The Unveiling Of God’s Instrument Of Judgement

Part 2 of 4
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, Mar-Aug 2014

Previously, we considered how the Lord prepared Habakkuk for what He was about to say and do in verse 5 of chapter 1. In this article, we’ll briefly consider the Lord’s identification of His instrument of judgment upon the nation of Judah.

The Lord identifies His instrument of judgment 
(verse 6a)

Verse 6a says, “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans…” The curtain is finally drawn. The veil is finally removed on God’s instrument of judgment. It is the Chaldeans or the Babylonians. The name “Chaldean” is probably derived from the Babylonian word which means “conqueror”; no doubt an appropriate name for that empire. 

The Babylonian empire was founded by Nabopolassar, who reigned from about 626-605BC. After his death in 605 BC, he was succeeded by his son Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar reigned for about 43 years, and under him, the Babylonian empire reached the height of its power, and what a mighty power it was!

Now the rise of the Babylonians or Chaldeans was truly remarkable. Who would have thought that a virtually non-existent nation could rise so quickly and powerfully so that it could even conquer the mighty Assyrians in a relatively short time? Remember that Nabopolassar came into power only in 626 BC but by 612 BC, his forces had destroyed all three capitals of the Assyrian Empire, namely, Assur, Nimrod and Nineveh. Then, three years later in 609 BC, Nabopolaasar took the Assyrian city of Harran, where the Assyrian forces had retreated after Nineveh fell.

But that was not all, from 610 BC till his death, Nabopolassar waged war against Egypt, which had allied itself with the Assyrians. In 605 BC, his son Nebuchadnezzar fought Pharaoh Necho and the remnant of the Assyrian army at the Battle of Carchemish and defeated them.

So within just 20 years or so, the Babylonians became the rulers over Assyria, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Who would have thought that that was possible? But the key to their success lies in the words of verse 6, “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans…”  Years before Habakkuk issued his lament in verses 2-4, God was already at work in raising up the Chaldeans to accomplish His purpose of judging and chastising His own people.

However, not only did the Babylonians rise to power fairly rapidly, they also declined fairly rapidly less than a century later, so that they were easily overcome by Cyrus king of Persia in 539 BC – just in time to fulfil the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the seventy years of captivity. Indeed as Job said in Job 12:23, “He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth (or leads) them (away)...” And again in Isaiah 40:15, 17, we read, “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing…All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.”

The Lord has sovereign and absolute control over all the nations, be it Babylon or Egypt or Assyria or Persia or Greece or Rome. He can order the rise and fall of a nation according to His own plans and purposes.

I remember in my very first church history lecture at seminary, my lecturer Dr Bill Higgins made the remark that world history revolves around church history and not church history around world history as is often presented by secular historians. In other words, secular histories often present the history of the church as just one part of the larger history of the world. But really, the correct way of seeing it is that the history of God’s people takes centre stage and the history of the world revolves around it. World history is subservient to church history and is, in fact, controlled by it. And world history can only be fully understood in the light of God’s truth and God’s plan of salvation.

Our text is a good example of this. God raised up the Chaldeans or Babylonians to serve His plan for His people. The Chaldeans may not know or acknowledge the Lord, and they may not realise that they are but instruments in God’s almighty hands. But that does not change the fact that God sovereignly rules over them, and nothing that they do or do not do is outside God’s sovereign decree. 

“For, lo,” says the sovereign God, “I raise up the Chaldeans…”

In the next article, we will consider the Lord’s description of the Chaldeans.

Linus Chua