanksgiving that is ever-abiding, steadfast, and  sure! For this covenant God who holds us in His hand  and guides us through life is the almighty God. The  almighty God who made all things by His absolute  power! The almighty God who continues to uphold  and govern all things in heaven and on earth! The almighty  God who causes sinners whom He chooses of  His eternal, good pleasure to come irresistibly to Him  and holds them safely through all life—even through  adversity—so that no one can pluck them out of His  hand. The almighty God who reveals to all His friends  that He is their Lord—the great I AM and covenant  God of friendship, who in His unchanging love towards  His sinful people declares to them, “For I am the Lord,  I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed”  (Mal. 3:6).

Because of this unchanging Lord of covenant love  and faithfulness, Habakkuk makes this astounding  confession of joy and thanksgiving: “Yet I will rejoice…”!  Is this not what the prophet himself tells us  in verse 19: “The Lord God is my strength, and He  will…”? Such is the strength needed for our souls to be  lifted up when under great adversity! Human strength,  however strong, will fall short and fail miserably. Only  supernatural, divine strength and power will do! God’s  strength alone can and does lift us up from sadness  unto joyful thanksgiving. In His abiding love and great  faithfulness, the Lord gave that strength to Habakkuk  so that he could exult in joyful thanksgiving. What He  did for Habakkuk, He does for every one of His dear  children—even for you and for me!

But there is more. That astounding confession is but  part of what divine strength and power brings to all of  us who receive it.

Blessed response 

It goes on unto a most blessed activity of faith. Note  the blessed response of faith that the prophet gives  expression to: “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet  and he will make me to walk upon mine high places”  (v. 19b); and “To the chief singer of my stringed  instruments” (v. 19c). In a word, the prophet confesses  that he is not only lifted up out of sadness and gloom,  he is also and even more, lifted up unto zealous, hopeful,  and energetic living unto and praise of his God.  Let there also be such a blessed response of faith arising  from within us during this season of Thanksgiving  and always!