Causes For Rejoicing

The actor is rejoicing at having won an oscar. What causes you to rejoice?


The prophet Habakkuk is rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord, despite the ominous signs of the disaster facing his people at the hands of the Babylonians. Even though there is going to be crop failure and depletion of livestock.  His repeated refocusing on the Lord can be seen in the following passages from his prophecy.

Habakkuk 1:12a. CEV

‘Holy LORD God, mighty rock, you are eternal, and we are safe from death.”

Habakkuk 2:13,14,20. CEV

“But the LORD All-Powerful sends up in flames what nations and people work so hard to gain. Just as water fills the sea, the land will be filled with people who know and honor the LORD. Let all the world be silent– the LORD is present in his holy temple.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19a. CEV

“Fig trees may no longer bloom, or vineyards produce grapes; olive trees may be fruitless, and harvest time a failure; sheep pens may be empty, and cattle stalls vacant–but I will still celebrate because the LORD God saves me.The LORD gives me strength. ”

  • Where is your focus when things get completely out of hand?
  • Do you tend to focus on the problem or on the one who has the solution?


The one thing that I recall from the Confirmation classes I attended in preparation for church membership, was the very first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism – ‘What is man’s chief end?’

    • Did you learn this?
    • Do you remember the answer?

The answer provided is, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’

The American theologian John Piper comments, “The old tradition says: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’…. Sometimes you glorify God and sometimes enjoy Him? Sometimes He gets glory, sometimes you get joy? ‘And’ is a very ambiguous word! Just how do these two things relate to each other?“

John Piper goes on to consider, “What does God have to say about the chief end of man? Does He command us to enjoy Him?” He answers by quoting from 1 Corinthians, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)

John Piper comes to a conclusion that “in all life God be glorified the way He Himself has appointed.” Therefore he suggests a change in the wording to read, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever’.   (Desiring God”, by John Piper – Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist)

  • So how do we glorify God by enjoying Him forever?


Where the Contemporary English Version has the phrase, “I will still celebrate” (Habakkuk 3:18) most other versions have “I will rejoice.”

We glorify God by celebrating or rejoicing in His goodness.

The phrase ‘rejoice in the Lord’ appears at least 12 times in Scripture.

In one of his Psalms, David opens with the words, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Psalm 32:1 NIV) Indeed what a blessing it is to have the assurance that our transgressions (sins) are forgiven.

In the light of this assurance, David ends this psalm with the encouragement to, “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11) The knowledge that one’s sins are forgiven is a great motivation to rejoice in the Lord.

In another psalm, David appeals to God, “Oppose those who oppose me, LORD, and fight those who fight against me!….may ruin overtake them by surprise—may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.” (Psalm 35:1,8,9 GNB)

The Lord is the one who promises to save us from dangerous situations. There are times when we are threatened with a danger that perhaps we are not even aware of, yet the Lord works in the background to save us.

An unnamed psalmist wrote, “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” (Psalm 104;33,34 NIV)


The prophet Joel brought a message of encouragement to the people of Judah assuring them that if they turned back to God He would renew His blessing.

Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things! Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.” (Joel 2:21-23)

Oh, how the folk living in the Eastern Cape of South Africa need this assurance. We are suffering under a terrible drought. We do need abundant showers to fall particularly in the dam catchment areas. Here in Gqeberha, zero-day is rapidly approaching when we will run out of water. This is, unfortunately, caused partly by the drought, but aggravated by our badly-maintained infrastructure where pipes are constantly breaking (or being vandalised.) Please pray for this situation. People all over the city are rushing to get rainwater tanks installed so that when ANY rain falls, it will be saved for further use. 

Paul’s words to the Philippians come to mind, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Notice the word ‘always’. Our rejoicing should not be confined to when things are going well, but we are exhorted to rejoice always, even when facing trying circumstances.

This brings us to the end of this series of studies on the prophecy of Habakkuk. I trust that you have been blessed through the study. For my part, I have enjoyed putting it together and in the process, I have learned a great deal about trusting God despite trying circumstances and the need to rejoice in the Lord regardless.


I have a busy couple of months of preaching as well as a week with my daughter and son-in-law visiting from overseas. (Yay!) So I am planning on posting a short weekly series called Encounters With Jesus. (Starting 2nd June)

Please indicate in a comment whether you would like a further in-depth Bible Study series in similar style to Habakkuk to follow. 

If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. Even though we’re at the end of the study, you will find It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

And watch this space for Encounters With Jesus

– starting 2nd June –

As we bring this session to a close, join in singing Paul’s words put to song – Rejoice in the Lord always.

True Worship

Mankind was born with an inbred desire to praise and worship someone or something. We either praise and worship the one true God or we will create our own man-made idols.

