Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 30 May 2020
Victory in the Worst
17 Though the fig tree may not flourish, and no
fruit be on the grape-vines; though the labor of the olive tree
fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from
the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls: 18 yet I will
triumph in ADONAI. I will rejoice
in God, my Salvation! 19 ADONAI,
the Lord, is my strength. And He will make my feet like a deer,
and will make me to walk on high places. For the music director, on
stringed instruments. (Hab 3:17-29 BR)
Calendar Note: In traditional Judaism Havakkuk
2:20–3:19 is the Haftarah reading on the second day the Festival of
Shavuot in the Diaspora. The connection with Shavuot appears in the
first part of Chapter Three where the language recalls the revelation at
For an explanation
of this passage and its background see my commentary
Charles Dickens began his
famous novel "A Tale of Two Cities" with the line, "It was the best of
times, it was the worst of times." Which of those you experienced in his
story depended on your location and social class.
According to Jewish
tradition the ministry of Havakkuk occurred in the last years of King
Menashsheh [Manasseh], who was arguably the worst king in the history of Israel
and Judah. For Havakkuk it was definitely the worst of times. The government
supported killing children and tolerated every kind of perverse behavior the
mind of man could imagine. Torah standards of righteousness and holiness
The book of Havakkuk is
unique in that it is really a journal of a long conversation the prophet had
with God, beginning with his complaint about the evil societal conditions.
Havakkuk's complaint implies a petition to God. "What are you going to do
about it?" God quickly replied. "Now that you mention it I do have a plan,
but I'm afraid you won't like it. I'm going to send the Babylonians and they
will destroy the wicked in the land." Havakkuk was not happy with this plan
and argues at length how unfair it is. After all, he says, the Babylonians
are worse than us.
God refused to change his
sovereign plan for destruction, although in the end it was postponed.
Havakkuk had a choice. How would he react? Chapter Three reveals how he came
to terms with reality.
The first thing he does is
pray for revival and mercy (verse 2). Like God he took no pleasure in the
death of the wicked. In the Tanakh God has a habit of answering the prayers
of his anointed prophets. Havakkuk's prayer for revival would be answered in
the reign of the next king, Yoshiyyah [Josiah] who would restore devotion to Torah
standards. Then in the next 13 verses Havakkuk recalls the great things God
had done in the history of his people beginning with the Exodus from Egypt
and the revelation of His glory at Mount Sinai. Having reminded himself of
God's past acts of power and justice he can say in verse 16 that he can wait
for God to carry out his sovereign plan.
In verse 17 Havakkuk
describes the anticipated outcome of the Babylonian invasion. All of the
items of field and flock listed here were not only staples for living, but
for celebrating the appointed times in Jerusalem and presenting first fruits
offerings at the Temple. Havakkuk knew the Babylonians would ravage the land
to feed the army and then take his people into captivity. The land would be
left desolate. After all, there can be no agricultural production if there
are no farmers to do the work. How do you keep the appointed times in exile
without the means to conduct the offerings required in the Torah?
A similar conundrum faced
the talmidim of Yeshua when he prophesied that the second temple would be
destroyed [John 4:21]. How do you worship when you can't meet at the
designated sacred building? Yeshua called for a change of perspective by
saying that true worship occurs in the heart, in spirit and truth [John
4:23-24]. This is the perspective of Havakkuk in verses 18 and 19.
Knowing what's coming
Havakkuk determines that he will not turn away from God, but he will turn
toward God. That's your choice in tough times. Havakkuk affirms his
submission to the Lordship of God and then declares that ADONAI is his
strength. ADONAI is his salvation. ADONAI will send revival first to his
spirit so that he may scale spiritual heights. God will give him victory.
You have read "nothing can
separate us from God's love." BUT, is there something that could separate
you from your love for God? The worst of times reveals the strength of a
person's character. God repeatedly warned in Scripture that the faithful
remnant would face tribulation. There is no such thing as a trouble-free
life with God. In those circumstances God's people realize more than ever
their dependence on Him. Let us in these difficult times follow the example
of Havakkuk! Draw closer to God. Name the blessings and benefits you have
received from the Lord in your life and "Rejoice in the Lord always; I say
again rejoice" [Php 4:4].
Copyright © 2020 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.