17Though 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 herd in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation
What's there to be joyful about for this guy? Would you be joyful living in a desert community without sustenance! Where is joy found? We speak of blessing quite often, God's blessing here and there. But if he does not bless us in the way we should expect, where do we stand? What hope is there when everything fails? What dictates mood? Is it abundance, or lack thereof? Is it that life is working out and going as we have planned? How can the writer rejoice in salvation when he sees everything else falling apart? Makes us think of Job... Makes us think of Paul in prison... Makes us think of our rich history of martyrs... Makes us think of the twelve disciples... What has driven Christianity to grow over the centuries? Why would it when its people have suffered such loss, and its leaders have been destroyed? In this version we have above, verse eighteen starts with 'Yet', and in other versions it starts with 'Even then', which are transitional words taking us to a contrasting thought. Even when all else fails me, and life is not working out, we still hold to the hope that we have in Christ. We still have something that does not fail, which is God's unfailing love and grace! Even when it all comes apart, we can rely on his final restoration of all things and that justice will be accomplished.
In Christ all IS well with our soul, even when we don't feel it. Even in the face of loss, or danger. We are reminded of John Wesley and his encounter with the Moravians on a stormy ship to England! They sang and prayed as the winds blew, but John's christianity had no teeth, he was only frightened and cowering. That experience and the witness of others in England served to change John's faith. It was no longer an intellectual game of information transfer. God used these things to solidify his convictions, and to plant the roots of belief deep in the soil of Jesus' accomplished work of redemption. And, John drove headlong into adversity for the kingdom of God as a result. Christians sing in the face of adversity, hardship, and danger! No one else does...the usual response is to scramble and lose peace. When we root ourselves in Jesus, God becomes an everlasting resonance in our guts. We know him, he has shown himself, he cut the covenant with his people, and we have been adopted into that family. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, what do we have to worry about even if our world fell apart? It is not about our personal success or failure, but about walking the journey with Jesus faithfully and obediently. Understanding that my heart is destined to experience loss, and pain, and we also must endure hardship as he did. It is good to have a god in such charge, who gives such hope, and fulfills his kingdom promises. We would like to shun the hardships, and avoid facing them. However, when we do not and rather walk in trust, we are reminded of his attentiveness to, and cultivation of our soul. We think of the woman in the crowd chronically ill, and without hope, if she could just get close enough to touch the robe of Jesus, she would be healed. And she was. Forget all else, do not focus on it, do not worry on it, touch Jesus, grab hold like Jacob and don't let go! God will bless, even if our circumstances seem lost. We can live and die in peace knowing that God has our life in his hands even when it does not feel good!