Habakkuk 3:19b NIV

‘For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.’

In an earlier study, we noted that Habakkuk appeared to be involved in leading worship. Here in this verse, he refers to ‘my stringed instruments.’


  • How does your church worship the Lord each Sunday?
    • Do you sing a selection of hymns played on an organ?
    • Are there hymns and songs played on an organ and or a piano?
    • Perhaps you attend a more lively church with a band comprising piano, keyboard, guitars and drums etc? What instruments are used?

Some people believe the only true worship instrument is the pipe organ. But did you know that there was a huge outcry when the organ was first introduced into a church service? The Scots labelled the instrument as a “kist o’ whistles” – a derogatory name with kist meaning coffin. Many believed it was an instrument of the devil.

Today there are those who believe the guitar should not be played in church, and as for drums? Well, really!


Doesn’t this seem strange in the light of the fact that the Bible reveals Old Testament worshipers used a variety of musical instruments?

“Praise God with trumpets and all kinds of harps.
Praise him with tambourines and dancing, with stringed instruments and woodwinds.
Praise God with cymbals, with clashing cymbals.” (Psalms 150: 3-5 CEV)

They also used the shofar (from a ram’s horn, especially the kudu!), bells, lyres, small drums, flutes etc.

A modern-day Habakkuk would almost certainly use an electric guitar and a keyboard!


Here in our own city of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), from time to time the well-known South African conductor, Richard Cox, leads a service of worship called ‘Songs of Praise’. Pre-Covid, believers packed the large auditorium to join in a great time of praise and worship. A large orchestra and choir comprising choir members from local churches accompanied the singing.

I don’t believe the Lord is choosy about which instruments we use in worship. After all, he gave mankind the ability to design these numerous musical instruments. God’s main concern is the state of our hearts, whether we are truly worshipping Him or merely singing songs.

Shirley and I once attended an amazing service of worship in a rural African church where their only instrument was the Bible! The congregants danced as they sang lustily, clapping the palms of their hands on their Bibles in time to the rhythm. What a wonderful time of truly God-inspired worship that was! 


On the outskirts of the village of Sychar in Samaria, Jesus got into conversation with an adulterous woman. Jesus pinpointed that she had five previous husbands and was not married to the man she was living with. The lady tried to change the subject.

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24 NIV)

She attempted to enter into a debate as to the correct venue for worship. Jesus in effect said the venue is not  important, it’s who you worship and how you worship that is really important – “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

True worship is God centred, Spirit orchestrated, and focused on the truth about Jesus.

On YouTube recently there have been several clips claiming that some of the lively songs of praise and worship sung in many of our churches are theologically inaccurate. That the songwriters are in effect teaching false doctrine which is more man centred than God-glorifying. Jesus said,”.. . .the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth...”


This is not really surprising in the light of the temptations Jesus received in the wilderness after his baptism by John the Baptist.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1,2)

The English word ‘temptation’ comes from the Greek PETRASMOS and can also mean ‘testing.’

It was truly a time of testing for Jesus. After fasting for forty days Jesus was hungry and Satan tempted him to meet His physical need miraculously and thus prove himself to be the Son of God. Jesus replied, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘” (Matthew 4:4)

In His weakened condition, Satan continued to attempt Jesus to question his own identity by taking him to the highest point of the temple – “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” for surely God will send his angels to save you.” Jesus again resisted the temptation by quoting God’s Word, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.‘” (Matthew 4:7).


But now we come to the real crux of the three temptations.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.‘” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Satan hates seeing Christians worshipping the one true God through Jesus Christ the Son. He will do all he can to undermine such worship. Even if it involves getting us to sing words which don’t truly praise and glorify God. We need to be very careful that we are worshipping the Lord our God and not allowing Satan to distract us.


David, himself a musician, had a lot to say about our praise and worship of God. “I will praise the LORD God with a song and a thankful heart.” (Psalm 69:30 CEV)

  • Is your worship truly heartfelt?
  • Does your worship flow from your heart or do you simply sing songs?

Paul’s advice to believers is, “When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart.” ( Ephesians 5:19 CEV)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you whether you are offering true worship and to teach you how to present God with true worship through Christ His Son.
Then join in with this congregation as they sing a true song of worship. See what instruments you can identify. 


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Source of Strength

Habakkuk began his prophecy on a note of despair but he ends up by focusing on his source of strength.


Image by Deep Khicher from Pixabay

What would you say is your source of strength? What do you rely on most to get on in life?

  • Is it your physical fitness?
  • Perhaps it is your level of intelligence?
  • Are you a highly talented individual?
  • Who do you rely on most – your marriage partner, peers, parents, children, or colleagues?
  • Who really exerts the greatest influence on your life?

