Friday, March 07, 2014

The Fig Tree

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.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

No blossoms on the tree. No grapes on the green vines. The olive crop fails, and the herds die. The sheep are scattered, and the stalls are empty. Emptiness, failure, and fruitlessness. A situation like this for a farmer would be grave indeed. Lack of produce, crops, and herds would lead to financial, physical, and mental stress. 

Surely it is the same with our lives. We feel, at times, the emptiness of our hearts, the failure of our strength, and the fruitlessness of our own efforts. The temptation to "just give up" plays with our will to keep going. To keep going amid the darkness, confusion, and failure. The sin that we know exists within our own heart seems too great to be conquered. 

But that's because we are just surviving on our own mental resources, will power, and strength. Our bodies and minds are finite; there is a point, when we have to stop, because we physically can't keep going any more. We can't produce any more, give out anything, or fill our beings. We're just done. 

And that's where Habakkuk found himself, too. He wrote during a time of judgment on the Israelites. A time of wickedness, fear, and calamity. A time when no hope was in view.  And so, he turns to the Lord, questioning the unholiness and ruin around him. In answer, Habakkuk is reminded of the Lord's power, holiness, and judgment, and in his fear and grief, he rejoices. 


The fig tree does not blossom. 
The vines produce no fruit. 
The labor of the olive plant fails. 
The fields yield no meat. 
The flock is separated from the fold.
The herds are not in the stalls. 

And yet...

He rejoices. 

He rejoices in a good God. He rejoices in a God who provided salvation once and for all. He rejoices in the joy of the Lord, for it is his strength. He rejoices in a God who uses weakness to show His strength. He rejoices in a God who "works through the most imperfect circumstances, and turns them into [Habakkuk's] good, and His glory". He rejoices not only in a God who chastises, but also in a God whose mercies are new every morning. 

And so can we. We serve the same God Habakkuk served. He has not changed, for He is the same "yesterday, today, and forever". His "faithfulness reaches the skies", and He's promised that our sins are as far removed as east is from west. Though He may afflict, He does not do so willingly, and though "weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning". He goes before us in all our ways, and He is with us. He has never failed any one of His chosen, and "this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." 

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither,
Nor flocks nor herd be there,
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

In this Habakkuk rejoiced. Will you, too, learn to rejoice in the midst of fear, pain, and confusion? If He never gives you in your lifetime what you desire most, will you still rejoice in His loving kindness? Habakkuk did. 

Psalm 30
I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.


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