“Look at the nations and observe — be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth’s open spaces to seize territories not its own.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever cautioned someone to be careful what they wish for? Why do we do that? Because we generally understand that we don’t know everything and that wanting things to be other than they are may come with consequences we don’t anticipate. Seeing one thing happen that we want at the expense of two or three (or more) things happening that we don’t may not be a worthwhile trade. Habakkuk here reminds us that the same principle applies to the things we ask of God as well.
Just in case you missed some of last week, the collection of prophecy we have from Habakkuk starts out with his complaining to God about the state of his culture. Everything and everyone is a mess, and God doesn’t seem to be inclined to do anything about it. So Habakkuk tells him about it. He tells Him about it in rather direct terms at that. In fact, he all but accuses God of injustice.
Have you ever complained to God about something like that? Have you ever complained about something that struck at the heart of His character; something that, from everything you can understand about Him, He should not only care about, but have already done something to address?
Did you ever hear back from Him? It may not have felt like it in the moment. It may not have felt like it at all. Not a few folks have walked away from a relationship with God (or at least the thought of one) because they never felt like they got an answer to a question like this. That’s an issue for another time.
Well, for whatever reason, Habakkuk got an answer. Why he got an answer when you felt like you didn’t I can’t say. I can say this, though: Just because v. 5 follows immediately after v. 4 doesn’t mean Habakkuk got his answer immediately. There could have been days, weeks, months, or even years between the question and the answer here. He may very well have wrestled with God’s silence and was ready to walk away himself when the answer came. We don’t know.
Perhaps when this answer came, though, Habakkuk began wishing he’d asked a different question. As a matter of fact, we’ll see tomorrow that he didn’t like the answer he received at all. Reading it we can understand why he would feel that way. I gave you the first couple of verses, but click through the link above or open your own Bible and read through v. 11 to get God’s whole response. It’s not pretty.
Habakkuk asks God why He’s not doing anything to address the gross injustice rending his nation into pathetic pieces and God says, “I am going to do something. I’m going to send the Babylonians.”
He then goes on to describe the Babylonians. It’s not a pretty picture. They devour nations like the Assyrians did. No one can stop them. Worse than that as far as you might think it would matter to God, they’re totally pagan. But instead of really worshiping other gods, they are their own gods. They worship their strength and power and every victory they achieve only serves to confirm the rightness of their beliefs. They consider themselves to be the only source of determining right and wrong.
I’ll bet Habakkuk is glad he asked his question, huh?
Sometimes when we ask God hard questions, He gives us answers we’re not going to like. He is not in any way beholden to operate like we think He should. He can use anything and anyone to accomplish His purposes including those things and those people we would never expect. He can take the sinful decisions of some and allow those to be the judgment He brings for the sinful choices of others.
That’s exactly what He was doing here. Far from making Him complicit in sin, though, this is a function of His honoring of the choices of free people. Because He can see the whole board, He understands how to use those choices to bring justice and accomplish His good plans.
But that doesn’t make something like this easier to hear. We’ll wrestle more with Habakkuk as he reacts to God’s answer tomorrow, Lord willing.