Habakkuk 3:19 CEV

‘The LORD gives me strength. He makes my feet as sure as those of a deer, and he helps me stand on the mountains. To the music director: Use stringed instruments.’

As we noted in the previous verse, if everything that was normal and predictable collapsed, the prophet declared that he would still rejoice in the Lord.

Is this not, in effect, exactly what the world has come to experience through the Coronavirus pandemic? Everything that we regarded as normal and predictable in life, was thrown into disarray. As a result, people coined the term ‘the new normal’. And what is the new normal? No one seems to know.

  • What effect has the virus had on your normal pattern of life? Do you now have a new normal?

What exactly is the new normal? It seems to be different in every country.

Here in South Africa, the new normal includes the constant emphasis on being vaccinated against the virus. We are continually urged to wear masks when we enter malls, shops, restaurants, churches etc. We are reminded to keep a safe distance from one another and to keep sanitizing and washing our hands. 

  • How has the virus affected your relationships?


The prophet affirmed that the Lord continued to be the source of his strength in the face of the forthcoming devastation by the Babylonians (a.k.a. Chaldeans). Despite the fact that the circumstances confronting him had not shown any signs of improvement, Habakkuk had discovered the secret to being able to walk sure-footed like a deer climbing a steep mountain. “The Lord has given me strength.”

The devotional writer Beth Moore makes this comment:

“Faith is never the denial of reality; it is belief in a greater reality. Yes we are indeed surrounded by discouraging circumstances. But the reason we don’t have to yield to fear and discouragement is the presence of God in the middle of our circumstances.” (‘Believing God day by day’ by Beth Moore)


We saw in our last session how although David was chosen to replace King Saul as king of Israel this only happened after Saul was killed in battle.

Following David’s slaying of the giant Goliath and being appointed commander in chief of Saul’s army, the Lord gave him success after success in battle. So much so that the people began chanting

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7 NIV)

Scripture goes on to record,  “Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?'” (1 Samuel 18:8 NIV)

From that point onwards, out of jealousy, Saul attempted to assassinate David.

Psalm 59 is a psalm that David wrote when Saul sent men to spy on David with a view to killing him. The psalm is headed, “When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.” (Psalm 59:1)

David opens with an appeal, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me.”  Then in several verses, he highlights God as his source of strength.

“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress,’ (Verse 9)

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Verses 16 & 17)

Despite having to frequently flee for his life, David acknowledged that the Lord constantly came to his rescue as the source of his strength.


At the end of a three-week period of mourning, fasting and prayer Daniel received a vision of a man. From the description of the man, this appears to have been an archangel. (Daniel 10:1-6)

He said to Daniel:

“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:10)

“Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” (Daniel 10:14)

Daniel said to the one standing before him,

“I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.” (Daniel 10:16b,17)

The passage continues:

“Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. ‘Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” (Daniel 10:18,19)

Daniel was overawed at this vision of a spirit being and the message concerning a great war (Daniel 10:1). He was weak both physically from his time of fasting, and spiritually. In his weakened condition, he was given a word of assurance which was the source of strength. 


Life is full of experiences that sap our strength and may even cause us to doubt the goodness of God.

The apostle Paul wrote of a particular weakness that he experienced:

“. . .in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – bold mine.)

Whatever our area of weakness, we have a God who desires to turn every weakness into a source of strength.

We all have our weaknesses, but some seem worse than others. Whatever your weakness, wherever you need to be strengthened, bring that before the Lord in prayer and His power will help you overcome your weakness.

Join in with this magnificent choir as they sing God is Our Strength and Worship to the wonderful Dam Buster’s March. 


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Rejoice always?

As we follow the news broadcasts we are fed with so many negative stories. There appears to be very little to rejoice in these days. There is a very old song that tells us we have to accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative. 


This seems to be what Habakkuk is telling us today.

Photo by Andre Furtado:

‘…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.’ Habakkuk 3:18 NIV

As we noted in our last study, despite the list of possible calamities that Habakkuk envisaged, he made a determined decision not to focus on the negatives but rather to set his sights on the eternal God. “I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Matthew Henry says, ‘Praising and blessing God is work that is never out of season… Fears are silenced, sorrows sweetened, and hopes kept up.’ (Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible – Sourcebook for Speakers – Eleanor Doan – Pg. 292.)


A Christian lady felt dejected because of her overwhelming troubles. As she walked along the street one day she met her pastor. He asked her how she was doing spiritually.

She replied, “Oh, not too bad, under the circumstances.”

The pastor responded, “So why are you under the circumstances? Get above the circumstances, sister – Get where Jesus is!”

  • On what have you set your sights? – The circumstances? – The troubles in life – or Jesus”?

It’s not easy to rise above one’s circumstances. Like the prophet Habakkuk, we seem to have an endless list of problems to deal with.


