Question: "What does it mean that God makes our feet like the feet of a deer (Habakkuk 3:19)?"
Answer: Several places in Scripture refer to God making our feet “like hinds’ feet” (Habakkuk 3:19; 2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33, KJV). More modern translations speak of “the feet of a deer.” This metaphoric language describes the blessings the presence of God brings to a situation. A well-known book by this title explores the journey of a person who learns to overcome fear and suffering like a deer leaping over obstacles.
The deer, or hind, referenced here can also be called a gazelle, a graceful, swift, and sure-footed animal that can climb sheer rocky cliffs and never stumble or fall. In climbing, the deer can place her back feet exactly where her front feet were, thus needing only two sturdy footrests instead of four. She can scamper across what appears to be a vertical cliff, unafraid and undeterred by seemingly impassable terrain.
That is the picture the inspired writers draw for us when they describe their sure-footed reliance on the Lord in times of crisis. Habakkuk had cried out to God about the sinful condition of his nation, and he had some questions about the methods God was going to use to correct the situation. But, like the psalmists, Habakkuk did not stop with penning his frustration; he continued wrestling with his confusion until the Lord brought him to a place of resolution. Habakkuk 3:17–19 expresses the faith of the prophet in the face of troubled times:
“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 Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
When we run with hinds’ feet on high places, treading “on the heights,” we live above our circumstances. God gives us the grace, courage, and inner strength we need to press on to attain new heights and experience new vistas. With the swiftness of a deer, we can escape our enemies and gain freedom. All this is because “the Sovereign LORD is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:1).
Regardless of what others may do, we keep our eyes securely fastened on the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). We run with endurance the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1) and refuse to give up until God calls us home (Philippians 3:12–14). We watch with amazement as He accomplishes His work in and through us, and we give Him all the praise and glory (Romans 11:36; Philippians 4:20). We shake off the temptation to live for ourselves, and like a deer on a mountain slope, we step boldly into whatever God has called us to do.
In the midst of trying times, it is easy to become overwhelmed with discouragement. Habakkuk definitely lived in trying times, but his solution was to redirect his attention to the Lord. God is the Solid Rock that never fails (Psalm 144:1–2). With God’s promises as our strong foundation, we can walk in freedom and courage, as unafraid and undaunted as a deer leaping on high places.