Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV
Buried way back in the Old Testament is a book that we don’t hear much about— the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk lived in a time of great wickedness and corruption among the people of God, the nation of Judah. He saw all the wickedness and corruption in the land around him and wondered why God was not doing anything about it. When would God intervene to do something about this situation? Wasn’t God a just God?
But instead of resting on some cursory belief that this was God’s will, Habakkuk went to a special place, the highest place in all the area, the watchtower. And in the place, he said, “God may I have a word with you. I don’t think you’re doing your job right.” Habakkuk wanted answers.
When Habakkuk found himself down in the fields, we read that he laments that the fig trees weren’t budding, there were no grapes on the vines, the olive crop had failed, there were no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls. This isn’t what Habakkuk expected for his life and from God. He was trying to convince himself how God would allow such things. His view of who God is certainly wasn’t showing itself at that time. So, he goes up into the tower to have a word with God.
God does answer him.
But what did Habakkuk really find up in that tower? I think that the one thing that Habakkuk found in that tower was a true sense that God cared for him and for what he was going through. God wasn’t a distant God who did not care about what was happening to the people. The words that jumped out at me as I read this story were at the beginning of God’s response in chapter 2. God says, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” You can almost sense the excitement in God wanting Habakkuk to know that Habakkuk would want to get a messenger ready to run and tell everyone.
It was comforting to Habakkuk to know that God was there. I am sure that down in the fields where the fig tree wasn’t budding and the stalls were empty, Habakkuk wondered if God was really there. He was lost in his own struggles and pain and wondered where God was.
I remember a pastor I knew liked to say, “we go along life like a bug on a masterpiece.” What did he mean by that? Well, imagine a bug crawling around on a masterpiece of art, like Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, hanging in a museum. All the bug can experience is how bumpy the landscape is —the heights and depths of the paint strokes that it must climb up and down over and over. He may wonder, why didn’t they just make this place smooth to make it easier on me? But what that little bug can’t see is the whole picture —to step back from that bumpy terrain and see the masterpiece.
It’s so easy to be in the depths of our own fields that produce no fruit and the stalls that seem empty. Sometimes, like Habakkuk, we need to go to the tower, away from all that is pressing us, to face God honestly and openly without fear and have a word with Him. It is at this point that we may truly begin to realize that God has always been there, without us realizing it, sitting in the barren fields with us.