12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.
Our 3 verses today come in the middle of God’s response to Habakkuk’s complaints about His planned use of the violent Babylonians to bring justice to Judah. In verse 12 above we have the third of five ‘Woes’ which show that God will deal justly with evil and corrupt nations. As history has shown, cities and communities built upon violence and injustice will not last. All the effort and ambition that has gone into them will be shown to be pointless and worthless when they go up in smoke (v13). Habakkuk’s contemporary, Jeremiah, used very similar words (Jeremiah 51:8). God’s sovereign power over evil and His retributive justice upon wicked nations and leaders are also shown inPsalm 2:10-11: “Therefore, you kings be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling”). As we see UK and US troops leaving Afghanistan, Russia massing troops in eastern Ukraine, China asserting its growing military power in the Far East (and elsewhere) and Iran pursuing nuclear power, God reminds us here that His justice will ultimately prevail in His world.
Look again at verse 14 above. It is one of the greatest promises in the Bible. ‘In the midst of the darkness of woe comes a verse of light and hope for those who trust in God rather than their own perverse acquisitions’ (New Bible Commentary). It is an adaptation of Isaiah 11:9 with its prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. We are reassured by God, through Habakkuk’s prophecy, that He will do far more than simply deal with all the evils of Judah, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. There is a global and end of the world perspective here. With the second coming of Jesus Christ, God’s full glory in creation will be revealed and His perfect justice, power and truth will be inescapable in all parts of the earth. There is also a poetic beauty to verse 14 with its stirring and even cinematic reference to the sea. Our huge oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and hold 96.5% of the earth’s water. The songs ‘All Over The World the Spirit is Moving’ and ‘God Is Working His Purpose Out’ are based on this verse. Both echo God’s promise here that a full knowledge of His glory will cover the earth in His good time. This is why Father “has entrusted all judgement to the Son” (John 5:22). Jesus will “bring justice to the nations and establish justice on earth” (Isaiah 42:1-4).
Apparently, the Hebrew word translated ‘knowledge’ is not a noun but an infinitive. So verse 14 is really about ‘the acknowledging’ of the glory of God, not just the viewing of it! We are blessed with some appreciation of all this but far more is still to come. The prophet’s reassuring message here is that: ‘no matter how terrible and brutal the evil powers of this world may be, God’s purpose of filling the whole world with the knowledge of His glory will triumph. It’s inevitable. It started at Easter, and nothing can stop it now. Jesus has conquered, is conquering and will conquer. So despite whatever defeats and trials we may be experiencing, we can, like Habakkuk, have hope that God’s vision of filling the earth with the knowledge of His glory will prevail. If Christ does not grow faint or discouraged, neither need we!’ (Anon.) Truly, Jesus “will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth” (Isaiah 42:4).
Today’s Prayer: Thank you Father for your just and loving involvement in your world. We pray that you will intervene wherever there is violence and injustice. Please help us to play our part in the Church revealing your glory. May we share the certain hope that we have in Jesus graciously, boldly and in the Spirit’s power. Amen. (MMW)
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