There are three possible reactions to the troubles life hands us:

  •         you can rebel against them
  •         you can resign yourself to them
  •         Or you can rejoice in them

The choice is yours.

How do you generally react to troubling circumstances?

  • Do you rebel?
  • Do you resign yourself to them?
  • Or do you look for a reason to rejoice in them?


David experienced more than a fair share of hardship, despite being God’s chosen king of Israel.

a) Shepherd to giant killer

King Saul Israel’s first king started out well, but then his position of power went to his head and he chose to disobey God’s very clear instruction. Therefore God instructed the priest Samuel to anoint the shepherd David as the future king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13).

During periods of deep depression, David who was also a talented musician was called upon to play soothing music to calm the king. (1 Samuel 16:21,22)

War broke out against the Philistines who had Goliath a giant of a man as their champion. The Israelites had none brave enough to take on Goliath until David volunteered and slew the giant. (1 Samuel 17)

b) Commander to fugitive

King Saul then made David his commander-in-chief of the army (1 Samuel 18:13).

Jonathan, one of King Saul’s sons, became David’s best friend. They entered into a friendship pact. (1 Samuel 20)

David’s success as a soldier and his relationship with Jonathan was the source of intense jealousy on Saul’s part. As a result, David had to flee for his life. He had to constantly change his hiding place because informers disclosed his hiding place to Saul.

On several occasions, David actually had Saul at his mercy but refused to harm God’s chosen king. (1 Samuel 24).

Samuel, the prophet, died. After his death, Saul consulted a witch to call up Samuel from the dead for advice on how to defeat the Philistines. Although the spirit of Samuel did appear he predicted Saul’s death the following day. (1 Samuel 28:3-7)

c) Chosen king but challenged

David was then anointed king of Judah and he chose Hebron as his capital. However, the nation was still divided between Israel and Judah. Israel in the north was led by Ishbosheth one of Saul’s surviving sons. (2 Samuel 2:7-12)

One of David’s generals killed Abner the general of Ishbosheth’s army (2 Samuel 3) and David was finally able to reign over all of Israel and Judah. (2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11)

However, that was not the end of David’s problems. One of his own sons, Absalom, conspired against his father. He tried to get the people to revolt against his father. (2 Samuel 14,15) During a battle against David’s forces, Absalom got caught up in a tree by his long hair. He was then killed by Joab, David’s general.

Finally, David is able to rule as God’s chosen king.

  • How do you react when you know you are in the right but your actions are being challenged?

What really amazes me about this story is David’s reaction to Absalom’s death. When he was informed of his son’s death ‘David started trembling. Then he went up to the room above the city gate to cry. As he went, he kept saying, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! I wish I could have died instead of you! Absalom, my son, my son!”‘ (2 Samuel 18:33 CEV).

  • How ready are you to forgive when someone has caused you deepfelt hurt?


This same David, who experienced such unwarranted opposition, encourages us to rejoice regardless of our circumstances.

‘God Most High, I will rejoice; I will celebrate and sing because of you.’ (Psalm 9:2 CEV)

‘May all who come to you be glad and joyful. May all who are thankful for your salvation always say, “How great is the LORD!”‘ (Psalm 40:16 GNB)


When one gives serious thought to Paul’s letters they reveal that he experienced numerous circumstances which would have really overwhelmed most of us.

“Five times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers. I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 CEV).

Wow! This man had every reason to give up on his missionary calling. He could easily have adopted the attitude, “No Lord this is too big a burden for me to carry.”

Yet he moved above the circumstances to Jesus. He goes on to encourage all believers to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Whateve trying situation you may be facting right now, take to heart the encouragement of Habakkuk, David and Paul. Decide here and now that you will ‘Rejoice in the Lord.‘ That you will ‘be joyful in God [your] Saviour.’

And now, how about clicking on the link below and join Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters as they encourage you to

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative.

N.B. Scroll down to follow the words and sing along!

Have a blessed, and positive week my friends!


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.


Facing devastating loss

Recently we looked at the tragedy unfolding between Ukraine and Russia. But there are also frequent tragedies that occur as a result of natural disasters. As I write this, the residents in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal province are facing devastating loss of life, possessions, and homes due to heavy downpours and widespread flooding and landslides.


I recall an Afrikaans setwork book we had at school, entitled ‘Droogte’ (drought) by C .M. van den Heever. The book describes a period of time in the Karoo area of our country when there was a severe lack of rain. It goes into how the farmers would anxiously examine the sky day after day looking for any sign of a build up of clouds with the promise of rain.

Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay

Our text verse for this week’s study conveys the same desperate picture.

Habakkuk 3:17 NIV

‘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.’

