Dear Radio Friends,
This week Thursday our nation celebrates its annual Thanksgiving Day. And as the children of God, saved by His wonderful grace, we, too, wish to gather in God’s presence to give Him our thanks.
We look to the Holy Scriptures to guide us in the proper expression of true thanksgiving to our heavenly Father. And the passage we take for our meditation today is found in Habakkuk 3:17-29. There we read: “Although the fig 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; 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.” That surely is one of the most remarkable expressions of thanksgiving to be found anywhere in the entire Bible. And we must pray that the Holy Spirit will make this profession of thanksgiving our own.
The whole Bible, really, is a song of praise and thanksgiving to our Redeemer God. You can read the Bible; and after you have finished reading it, you close it and, if you read the Bible right, and if you heard the Bible in your heart, then your conclusion will be that you will sing: “Now thank we all our God,” or, in the words of the Scriptures: “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9:15). And: “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).
There are in the Bible many stirring, deeply sobering expressions of thanksgiving. The saints in heaven who are gathered around the throne of God cry out, “Thanks unto the Lamb and to God to whom behonor and dominion and praise and glory.” You can go through the Scriptures and find many expressions of thanksgiving.
But there is none that will ever exceed this one, the one I read from Habakkuk 3:17-19. For this one is given on the earth. This one is given today. This one is given in the face of trouble. The beauty of that thanksgiving is to be found in the word “Yet,” in verse 18. There the contrast was brought. This thanksgiving is arising out of a moment when we would not look for thanksgiving. It is spoken when the hand of God apparently is hid; when troubles round me swell, when fears and dangers throng. Yet, in the midst of darkest circumstances, yet, says Habakkuk, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord.” That is, no matter how bleak, how dark, how oppressing—no matter what may come—yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation. These are the words that we must make our own today.
It will not do for us simply to read this expression of thanksgiving in the Scriptures. We must not be content until it abides within our heart.
We can paraphrase this Scripture. We can paraphrase it in the light of the recent months and years of the depressed economy. Then we would put it this way, “Although the Dow Jones average plummet, 401K is lost, recession hits, the wheels of economy stop, industries collapse, the bail-out backfires, there is no profit, there is no return of the economy, there is loss of home and savings—yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation, who has loved me and made me rich in Jesus Christ.” Or we could make it more personal. “Although cancer might return, although Alzheimer’s has struck me down so that I do not remember the wife that I’ve lived with for fifty years, though death come suddenly into my home and the Lord would take from me an infant, though I suffer a stroke, though family troubles pursue me, though depression comes upon me, though I be slandered and misrepresented; yet will I joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord is my strength.” Or we could put it in terms of the end of the world—what the church will experience in the last days. “Although,” we then would say, “my way of faith is very narrow, I lose my job over Sunday labor, the church is lampooned, I am hated of all men for the testimony of Jesus Christ that I carry, though the heavens be shaken, though all things be consumed, though life on the earth ends—yet will I rejoice in my God and joy in the God of my salvation.”
This is true thanksgiving. To give thanks is not of the world. It is not based upon things. It is not when everything is going my way. It is not when we have, so to speak, things to give thanks for. But thanksgiving is a grace from God. It is not conditioned upon the things that God has given. It is not determined by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. But it is based upon God and it is based upon the knowledge of God’s love and grace in Christ.
It is to say, “No matter what, yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
In chapter 3 of the book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk is actually writing a psalm—something that is to be sung in worship. He is writing a song to be sung not in good times but in bad times. Prophet Habakkuk had just been given a revelation from God that his nation would be destroyed. The people of Judah in his day had sinned brazenly. They had thrown their sin into the face of God. They were defiant. The king in Habakkuk’s day had taken the scroll of God’s word and had cut it up and burnt it in the fire. Another king had sacrificed his baby boy to Moloch, placing that little child on the fiery arms of the outstretched Moloch. The practical living of the people of God in Habakkuk’s day—well, that was drunkenness and shame. They were drowned in wine. Covetousness ruled in their hearts, so that they had no pity toward their neighbor. He says in chapter 2:5 of his prophecy that the sinful desires of the people were as large as hell.
And when Habakkuk had prayed about all of this, God answered him in a way that he had not expected. God said that He would raise up a cruel people from the north (the Babylonian empire) to destroy Judah. Babylon’s iron heel would smash Judah. They would be thrown into the darkness of prison. And when Habakkuk begins to consider all of these things, he tells us in chapter 3 that he became physically sick. Verse 16: “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: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.” In the face of all this trouble, this word of judgment that was to come upon God’s people, the prophet’s response does not seem, at first, to make sense. He says, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord.”
Habakkuk speaks of two groups of evil that will come. He sees, first of all, an evil coming to him in the realm of the creation. Although 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. He is contemplating there a complete crop failure: the fig, the vine, the olive, and the field—what we would take for granted, our daily bread, a piece of bread. He is saying, even if that fails, so that I do not know where my next meal will come from, yet will I rejoice in the Lord.
And then the second evil that he sees coming is an evil caused by men. He says, “although the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls.” There he is referring to invasion and to plunder, when nothing is left.
