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Act Three: We see Habakkuk looking ahead under a purposeful resolve.
On Habakkuk 3:19, Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) explains, “THIS confidence of the man of God is tantamount to promise, for that which faith is persuaded of is the purpose of God. The prophet had to traverse the deep places of poverty and famine, but he went downhill without slipping, for the Lord gave him standing. By and by, he was called to the high places of the hills of conflict; and he was no more afraid to go up than to go down.
See! the Lord lent him strength. Nay, Jehovah Himself was his strength. Think of that: the Almighty God Himself becomes our strength!
Note, that the Lord also gave him sure-footedness. The hinds leap over rock and crag, never missing their foothold. Our Lord will give us grace to follow the most difficult paths of duty without a stumble. He can fit our foot for the crags, so that we shall be at home where apart from God we should perish.
One of these days we shall be called to higher places still. Up yonder we shall climb, even to the mount of God, the high places where the shining ones are gathered. Oh, what feet are the feet of faith, by which, following the Hind of the Morning, we shall ascend into the hill of the Lord!”[i]
Rev. Caleb Morris (1800-1865), who was Minister of the Tabernacle, Narberth; and of Fetter Lane Chapel, London, explains, “Spiritual joy is a free, full, and overflowing stream that takes its rise in the very depth of the Divine Essence, in the immutability, perfection, abundance, munificence of the Divine nature. While there is a God, and that God is happy, there is no necessity that there should be any unhappy Christians.”[ii]
Dr. David Thomas (1813-1894) comments on Habakkuk 3:17-19, “The passage contains the most beautiful exhibition of the power of true religion to be found in the Bible. The language is that of a mind weaned from earthly enjoyments, and habituated to find the highest fruition of its desires in God. When every earthly stream is dried up, it has an infinite supply in his all-sufficient and exhaustless fulness. Habakkuk declared, ‘I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.’”[iii] The following is my adaptation of Dr. Thomas’ commentary:
It is the joy of the highest [attention]. The joys of contemplation are amongst the most pure and elevating which intelligent creatures can experience. These rise in the character according to their subjects. The highest subject is God, his attributes and works.
It is the joy of the [best association]. The joys of friendship are amongst the chief joys of earth; but the joys of friendship depend upon the purity, depth, constancy, reciprocity of love; and friendship with God secures all this in the highest degree.
It is the joy of the sublimest [appreciation]. Whatever the mind admires it enjoys, and enjoys in proportion to its admiration, whether it be a landscape or a painting. Moral admiration is enjoyment of the highest kind, and this in proportion to the grandness of the character. Admiration of Divine excellence is the sublimest joy. ‘I will joy in God.’ To joy in God is to bask in sunshine, is to luxuriate in abundance, is to revel in the immensity of moral beauty, is to dwell with God.
The HIGHEST SPIRITUAL JOY IN THE MIDST OF THE GREATEST MATERIAL DESTITUTION IS POSSIBLE TO A GOOD MAN. [Remember “good” in this case means “godly”.] ‘Although’ every material blessing is gone, ‘I will rejoice.’ Good men have always been enabled to do so. They have been happy in poverty, exultant in prisons, and even triumphant in the martyr’s flames. Having God with them, they have had the reality without the forms, they have had the crystal fountain rather than the shallow and polluted streams. Like Paul, they have ‘gloried in tribulation,’ etc. All things have been theirs. In material destitution they felt:
In God they had strength. ‘The Lord God is my Strength.’ ‘As thy day, so shall thy strength be.’
In God they had swiftness. ‘He will make my feet like hinds’ feet.’ The reference is here, perhaps, to the swiftness with which God would enable him to flee from the dangers which were overtaking his country. It is, however, a universal truth that God gives to a good man a holy alacrity in duty. Duty to him is not a clog or a burden, but a delight.
In God they had [situation]. ‘He will make me to walk upon mine high places.’ ‘They that wait upon God shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles,’ etc., up upon the mountains, far too high for any enemies to scale. ‘God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us’ (Hebrews 6:17, 18).”[iv] (Adapted / Emphasis mine)
In the words of Palmer Hartsough (1844-1932), whose pseudonym was “Uncle Frank”:
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him,
Hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest,
I will come to Thee.
I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.
I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay;
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.[v]
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) said, “Our joy is in proportion to our trust. Our trust is in proportion to our knowledge of God. To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to triumph and excel. May we be led into fuller knowledge and so find fuller faith and so enter the fuller joy.”[vi]
Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) writes, “We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainties of the world to come.”[vii] Pastor Matt Smith, pastor of Barabbas Road Church, San Diego, California, explains, “It is no small thing that a major fundamental of the Christian faith is the return of Christ. This return is promised as the time when God will execute His justice on the world. We are not to hope in governments nor are we to hope in worldly power but we are to hope in His return.” Pastor Smith further explains, “This is foundational in our faith as we live it out in this time of perceived threat. God is still in control and it is this fact, LIVED OUT that gives us such a powerful witness in this time of trouble. In fact, our faith will shine brightest as we demonstrate hope in God in the very heart of our darkest hour.”[viii]
Dr. J. Stuart Holden (1847-1934) concludes his message on this text titled, “Irrational Rejoicing” in the following way:
Get you back, then, to your own trysting-place with Him. Feel for His outstretched hand and you will find it there. Renew your knowledge of Him in your own way and by your own questionings and listenings. For then you will certainly renew your vows. And they will as surely become vocal as did this old prophet’s. And the music of your life will put heart into others as his did. It will help them tramp the straight road more determinedly. It will scatter the gloom of present events and coming shadows. It will kindle the faith through which, by grace, men are saved in this life and that which is to come. There is no higher calling than this. It is His call to us all in these present distresses.”[ix] It is my prayer each of us will be able to declare, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
May each one of us benefit from a theodicy in three acts.
[i]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Cheque Book of The Bank of Faith, June 3 Reading (New York, NY: American Tract Society, 1893), 155.
[ii]The Homilist, eds. David Thomas and Urijah Rees Thomas, Vol. IV Editor’s Series (Philadelphia, PA: Smith & English, 1877), 130.
[iii]Homilist, Thomas and Thomas, 129-130.
[iv]Homilist, Thomas and Thomas, 129-130.
[v]Palmer Hartsough, “I Am Resolved” (1896) Accessed: 04/07/16 http://www.hymnary.org/text/i_am_resolved_no_longer_to_linger .
[vi]G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit, Vol. 6 [“Jubilation in Desolation” Sermon Notes (Habakkuk 3:17, 18)] (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1970), 153.
[vii]Aiden Wilson Tozer, Of God and Men (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread Publishers, 1987). Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
[viii]Matt Smith, “Habakkuk: From Worry To Worship” Accessed: 04/06/16 http://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/habakkuk-worry-worship .
[ix]J. Stuart Holden, A Voice For God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1932), 32-33.