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Translation of a Text
26) Habakkuk 2:13
What follows below, except for the SHORT EXPOSITION is taken in part from The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness, Ch. 8.
DARKNESS OF SPIRIT IS NOT OF THE LORD
AND WILL MEET HIS SWORD:
UNCOMPREHENDING AND COMPREHENSIVELY STRICKEN
Let us consider Habakkuk 2:13-14, and with this, allied scriptures to show the lively loveliness of the Lord, who neither as dictator, disenables the liberties of man, nor supine, ignores them. Instead, showing all things over time, and dispossessing devilish dynamic of its pretence by allowing its actual ways to reveal themselves in our time, He acts in His own critical axis of action, and completes the lessons of the ages with the eventual rebukes to shame, and overthrow of shambles.
This theme of using history to educate powers and bodies of various celestial kinds is seen in Ephesians 3:7ff. (emphasis is added, to focus our point):
”Of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to bring to light what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
”To the intent that now to the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by faith in Him.”
This theme is more generally apparent in such places as Habakkuk, and relative to the nations of the earth, in Ezekiel 37:28. The same theme is exposed in the book of Job, where trial of faith is made in the very light – or better, darkness, of the Satanic challenge, so abundantly met, that Job served God for reward!
This rendering of Habakkuk 2:13 will now become Number 49 in our list of Biblical Translation foci, and as such it appears below.
49) Habakkuk 2:13-14
§"Is it not of the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for the flames,
and nations grow weary for nothing,
for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea ?"
"It is not of the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for the flames,
and nations grow weary for nothing ... "
This question posed may be answered, conceivably, in either of two ways, in dealing with this text and its interpretation. It may be felt to be worthy of affirmation, that it is assuredly not of the Lord that this frustration and nugatory clamour in vapours of futility is occurring. This is the sin of man, and when the intents of the Lord's heart are SEEN, when you have waited for it as told earlier in this chapter of Habakkuk, the good, divinely beautiful thoughts, then as in Jeremiah 29:10-11, the things past vanished, the good thoughts of the Lord will flower and be apparent. In the depths of His heart He has had this project inscribed, and to its finale of comfort it will surely come.
So in Habakkuk 2, one may in interpreting the question, yes, THIS is indeed not of the Lord; and HE WILL fill the earth with His wonder, peace and truth when the time comes. He is above all that, and while His rebukes curb the follies of this earth, yet the time comes when the plan over, the turmoil finished, the exceedingly wonderful fulfilment of faith will become apparent, the sort of thing which IS of the Lord at the ultimate level.
That is the long view, the ultimate approach from the very portals of heaven. It is indeed not of the Lord that such things, such a milieu, is there, since it is the sin of man that secures the medley of muddle and rebuke. This is the normative thrust in overview, as in Jeremiah 29:9-11 and 30:13-17. There are certain settlements to be made, but the objective, thrust, meaning and ultimacy is of course nothing of this kind, for the Lord has other thoughts for His people, hope in their future, a Messiah to come to rule and a deliverance for Israel in line with the fact - the ultimate answer to the protestation at the outset from Habakkuk, in just such terms and terminus, as in Habakkuk 3.
The other way to answer the question is this. It has a more short term emphasis and varies from the main thrust of the book. We are questioned as to whether it is of the Lord that this desperate folly amid the nations, wearying themselves in deserved futility, is not of the Lord. The answer might be, Yes, it certainly is, for they are being baulked by this futility, these endless arousings and arisings and despising, the dust their kingdom, broken hearts and heads, woeful dreams all the work of desperados, violent follies, rebuked for good reason. As they proceed, repeatedly rebuked, brought to ruin, inhabitants of futile dream-worlds and guilt unspeakable, the Lord who DOES have the power, IS using it. Repeatedly, He brings their boasting to brick bats and their arrogance to shame. NOW He is doing this, but in due course the full scope of His moral outrage and divine fury will complete the task in one sweep.
