“Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?” - Habakkuk 2:13
Every day, the men and women of Wall Street get up earlier than their competitors to edge them out by the closing bell. Every day, arrogant tyrants, ruling over the nations in all the populated continents of this planet, plot how they may keep their power consolidated and how they may use that power to enhance their own lives. Every day, marketing moguls deprive themselves of sleep to complete another strategy to brainwash the populace into buying more products they don’t need. The sun sets on busy people and rises to reveal their exhaustion. My, how hard they labor! The building of all these empires is truly exhausting work.
Sadly, the Lord has already determined that this labor will ultimately be merely “fuel for the fire.” God looks out over all the hustling, bustling activity of such empire-builders, and at every moment considers the determination of His own will: the nations merely “exhaust themselves for nothing.” For their work is in direct conflict with the empire He is building of His own, the one dedicated to His own glory. For the very next verse explains Habakkuk 2:13 more completely: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). God is advancing the Kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ, until it contains representatives from every tribe, nation, people, and language. They will worship God in Spirit and truth, and they will know His glory. Their love for God will enable them to assist in the building of this eternal Kingdom, and their labor will count for eternity.
"Let us be wise builders, not in competition with the glory of God, but in willing service to it."
Habakkuk 2:13 is a warning to all laborers, exhausted in their labor, to make the most of their strength and spend it on that which is eternal… the glory of God. It is little different than the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matt. 7:24-27).
Let us be wise builders, not in competition with the glory of God, but in willing service to it. And let us keep in mind the ultimate futility of striving for the building of temporary empires, let we exhaust ourselves for nothing.