(Manuscript basis of sermon preached to the congregation of Ikthus Bacolod on 20 February 2022. Please note that the sermon as actually delivered may vary at times from this manuscript.)
I hear, and my body trembles;
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.
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.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. (ESV)
As I mentioned last Sunday, we’re nearing the end of our series of studies in the book of Habakkuk. We’ve been learning about how our faith can be strengthened in the face of the difficulties that confront us, and we’ve learned that one very important way to do that is to know our God, to know his attributes. And last Sunday we began our study of God’s sufficiency. In the course of doing so we learned that Christ is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. And that’s what makes us ready for suffering, the fact that our more than sufficient protection from all that could harm us is God in Christ. God has fulfilled his promise to protect us in a much better way than we can ever think of. Christ himself is our protection. Christ is the resurrection and the life. That’s why we’re not afraid of what can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. If we believe in Christ, we will never die. And even if we die, we will rise again, body and soul.
Today we’re now in the second point under the heading of God is sufficient. Our focus is Habakkuk 3:18, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Before I go to the sermon proper, I’d like us to notice that the joy which is mentioned here is an act of resolve on Habakkuk’s part. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have feelings of fear anymore. It means that you’re resolved to rejoice in spite of the feelings of fear which human beings by virtue of their humanity naturally feel. The believer’s joy therefore is a matter of faith, not of sight. It’s part of the paradoxical nature of the Christian life, similar to what Luther said, “A Christian is simultaneously a sinner and a saint,” and to what Paul said,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
I only have two points to share with you in relation to this passage:
- We should not depend on circumstances for our joy.
- We should find our joy in the God of our salvation.
I. WE SHOULD NOT DEPEND ON CIRCUMSTANCES FOR OUR JOY.
Note the force of the word “Yet” in verse 18. Habakkuk was resolved to rejoice despite the dreadful prospect of famine as a result of the coming Babylonian invasion. Why should we not depend on circumstances for our joy?
A) Because Circumstances are Unpredictable.
Again, I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them. (ESV)
An example of this is the following:
There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. (ESV)
Circumstances are unpredictable. If we base our joy on circumstances, we’re bound to have a roller coaster experience in life. Sometimes we’re up, sometimes we’re down.
B) Because Circumstances are Unreliable.
Prosperity does not guarantee tranquility. Success does not guarantee happiness. Just because you achieve your goals, it doesn’t follow you’ll be joyful. In fact, experience shows that most people experience a let-down once they have the thing they thought would make them happy in their grasp. So, the child thinks, he’ll be happy when he becomes a man. The single person thinks she’ll be happy when she gets married. The law student thinks he’ll be happy when he becomes a lawyer. The businessman thinks he’ll be happy once his business succeeds. The wife thinks she’ll be happy once she gives birth to a child. And so on, and so forth. Oh, they’ll be happy for a while, then they realize, it wasn’t really as thrilling as they thought it would be. Worse, they soon find out the thrill doesn’t last.
I don’t deny that favorable circumstances can give you pleasure, even momentary joy, but they cannot guarantee real and lasting joy. In the Bible we find an example of that:
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. (ESV)
And here’s his conclusion:
So, I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also, my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (ESV)
He had everything, he even had pleasure, but what he didn’t have was true joy.
C) But Circumstances Can Be Lawfully Enjoyable!
Does this mean we aren’t allowed to enjoy life? No, the Bible isn’t against enjoyment. In fact, Ecclesiastes recommends taking joy in the good things of life.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, (ESV)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (ESV)
Lawful enjoyment is a gift of God! To despise this gift is to dishonor God. You’re allowed to enjoy God’s good gifts provided you enjoy them in God and with gratitude to God and for the glory of God. “Whether you eat or you drink, do all for the glory of God.”
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy … (ESV)
This doesn’t contradict what we’ve been saying because in this case the joy here is that which is not apart from God but a joy that one has in the course of pleasing God. The fact that this person lived to please God means that his joy was ultimately in the God who gives all these good things to enjoy, rather than in the things themselves.
1 Timothy 6:17
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (ESV)
II. WE FIND OUR JOY IN THE GOD OF OUR SALVATION.
The author of Ecclesiastes gives us a clue to where we should find our joy. He says, “Apart from God who can have enjoyment?” Habakkuk found joy in “the God of my salvation,” not apart from him.
We find our joy in God himself (Habakkuk 3:18; Philippians 4:4). Our joy in God’s gifts is secondary to our enjoyment of God himself. Of course, the enjoyment of God is inseparable from the enjoyment of God’s greatest gift: salvation in and through Jesus Christ. But even then, we have to remember that if God didn’t give his Son in the first place, we wouldn’t have the gift of salvation! So, in this sense, the Giver comes before his gifts. The whole point of our salvation is so that we can find our joy in God.
Every Valentine’s I give my wife a bunch of flowers, sometimes three roses, sometimes a dozen roses. I’ve been doing that for more than 20 years without fail! Now, do you think it would be right if she spent all of Valentine’s Day just smelling and admiring the flowers and not talk to me at all or even be with me? I’ll have second thoughts about giving her roses come Valentine’s next year!
The Giver is more important than his gifts. And that is why sometimes God takes away his gifts so that we’ll learn to value him more than the things he gives us. That’s the main lesson of the book of Job:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedgearound him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (ESV)
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)
Again, there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So, Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (ESV)
To be sure, Job complained to God, but he never cursed God. He lamented to God, but he never let go of God. Why? Because in the midst of his grief, he treasured God; he found his joy in God, not in the hedge that God had previously surrounded him with. How do we know that?
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God, (ESV)
Job, like Habakkuk, found his joy in God. And I’m glad that he called God his Redeemer. Habakkuk calls him “the God of my salvation.” Job calls him “My Redeemer” in verse 25 and identifies him as “God” in verse 26. The God in whom we find our joy is the God of our salvation, God our Redeemer.
I want to tell you something about this Redeemer in whom we should find our joy. 1 Tim. 3:16 in the KJV refers to this Redeemer as “God manifest in the flesh.” Also, the Bible says,
2 Corinthians 5:19 – In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
This Redeemer is none other than Jesus Christ. Do you know that he went to the cross because he found his joy in saving sinners like you and me?
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. (ESV)
He found his joy in saving you. What about you? Where will you find your joy?
 Humanly speaking, this is true. As far as our perception of events under the sun is concerned, they seem to us a matter of time and chance because we don’t see how all of them are connected. Of course, this doesn’t apply to God who is above the sun and who knows all things and is in control of them.
© Dennis M. Cortes 2022. All Rights Reserved.