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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Whatever… | Habakkuk Series

This is the sixth and final part of our study series on Habakkuk. What does the Bible tell us about this prophet and his relationship with the Lord and what that might tell us about ours? Each study includes a short reflection for personal or use with others.

‘Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines;
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.’

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk ends his psalm, and the book, with this sublime poem of praise. Here is a commitment to the Lord, come what may. It’s no cringing fatalistic acceptance of arbitrary power, but the faith of a man who freely acknowledges that God’s ways are not always our ways, and rejoices in his relationship with the Lord of mercy and love.

We need to learn from these words, meditate on them, and build them into our relationship with God. This is a communal psalm, written out of deep questioning and anguish, and it echoes a biblical theme that runs through many psalms, several of the prophets, and powerfully in the poems of Lamentations. It speaks of drought and famine – and we who know our shelves will be stacked with food and our taps running with fresh water into the foreseeable future need to remember those for whom these words are terribly and immediately true today.

But even in times of relative comfort and security, the metaphor of barren fields and empty barns reminds us of other deprivations, some very personal, that cannot be changed. Within our circles of friends and neighbours, family and church, colleagues and associates, there are those who have to voice this prayer through childlessness, marriage failure, suffering of different sorts, and long-term disappointment. And when we too are faced with deprivations that are hard to bear, we may discover that the words help us still to rejoice in the Lord, our strength and our salvation.

As we look back over this short book, we can see a helpful symmetry between the early chapters – where the prophet wrestles with the hard questions privately, shutting the door of the chamber and praying in secret to the Lord – and this final psalm written for all to sing together in the context of public worship. Then, as the Lord speaks to us through Habakkuk today, so may we speak to each other in love, supporting and encouraging one another through all that life brings.

For Further Reflection

  • Why was Habakkuk able to rejoice in God in spite of everything being stripped away? How far are you aware of Christians who have demonstrated this in their own lives? How far are you aware of it in your own experience?
  • What challenges does the book of Habakkuk present to you on your everyday frontline? What comfort does the book hold out to you on your everyday frontline?

Author

Margaret Killingray

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