(Scripture references taken from New American Standard Translation.)
In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet, under the inspiration of God, says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vine; though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls; yet I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength. And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (Hab. 3:17-19).
Habakkuk has made a decision of his will to refuse to let natural circumstances control him or his life. Natural circumstances give him absolutely no reason to praise God. Yet he decides to praise Him and exult in Him. Why? Because he has a reason that far outweighs the circumstances.
His exultation and rejoicing are in the fact that he knows God is his salvation. That word salvation, from the original Hebrew, means much more than having our sin washed away. The word translated salvation, in both Hebrew and Greek, means “deliverance, victory, health, and prosperity.” Habakkuk knows that no matter what the trouble he faces, he has a God Who will deliver him and bring him out in victory, if he will remain faithful and keep his eyes on the Lord.
When Habakkuk talks about the Lord making his feet like hinds’ feet, he is referring to the fact that the hind lives high up in the mountainous areas and walks fearlessly along the steep sides of the mountains, and the narrow ledges over steep drop-offs. This dexterity comes from the fact that God made the hind to be able to leap from ledge to ledge in such a way that the two back feet come down in exactly the same spot that the two front feet left. So the animal is perfectly confident as it leaps and walks in the most dangerous places.
The prophet realizes that as long as his trust is in his God, he can be confident that no matter how dangerous or treacherous the way in the midst of trouble, he will not fall, but will leap from point to point, as sure-footed as the hind. And he will come at last to the highest level of victory over the problem.
Habakkuk is not alone in recognizing the value of praising his God in the face of bewildering negative circumstances. David, when he and his men returned to Ziklag (1 Samuel 30), found it had been burned down completely, and all their wives and children had been taken captive by the Amalekites. David and all of his mighty warriors were so distraught and horrified that the Word says they wept until they had no more power to weep. Then David’s men began to talk about stoning him, because he had been the one responsible for their being away from their homes at the time of the attack. David had absolutely nowhere to turn for help. No one even wanted to talk to him, let alone befriend him at that time. But the Word says “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
Once he turned away from what he could see and hear and feel, and began to build himself up on what he knew to be the truth about his God, David gained new spiritual strength, and put himself into a place of being able to hear from God. He then called for the priest to bring the ephod, which was a tool God had given Israel’s leaders to aid them in hearing from Him. After centering all of his attention on God, David was then in a place to hear what God told him. And because he was again in a place of faith, God was able to instruct him to pursue the enemy and recover everything he and his men had lost. God was able to give the victory, but David had to be able to receive it. And he could not do that in a state of hopelessness and despair — but only in a state of faith.
Another well-known Old Testament prophet speaks almost the same message in the midst of what I perceive as the most bazaar, hopeless situation that I can imagine. Jonah, in chapter two of the book named for him, speaks while inside the belly of the whale. (Scripture calls it a ‘great fish,’ but ‘whale’ will suffice for this lesson.) He describes the total ugliness and hopelessness of his situation, but then he says, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to Thee, into Thy holy temple. … I will sacrifice to Thee with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”
Here again, in the midst of the most severe trouble and the direst prognosis for the future, the prophet concentrates on the truth which outweighs all that he sees and feel: God is the source of salvation (deliverance,) and therefore, is worthy to be praised. Jonah makes a decision to worship God and give Him the sacrifices of love and praise which are due Him.
Pastor John Osteen, of Houston, Texas, once made the point, while teaching on Jonah, that we have none of us ever been in so negative a situation as Jonah. He said no matter what we’re facing, we can look in some direction and see at least a little light or encouragement; but no matter where Jonah looked, all he could see, in any direction, was whale. How true. We should be thankful for even the smallest encouragement from any direction.
But Jonah, with absolutely no natural encouragement at all, made his decision and praised his God. And notice the first word in the very next verse: “Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto dry land.” Note that it is after we make a decision to praise God and acknowledge Him as our complete salvation that the Lord can move freely on our behalf.
You see, we must use our spiritual vision and see that very real salvation (deliverance, healing, prosperity) which is in the spirit realm. Being in the spirit realm, it is eternal and unchanging, and more powerful than any natural circumstances, which are always bound to change when pressured by things of the spirit. We don’t deny those circumstances, but we make up our mind that God’s Word is true — more true and more trustworthy than the circumstances. Then we will praise and worship our God, even though the fig tree is dead. Our praise and worship will release our faith and unlock the doors between Heaven and Earth, allowing the salvation and resurrection life of God to flow freely into our situation. Then the fig tree will blossom, and then the vine will bear fruit. †