As Habakkuk draws his prophecy to a close, he imagines the worst scenario. He does this by focusing on a number of familiar metaphors drawn from the plant and animal life in Israel.


“Though the fig tree does not bud (blossom)”. The interesting fact is that the fig tree never blossoms as we know it. You will never see a flower on the fig tree. The fig is actually an inverted flower! Yet it is an important fruit in Israel. 

The fig tree was common in the land of Canaan. Its fruit was used in many ways, so if it did not produce fruit, it was bad news.

Cakes were made from figs:

“Abigail flew into action. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys.” (1 Sam. 25:18)

So it was really bad when there was a scarcity of figs.


Grapes were pressed to make wine, which was used in sacrifices to God as well as for personal use. For there to be no grapes on the vine would lead to an economic crisis in the land. 


The olive tree yielded berries out of which oil was extracted. The Jews use olive oil instead of butter, they use it to light lamps, for their cooking, for making soap, for medical purposes and as cosmetics. A barren olive tree would be a disaster for its owner.


The grass fields provided fodder for the animals. The grain fields provide food for the people.  The fields produce crops of wheat, sorghum and corn. The people and economy depend upon this.


Flocks of sheep could be depleted by the hand of God, through disease, driven off by enemies, or simply killed to provide food. Likewise, oxen would no longer be in the stables for the same reasons.”

These were important necessities of life in Judah. What if the fig, grape or olive crops were to fail?  If the fields became bare of grass or grain, what would it mean to the nation? If the stocks of sheep and oxen were depleted, the result would be hardship and hunger. These possible disasters were obviously a cause of great concern.


  • Can you remember a time of devastating loss in your life? Or in a friend’s? Can you remember how it came about? How did you, or your friend, deal with it?

Devastating loss may occur through circumstances apart from natural disasters such as flooding and drought.

Last week the supervisor of the retirement village where Shirley and I reside sent this message to our cellular phones:-

Gqeberha 22 April 2022 Police in Gqeberha are warning shoppers/motorists especially the elderly to be vigilant and take note of their surroundings when returning to their vehicles after shopping.

This alert arises from several reports received of people being robbed of their belongings by criminals. the modus operandi is that either the owner/driver reaches his/her vehicle or is already seated in the vehicle when a well-mannered man appears and informs him/her that their vehicle has an oil leak, or that water is leaking from underneath the vehicle or that the car has a flat tyre. As soon as the victim gets out of the vehicle, another person will appear without being noticed, open the door and grab a handbag, cellphone and other belongings in the vehicle. Alternatively, if the victim is still outside the vehicle, the suspect will advise that he/she places their belongings on the ground so that they can bend to see the ‘oil’ or ‘water’ leak. The personal belongings and parcels are then snapped away by the second suspect. Both suspects the disappear.

Shoppers are urged not to entertain anyone who approaches them with these allegations or any other disturbing information about their vehicles instead walk away from their vehicles and report them to the centre’s security or attract the attention of other shoppers.


I believe that some folk have experienced devastating loss due to these con artists.

It is a sad fact but unfortunately true that crime in all its varied forms is on the increase and we need to be vigilant in order to avoid devastating loss. South Africa has more than its share of crime, but you only need to watch the world news to see we are not alone in this sad state of affairs.

Technology is a wonderful thing yet these con artists are using technology to deprive us of our hard-earned finances. I am constantly being warned by my bank of scams that are afoot to encourage me to surrender my meagre income to some cyber thief. Beware!

When we do suffer a devastating loss through natural disasters or even by having yielded to some clever scam, it is difficult for us to accept. We may even be inclined to blame God and ask ‘Why?’


But what does Habakkuk suggest? Even if these disasters were to occur, he urged the nation of Israel to “rejoice in the Lord.” He says “I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Pastor Ray Fowler has this word of advice:

It is right and proper to voice appreciation of God’s goodness when he bestows all that is necessary for life, health, and prosperity. But when these things are lacking, to rejoice in God for his own sake is evidence of pure faith.’ 

I have learned over the years that even when we have experienced severe losses, the Lord has been gracious and never deserted us. He continually recompenses us in some way for the loss we experienced. So yes, I need to take heed of Habakkuk’s words. I need to rejoice in the Lord, and be joyful in Him.

Reflect on the ways that the Lord has blessed you, even in times of distress and disaster. Rejoice in God who is aware of your every hardship and is available to carry you through the worst senario.

  I strongly suggest you sit back and follow this video clip based on the words we have looked at today. It takes just over two minutes, and it is a different rendition to the one you may know, but it drives home God’s magnificence in the time of tragedy, loss, and confusion that we all, as a world, have been through in recent years. Click on the link below.



If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Fearful Yet Trusting

We often encounter situations which cause us to become anxious and fearful.

How do we cope in such situations?

