Eventually the Lord reveals to Habakkuk what is going to happen to his people. Contrary to what the prophet had imagined, the Lord had been at work with his own plan for dealing with his erring people. He has been at work preparing his tools for punishing Israel for her sins. The divine tool was the Chaldeans (or Babylonians), especially their all-conquering army. In what would have been a stunning moment for Habakkuk, the Lord reveals that he is going to use the worst traits of the Chaldeans as a means of punishing his people. It is not a mere threat that the Lord gives. The days of warning were over, now the punishment was coming.
The vast majority of people would have put the rise of Babylon down to a wide variety of political and military reasons, each of which would be true. Already they had defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians and their rise to dominance seemed unstoppable. Yet only divine revelation can explain the rise of Babylon and all other powers. Their ascent to prominence and period of power is connected to the Lord’s plans for his people. Paul reminded the Ephesians that Jesus ‘is head over all things for the sake of his body, the church’ (Eph. 1:22). The Saviour governs everything with his church in view, which is very comforting and challenging. Babylon was to bring Judah into captivity, it is true; yet it was also going to be a means of divine correction of his people.
In this divine response we see God's almighty power in the fact that he can use the most powerful nation in the world to fulfil his purposes. We also see his love of righteousness in the fact that he did not turn a blind eye to the sins of Judah. Further here is a reminder that judgement begins at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17) – Judah knew better, therefore they were facing severe judgement, including the loss of property (1:7) and slavery (1:9).
In addition, the Lord was going to remove his common grace from the behaviour of the Chaldeans and when that happened Judah would experience intense cruelty; his common grace was also removed from Judah, with the consequence that their protectors (kings and rulers) and their defence systems (fortresses) would be useless. Yet although they were used by the Lord the Chaldeans would not be given saving grace. Instead they imagined that their success came from themselves.
So how would Habakkuk respond to this information? We will consider some aspects of his second complaint in tomorrow's reading.