But though he sees both of these coming, evils both in the realm of the creation and those caused by the invasion of a foreign nation, he says, “Yet will I rejoice.” I say again, his response does not seem to make sense to us. Is he some kind of fanatic? Is he deluded? He says, “All of this shall only make my joy in God greater. Yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
You see, he is saying that when all of these things come upon him, these disasters, these hardships, it will only serve God’s purpose to underscore to his faith how adorable and sufficient is God, how adequate is God, how perfectly sufficient is God. It will only give him to see how rich he is in the imperishable riches of salvation.
Is this true for you today? When you face trouble, do you rejoice in God? To rejoice in God when He gives you happiness is easy. But only those who are renewed, only those who live by faith, can give thanks in trouble. Only those who by grace see the wondrous cross of Jesus Christ. Many are the times when we find no reason for thanksgiving. We find, according to the flesh, only reasons for despair. We wonder whether God is doing anything at all. It seems that He does not act. It seems that, perhaps, He does not care. There are many time when our sin becomes a burden and our guilt hangs about our soul. And there are many times when we ask, “Why, Lord? Why is Thy will so contrary, so different from our desires, so contrary to our plans, so against our own liking?”
In the face of all of this trouble, Habakkuk gives thanks and rejoices in God. He sees that in the hand of God everything is serving his salvation. And he finds that, although he would lose everything, yet his God and His salvation would make him rich, and it would be totally sufficient. God would be sufficient for him. He is bent low under his trial, and yet he says, “Nevertheless, I will rejoice.”
Can you say that today? Can you say that in the way that God leads you today? What is the secret? Why does Habakkuk do this? Well, first of all, as I said, his thanksgiving is rooted in God. “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in God Himself,” not in what He gives, but first of all in God. Repeatedly the Bible says that our rejoicing must first of all be in God. Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Rejoice in the Lord. Our joy is in the unchangeable God Himself—because of who He is, because He is unchangeable and faithful and true. He is a rock to us.
You see, as Christians, we do not have air under our feet as we walk through troubles and storms and heartaches. Our faith is not like air bubbles of feelings. But the Rock of Ages is beneath us—our mighty God. We rejoice in the Lord, the I AM THAT I AM. It means that we stand, by grace, in a relationship to Him, that we have known His eternal love, His redeeming grace, the powerful indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And we rejoice in God because of who God is. Our triumph is not found in this, that we think there will be a change of circumstances, that the economy will recover, that we will get a better home someday, that some day we will make more money, or that some day we will outlive our problems or escape our problems. But our joy is in God.
Secondly, he says, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Salvation means “rescue.” It refers to the God who reaches down and by His hand pulls us out of the abyss of our sin and brings us into the green pastures of eternal life. And, oh, that rescue was upon the cross, for there He lifted us out of the sea of our guilt, He drew us out of the miry clay of our sin, He removed all of our trespasses from us. Habakkuk looks back now and he sees that God’s salvation, God’s power, is to redeem us.
And that power always comes to save God’s people. How does God save? God uses all things, good and evil, to accomplish our salvation. This is the message of the Bible. God shall have His own way. Even His enemies shall serve Him. Through His wisdom, God directs all things for the purpose of our salvation. For we know (Rom. 8:28), “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”
He is the God of our salvation. That means that He is always working out our salvation. He never rests—until at last the church stands glorious before Him. He is the God of our salvation, no matter the events or circumstances of our life. No matter the situation of our life. No matter the trials that He is pleased to send to us. He is the God of our salvation. And all things serve our salvation.
Therefore, when we come by faith to the conviction that God works all things for our salvation, we can respond: “Yet will I give thanks, no matter how the Lord leads me. I will give thanks to Him.”
And, finally, the reason for Habakkuk’s thanksgiving is to be found in verse 19, where he says, “The LORD is my strength.” Do you know what that means? It is experienced only when we put aside our own strength. We see our strength as weakness in His sight. God’s strength is realized when we fall down before His throne, when we understand that of ourselves we are not worthy, when we cannot go on, when we see that we are nothing of ourselves. We cast ourselves entirely upon His promises and tender mercies.
Habakkuk says, “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and maketh me to walk upon the high places.” The meaning here is that He makes us rejoice in Him. He makes us, by faith, to rise above all of these problems. He strengthens us. He renews us.
Therefore, with exuberance of heart, we rejoice. We joy in the God of our salvation. This is triumphant, this is an exuberant, joy.
This does not mean that we have a morbid joy in troubles or in hardships, in a struggling economy or in pain. But our thanksgiving rests upon a deep and abiding faith that the God of our salvation holds us moment by moment, that His invisible hand controls everything. The thanksgiving that we offer to God is a thanksgiving offered by the church, by every member of the church. God’s entire church lines up before Him. And they say, “God is to be thanked no matter the way that He leads us. God is to be thanked for His grace, for His faithfulness. He is to be thanked for who He is in Himself.”
May this wonderful expression of thanksgiving be yours this day. No matter the way the Lord leads, whether it be in a way of joy or sorrow, health or sickness, ease or trouble, may He give you that grace, grace to look to Him and His salvation and His power. May He give you grace to say, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word and pray for its blessing upon our hearts in this day—that our thanksgiving today and always may be rooted in Thee and in Thy faithfulness to us. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.