The Lord’s Answer to Habakkuk
“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (v. 14).- Habakkuk 2:6–20
Paul’s expositions of Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans and Galatians unfold the good and necessary consequences of the prophet’s words. Habakkuk was told that the righteous are those who, in the days of trouble, believe God and His Word despite what they can see with their limited vision. This kind of belief requires a complete entrusting of oneself into the hands of the Lord alone, a commitment to walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Such faith means looking beyond one’s present circumstances in confident assurance that our holy Creator will fulfill all of His promises. It means renouncing all of our efforts to secure a right standing before God, for no one can put himself fully in the arms of Christ unless he believes everything He says about us and our salvation, including the fact that His perfection means that even the most godly among us are still sinners and our best works are tainted with sin (Isa. 64:6).
When God answered Habbakuk’s confusion over His use of Babylon to chastise Israel, He did not say only that His faithful remnant must trust Him. As we see in today’s passage, the Lord revealed to the prophet that He was aware of Babylon’s excesses and evil ways. His woes for the Chaldeans convey this basic point: God can use evil men and their sinister intentions to fulfill His plan. The Lord’s intent in so doing is always pure, holy, and good, and He does not miss the wickedness of His instruments, nor will He allow it to go unpunished if His instruments remain impenitent (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23).
God’s woes for Babylon actually begin in Habakkuk 2:5, where He says that wine, a symbol for wealth, is treacherous and that the Chaldeans’ greed will never be satiated. Babylon will go too far. The empire will conquer so many peoples and demand so much tribute that these nations will finally revolt (vv. 6–8). Even though Babylon knows that it has enemies and sets its “nest on high”—it fortifies its capital to set it above all its foes and eliminate its vulnerabilities—this protection will go only so far. In fact, this nest will cry out when God finally puts down its pride (vv. 9–11). After Habakkuk’s death, the Medes and the Persians will form the Lord’s rod to take down Babylon.
Though Babylon conquers many lands and builds cities upon peoples and towns it has destroyed in order to perpetuate its name, this name will be cut off. Babylon will be forgotten, but the whole earth will know the glory of the Lord (vv. 12–14).
God’s answer to Habakkuk reminds us of the limitations of our perspective. To us, it sometimes seems as if the wicked will prosper forever. However, since the Lord uses even the wicked to achieve His purposes, one day they will surely receive what is coming to them from His justice, and we will be vindicated. When we see evil men and women apparently succeeding, let us be reminded that such success is always temporary and that the Lord will set all things right in the end.
Passages for Further Study