It may appear prima facie that either of these is a possible answer to the question of Habakkuk 2:13, and that together they are complementary. Thus it IS of the Lord that as in Isaiah 44:24ff., the arrogance of those who affirm themselves, and ignore Him, is brought to a secure frustration as what the Lord says is fulfilled, and what they say is not. The Lord DOES penalise nations and bring them, like Babylon or Egypt or Tyre (as in Isaiah 13-14, Ezekiel 29ff., or 26), to their worthless ends. In the setting of continuing history, this is seen repeatedly, and the pure nonsense of their pretensions is dramatically exposed. In the days of the prophets, this was done with particular prophecies duly matched with results as time progressed. It continues to occur, with bastions of power and princes of philosophy exposed in their leadership and notions, as murderers, tyrants, tin-gods, dust-kings, despicable and eventually passé.
Thus in Habakkuk, we have this. Asked if it is not of the Lord that these desolations occur, even when man cannot achieve them, as when empires pass with relief to those remaining, husks of fire their pretensions, the answer might come, Yes, it is of the Lord, and this is a testimony for Habakkuk, that he has been looking at only part of the problem of corruption; it is ALREADY receiving massive and testimonial correction from the Lord as the lab of history works on; but in the end the earth will be totally purged and purity will bring content to the heart.
To revert, for contrast, the answer might be: No, really it is not of the Lord that all this is happening. In terms of HIS ULTIMATE design and the good intents of His heart. All this is far from the levels of majesty and the beauty of holiness, and is bent and meant to fume and foam out its folly in its own way, like a snake pit. The Lord for His part is NOT LIKE THAT, and if freedom brings on this level of degradation to those made not robots but persons, given liberty to use their profound gift: then the gift will be consummated in the end. THEN, WAIT FOR IT, the whole earth will not only be improved, not only be gloriously ruled, but will actually be FILLED with the glory of God (as in Isaiah 11), and even with its KNOWLEDGE, a conscious component of immeasurable wonder, as the waters cover the sea. This is the thrust of the book.
BOTH renderings, both answers to the question put in Habakkuk 2:13, at the outset may appear to cover the case, the one looking down the lane of history, as events proceed to the sudden conclusion, the other looking to the Lord, past the strivings of history, to His ultimate, inward, morally impregnable destiny for man, the believers amongst this race,once rescued and set in the splendour of the consummation. When you have such a case, practice here is to follow both, taking whatever is offered in the text, and using it as permissible and hence applicable. There are limits imposed by the context, that in either case God is entirely against all evil, has His own way of exterminating it when the time comes, will do so by overwhelming power categorically collapsing all resistance with almighty action, as in Habakkuk 3; but there are vignettes, along the way, seeing the contours of it, or from first to last, seeing the outcomes of it. There are preludes before the conclusion, exhibits of the end of folly, red carpets replaced by dust.
Only one however is in line with the ANSWER, the moral thrust of the divine rejoinder to the anguish of the prophet, and should for that reason be preferred, as well as for its precise parallels as noted above.
Nevertheless, some more things are common to both interpretations of the text, each of which provides enrichment..
Is this not just like Psalm 50:21-23! (Italics added for the point in view.)
"You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother’s son.
"These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes.
"Now consider this, you who forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces,
And there be none to deliver:
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God."
This very directly answers any idea that God is in the least accepting of the furious follies in man that would think ill of Him. Is it not of the Lord that these things happen ? CERTAINLY NOT. The whole idea is gross.
This strikes most directly at negative rendering. NO, certainly it is not of the Lord. The very relationships are sunk in their own mire, and the attribution is callow and provocative.
No, God is not at all like this, His way is wholly contrary to the woeful and self-important contaminations of spirituality to be seen in the vapid ways of this cluttered world; and His zest and zeal is that people realise this, repent and seek Him, for both now within, and when He acts in power, for all to see most manifestly, there will come suddenly the vindication of His righteousness and the devastation of what opposes it. If now liberty allows folly, yet it divinity does not endorse it, merely letting it declare its heart.
If now in patience, He lets things show their inward realities, then in His time they will meet their full disclosure. In the interim, what massive delusion to imagine that it is OF HIM that these things happen. What preposterous impudence of vocal pollution, as if devastation had its voice, or a serpent could talk as well as crawl!
