“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors,
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!
The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you,
and disgrace will cover your glory.”
Habakkuk 2:15-16 (NIV)
I’ve always enjoyed being a fan of my favorite sports teams. There is something I love about the drama, the stories, the thrill of victories, and the agonies of defeat.
One of the things that have always fascinated me about sports fans is not only the fanaticism of loyalty and celebration to one’s own team but also the hatred and schadenfreude with which one gloats in a rival’s failure and demise. Likewise, there are always those moments when your team will only advance if a hated rival wins a certain game. My despised rival suddenly becomes a necessary tool for my team to ultimately succeed. It’s always a bit excruciating at the moment to find yourself wanting your enemy to win. It feels like the old cliche of sleeping with the enemy. Once it’s over, it feels kind of good when you can return to cheering for their annihilation, as if all is right with the world again.
Today’s chapter is the answer to the question Habakkuk posed to God in yesterday’s chapter. It was prompted by God revealing to the prophet that He was sending the Babylonian Empire to be a tool of punishment to his unrepentant people. The Babylonians were a proud, ruthless, and greedy empire. Habakkuk was aghast that God would use such an evil empire for His purposes.
God’s answer is an oracle of Babylon’s eventual doom. God’s people will be taken into exile for seventy years, but eventually, they will return and Babylonians will receive God’s justice. God’s pronouncement of Babylon’s doom comes in the form of five words of “woe,” which echoes the three-fold “woe” proclaimed over “Babylon the Great” in Revelations 18 that we read on this chapter-a-day journey last week.
But there’s another connection that came to mind as I read the prophetic pronouncement of doom. Specifically, God chastises the Babylonians for their drunken orgies, then says that their drunken shame will be exposed and “the cup from God’s right hand is coming around to you.”
One of God’s people who was taken into exile in Babylon was Daniel of the lion’s den fame. Late in his life, Daniel called before the Babylonian ruler Belshazzar as he and a thousand nobles were having a wine-soaked feast (“woe to him who builds his house with unjust gain” Hab 2:9). Belshazzar had golden cups stolen from Solomon’s temple brought to him so they could drink from them (“woe to him who piles up stolen goods” Hab 2:6). As they drank they praised all their Babylonian idols and deities (“woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’” Hab 2:19). Suddenly a hand appears and writes a cryptic message on the wall (this episode is the source of the term “the handwriting is on the wall”). Daniel is asked to interpret it. Daniel explains that it is God’s proclamation of Belshazzar’s doom. He dies that night and the Medes take over Babylon.
The “cup (of wrath) from the Lord’s right hand” came around just as God said it would through Habakkuk some 66 or so years before.
As I pondered God’s answer to Habakkuk regarding the use of the Babylonians for His purposes, I couldn’t help but think of that sports fan who has to endure watching the hated rival prevail in order for a greater purpose to be accomplished for their team. God’s message through Habakkuk was the assurance that the hated Babylonians would eventually experience the agony of defeat.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.