Habakkuk Chapter 2
1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
2 Then the LORD replied:
“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
4 “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith. 5 Indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.
6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’
7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
9″Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! 10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! 13 Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.
17The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
18 “Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.
19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”
Most of Chapter 1 consists of Habakkuk’s questions to God about a variety of moral issues AND God’s decision to use Babylon in bringing about His purposes for Israel (both the Northern Kingdom and Judah)
God helps Habakkuk to understand many things:
- Although the wicked may appear to prosper, judgement and justice will follow
- Sometimes God allows evil to continue but a day or reckoning is coming
- It is fine to ask God questions but we may be surprised at the answers!
- We won’t always understand “why” but we must continue to trust God in every circumstance
- Human reason is no substitute for faith and obedience
Chapter 2 is principally concerned with God’s response and especially His five “woes”
Whereas in Chapter 3, Habakkuk finds peace of mind and is able to pray and worship the Lord.
Many parents have said to their children things like: “If you don’t work harder, you’ll never get a decent job”… or perhaps: “If you’re not in bed by the time I count to five…”
- They are saying, in effect, “Woe to you if you don’t do or if you do this or do that…”
Much of Chapter 2 deals with five woes (‘warnings’):
- The woe of putting your own interests first (vs 6-8)
- The woe of trying to be the top dog (verses 9-11)
- The woe of manipulating and damaging other people (verses 12-14)
- The woe of taking advantage of other people’s frailties (verses 15-17)
- The woe of placing our trust in anything or anyone but God (verses 18-28)
Initially Habakkuk seems to talk to himself!
So in verse 1 as per ‘The Message’…
What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon
I wonder what Habakkuk was expecting?
He doesn’t have long to wait before finding out
Verse 2… God’s words are to be written down immediately.
Verse 3… For the revelation awaits an appointed time. It speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
Despite our human impatience and desire for things to happen NOW, we have the promise that in God’s time everything will fit into place
- Until that time we have to trust and obey and live in the expectation that God’s will and purpose will not be and cannot be thwarted… regardless of circumstances!
Verse 4 See, he (king of Babylon) is puffed up. His desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by (his) faith
What a contrast… the ‘puffed up’ godless king and the humility of those who live faith
Verse 5 … indeed, wine betrays him
As a teetotaller I couldn’t possibly comment!
He is arrogant and never at rest…
Contrast this ‘restlessness’ with the Apostle Paul, who said that in all things he had learned to be content
THE REST OF CHAPTER TWO IS DOMINATED BY THE 5 WOES…
1. The woe of always putting your own interests first (Verses 6-8)
Verse 6 Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’
- Self-interest… me first!
- Get to the top; be ambitious; trample a few on the way; use deceit if necessary
A RECENT HEADLINE commented: ‘The country is sinking in its own selfishness
But Jesus said put others first:
- The first will be last; the last first
- Far from self-interest, Jesus spoke of self-denial:
“Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”
He did NOT mean: “Don’t look after yourself” OR “give yourself a hard time”!
- But Jesus was scathing about those who neglected the poor and weak in society
A father told his unmotivated son to sweep the snow off the elderly neighbour’s drive and say nothing. The son complained at the time but later wrote that this act transformed his life, as he came to terms with serving others without reward, even thanks.
2. The woe of trying to be the top dog (verses 9-11)
Verse 9: “Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin!
Lord Acton once memorably claimed that power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely! Great men are nearly always bad men.
There are numerous instances of people who have been destroyed by greed and pride
- It is said of King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26) that he trusted the Lord at first BUT after he became powerful, his pride led to his downfall
- The Beatles’ John Lennon once claimed that they were more popular than Jesus Christ
- Mohammed Ali used to boast that he was ‘the greatest’
But contrast these statements with what Jesus said…
- Take your place at the lower end of the table
- It is more blessed to give than to receive
- And in Micah 6:8 we read:
Love mercy and walk humbly with your God
Someone has said the failures that humble us save us from the strength that does us harm (Think about it!)
It is often when we are at our lowest and weakest point that God moves in power and the Spirit has free reign in our lives…
But those who seek unjust gain at the expense of others had better watch out! God is on the case… nothing escapes His eye
3. The woe of manipulating and damaging other people (verses 12-14)
Verse 12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!