Did you imagine, in effect He is asking, that the liberty that allows abuse of truth and righteousness meant that the Lord neither knew nor cared, or rather that He endorsed it, because this is what HE IS LIKE! So far is this from being the case, that it is as urgent as seeking an operation on melanoma, to remedy such misconception. It is precisely thus that comes the message in Habakkuk. Let us then see! IT IS NOT OF THE LORD that all this festering horror of human invention, this imagination of the evil heart of man so proceeds, any more that at the time of the flood (Genesis 6:1-6). This is not in line with His ultimate objective, which answers Habakkuk's bold query. It is in fact repugnant to Him, and there is NOTHING in His heart of this kind, for the fruition of His creation of mankind.and He deals with it at times and places of His choosing; eventually in such a way that the whole earth will resound with the realities now so misused, and so blasphemously touted.
Indeed in the consummation, the earth will be FILLED, replete with the testimony of the very nature and intentions of the Lord: filled with the KNOWLEDGE of the glory of the Lord in a super-abundance bordering on satiety. There will be splendour in righteousness and grace, in the midst of understanding. THAT is what God has in mind; will bring to pass; answers the query of the harrowed prophet.
Some translations of the passage in Habakkuk which concerns us.
"Is not this from the LORD of hosts:
peoples toil for the flames,
and nations grow weary for nought!
14 But the earth shall be filled
with the knowledge of the LORD’S glory
as water covers the sea."
"Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts
That the peoples labor to feed the fire,
And nations weary themselves in vain?
For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea."
"Consider, it is not from the LORD of hosts
that people exert themselves
for what goes up in smoke, and that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing.
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea."
REVIEW OF THE REVELATION
AND PROTESTATION OF THE LORD IN HABAKKUK
TEXT AND CONTEXT
Thus there are different approaches to the statement "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." In the one case, SINCE the Lord is not like that at all, the result to come is utterly dissimilar to the entire routine of folly, and gloriously so. In the other, the point is this: SINCE the Lord is already chastening and confronting the petty dictators and mass murderers, ruining their pretensions and bringing rebuke to their aspirations, the intent at last, WAIT FOR IT, is the finale, the utter desolation deserved. IT will surely come.
There is a close parallel in Isaiah 11 which depicts the rule of the returned Messiah in power and majesty, and the emphasis just preceding it in 11:9 is the protective prevention of the Lord on earth, so that "they will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain", the dual aspects of the destruction of unrighteousness and the nurture of what is good and righteous, being prominent.
In this case, where we concentrate on the "for" following, which precedes the words, "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." In other words, in view of the dual presence, as the Messiah (Habakkuk 3:12ff., Jeremiah 23:5ff., Isaiah 11), the seed of David on the human side, and protection and power, the earth will be so blessed.
Here then we see the expression of just this theme in positive terms, so that BECAUSE the Lord is present in this unveiling of His intents, THEREFORE the earth will AT THAT PREDICTED TIME be so filled with this knowledge of His glory. Indeed, in that day there will be "a Root of Jesse," the context proceeds, "who will stand as a banner for the people: for the Gentiles will seek Him and His resting place will be glorious."
Thus in harmony and application of this knowledge of His glory is His call to the people, and His comfort for them when they come, in words of course close to those of Christ as seen in Matthew 11:27-28.
The suffering to start and the glory to come was a theme of Christ as shown in Luke 24, where He deems it obvious and conceives that they ought to have known of this sequence in His Messianic ministry.
This glory to follow then is expressive of the heart of God, and it is unfolded in the ultimate with safety, comfort and protection in the midst of majesty: such is the message of Isaiah in the parallel.
It is of some interest here that, in Habakkuk 2, there is the addition of the words "of the glory of" before "the Lord". However, in Isaiah the emphasis is on this closeness, which though glorious, is preserved from being lost to the reader in any sense of a glory which might deflect from the reality of the personal; whereas in Habakkuk, where the vision is more general, the glory of it all is added in emphasis.
His 'glory' moreover suggests a sense of unfolding from the very heart and source.
What however IS this heart and source in this case ? Is it not that God is, after all, zealous for this provision of kindness, love and charity, comfort and relief to man, if only he will return to Him and receive Him, so that WHEN He comes it is precisely this which is presented, which always was in heart! (CF. Ezekiel 33:11). Further, He is zealous for it, abundant in it and lavish in its preparation for the consummation, precisely of that kind.
Turning now back to Habakkuk 2:13, what does one encounter ? There is to be found in the preceding verses an emphasis on the oppression, injustice and evil bases in which the city is appallingly operative, and on the woe to those who engage in constructive enterprises where murder and oppression are but tools of the trade. We see by contrast the huge transformation that is to come in 2:14.
