Lest any should suppose the foregoing to be a forced construction of a portion of Habakkuk's prophecy, we here give below a general review of the preceding and succeeding context, which abundantly corroborates and emphasises the above. Our running comments are in brackets, and the translation is one gleaned from several authorities.
Chap. 1:2-4. "How long, O Lord, have I entreated, and thou wouldst not hear? How long shall I cry out unto thee because of violence, and thou wilt not save? Why hast thou shown me iniquity or grievance, and the robbery and violence that are before me? And there is a judgment, but oppression is more powerful. Therefore the law is powerless and justice cometh not forth victorious; for the wicked compasseth about the righteous: therefore doth justice come forth perverted."
[Certainly these words can well be applied to this "present evil world," when God seems to many to be indifferent as to whether good or evil succeeds, and permits evil to triumph, the godly to suffer persecution, and the wicked to flourish. In view of this, the prophet asks as the representative of all who love righteousness, "How long, O Lord," shall it be thus? When shall the present evil world give place to that wherein dwelleth righteousness?]
[The Lord answers the cry, declaring]: "Look ye about among the nations, and behold and be astonished and astounded, for I will fulfill a work in your days ye would not believe if it were only told you. [If you did not see some evidences you would consider the things impossibilities.] For lo, I will raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation [people], which shall march through the breadth of the land to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs (vs. 5,6). [The people who are to do the astounding work among the nations are here called Chaldeans, and represent, we believe, the masses of the peoples of earth who, under the names Communists, Nihilists, Socialists, etc., are organizing with the avowed intention of overturning present governments. Chaldeans is a fitting name. Literal Babylon was the capital city of literal Chaldea, a vast country, so symbolical Babylon reigns over the people of the civilized world, who, therefore, might in symbol be fitly termed the Chaldeans.]
"Swifter than leopards are their horses, and fiercer than the evening wolves; their horsemen spread themselves abroad, for their horsemen shall come from afar; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. They will all come for violence." [Horses represent doctrines in symbol, and horsemen teachers of those doctrines. The ferocity of the doctrines is here shown, and the rapidity with which they will spread, and the fact that the teachers of these doctrines will be foreigners.]
"Their faces will be set in opposition to the east." [The east is the direction of the sunrising, and here represents the dawn of the Millennial Day. Hence, the language here indicates that though these shall cause a measure of judgment to come upon evil institutions, yet they will not be in harmony with the true light, but in opposition to it; their mission is violence.] "And they gather the bounden ones as the sand."
"And they will make sport with kings and princes will be a play unto them: at every stronghold will they laugh, and they will cast up earth mounds and capture it. Then [by reason of their success] doth their spirit become arrogant and they are surpassingly proud, and offend, imputing this their power unto their God. [Not realizing that they have been used as the Lord's great army to overthrow oppression and to bring down the proud and to thresh the mountains (kingdoms), they shall boast themselves of the victory of Liberalism.]
"Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ORDAINED THEM for judgment; and, O Protector, THOU hast appointed them to CORRECT NATIONS. [This is the confidence of the saints, as here expressed by the prophet.]
In the third chapter of this same prophecy the standpoint is changed, and the prophet rehearses the trouble coming upon the world during the day of the Lord, from the Lord's standpoint, showing whose power it is that shall really shake the kingdoms and bring in everlasting righteousness. Primarily reference is made to the marvelous display of God's power on behalf of Israel in their deliverance from Egypt, but we must not forget that Israel's deliverance from the darkness and bondage of Egypt into fruitful Canaan, was but an illustration of the world's deliverance, to be accomplished in the establishment of earth's new kingdom.
Chap. 3:2. "O Lord! I have heard thy fame, and was afraid: O Lord! thy work—in the midst of the years of sorrow [or time of trouble] revive thou it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy."
"God came from Teman, the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and of his praise the earth was full. His kingdom was like the sunlight; rays streamed forth out of his hand unto them, and there was the hiding [or secret] of his power." In truth, when realized properly, the Lord's coming and kingdom are blessings; for as the Sun of Righteousness he brings light and blessing and joy; when properly seen his every act (hands in symbol) sheds light and blessing. This is for a time kept secret and not recognized by men, though it is the object of his taking his great power.] Pestilence shall go before his face [moral pestilence shall flee, as darkness does when the sun rises] and burning coals went forth at his steps [dross and stubble shall be consumed as righteousness steps in.]
"He stood and measured [judged] the earth; He looked and melted the nations and the ancient mountains [governments] were crushed to pieces; there sunk the perpetual hills: his ways are everlasting. I saw the tents of Cushan [dwellings of darkness or blackness, symbolizing iniquity] in affliction: they trembled—the curtains [those who caused obscurity or darkness] in the land of Midian [strife].
"Thy bow was made quite bare; like severe rods of punishment goeth forth thy word. Selah: thou didst cleave [open] the rivers [truth-channels] of the earth"...."In indignation thou wilt tread the earth under foot; in thy wrath thou wilt astonish the nations. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people: for salvation with thy Christ. Thou struckest the head of the house of the wicked [Satan] and destroyed the foundation with the high towering walls." [It is a complete overthrow.] "Thou didst strike through with his own spears the chief of his warriors—them that came out as a whirlwind to scatter me."..."But thou didst pass along over the sea with thy horses, over the piled up billows of great waters." [The Lord's doctrines were enforced and conquered the great multitude—the "raging waves of the sea."]
In this "Day of the Lord" those only can REST who are built upon the rock foundation, who are strengthened by the heavenly manna, continually refreshed by the living water of truth, and in obedience to their covenant are following in the footsteps of Jesus. Such shall know the truth and the truth shall make them free. Such shall walk in the light and not be in darkness that that day should come upon them as a thief and a snare. (1 Thes. 5:1-5.) Such may rest in the remembrance that the trouble brings the chariots of salvation for the deliverance of the just.