The title to this post was supposed to be Habakkuk 2:9-11 Malicious Motivation. However, as I was studying this text and preparing to write, I let my imagination run a little bit. I tried to picture what it would have been like to have been an Israelite and have the Chaldean army come in, conquer, and take all your belongings. I pictured a young Israelite who had lost everything they had to that terribly vicious army saying to himself (or herself) “I know, maybe my kinsman-redeemer could help me. Maybe he can convince them to give me my stuff back”. So, I imagined this person’s kinsman redeemer, who I randomly named Andrew, going to the Babylonians, getting his clock cleaned, and going back to his relative to tell him it was hopeless. Then, I could see the giant of a soldier going to the man and mocking him. Can you imagine how humiliating something like that would be? Trying to put myself in that kind of place and imagine what it would have been like to be helpless certainly made the text more real to me. Ultimately, the hearts of the Babylonian army were utterly wicked and their motivation for conquest was purely evil.
First of all, notice in Habakkuk 2:9 the desire behind their conquests—“to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm”. In other words, they saw themselves as a “self-made man”. In contrast to those who trust God and rely on Him for everything, including their salvation, the Babylonians plundered other people and robbed them of their possessions for the purpose of enriching themselves. To them, it was a kind of insurance policy—a nest egg, if you will. They felt safe because they had enough stuff to weather whatever sort of storm life threw at them. Such self-reliance is celebrated in our culture, but the fact is that as Christians we rely on God not on ourselves. We have faith that God will provide for us and carry us through whatever we face in this life. We have the hope that this life is not the end and no matter how hard life is, we can trust God to keep us safe, not our own strength and possessions.
The Babylonians thought that they set themselves above other people. They saw themselves as honored because when one army conquered another army in the ancient world, the people interpreted that to mean that the god of the winning army was more powerful than the god of the losing army. However, in reality that is the exact opposite of what they would experience in the long term. They thought they were honored because of their conquest but Habakkuk 2:10 tells us because of their conquests they had “devised shame” instead of gaining honor. And, as would be the case years later when the Persian Empire conquered them, rather than being safe they would find they had “forfeited [their] life”.
The fact is, what they had done was evident to everybody. People saw the Babylonian Empire go out and conquer nation after nation with impunity. People saw what was happening—they knew how they treated people I think that’s the idea being expressed in Habakkuk 2:11—the stones and the beams of their lofty homes would cry out against them. There’s no place to run or hide. You can live “high on the hog” and flaunt sin in God’s face for so long, but eventually there is a judgment day. One day, these merciless men would be punished for what they did. They would suffer like they’d made others suffer.
The root cause of this and their other sins is pride. They were too proud to cry out to God and seek Him. They preferred to live life on their terms. If that describes you today, pray to God that He will break you of your sinful pride and grant you repentance.