Thus, the message is that despite the blundering, cluntering, obstructive presence of traitors to truth who vainly and in pride build and operate, the actual ruler and sovereign of the earth is not at all like this; for it is not of His heart and mission that such things should be. Is one relevant rendering. He is seen already most active, and in the other, He is seen in glorious holiness in His own being, far from such devastating sins that ruin the magnificence of the gift of life to man; and in both cases His finale comes, sudden, categorical, as the sheer rubbish of confused misdirection and evil vainglory and cruelty, is swept away, in the very face of it, to make way for the glory of the earth, and His knowledge filling it. It is not only to do it, but in doing it, will produce an awareness and testimony of a glory that is indeed in the heart of the Lord. It does not depart or become mangled or tangled.
While, then, there is in the contemporary scene such pillage and pollution, such oppression and intrusive passion of wickedness that it seems almost as if this is the story of things: yet far from true is such an impression. Indeed, the Lord is affirming, it is NOT OF THE LORD that such negative gnashing, gashing works of evil occur, and as testimony of this supervening fact is this: that the unfolding of things will reveal that the earth will be filled, not just able to discern in measure, but filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
Again, on the other rendering, you have this: though He brings about in history many a ruin to the follies, yet what is in mind is a better things, thoughts of destiny, of goodness, and this will come in the consummation. It is just that the application is either telescopic or microscopic, seen through advancing history, filled with its follies and divine rebukes, or seen from the grand and loving thoughts of the Lord from the first, despite these degradations, securing the end in purity and purging, till the whole earth is FILLED with this glory. Many are the divine rebukes confounding arrogance and destroying godless nations; but vast is the finale! Much may seem to obstruct this, but nothing diverts from it; and in the end, there is a culmination of exposure of His glory and justice, righteousness and truth, wonder and savour, which will overwhelming attest His divine nature and due preparations for such a transcendent and engulfing blessing.
Thus, when the time is finally ready for application, then the earth will not have to content itself with some abstraction, some implication or impression; but on the contrary, it will be covered with the reality which lack of faith hid from the eyes of the sad or sceptical (cf. SMR pp. 257ff.). KNOWLEDGE to the contrary of the sad effronteries of self-exalting flesh, oppressing flesh: this will be not merely available, but overpoweringly obvious. What had been hidden, will be shouted from the house-tops!
More: this filling will not be merely some royal tour, as if part of a program so that when it passes, the evil continues. Far from such superficiality will be this glorious reign, this expression and manifestation of the glorious Lord. In fact, this knowledge of His goodness and truth, to the contrary of the knowledge of impious transgression in high places now so conspicuous in the earth, it will be this one which suffuses the whole earth. It will not be another. Pathology will not rule; the Prince of peace will do so.
The awareness of the glory of the Lord, the knowledge of it, the realisation of its sanctity and sovereignty will be so great that the earth will not be able to lack it in any groove, under any rock, in any pasture or in any valley! The FILLING of the earth with the knowledge of this glory of the Lord will thus be impregnable in power and pervasive in coverage, so that it will resemble a natural event of which we are so very aware. What event then is this ? It is the waters of the sea.
In what way do the waters cover the sea ? Do we find that there is an inadequacy ? or do the proud waves surge and pound, so that they need the restraint of the Lord lest they should proceed too far and move onto the earth and inundate it (Jeremiah 5:22). A perpetual decree, we there read, stops the ocean from proceeding too far in its raging torrential powers. The ocean is indeed both deep and strong, a vast concourse of waters and currents, a huge display of aqueous wonder, now calm, now storming, now surging; and it is in just such a way AS the waters COVER the sea, that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will COVER or FILL the earth.
There will be no barrier here, but on the contrary, this is like water in the domain of the sea, where its coverage is its VERY ESSENCE!
It is, then, in this way, despite the contemporary wickedness which is to receive its come-uppance in various ways (cf. Ezekiel 29:17ff., Jeremiah 25), and terminally in the day of the Lord (cf. Habakkuk 3:4ff.), that the Lord will unfold, will disclose, will unveil and exhibit, manifest and exuberantly declare His glory over all the earth, so that it is KNOWN in the earth!
That then is essential to the meaning of Habakkuk 2:13-14. Indeed, past this horrible musty, measly and pathological, this impure and conceitedly grasping of bloody hands on earth, this invasion the social scene with its fiscal improprieties and inequitable grabbing, as before it in the mind of the Lord, there is the provision for eventual remedy, and the intent on its achievement, for no part of this sort of thing consists with His brilliance of love and wisdom. It is not His desire that this ravage is in place! His plan proceeds to expropriate the entire sinful morass, and faith must wait and even rejoice in Him, who has proposed this trial, and purposed this end, which will surely come.
Thus, with this flat negative rolling into sight in Habakkuk 2:14, coming initially, suddenly, sharply, like a slap in the face; the Lord distances Himself vitally from this ludicrous abuse of man by man, which freedom which He has indeed granted. In test, it is enabled; but not ultimately in eventual triumph. For the earth, He has in store the utter opposite, when tests done, and evil exposed, His will is for earth as in heaven.
A backer of any evil? Far is that from, Him,, whose mercies have so often and for so long prolonged opportunity, before bringing judgment (as in Ezekiel 16, 20, Jeremiah 18). Nothing could well be further from the Lord than this, who reluctantly and eventually so acts as need be, or to expose folly which disdains Him, to what it is really asking for.
Say what you will about sovereignty, this is not some junta running God, but the ground of expression of mercy, justice and ultimate control in a world given by Him from Himself, vast freedoms for a great love.
Even though, and of course, the Lord does indeed determine that in view of His creation of human liberty and its nestling place for the exhibition and reception of love (and thus of the opposite, which liberty enables), there is scope for such evils, these are not a compromise of the ensuing statement that the world will be filled with what is the actual reality of the nature and heart of God, in His time of disclosure and judgment. On the contrary, they are a highly deliberate contrast. Men go that way; God has mind as in Jeremiah 29:11 for Israel: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." That comes when they seek Him with all their hearts, as the text proceeds to relay.
Accordingly, the context in Habakkuk 2 proceeds to indicate the force of judgment to come on those who, despite the actual lovingkindness and equity of the Lord, and the judgment to come when all is to be revealed, continue in their hoodlum ways. These, or people such as these, we learn "are filled with shame instead of glory" (2:16), and "the cup of the Lord's right hand" is to be "turned against" such people! (cf. Jeremiah 25).
How vain, Habakkuk 2 continues, to look to fabricated, to made gods; for it is the actual one who is considering and will act.
In this way, the message of the contradiction between man's ways and those of God is simply and clearly continued from before to after the 2:14 statement on the filling of the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, which in the midst of these moral and ethical censures, is to come. This, as Habakkuk 3 shows, in implacable and illimitable measure, comes when all the intervening rebukes done, and the allowances for liberty over, He acts manifestly to invest the earth in its ways, with His own.
Then will be rest and sufficiency. If now there is test and there is exposure of what man is, this is the prelude; for as man shows his hand now, so God will show His hand then; and even in the interim, His heart is against these marauders of morals, these spiritual idolaters and people of grasping injustice with whom He deals as empires or persons, from time to time. Even so, in these divine dealings, it is not so much as to collapse the liberty of man, nor so little as to leave him complacent or merely co-operating for gain! It is indeed that latter case that the book of Job so painstakingly exposes! (cf. SMR pp. 95ff.).
Looking back before 2:14, we see the preliminaries to this exposure to come, when all will be wholly manifest in an inescapable fashion; for in 2:11 we find that in the midst of this plundering passion of iniquitous man, there is a future:
"for the stone will cry out from the wall and the beam from the timbers will answer it."
What is the nature of this architectural discourse then ? It is summed up in the next verse with the word "Woe!"
It then proceeds to tell us that all of this is NOT of the LORD, FOR the earth will be FILLED with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and thus, as the theme is completed in Habakkuk, that what is now done in darkness, will perish in light. And why ? Because it is NOT of Him, and when His hand is fully revealed this will be an inescapable component of His majesty! ALL the earth will see what now is a moral declamation, and KNOW what is now a statement to faith.
The alternate rendering is in the end, almost blasphemous: the Lord is ALREADY acting, and is not at all passive, in rebukes that ONLY He can give; and in this vigorous role, He will bring it all at length, to the final and adequate, judgmental purging, purification in confrontation, which is required. When the task is over, the lab work complete, the testing culminating, then the earth will show the end to be as beautiful as its beginning in Him who has had this concerns from the start, and has allowed the earth to show its options, as worthy of damnation, condemnation, dismissal.
