Advent-ure Calendar Day 14: Joy – Habakkuk 3 – He will not let your foot slip

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Today we move on to thinking about Joy. I’ve realised as we are going through this course that the themes of hope, peace, joy and love are intimately linked. Today’s reading is from the most difficult to spell and hard to pronounce prophet in the bible, Habakkuk:

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.

His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.

Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.

He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.
Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?

Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?

You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
the mountains saw you and writhed.

Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.

Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.

In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.

You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.

You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.

With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.

You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.

I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.

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 Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

(Habakkuk 3:1-19 NIV)

As this is quite a long reading I’d like today to focus on the last two verses.

I had to walk to the big Marks and Spencer in Pudsey on Saturday to join in the carol singing with Churches Together. It had snowed during the night and although not much had settled the pavement was treacherously icy. It took me 10 minutes longer than it should have to get there because I was walking so cautiously! I was terrified I was going to slip and hurt myself  – fortunately I didn’t.

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Image from Soul Shepherding

Most of us don’t live near mountains and neither do we regularly see deer in the wild but maybe you have seen a goat or a deer deftly skipping up some rocks at some point in your life? Well this is clearly the image Habakkuk has in mind and interestingly it’s an image used elsewhere in the bible:

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights. (Psalm 18:33 NIV)

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber; (Psalm 121:3 NIV)

Last year, when the snow was really bad a colleague told me about these grips you can buy for your shoes. She said they’d got some for her elderly grandma and that she was skipping about like a goat on the ice in them. This made me giggle and also made me think I must buy a pair (they sold out really quickly last year – I might invest in some this year thinking about it!) Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be an advert for those ice grips but the image I think is strong.

When I walked on Saturday morning my journey was really stressful. I had to carefully look to see if the surface in front of me was level (bad when iced over) or rugged (good). I had to see if there was anything I could hold onto like a railing or lamppost if I slipped. I had to make sure the road was clear before crossing as I couldn’t risk running. At the risk of sounding cheesy, sometimes life can feel like this.

In Habakkuk’s great prayer here he does what I was talking about the other day – he spends some time describing God, his character and what he has done. You can see that Paul perhaps got his idea to encourage the Philippians to rejoice always from Habakkuk. Habakkuk decides to rejoice in God despite his bad circumstances:

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

Again – not so different from Jeremiah’s Ghost Town and therefore not so different from our current situation in this recession.

His choosing to rejoice then gives him the faith to say:

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

I pray that with God you and I can be as sure-footed as we navigate through life.

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