Habakkuk 1:8 ESV
‘Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on.
Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.’
Swift Moving Devastation
As I compile this study the nation is reeling at the devastation caused by the recent fires on the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Swift-moving fires have totally destroyed the University of Cape Town’s main library with its contents of valuable books and documents. It has also destroyed the nearby popular tearoom adjacent to Rhodes Memorial, as well as the city’s historic Mostert’s Mill. University students and many residents living in suburbs adjoining the mountain had to be evacuated until the fires were finally brought under control three days later.
- What is your reaction to such devastation?
- How would you react to a news flash of an impending disaster approaching your place of residence?
This was the type of message the prophet Habakkuk received from God.
Horses Swift on their Feet
- Have you ever attended a local annual horserace such as the Durban July?
- If not, have you perhaps seen a horse race on television?
As you’ll know, horses are speedy animals. And the Chaldean horsemen were known for their swift and courageous attacks.
When referring to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah said, “his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles” (Jeremiah 4:13).
The prophet emphasizes the speed of the Chaldean war horses by comparing them with the leopard, one of the fastest of all quadrupeds to attack its prey. He also compares them with the eagle that swoops down on its prey with amazing speed.
World-shattering disasters often strike suddenly like a raging fire, a train smash, an earthquake, a dam break….
- What others can you think of?
During the early months of 2020, the world was completely taken aback at how swift the Coronavirus spread. More than a year later, the statistics of cases and deaths worldwide remain mind blowing.
- What world shattering events alarm you most?
Despite this worldwide pandemic, there are many who believe that this is all a conspiracy perpetrated by world government leaders. That somehow all the governments of the world have united in one belief.
- Is this not a bit hard to believe? Oh, that all the governments would unite over world hunger, nuclear weapons, women and child abuse. What others can you think of?
Evening Wolves – Swift and Vicious
The evening wolves tended to fast during the day and prowl in the night for food. The wolf has an amazingly sharp eyesight, even in the dark. Aelian, a Roman author and teacher, is quoted as saying, “The wolf is a very fleet animal; and, besides, it can see by night, even when there is no moonlight.” (Adam Clark Bible Commentary)
The term evening wolves underlines the ferocious nature of Judah’s enemy. Like wolves, Babylon’s mighty army displayed extraordinary stamina and ferocity as it attacked in order to gain the spoils of victory.
Several other prophets speak of God exercising judgement on sinful mankind via animals attacking swiftly or birds of prey swooping down. (Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22; Lamentations 4:19. Zephania 3:3)
In Jeremiah we read “That is why lions from the forest will kill them; wolves from the desert will tear them to pieces, and leopards will prowl through their towns. If those people go out, they will be torn apart because their sins are numerous and time after time they have turned from God.” (Jeremiah 5:6 GNB)
God’s judgement on sinful mankind is not a pretty picture.
- Are you afraid that God might strike you down suddenly because of your sin?
- Do you at times feel feel so overwhelmed, so weak and powerless to resist sin?.
The bad news is that God could indeed wipe us all out in a millisecond. We certainly deserve it.
BUT the good news is that Jesus Christ stepped up on our behalf. He took our sin on His own shoulders when He went to the cross. As long as we are in a right relationship with Jesus, God will not punish us as we deserve.
David was conscious of the magnitude of his sin, yet he knew God to be a forgiving God and so he could confidently write, “Our terrible sins get us down, but you forgive us.” (Psalm 65:3 CEV)
Spend some time now acknowledging your guilt and sin, but thanking God for His promise of forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
P.S. If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.