12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
(Habakkuk 2:12-14 NIV)
Today we look a the third of five woes the Lord pronounced on the Babylonians. And per our notes from yesterday, the woes applied to Judah as well.
Today’s woe? Violence.
The Babylonians built their kingdom by conquering other lands and people. In chapter 1, the Lord called them “ruthless and impetuous” (v. 6) and “feared and dreaded” (v. 7). Not exactly character qualities that endeared them to the nations around them.
Unfortunately, the people of Judah were not much better. King Jehoiakim, the ruler of Judah, had forced his fellow Israelites to build a palace for himself, funded with taxpayers’ money. The Lord (via the prophet Micah) had this to say in condemnation of Jehoiakim and his leaders:
9 Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice
and distort all that is right;
10 who build Zion with bloodshed,
and Jerusalem with wickedness.
(Micah 3:9-10 NIV)
In verse 13, the Lord reminds Habakkuk that all the nations’ efforts apart from Him are but wood, hay, and stubble that gets burned up in a fire. All their labor is wasted and in vain, reduced to ashes.
Solomon, in his wisdom, provided a general warning to his subjects many years before about our efforts without God’s blessing:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
(Psalm 127:1 NIV)
Jeremiah, in his more detailed version of this same situation, called out the fate of the Babylonians:
This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Babylon’s thick wall will be leveled
and her high gates set on fire;
the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing,
the nations’ labor is only fuel for the flames.”
(Jeremiah 51:58 NIV)
In verse 14, the Lord paints a sharp contrast between the dark self-glorification of the Babylonians and His all-encompassing glory that the whole earth will one day behold.
The Lord uses the phrase “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” to contrast His ways to the Babylonians. The word “knowledge” implies so much more than clinical information and cold, hard facts. The word “knowledge” is a relational term, implying both information about a person, as well as a right relationship with that person. The Lord created us to live in community with the Trinity, and everything was good up until the point that sin entered into the world via Adam and Eve. In this phrase, the Lord is saying that one day, as followers of Jesus, our community with the Trinity will be restored.
Do you long for this promised day of fully restored community with the Lord? The Apostle Paul expresses his heart (and ours) so well:
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
(Romans 8:22-23 NIV)
May this song by Casting Crowns be your worship and the longing of your heart today: