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Rejoice in Desolation

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT)!

The Bible describes the land of Israel as “a good land of flowing streams … a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9). The land is elsewhere described as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). Milk refers to goat’s milk, and honey to date honey, meaning that it is a land good for shepherd and farmer alike.

Habakkuk, who prophesied in the days leading up to the Babylonian destruction of the kingdom of Judah, envisioned a land where fig trees did not blossom; where there was no fruit on the vines. The olive produce failed; there was no wheat in the fields. Flocks and herds were cut off. The bounty of the land was gone; it now lay desolate.

The agricultural and herding prosperity of the land spoke of God’s blessing, but now the armies of Babylon were coming, and ruin and destruction were coming with them. God brings judgment upon His people because of their disobedience. The land, its livestock and produce, all lay desolate.

Faced with such disaster, how does Habakkuk respond? “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation” (3:18). We don’t know what happened to Habakkuk; the Bible doesn’t say. He, like Jeremiah, was likely swept up in the devastating events and outcomes of Babylon’s destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. He likely never saw the prosperity of the land again in his lifetime. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”

It’s easy to rejoice in the Lord during the good times, when the land yields its fruit. But what about when our world is desolate? When the prosperity we have known is gone? Habakkuk was a prophet, and presumably a righteous person, yet he suffered the consequences of others’ disobedience to God. We can sometimes handle the desolation our choices bring to our lives, but when we suffer because of what someone else did? “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Are we consistent in our faithfulness, or do the circumstances and fluctuations of life sweep us away in an emotional rollercoaster? Can we stare in the face of desolation and rejoice in the Lord? The answer to that question depends upon our chosen response.

PRAYER

Father, no matter the circumstances—in plenty or in want, in fullness or in desolation—we will rejoice in You, the God of our salvation. Amen.

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