In my “focused time with God” in the morning I am continuing my reading of one psalm per day (I’m on Psalm 68) and I just began reading the book of Habbakuk. No, I am not joking! 🙂
Habakkuk 1:5 says, Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. At first glance this verse seems like an amazing promise. A verse worthy of putting on a plaque and hanging on your wall. A verse worthy of displaying on a t-shirt. I have even heard one pastor quote this verse as the foundation for an initiative he was launching his church.
At first glance, this verse seems appropriate for all of the above . . . until you look at the context.
What is the God speaking about in that verse? What should we be utterly amazed about? What great thing is God going to do that we will not believe, even if someone told us? Verse 6 gives the answer. God says, I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.
Verse 5 is not a verse of blessing; it is a verse of judgment! (This is a good reminder to always read verses and use them in their context. In fact, in Acts 13:40-41, the apostle Paul says, Take care that what the prophets have said does NOT happen to you . . . and then he quotes Habakkuk 1:5!) Habakkuk 1:5 is a verse about judgment, not about blessing.
In the book of Habbakuk, God is speaking to the nation of Judah — to his chosen people — and telling them that their wickedness and injustice have not gone unnoticed by Him. God has sent prophet after prophet (like Jeremiah, Obadiah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk) to tell the nation to repent, but their cries have gone on deaf ears. So God is going to exact judgment on them by raising up a pagan nation – the Babylonians – to teach them a hard lesson. All along God has wanted Judah to become holy and pure and they have gone in the opposite direction. So God knows this is what is needed for them to wake up.
I believe God is weeping as he takes this drastic step.
I envision God as a dad whose teenagers have rebelled so much that He is forced to make a tough decision to kick them out of the house. Not because He hates his kids but because He loves them so much that He feels this step is necessary for them to come to their senses. He kicks His kids out hoping beyond hope He will one day be able to welcome them back into His home after they have gotten their heads screwed on straight. And He will do so with open arms.
In fact, that is what happened to the nation of Judah. They were kicked out of the “house” (i.e., the Holy Land) and enslaved by the Babylonians only to be ultimately restored to their land after 70-years of captivity. God welcomed His prodigal children back home.