The once united nation of Israel became two kingdoms. The northern kingdom Israel was conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC.
It is now around 620 BC. The southern kingdom Judah is now precariously close to an end. God has had it. There will be no more ‘if my people repent, I’ll save them.’ The cycle of rebellion then repentance then rebellion then repentance is over. The people of Judah are all fat and happy. And wicked.
The prophet Habakkuk sadly observes the conduct of his countrymen and wonders why God has not stepped in.
Chapter 1 begins with a question.
Verse 2 Habakkuk is speaking.
“How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?”
In verses 3 and 4 Habakkuk summarizes his distress. Don’t you see what your people are doing? Violence. How long? Wickedness. How long? Strife and contention. How long? Why isn’t God taking care of this?
The wait is almost over, Habakkuk.
In verse 5 God is speaking.
“Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told.”
At last. I wonder if a smile slowly travels across Habakkuk’s face. Yes, astonish me, God!
Hold on, Habakkuk. You may not like what you are about to hear.
In verse 6 God continues.
“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs”
The Chaldeans? No, God, not the Chaldeans! Although the Chaldeans were a specific people group that lived in the southern part of Babylon (present day Iraq), in this passage the name refers to Babylonians in general. They were not nice people. Read verses 7 through 11 to get an idea of their conduct.
“They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves.
“Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour.
“All of them come for violence. their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand.
“They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it.
“Then they will sweep through the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god.”
Self-centered and evil, they are a gang of bullies playing by their own rules.
Verse 12 Habakkuk speaks.
Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
Although Habakkuk is speaking to God he seems to be reminding himself of what He knows about God.
- God is eternal.
- God is the true Holy One.
- God will not let them destroy us.
- God is just using the Babylonians to judge Judah’s wickedness.
- God is using them to correct the people of Judah.
In verses 13 through 17, with confusion Habakkuk directly speaks to God.
Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?
Why have You made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them?
The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net. Therefore they rejoice and are glad.
Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful.
Will they therefore empty their net and continually slay nations without sparing?
Does this seem very God-like to you? Does it seem almost impossible that God who is pure and holy and perfect would use an evil nation to judge and correct His people in Judah? Isn’t there some other way?
To answer my last question, yes, because God can do anything there is always another way.
My take-aways from chapter one:
- The people of Judah were not acting like people of God are expected to act.
- God is patient, but He will tolerate only so much.
- It is God’s choice how He will respond to man’s disobedience.
- I see America in the description of Judah in verses 3 and 4.
Next week we look at chapter 2 where God has a few things to say.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation. www.lockman.org