Habakkuk’s Emotions

I am sure you can identify with the prophet’s emotions expressed in our verse for this session.

Habakkuk 3:16 NIV

‘I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.’

Photo by samer daboul


In contrast with the prophet’s description of his own fearfulness, the traveller above is a picture of calmness. Despite seemingly having to wait for the transport with nowhere to sit or a possible nearby food source he quietly works away on his laptop.

As noted earlier on in our study, verses 16 to19 were used as a part of the temple liturgy. They are in the form of a psalm expressing obedience and praise to God and trust in Him.

Habakkuk began his prophecy in a state of confusion: “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” ( Habakkuk 1:2)  He ends the prophecy with an affirmation of his faith and an expression of his unwavering confidence in God. “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” 

As he reminds himself of the great things God had done in the past, he is greatly encouraged and filled with joy. He is determined to delight in the Lord, for he realizes that when all appears to be lost, in fact, nothing is lost at all, for God is still in control.


  • What causes you to be fearful?

Although God’s response to his prayer satisfied Habakkuk, the very thought that the Babylonians (Chaldeans) would invade filled him with a pounding heart and quivering lips.

Yet he would ‘wait patiently for the day of calamity,’ because he knew that the Lord was a righteous judge. Nevertheless, he knew Judah would feel the wrath of God because of their failure to ‘observe to do all the words of this law’ (Deuteronomy 28:58).

Habakkuk clearly had a great reverential fear for God. In the presence of God, his bones seem to be rotten. His legs seemed so weak they could hardly support him.

  • Do we possess that same reverential fear of God?

The writer to the Hebrews warns us,

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 LITV)


We have just come through another Easter season when we have reflected on Jesus’ last meal with His disciples as they celebrated the Passover together. We were reminded of his arrest and horrific suffering culminating in that excruciating death on a Roman cross. Then on Sunday, we rejoiced in the knowledge that ‘He has risen’.

The first indication that Jesus had risen from the grave did not instil feelings of peace within the disciples but rather a state of confusion. When Mary Magdalene informed Peter and John that someone had removed Jesus’ body from the tomb, the men found it hard to believe and went to check it out themselves.

The other women who also visited the tomb were told by two angels:

“‘He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?’

“Then they remembered Jesus’ words.  They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest.” (Luke 24:6-9 MSG)


Sadly when they shared the good news with Jesus’ followers, we read, “…but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.” (Luke 24:11)

Luke also tells us about two followers who, perhaps not surprisingly, had decided to leave the city with its confusing stories.  On their way to the village of Emmaus, they were mulling over these disturbing stories when Jesus joined them.  He was aware of their tension and they shared with him the things that they had heard in Jerusalem.

In their confused state of mind, they failed to recognize him but invited him to join them for the night. When he blessed and broke the bread then only did they recognize Him—and He disappeared. (Luke 24:13-31)

They decided to return to Jerusalem to share their amazing news, only to find the others still battling to come to grips with the situation. Seemingly Jesus had also made an appearance to Peter while he was alone. (Luke 24:34)


Into this cauldron of confusion, Jesus entered, “Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)

Jesus set about bringing calm to his followers who were filled with fear because of the unexpected turn of events. Initially, we read, “They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death.”  (Luke 24:37)

He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet–it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.”  As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes. Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”

He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations–starting from here, from Jerusalem!  You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses.” (Luke 24:37-48 MSG)


This same Jesus who went to great lengths to alleviate the fears of those early disciples desires to set aside any fear we may be entertaining today. He said,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:227)

When we are caught up in difficult and fearful circumstances, it is difficult for us to keep trusting that the Lord is still in control but the hymn writer W. B. Stevens reminds us that

Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, don’t worry, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

In closing join me in listening to Elvis Presley singing this hymn and identify with the words.


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.


Think of an occasion when you felt completely overwhelmed as a result of some unexpected experience. Or perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed right now. 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Habakkuk 3:15 NIV

‘You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.’


“You trampled the sea with your horses”. The prophet recalls God’s miraculous intervention on behalf of Israel at the Red Sea when the sea parted so the Israelites could pass through on dry land. When Pharaoh and his army tried to follow, the waters returned to drown the entire army. (Exodus 14)

Despite the fact that this historical event took place centuries earlier, it nevertheless served to remind Habakkuk of the sovereignty of God—and gave him the assurance that the Lord could be counted on to save His people once more as he had done in the past.

  • Think back to that occasion you thought of at the start of this study. How did you handle it? Or how could you best handle it today? 

From time to time in life we encounter situations where we begin to feel overwhelmed and drowning. When we appeal to God to remove the trying circumstances, He often will not actually remove the waters that are overwhelming us. Instead, He may choose to make a pathway through these difficulties as He made a pathway through the Red Sea.


