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Habakkuk 1:5-11

The Lord’s Answer

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
    that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
    to seize dwellings not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people;
    they are a law to themselves
    and promote their own honor.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
    fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
    their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
    they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
    and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
    and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
    by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
    guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
(Habakkuk 1:5-11 NIV)

As we discovered yesterday, the book of Habakkuk is a three-chapter dialogue between Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, and God.

Yesterday, we looked at Habakkuk’s question to God – “Judah is a mess – why are you not doing anything about it?”

Today, we see God’s answer.

Before God answers Habakkuk, he prepares him for the answer:  “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (verse 5)

God said, “Habakkuk, I am going to do something so crazy that if another person told you, you would not believe it.  But I am God, so listen up and prepare to have your breath taken away.”

In verse 6, God says he is going to use the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to punish Judah.  The Israelites knew their surrounding enemies, but God using the Babylonians was inconceivable.  There were no signs of aggression or impending doom on the horizon, no army breathing down their necks.  Yes, times were bad inside Judah, but God’s answer seemed over the top, too much.

In verses 6 through 11, God describes the Babylonians.  God says that the Babylonians are a law unto themselves (v. 7), and their strength is their god (v. 11).  In other words, they do not worship another god – they are essentially atheists, and have declared their own strength and might as their object of worship.

The Babylonians did not necessarily want Israel for any particular reason – they were barbarians, and were set on destruction of everything around them.  God says “… they sweep past like the wind and go on…” (v. 11).

So God is going to discipline the evil in Judah by using an even more wicked nation, namely Babylon?  What is God up to?

But yet, God foretold of this about 800 years earlier.  Listen to God’s words to the Israelites through Moses:

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined.52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 28:49-52 NIV)

God knew, even in Moses’ day, that His chosen people would not follow Him, and He would have to discipline them to get their attention.  But yet, God had given them ample opportunities to repent and turn back to Him.  He had given them warnings, and even milder forms of discipline, like plagues, famines, and minor threats from the outside, but the Israelites hardened their hearts and paid no attention to the Lord or His gentler ways of trying to bring His people back to Himself.

Habakkuk was perplexed as he looked around him and saw the sins of his nation before a holy God.  Imagine his reaction now, being even more perplexed at God’s answer.

Does any of this sound familiar to our day?  May we turn our hearts back to the Lord, repent of our sins both personally and corporately as a nation, and in humility and brokenness, heed God’s offer to return to Him as our first and foremost love.


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