Wednesday, December 5, 2018

EmmDev 2018-12-05 [Encouragement] In spite of pain

In spite of pain

Our next encouragement from God comes via the prophet Habakkuk who is a contemporary of Jeremiah. His work as a prophet was to write up a dialogue between himself (representing the remnant in Israel) and God. The dialogue is about the reality of suffering and the presence of God in the midst of suffering.

What is significant is that after a thorough exploration of the pain Israel was experiencing and the conundrums this caused, the book ends with the three-verses that were their (and our) encouragement

The reality is that life is not always easy - sometimes the fig-tree does not bud and crops fail. We are not always prosperous and often suffering and loss find their ways into our lives. But the presence of trouble is not a show-stopper for faith - Faith can outlast trouble. Not because faith is strong in itself, but because our faith is in God and God is by nature a Saviour.

Habakkuk was confident that Israel would be saved from exile. He was hopeful that the exile was not the end of the line. He knew that it is God's nature to save.

But Habakkuk also believed that when we have to make the perilous mountain-crossings over trouble and hardship, we can trust God to give us strength and sure-footedness.

I like to use this passage as a call to worship because on any given Sunday there are people in the congregation who have experienced the crop-failures and stable-emptiness of sadness and pain. These verses acknowledge that reality but point toward our saving and strengthening God.

17 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,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.      (Habbakuk3:17-19)

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