The Fig, The Shepherd, and other thoughts…

August 5, 2008


 Reading the Old Testament can be difficult, at least for me.  There is often a great deal of background info that is required to understand what I am reading.  Occasionally things catch my eye and as a result are in need of further study.  A while back I was reading the book of Habakkuk one of the “Minor” Prophets which appear toward the end of the OT between Nahum and Zephaniah, or roughly 40 pages before Matthew.  Written around 600 years before the birth of Christ, Habakkuk ponders several questions as he gazes at Israels uncertain future and God gives His response.  The book to me is a book of hope and optimism, indeed Habakkuk recognises and rejoices in God of his salvation (3:17) despite difficult times.

The Third Chapter is what caught my eye, starting in verse 17 which was written “to the choirmaster” as a psalm to close out his Prophecy : “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herds in the stalls, 18. YET I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”  Quite bleak until verse 18 wouldn’t you agree?. 

What struck me about the passage is that all the examples given are covered by our Lord in the New Testament.  Summer will be near when the fig tree blooms (Matt24:32), and from this they will know that He is at the Gates(Mark:28-31).  Those who are gentiles have been grafted into a cultivated Olive tree(Rom11:24)  Christ was “thrown out” of the vineyard his father prepared and rejected by the workers(Matt 21:39) but He of course is the True Vine (John15:1), the fields once barren of food are now White for harvest(John4:35) sown onto fertile ground and ready for the reaper.  The best parallel is in the Shepherd, for while in Habakkuk the flock was cut off, and the stalls were empty of its herds, now the flock has found its Shepherd who will lay His life down for His Flock(John10:1-31).

All of these may not be direct parallels, but what is amazing is that this litany was written 600 years prior to there ever being a hope of fulfillment, and yet Habakkuk had hope and rejoiced in God.  All the OT prophets, we are told in I Peter 1:10-12, did what they did and wrote what they wrote considering the Christ; they ‘Searched and inquired carefully'(v10) ‘inquiring about what person or time His spirit was indicating to them(v11), ‘it was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but us'(vs12). 

We can be inspired in that while Habakkuk did not see the Christ, or experience the saving grace of God by His sacrifice, he believed.  In fact he blessed God in difficult times when all seemed hopeless knowing that in God his salvation lay.  He truly had faith the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.(Heb11:1)

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