We are on the brink of one of the most important days on the Christian calendar. As I post this, tomorrow we will celebrate Good Friday. and reflect upon our Lord’s sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary. 

But today I want us to briefly give some thought to the twelve. When their Master Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane all of them became overwhelmed by feelings of guilt.

 a) Judas Iscariot

Judas definitely felt the most guilty. What motivated him to betray Jesus is a mystery. All we know is soon after Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfume ( Mark 14:3-9), “Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.”   (Mark 14:10)

Upon Jesus’ arrest, he came to his senses and tried to reverse the procedure.

“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:3-5 ESV)

b) Simon Peter

During what we refer to as the last supper Peter made a bold declaration.

“Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter responded, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”(Matthew 26:33 – 35 ESV)

Jesus was arrested, and Peter followed at a distance to the courtyard of the high priest. On three occasions he was challenged with regard to his association with Jesus. Each time he denied knowing Jesus.

Soon after a rooster crowed, And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75 NIV)

c) Nine Disciples

At the last supper, the rest of the disciples, apart from Judas who had left to betray Jesus, echoed Peter’s words, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35 ESV)

In the garden of Gethsemane after Jesus’ arrest we read, “..all the disciples left him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56 ESV)

d) John – the Beloved Disciple

John who had a very special relationship with Jesus must also have been overwhelmed by Jesus’ arrest. However, in the gospel of John he refers to himself as another disciple as he records:

“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,” (John 18:15 ESV)

Seemingly John witnessed the whole of Jesus’ trial and sentencing. Then along with some of the faithful women, he was the only disciple present at Jesus’ execution on Calvary’s hill.

Their Master was dead and ten of the disciples were devastated and retreated into their overwhelming feelings of guilt. One hanged himself, and one took his savior’s mother to live in his home as if she were his own.


As Calvary drew near, on several occasions Jesus had warned those disciples that his arrest was imminent:

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21 CEV)

While Jesus and his disciples were going from place to place in Galilee, he told them, “The Son of Man will be handed over to people who will kill him. But three days later he will rise to life.” (Matthew 17:22,23a CEV)

As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he took his twelve disciples aside and told them in private: We are now on our way to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses. They will sentence him to death, and then they will hand him over to foreigners who will make fun of him. They will beat him and nail him to a cross. But on the third day he will rise from death. (Matthew 20:17-19 CEV)

Two days before Passover Jesus said, “You know that two days from now will be Passover. That is when the Son of Man will be handed over to his enemies and nailed to a cross.” (Matthew  26:2 CEV)

And even at the last supper, Jesus predicted his own arrest and their confusion. “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'” (Matthew 26:31 ESV)


What Jesus predicted took place. He was arrested, put on trial, falsely accused and condemned to crucifixion. 

All the amazing things God did for Israel of old, cannot compare with what He has done for you and me when Jesus Christ His Son died on the cross for our sins.

There is nothing in all time and eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable than what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross—He made it possible for the entire human race, (that is; for every single person, ) to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God. The Cross is the gate through which any and every individual can enter into oneness with God. But it is not a gate we pass through; it is one where we abide in the life that is found there.  (My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers –  6 April reading)


“One of the reference points of London is Charing Cross…A little girl was lost in that great city. However, a policeman found her. Between sobs and tears, she explained she didn’t know her way home. He asked her if she knew her address. She didn’t. He asked her phone number, she didn’t know that either. But when he asked her what she knew, suddenly her face lit up.

“I know the Cross,” she said. “Show me the Cross and I can find my way home from there.”

“Keep a clear vision of the Cross on your horizon and you can find your way home.”
( from ‘And the Angels were silent” by Max Lucado)

When overwhelmed like that little girl, we feel lost. We don’t know which way to turn. Admit to God that you are confused. That you don’t know the best way forward. Don’t make any hasty decisions. Be still and trust the Lord to show you the way forward.


Paul exhorts believers to: 

“…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,” (Ephesians 6:14)

The prophet Habakkuk was aware that life at times would be overwhelming. But that the God who opened the Red Sea for the Israelites is still opening pathways through seemingly overwhelming circumstances for His people today.

Whatever the overwhelming circumstances you may be facing don’t despair. Don’t give up. Jesus understood how His disciples would be thrown into confusion at His death. He assured them that “…after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Mark 14:28 ESV)

Share your confusion with Jesus. Ask Him to provide you with a pathway through your problems as He made a pathway through the Red Sea.

If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

With the Poor in Mind

What should our attitude be towards the poor?

Habakkuk 3:14 ESV

“You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.”

Image by Sri Harsha Gera from Pixabay

The prophet Habakkuk speaks of God coming to the rescue of His own from the assaults of their enemy.


The term ‘heads’ could possibly indicate the conquering kings. Many commentators feel ‘heads’ may also refer to the heads of the enemy villages as comes across in the King James Version, “Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages”.

God not only dethroned kings in his vengeance but He devastated the enemy’s villages in retribution for what they had done to His people, Israel.

Notice the prophet associates himself with his people when he describes how the foe ‘came like a whirlwind to scatter me.


The Babylonians (Chaldeans) were extremely cruel in their conquest of neighbouring nations. They especially preyed on the poor.

Whereas our text, taken from the ESV, speaks of the ‘poor’, various other versions have other interpretations:

  • Wretched – NIV
  • Refugees – CEV
  • Inflicted – ISV
  • Humble – LITV
  • Meek – MKJV
  • Weak – NIrV

As I prepare for this study the world is devastated at the horrific onslaught against the Ukrainians. All of the above terms describe the predicament of the Ukrainians. Millions of the aged, women, and children, have had to flee from their homes and country. With little more than they were able to carry they have become refugees in neighbouring nations. This has caused a major problem for those nations having to cope with such an alarming influx.

Although reporters are telling of atrocities taking place on both sides of this pointless war, there have also been many stories, supported by the media, where Ukrainians have been loving toward captured enemy soldiers, feeding them, tending to their wounds and even allowing them to make contact with loved ones back in Russia. by cellular phone. 

The saying, ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,’ is so true in our country in South Africa.  Funds available for the poor and needy have been selfishly seized and utilized by the more fortunate. As we watch global news it becomes apparent we are not the only country going through this dishonesty and corruption.


  • What is your general attitude towards the weaknesses and misfortunes of others? Do you look down upon them or seek to help them?

I’ve heard a story of an English professor who was throwing questions at his class. One of his students rose to answer with his book in his left hand instead of his right hand, as was the general practice. Angrily the professor thundered at him, “Take your book in your right hand and be seated!

The student held up his right arm, which had been amputated at the wrist. The great man hesitated for a moment. Then he went up to the student and, with tears streaming from his eyes said, “I never knew about it. Will you forgive me?”

This request for forgiveness resulted in that student becoming a Christian.


Jesus has a special place in His heart for the poor. and oppressed.

As Christ’s followers, we are stewards of what the Lord has given us.

‘God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’ (2 Corinthians 9:8,9; Psalm 112:9 NIV)

Jesus said, ‘The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. ‘ (Mark 14:7)

Yes, the poor will always be around.  And we cannot help them all. Therefore we need to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as to whom we reach out to and help.


  • What is your general reaction to the folk on street corners who are hoping to appeal to your sympathy?

Here in South Africa in the major cities, it is the practice of folk seeking a handout to stand at busy intersections with placards requesting help.

A group of seniors from a retirement village noticed a lady standing at a particular corner day after day. They decided that they would offer her a paid job in each of their homes once a week so that she would have a regular daily income. When one of the group approached this lady with their offer, she simply laughed and said, “I get more by standing here on this corner than you could ever pay me.”


As a minister in Beaconsfield, Kimberley, we soon discovered that Kimberley was a halfway house between Johannesburg and the Cape so we were constantly approached by folk wanting a handout. Because of these numerous appeals my wife and I had to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting.

On one occasion, I was approached by a man who said he had just been released from prison and needed to get to Cape Town. I arranged for him to meet me at the station when the next train to Cape Town was due. My wife made up a small food parcel and I bought him a second class ticket to Cape Town. I saw him onto the train and watched as it departed. When I got back home I commented, “Well if he’s pulling a fast one He will have to remain on the train for a long way before the train’s next stop.”

Weeks later I received a phone call from my parents in Cape Town to say that the same gentleman had looked up our not common surname in the phone directory. He had found out where they lived and had called on them. He asked them to please convey his thanks to their son for helping him to get to Cape Town.


Some months ago, a group of us walked to a store a few blocks away from my son’s home. We passed a shabbily-dressed man squatting on the corner. We greeted him, and he returned our greeting. He didn’t ask for anything. While we were in the shop, one of our daughters-in-law picked up a bunch of bananas. We pointed out there were plenty at the house, but she proceeded to the till and paid for them.

On our way home, she cross the road, handed the bunch of bananas to the man, and joined us again. Such a simple gesture and they hadn’t cost much. But, besides being nutritious and filling, I’m sure that simple gift made that man’s day. 

It’s a great feeling to know that you have been able to help someone with a genuine need, but there are so many con artists that guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential.

In closing please give serious thought and prayer to whether and how the Lord wants you to help someone you know of who is in desparate need. If you’re in a group, or perhaps seek out a friend to chat with, discuss ways you can help the poor in a constructive way. It could be as simple as a bunch of bananas.

PS. If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.