HABAKKUK'S ZEAL FOR HOLINESS IN PRACTICE
AND THE ZEST OF THE LORD THAT MEETS IT
The thrust precisely in parallel, in theme, with the words of Christ seen in Matthew 23 where the then contemporary follies of Pharisees with their grasping natures and godless interiors (in the case of so many that it formed a declamation against them as for example in 23:23ff.) were met with this finale in 23:32-35:
"Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
"Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell ?
"Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes:
some of them you will kill and crucify,
and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues
and persecute from city to city, that on you may come
all the righteous blood shed on the earth,
from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah,
son of Berechiah,
whom you murdered between the temple and the altar."
Thus the procedure is emphatically from infamous spiritual, religious and social pollution, through declamation to exposure of the suffering caused, and of the faithful testimony to the truth wrought and brought to the people from the Lord in the interim. It moves on then to the judgment to come which is to be manifest, not simpering but scalding: as it in fact was in that generation as foretold, when the massive retributive justice wrought through Titus and Vespasian on Jerusalem was unwound.
This requisition of judgment, this moral declivity, this vanity and pride, this fossicking for gain by using the blood of members of the human race for the elevation of others of it: it is OF THE LORD ? What infamy! It is so AGAINST the heart and mind of the Lord that the JUDGMENT WILL REVEAL THAT FACT in sombre, nay fatal fashion! The earth will be FILLED with the contrary testimony, and judgment will deal with the uncovered debits.
In Habakkuk 3, after the expression of this detestation and declamation and declaration to the contrary of all this seamy unspirituality of man on earth, the prophet is moved to ask the Lord to REVIVE HIS WORK in the midst of the years! It is then that there comes the revelation of the end of the whole matter, and if Habakkuk was written before 609 B.C., then in the interim there was massive revival as in Josiah in his renewal of the covenant with the people before the Lord (II Chronicles 34:29-33), and in the vast endeavours, royally approved, to have "all who were present in Israel" to act differently, and "diligently to serve the LORD their God." In any case, the revival assuredly came in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (cf. Nehemiah 9!).
Fittingly, the prophet ends with that famous exhortation, that even if almost all negatives of production and prosperity be lost, yet "I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17ff.).
In other words, let the evils be what they will, and let us suffer if we must in the midst of such scalding and polluted porridge of defiled princes and peoples, yet this fracas and bravura, it is contrary to the Lord and prone to correction and inheriting woe. Instead of being impressed with its dreadful dynamics and unhallowed means, we should REJOICE NOW in the LORD, not the prince of this world who has nothing in Christ (John 14:30 as later put by the Lord Himself.)
It is in this wonderful LORD that one is to rejoice, for it is He whose ways are sure, whose mercy is lively, whose axioms are actual and whose glory is immutable. In its time, it will be made manifest; and in the meantime, we believe by faith that it is only human sin which brings it to be that
¨ "people toil for the flames and nations grow weary for nothing."
No, for "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea."
THIS is the final testimony of truth, its disclosure in power; and it WILL be made, and we WILL honour and praise and even rejoice in Him while we await the final dénouement of power, and exhibition of that reality which IS glorious, being in and through and of the LORD!
In other words, the message does not merely concern what liberty, divinely created, in measure allows, but crucially with what majesty is like and how it will be shown ultimately with an exuberance of wonder and a coverage of glory which will inform even the most reluctant, and confront the most currently powerful polluters of the name of the Lord, whose judgment is sure, and whose end is not to be desired. Much will be removed, but what remains, till the earth goes, this will be the tenor of the wonder of the Lord in this now begrimed and broken world, careering to a destiny for itself, which includes the removal of the very heavens (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3, Revelation 20).
The living flame of divine delight in the interim in the hearts of the believers is that testimony which, at the personal level, allies itself with the past expressions of the power and fulfilments of the words of the Lord, so that the present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the "glory that is to be revealed to us", as Paul declares in Romans 8:18, the earth awaiting in the interim the revelation of the children of God! (Romans 8:19).
