Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls,Habakkuk 3:17(NASB)
Habakkuk was part of the remnant of Israel who remained faithful to the Lord. He was jealous for the nation of Israel who had strayed far away from the Lord their God. He did not understand why God did not punish their iniquity and bring them back to Himself, as in times past. The apostate, northern kingdom of Israel, had already been sent into captivity by Assyria. The southern kingdom 'though equally wicked, seemed to be escaping the inevitable wrath of God. This prophet knew that God's chosen nation had wandered far from Him and had fallen deep into apostasy and idolatry and this prophet of God wanted them to return to the Lord... yet it seemed that God was turning a blind eye to their spiritual adultery. "How long," he mourned, "before the wicked go unpunished?"
Habakkuk wanted God to punish Israel so they would return to Him - as in times past. But how perplexing for this godly man to hear the Lord was to use the wicked Babylonian nation to punish His chosen people! Habakkuk knew that the pagan practices of the Chaldean nation were even more ungodly and evil than Judah's apostasy. They were a cruel, brutal, sadistic, violent, and prideful nation, with an insatiable appetite for bloodshed and a contempt for God, who were steeped in a corrupt governmental system which was unsurpassed.
Habakkuk could not understand how God could use such an evil and treacherous nation to punish His own people! Israel's sin did not seem to be so great by comparison. But all sin must be punished and Habakkuk was given a great assurance, by God, that the barbaric nation that He would use to punish His own people would themselves be punished. They would be broken to pieces by the Lord's own righteous judgement upon them.
The realisation that a terrible time of tribulation was about to deluge the little kingdom of Judah, brought Habakkuk to his knees in sorrow and repentance. He pleaded that in His wrath, God would remember to be merciful to the apostate and idolatrous nation of Israel that was called by His name.
Habakkuk knew that God's judgement on His people was inevitable and shocking, but he also glimpsed the goodness of God, the righteous of God, and His never-failing faithfulness towards His chosen people. Habakkuk was given a great assurance that Israel's coming terrible time of tribulation would have a purifying effect on God's people, and the Lord gave Habakkuk the assurance that, like Abraham, the just shall live because of their faith and that their faith would be credited to them as righteousness.
And so, despite knowing that a time of terrible tribulation was fast approaching the people of God, Habakkuk was able to trust the Lord to keep His promises. Habakkuk was able to pray with surety, "though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines.. though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food.. though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls.. YET I will exult in the LORD. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.. for the Lord my God is my strength."
The full and final purification and restoration of Israel is yet future, but, for the moment, God is working his plan of redemption through His Church. In this present dispensation of grace, God is using the Church as His witnesses. And yet as time marches on, there seem to be many shadows of Israel's past faithlessness that parallel the current apostasy raging through the corridors of Christendom today.
As God's people... we have, in many respects, become corrupt. We have compromised the truth of God's righteous Word by accepting unrighteous laws and false doctrines into our midsts without challenge. We have embraced many worldly ways, watered-down the truth of God's Word, and allowed false teachers and doctrines of demons to infiltrate our churches and our minds - we have forgotten what it is to blush.
As a Church, we need to call out, as did Habakkuk, and pray that in His wrath the Lord would remember mercy. We should get on our faces and confess that as the Body of Christ, we have not done what we ought to have done... and we have done the things that we should not have done. And as the Body of Christ we should humble ourselves and pray, and seek God's face, turn from our wicked ways, and cry out for His mercy, "though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines.. though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food.. though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls.. YET I will exult in the LORD.. yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.. for the Lord my God is my strength."
Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Habakkuk and for the truths that we can learn. I acknowledge that, like Israel, we have gone astray and wandered far from You. We have left our first love and flirted with the world. Forgive us, Lord. Purify Your Church and restore to us the joy of our salvation. Keep us faithfully looking to Christ and living by faith, for You alone are our strength and our salvation. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.