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Even Then

by Tim O'Hearn

Habakkuk was a man who questioned God. I donít mean he argued with God like Moses and Abraham. It was more like just asking God "why?" In a sense, it was arguing with God, but in a more passive way. Why, if Judah is your people, are you bringing Babylon, a more wicked nation, to destroy them? Why do good people suffer while wicked people prosper? God answered, "Wait and see." After God then showed Habakkuk his glory, Habakkuk made one of the great statements of faith in the Bible.

"Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, Even then will I rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation." (Hab 3:17-18)

"EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord." The nation is facing an enemy who may destroy their accustomed way of life. As a result of war, famine will follow. There will be no harvest, no herd, no husbandry. But no matter what happens, no matter who is king or prime minister or President of the United States, "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

Perhaps the worst thing Habakkuk could imagine was the loss of a livelihood. His accustomed occupation would be gone. Jobs come and, unexpectedly, go. People are out of work, even homeless, for long periods of time. It is hard. It is made harder when you donít know where the next meal for your family is coming from. It wouldnít be so bad if you were by yourself, but to see those you love go hungry would be a great burden. David observed Godís provision, even under these circumstances. "I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." (Psa 37:25) So I lost my job. So was without suitable work for over four months. "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

Doctors say that the incidence of cancers in the United States is steadily, and not slowly, rising. In Africa, latest reports say that over 20% of the population carries the AIDS virus. Heart disease, lupus, stroke, seizure disorder, Parkinsonís--myriad are the illnesses we experience. There are few, if any, families that have not been affected, directly or though a close friend, by serious illness. Who hasnít had the opportunity to ask, with Habakkuk, "why?" Good people, bad people, Christian people are all affected. No single group is immune. When you look at it this way, rather than personalizing illness, you see that God is not punishing or rewarding. The child of God can also see that God is not ignoring. As children most of us learn that our parents donít cause us to be sick, but when we are, they are there to offer comfort and aid. So it is with God. "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

Gang violence, road rage, drug use, alcohol related or other automobile accidents--these all are major contributors to the death rate among people under age sixty. While people as a whole are living longer than in previous generations, we also have people dying in numbers similar to those of a few centuries ago. Thatís easy to say, as long as it is not your parent, or son or daughter that is being buried. Death can happen to everyone else, as long as it doesnít happen in my family. When it is MY family, that is different. When it become personal, then our faith is tested. It would be easy to take the attitude of the fatalist: Things happen and then you die. On the other hand, God told Habakkuk to take the long view. And that long view extends far beyond this life. If you have seen God and take that long view, then even in the face of death it becomes easy to say with Habakkuk, "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

Barometric pressure. Water pressure. Air pressure. All these are nothing compared to Peer Pressure. And it is not limited to the young. We live in a world that is, by and large, willfully ignorant of Godís truth. Morals are a matter of convenience, and when they become inconvenient, they are cast off. Godís followers judge the world by their obedience, by showing evil to be evil. (I Cor 6:2) The world does not like that. Therefore, Satan tries to get the people of God to fit in, to blend in, to look like everyone else. Then everyone else looks good. We donít like to stand out and be different. That is the strength of peer pressure. Joshua knew that feeling, but he also knew the way he should go. "Choose you this day whom you will serve.... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Josh 24:15) What was he saying but, "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

Sometime God says, "Wait." This is how he answered Habakkuk. This is also how he sometimes answers prayer. This is also when we become tempted to stop praying, and believing. "There must not be a God. I asked, but didnít get what I wanted." Even passing over the obvious "I wanted," one can respond easily. How often did you not ask, and God gave you more than you needed or imagined? God cares for us better than the flowers or the birds. (Luke 12:24-28) Seeing that, "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

"Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour." (1 Pet 5:8) Temptation. You might say that it is a way of life; to some it even becomes a lifestyle. It comes daily, "on little cat feet" like Carl Sandburgís fog. It sneaks up and grabs you when you least expect it. Once you are in its clutches, how can you run? It has you. How can you survive? But wait! He who protects you is stronger than any lion, even the lion of Satan.

"No temptation has taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able to withstand, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it." (I Cor 10:13)
When attacked by the lion, "EVEN THEN will I rejoice in the Lord."

God is taking us home. In that place there will be no death, no sorrow. War and famine can not reach there. All good things will be provided. There will be no peer pressure, no temptation, no Satan. "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.'" (Rev 21:3-4)

"ESPECIALLY THEN, I will rejoice in the Lord."