Such is the uniform scriptural deposition of this glory of God in the midst of the shame of man, and the entire answer which is to be made of things now covered, in the light then! Through misuse of human liberty, the glory of the Lord now casts its shadow into the depths; but through the manifestation of His power in its time, the glory will allow no depths, being present and suffusing all, bathed in light, contrary to all the configurations of blight; for then "they will not hurt not destroy in all My holy mountain", instead of pursuing their vain and reckless endeavours, which are not of the Lord (Habakkuk 2:11-13)
Finally, let us realise that the thrust of the entire book of Habakkuk is the prophet’s concern at men netting men, as if they were fish for conquest and abuse, and he INITIALLY puts it to the LORD that this is an agonising thing (Habakkuk 1:1ff.), and that he seeks a revelation and an answer of how this can be so when the LORD is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity (2:12ff.). He then explicitly awaits the ANSWER (2:1ff.).
In answer, quite directly, in word as in power, the Lord indicates that it is UTTERLY CONTRARY TO HIS NATURE AND MIND THAT such follies are PURSUED, and that He will in His own eventually drastic fashion, in light irresistible, complete the Ages in their interdiction and judgment. That will be in a manner not merely absolute, but conjoined with His own coming in power for the wonder of His reign, as
“Thou doest march out for the deliverance of Thy people”
(Hababkkuk 3:13 – Berkeley).
This become clear, the prophet continues regardless of the results or current tribulation, trial and test, to rejoice in this God of mercy and truth, justice and lovingkindess, whatever the current disposition of the chaff as it is blown by the winds, until the time appointed comes (cf. Psalm 1-2).
Vast are the enterprises of God, celestial in disposition as in power, He acts with depth, bringing now temporary judgments, slight or profound, now vast enclaves of history to their fruition, as in one season; but through it all, He is the same, and His will, word and way proceeds. It is not as in a see-saw, but as in a road to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It has a beginning in creation, a continuation in man’s fall, a culmination in the revelation of the nature of evil and of God, and a consummation in glory in which the earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
On the way, not one jot or tittle of the word of God, the Bible, will be lost, but ALL will be fulfilled, to the nethermost particle, to the uttermost part (Matthew 5:17-20). Indeed, those who teach and do the things He commands are in concert with Him, and delighting in His word (Psalm 119), they find His face most beautiful (II Corinthians 3:19) and their citizenship in the kingdom of heaven (Philippians 3:20) one which means not only current delight in the Lord (cf. Psalm 37), but eventual transformation of the very matrix of personal form by the power of Him who is able to subdue all things to His power (Philippians 3:21).
Incorruptible and immortal is the outcome for each of the children of God (I Corinthians 15), but it is NOT ONLY a work of creative power and refining delight, purging through the blood of Christ and pardon freely given, full as this is; it is also a work of testing and trial, demonstration and sincerity, on the one hand, or on the other, guile and graft, folly and fusion with confusion. It is a matter of a narrow and a broad way. In the broad way, there is the unalleviated onset of the result of sin, and only through the operation of saving faith in its time, are any rescued (Hebrews 2:1-3), and such appear to have been Saul whose new name became Paul, and such as slave-ship Captain John Newton, whose hymns may be found a relish. At times, during revival especially, whole battalions of new converts ,may be rescued, and blessed is the Lord who for so long has left intact as now, the escape route.
He does not act intemperately, but conclusively in the end, and with enterprise, imagination and resolution in the midst of the days, fulfilling to the uttermost His desire as in Colossians 1:19. After all, the day is His, and He created it, and when it ends, it is His to judge with light.
As to the place where His commonwealth is centred, as for His spiritual kingdom as the day remains before the Messiah, Jesus the Christ returns, it neither shimmers nor glimmers with light, but is filled with it, as should the heart now of His servants (Luke 11:35ff.):
"Take heed therefore that the light which is in you be not darkness. If your whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle gives you light."
It is not a city for indolence, nor yet impotence; but it is one where one is happy to suffer in the fulfilment of His truth, for the glory of His name as He unfolds His word into history, the way someone at a Cricket Match may unfold his umbrella, shake it a little, and then open it in order to complete the session.
As to shaking, this comes when the time comes for it! (cf. Hebrews 12:25, Haggai 2:6, II Peter 3, Matthew 23:35, Revelation 20:1-3).
