Habakkuk 2, A Woe Against the Proud

Intro: Do you have anything in common with the OT prophets? Do you ever have questions about God’s work? Do you ever wonder what He is doing and if He is really involved in what you see going on around you? If so, then you and the prophet Habakkuk can relate.

1) Habakkuk was unique among OT prophets. Rather than take The Lord’s words to the people, he, in essence, took the people’s words to the Lord. He posed 2 questions, or complaints, to God concerning the moral evil he saw around him. Let’s review what we noticed last week:

2) Hab 1:2-3O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Habakkuk wondered how long God would endure the perverse evil and violence that was so prevalent in Judah. How long before God would do something. Did God care? Would He save?

a. God’s answer: Hab 1:5“Look among the nations and watch — Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you. He then proceeded to tell Habakkuk of his intention to “raise up” the Chaldeans – Babylon (a bitter and hasty nation, v. 6) to destroy Judah in judgment against their sin. (possess dwelling places not theirs”)

b. Rather than settling the matter for Habakkuk, this only raised another question. Despite the wickedness which he saw in Judah, he knew that Babylon was more wicked than Judah. His second question: How can God hold his tongue “when the wicked devours the man that is more righteous than he” (1:13)? Didn’t this contradict God’s character (“of purer eyes that to behold evil”)?

c. God’s answer came in the form of an announcement (vision) of judgment against Babylon. Hab 2:3-43 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. 4 “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith. God was truly cognizant of the evil. He would not overlook it – He never does. