“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand. And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it. Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.” Habakkuk 1:5-11 (KJV)
The prophet has asked, ‘How long?’ He has even insinuated, possibly, that, the LORD was slack in His duties of being God – particularly Judge.
God gives Habakkuk the answer, but not one he wants to hear. For seven verses God describes to the prophet what He has in mind for the people of Judah.
Basically, God says to Habakkuk, ‘The work you are about to see is going to be beyond your belief’. Notice what God tells the prophet –
Regard – or ‘look intently at’ – this would be a pleasure to those who Judah would call the ‘heathen’;
Wonder marvelously – amazed to the point of confusion.
Really take notice of what I am about to do, what is coming to pass. Mouths will drop open in wonder. Shock will accompany the wonder.
“Though it be told you” How could anyone who knew God think that God would use an unholy people to judge His unholy people.
It seems to me, that we see God’s sovereign hand here. God had intended that His people Judah and Israel be messengers to foreign lands; messengers of His grace, mercy, and goodness; but they had not only failed in that, they had become just as sinful and lawless as the ‘heathen’.
God was going to send some of His holy servants into the very jaws of the lion, the fires of Babylon, for judgment of Judah, and inform Babylon of the one true God.
In verse six God says the Chaldeans are a “Bitter and hasty nation”. By bitter it seems they have a hatred for Judah and ‘hasty’ seems to imply swiftness without much hesitance. They would possess what was not theirs and they would do it with all speed at their beckoning. It would seem particularly speedy since God was initiating the attack.
In our day we tend not to understand how God could use people like this to judge His people. It happens when God’s people have not lived up to the standards He lays out for us, and those standards are in His Word. God is not so concerned with our happiness or health, as much as He is our holiness, and most of all His own glory. He will do whatever it takes, within the attributes of His character, to make us holy. That is what He is doing in the nation of Judah.
The Chaldeans are said to be frightening, and they would put fear in your heart according to verse seven. The New Living Translation says, “They are notorious for their cruelty. They do as they like and no one can stop them”. They would be the source of God’s judgment upon Judah, however, they would get theirs too (See Daniel 5).
In the eighth verse we find that the Chaldeans/Babylonians will come with power and speed. They are also fierce, not only in countenance, but temperment.
Verse nine, violence and conquering is what they have in their minds and heart. They thrive on blood, the blood of their enemy, and that was anyone who got in their way. When you pick up sand in your fingers all of it cannot be kept there. This is almost like a randomness in some ways, but most likely means taking captives in great numbers. Captives of Judah.
Mockery will be on their tongues and in their hearts (vv. 10-11). Captured kings and princes – leaders will be scorned and some will die.
Walls built to resist their attacks will be overthrown by mounds of dirt laid against them. Because of his victory Nebuchadnezzar will attribute his victory to his god.
How pitiful it is when God’s people do not live by God’s Spirit and His Word. We bring shame to His name and pain and reproach to our name. O, how this must have pained the heart of Habakkuk. Do you think he liked the answer? May God forgive me.
This begs the question will God refrain from judging those who turn their backs on the nation of Israel today? Will He count guiltless those who say that God is finished with Israel? We could also ask, If this nation called the United States of America, was truly built on Biblical, Christian/Judeao principles and values; will we be any less guilty before God, than was Israel for turning their backs on God?
-Tim A. Blankenship
Originally published January 03, 2008