If the sharp NOT at the beginning of Habakkuk had in effect been intended as a heavily disguised affirmation, then the affirmation resulting would be an avoidance of the question at issue - or ignoratio elenchi, as the logicians have it. Habakkuk is in his querying way putting the point: WHY is all this evil and corruption and sabotage of reality, justice and spirituality, this gadding godlessness and cunning deceit going on so much! The answer that actually the Lord is already acting quite vigorously to confront it, is to deny what the prophet protests. It is NOT adequate, what is empirically found is disastrous. WHY ?
The only finally coherent answer, and it is a beautiful one, is this: The Lord is NOT the cause of this pandemonium situation. MAN causes it by sin, as far from God in its impetus as it is possible to go. All this stuff you mention, it is as if to say, NOT of the Lord.
Then look at the things which are thus negated in the words that follow in the text. People do not engage in burning the fires that bring eating up, consuming instead of consummation, because in terms of design, God leads and tempts them so to do. What a thought! It is NOT of the Lord. If mad folly at last brings delusion, so be it, but far is this from the purpose, intent, thrust and desire of the Lord. It is the ripe corruption of human nature which does this, and for the same reason, kings muddle in futile confusion in endless carnal contests to litter the earth with blood and folly.
To shift the matter to the work of God, as if to charge Him with failure would be a fatally immoral confusion of the issue at hand. WHY DO YOU ALLOW all this immoral muck! Answer: it is because of the sinful exploitation and shocking lusts of man: NOT of Lord is any such thing, destroying the earth in fits and starts of abhorrent passion.
WHY then is this so, this depravity which you see and to which you object ? Do you not, Habakkuk, the Lord's word appears clearly to indicate, realise the reality! As in Lamentations 3:33, the Lord does not willingly afflict the children of men; and that is the answer out of His word. Similarly you see that it is despite the most extreme reluctance that He brings on the elements of initial judgment; FOR in terms of His nature, desire and destiny to come, His positive mercy and because of His exploding grace, the impetus is so great that the earth will be FILLED with the knowledge of the Lord. THAT is the outcome, the intent, the thrust and the manifest result.
Wait for it! This is long term planning ... and realise indeed that it is even with His Messiah (precisely as in Psalm 2 so vehemently) as in Habakkuk 3:13, that when the time comes for which you must WAIT, the emphatic point, that judgment will be poured forth. In other words, the very Saviour will, having done all in His passion for mercy so that God SO loved the world that His offer is to all through that sacrifice, judge; for judgment has been handed to the SON (John 5:27).
Moreover, you will see it only if you wait for it, the externalisation of the inward desire of the Lord, as shown in passages such as Matthew 23:3 7ff., Luke 19:42ff., II Kings 8:19, Ezekiel 33:11. If you want to get to the direct and manifold end of the matter, thrust of it, then realise that it is only over the most intense reluctance that God acts in judicial force (as in Amos 4, where He so readily accedes to the pleading of the prophet, until justice precludes further delay. It is shown in Isaiah 48:15ff., in the aftermath in the same essential intensity: O THAT YOU HAD ... listened, avoided this outcome! He is grief-stricken.
There is an intensity of grief that they so distanced blessing in the midst of His intense desire for mercy (in which He delights - Micah 7), and brought on NEEDLESS ruin. It is like a father watching the step by step ruin of a son successively ruined among his false paths.
SO NO, it is NOT, emphatically NOT of the Lord, for when the constraints are finished, the intense pressure to avoid affliction for man will release an insurgence of the knowledge of God that will positively fill the earth. Moreover, in adding the "knowledge of the glory of the Lord" to what is nearly a quotation from Isaiah 11, it is even if it were possible, adding to the emphasis. The knowledge will be of what is precious, cherishing in the Lord, and glorious will be that sweeping away of the sin-dominated prelude to which Habakkuk refers, showing what the Lord in heart and plan, purpose and motivation is really like. Don't worry Habakkuk, it is as if to say, NOT like that is the Lord, for in time, when you waited for it, the wonder of the nature of your God will explode into the earth, filling it with glory.
It is amazing that The Berkeley Version, say of 1960, so outstanding a contribution in its perception in many areas, is the only version readily found which does not follow the trend to turn a REPUDIATION of what context shows the base of discord and sin, into an alien ownership of it on the part of the Lord, in flat contradiction as an account of WHY all this is in fact happening, of the entire thrust of the Bible.