Though the Fig Tree Does Not Blossom
by Sharon Betters
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.
The prophet Habakkuk’s heart broke as he watched Babylon, the enemy of Israel, break the backs of God’s people by enslaving them. Why didn’t God do something? These are God’s precious people yet once more they suffered the consequences of their own sinful abandonment of worship of God. Still, they are God’s people. How could He abandon them to such a life?
Habakkuk cries out:
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You “Violence!” and You will not save? Why do You make me see iniquity, and why do You idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
God’s shocking reply to Habakkuk’s lament confused the prophet even further. God intended to use Israel’s bitter enemies, the Babylonians, to bring judgment on His people. Dissatisfied with God’s response, the prophet continues questioning God’s wisdom and love (Habakkuk 1:12 – 2:1). God’s answer came swiftly. Babylon would eventually also be punished; in the meantime, the Israelites were to live by faith as they waited for God’s deliverance (Habakkuk 2:4). Although fearful of what awaited the Israelites, Habakkuk chose emotional intimate worship in his response. He admits his terror, disappointment, and grief over God’s response, but ultimately chooses to trust God’s perfect love and wisdom:
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.
While he is waiting Habakkuk chooses to live life through the grid of joy in the Lord:
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. Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the “facts” didn’t bear out his faith, this is Habakkuk’s broken hallelujah. He chooses to trust God’s promise of restoration for Israel, even though he, Habakkuk, would not live to see that restoration. Habakkuk’s beliefs about God’s character dramatically changed his reaction to his circumstances and gave him eyes that saw beyond the physical realm. His declaration to wait by faith deepened his intimacy with God:
God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer;
He makes me tread on my high places.
The Israelites suffered because of their sin, but God keeping His covenant promise that He would never forsake His people promises Habakkuk that one day He will deliver them.
Many years later, the writer of Hebrews encourages frightened Christians to cling to God’s promises with a direct quote from Habakkuk:
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay; but My righteous One shall live by faith, and if He shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in Him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Sometimes the only thing that gets me through a day is that we are one day closer to Heaven, one day closer to total restoration, one day closer to a place where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more broken hearts, no more death. God’s definition of “yet a little while” is different from mine! Until that moment of complete restoration, He gives us the grace to sing that broken hallelujah as a means of glorifying Him.
Though I don’t see how You can keep Your promises, Oh Lord, may I choose to trust You, to accept that like Habakkuk. I may not see promised restoration on this earth but that I will not only live but also die believing You.