Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Habakkuk did not understand how a just and merciful God could allow a nation like Babylon to afflict Israel. Babylon was a cruel and barbaric nation bent on the annihilation of any who stood in their way. God calls the Babylonians a bitter and hasty nation that is terrible and dreadful. Their horses are swifter than cheetahs and fiercer than wolves at dusk as the charioteers charge ahead. Like eagles, they swoop down to devour their prey and their army is bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind, sweeping captives ahead of them like sand. This terrible army stands ready to destroy the people of God and Habakkuk is seeking answers.
God answers Habakkuk by reminding the prophet that Babylon is an instrument of divine wrath upon the sinful nation of Israel. The nation of Israel was to be an example of the glory of God but they had become like the nations around them. Judgment had to come upon the disobedient and that judgment came first from the Assyrians. They took the northern tribes away into oblivion and now the Babylonians stood poised to punish the remnant. God knew what He was doing. Habakkuk did not understand the mind of God but everything was following a divine pattern of the goodness and severity of a loving God.
Habakkuk struggled with a wicked nation like Babylon being used to punish the holy people of God. He failed to appreciate that Israel deserved such a severe punishment from an evil nation like Babylon. However, it was never God’s intention to allow Babylon to go unpunished. There is always an appointed time and judgment against any nation that forgets God and judgment would come against the Babylonians. Sin bears its own seed of self-destruction. Israel may be carried away to captivity by the Babylonians but they will return a remnant to preserve the seed. When the Medes and Persians destroyed Babylon, there was nothing left. The wicked nation of Babylon had its Waterloo as all nations will face the judgment of a wrathful God.
The answer God wants Habakkuk to understand is that in the face of the tragedy of the Babylonians, there remains hope and the promise of God. Babylon would bring great harm to Israel and many of God’s people would die but at the end of the day, the just will live by faith. What happens in the affairs of nations is God’s will, not the business of men. God will do what He must do without consulting men. Habakkuk needed to see that regardless of the chaos in the world, God still ruled and the faithful would be justified by trusting in the love and mercy of God. It is at the end of his short book that Habakkuk comes to realize the awesome power of trusting in God. No matter how bad things become, no matter how much harm Babylon will bring to the nation, and no matter what may happen to his life – Habakkuk will remain steadfast to the Lord.
Pandemics come in different forms. For Habakkuk, his pandemic was Babylon. It seemed insurmountable, impossible and full of dread. A lot of bad things were going to take place before it was all over. For many of God’s people, their faith is destroyed. Seeing the Babylonians march on Jerusalem took their spiritual life away and they turned against the Lord. Men like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Ezekiel faced their captivity with faith, courage, and steadfast love for the Lord. They did not allow the Babylonians to destroy their relationship with God. The story does not reveal what happened to Habakkuk. Was he killed by the surging forces of the Babylonian army or did he suffer captivity with so many others? The Holy Spirit does not reveal what happened to the prophet of God and we are left to wonder.
Habakkuk had a clear view of his pandemic. He trembled inside and his lips quivered with fear and he shook in terror. But he decided to wait quietly for the will of the Lord. The prophet of God determined that even though the fig trees would not blossom or the grapes died and the olive crops failed and the fields lie empty and barren, he would rejoice in the Lord. He knew that God was his salvation and the Sovereign Lord was all the strength he needed. Habakkuk would not stop doing the will of the Lord just because he faced the pandemic of the Babylonians.
The pandemic of a virus has rocked the world. Like Babylon, it has come with fear and dread. It is beyond the scope of human wisdom to know how the providential will of the Lord has worked in this pandemic. Regardless, the pandemic has changed the face of the world and, sadly, has rocked the foundations of the church. There have been people of God who have succumbed to the fear of the pandemic and given up their trust and hope in the will of God. They have allowed the fear mongers to destroy their trust in the Almighty Lord God. The prayer of Habakkuk is the only answer to face the pandemic. If the virus destroys half the population of the earth, where will the just be found? The just will live by faith and will continue to follow the New Testament pattern of worship, praise, communion and obedience. This means no matter what happens and what the virus will do in the next one hundred years, the people of God will walk by faith and live in the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Babylon never defeated the people of God; it only emboldened them. No pandemic will destroy the faithful of God; it can only embolden them to trust in the Lord more.