- Using crime and bloodshed to control cities…has a familiar ring, doesn’t it!
- Some things don’t change
Verse 13 in the Contemporary English version says…
But the Lord All-Powerful sends up in flames what nations and people work so hard to gain
The history of the world is blighted by those who make sure that they get their own way through any means, regardless of who suffers
As we read in Jeremiah 8:12: From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practise deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.
Why should you blush about anything when, according to modern philosophy, there is no clear boundary between right and wrong!
And God warns individuals who strive for personal glory and prestige… it will all turn to dust and ashes!
In ‘The Word for Today’ someone wrote these profound words: “God measures with a different yardstick. He won’t ask what kind of car you drove but how many people you gave rides to. He won’t ask how many bedrooms your house has but how you raised your children and treated your family. He won’t ask about the designer names in your wardrobe but whom you helped to clothe. He won’t ask about your salary but how much you invested into the building of His Kingdom. He won’t ask about your job title but if you tried to perform with excellence and integrity. He won’t ask how many friends you had but how many people you were a friend to. He won’t ask what neighbourhood you lived in but if you loved your neighbour. He won’t ask about your politics or the colour of your skin but about the quality of your character. So don’t just work hard—work hard for the right reasons!”
Verse 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
- God’s name will be known throughout the world
- People will say, ‘Look what God has done!’
- They may mock at the moment but a day is coming when their cynicism will change to amazement
4. The woe of taking advantage of other people’s frailties (See verses 15-17)
Verse 15 Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin until they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies.
Some people will stop at nothing to gain an advantage…
- Humiliating others… putting them down… spreading rumours
There are even people who search through the dustbins of celebrities in the hope of finding a letter or photo that can be used to blackmail the person by threatening to expose him or her to the Press.
We also HAVE TO BE CAREFUL that we don’t revel in other people’s misfortune… or enjoy finding fault… because it makes us feel superior. God is not impressed by our superciliousness or pride.
Verses 15 and 16 are principally about leading people astray…
- Nakedness refers to being ‘unclothed’ without the righteousness of Christ to cover our sins… What a condition to be in!
The judgement of nations who act in this way is severe
In verse 16 the fate of Babylon is ‘exposed’
- Their glory will turn to shame
- They will experience the same terror that they inflicted on others.
BUT regardless of how the enemies of the Lord seem to prosper, WE ARE TOLD TO STAND FIRM…
Found among the papers of a young pastor in Zimbabwe after he was martyred
I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.
My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don’t have to be right to be first or the ‘tops’ or recognised or praised or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer and labour by Holy Spirit power.
My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few… but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.
I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognising me. My colours will be clear!
5. The woe of placing our trust in anything or anyone but God (verses 18-28)
God was very angry that Babylon worshipped idols…
Verse 18 Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it—or an image that teaches lies?
- And notice the phrase, ‘teaches lies’. Satan is the great Deceiver, the father of lies.
Verse 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.
- Today, lucky charms and bracelets, magic crystals and the rest are a dangerous deception
Other ‘religions’ claim supremacy over Christianity…they idolise their leaders, founders and rituals…but we serve a RISEN Saviour
We come to a fork in the road. One road is signposted, the narrow way; the second road is signposted, all other traffic. The narrow way is uphill and straight. Looking ahead, the road crosses a mighty chasm by means of a bridge in the form of a cross. Jesus the living One stands waiting. The alternative route (all other traffic) is wide and many are choosing to go that way. By the side of this wide road are many tombs of great philosophers, secularists, atheists and religious leaders, ALL OF THEM DEAD. Now choose your road!
Verse 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
WHAT A CONTRAST between the hopelessness of the godless person and the quiet hope experienced by those who trust Christ for salvation
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HABAKKUK asked many questions… God had to show Him that He alone has ALL THE ANSWERS…
- The enemy may appear to prosper but in God’s time righteousness will prevail
- For God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life
When I was a little boy, I would sometimes fall out with another boy and we would both threaten to go and “get my dad”… There usually followed a verbal dispute about whose dad was strongest and toughest and would win a punch-up… Well, our Heavenly Father is UNBEATABLE!