On Sunday evening, our pastor has been preaching through the book of Job. All throughout the book, Job proclaimed his innocence and wished for an audience with God to please his case. At the end of the book, Job gets his wish. However, I’m thinking about half a chapter in, Job wishes he had not gotten what he asked for. God of course give him a scathing rebuke that basically says “I am God. You are not. Be quiet”. Here, in Habakkuk, the prophet pleads his case before God. As I read verse 4, I almost wouldn’t be surprised if verse 5 read “And the Lord dissolved Habakkuk before His eyes, and Job was no more”. I mean, Habakkuk begins his conversation with God basically accusing God of not caring about the evil people did and not acting as judge of sin. I imagine, much like Job, Habakkuk envisioned his discussion with God ending with him setting God straight. However, much like Job, the conversation did not turn out at all like he thought it would.
Habakkuk asked God “What are you going to do about judging the sin of Israel?” God chooses, in His wisdom, to reveal His plan to Habakkuk. He tells him in verse 5 to prepare to be shocked—“You are not going to believe this. You think I’m not working. Well, just wait till you see what I’m going to do”. To judge the sin of His people, God has chosen the roughest, toughest, meanest bunch of hooligans the world had seen up to that point—the Chaldeans (Habakkuk 1:5).
The 101st Babylonian Infantry
Of course, we read about them elsewhere in the Bible as the Babylonians (Kings, Daniel, and Isaiah). The name may be changed here, but the carnage is the same. The Babylonians were the first real world power. Sure, the Assyrians conquered multiple nations, but the Babylonian empire was bigger and their armies were fiercer. In my mind, I imagine this group like a biker gang—they were some bad dudes and God revealed to Habakkuk in verses 5 and 6 that they were going to be His instruments of judgment to punish Israel for their continued sinful disobedience.
Notice the chilling description Habakkuk records of these people. In verse 6, we’re told they are “…bitter and hasty…dreaded and fearsome”. They stab first and ask questions later. They saw themselves not as above the law, but rather they saw themselves as the law (“…their justice and dignity go forth from themselves…”). They didn’t answer to anyone. Their motto was “I’m the boss, apple sauce” and they had the military might to back up their bully-like attitude.
They were the best there was at what they did.
Their cavalry, Habakkuk 1:8 tells us, was swift and deadly. The terrible picture painted leaves little hope for escape or mercy. You can’t outrun a leopard, you can’t out fight a wolf, and you can’t hide from the high flying eagle. No matter where you run, these guys are going to get you and when they get you, they’re not there to play tiddlywinks or Monopoly. Verse 9 further portrays the deadly peril that Israel faces—we’re told the Babylonians come marching with “all their faces forward”. In other words, they are persistent, determined. They didn’t come to negotiate. They’re not looking for your money so you can’t buy them off. They want territory and they want to enslave people. And we read in Habakkuk 1:10 that the people can’t even depend on their leaders for protection because the Babylonian see them as little more than the punch line to a joke. Your walled cities? They build up siege ramps and take your city like a hot knife through butter. They don’t worship God but rather this godless, heathen nation worships their “own might” (Habakkuk 1:11).
Just reading the description of the terrible judgment that God has prepared for the nation of Israel is gut wrenching. Can you imagine how Habakkuk felt when God revealed that to him? He had come to God with a legitimate concern, even if it was expressed disrespectfully and God gives him news that had to have turned his stomach. The same thing, brothers and sisters, happens to us all the time. Oh, God doesn’t directly reveal His plans to us like this but we face scary, trying circumstances. How should we respond? Where is the hope in our trials? We can hope in God. God is sovereign, in control of all things, and we can trust Him even in the midst of the saddest, scariest, most pain circumstances because He is God and He is faithful.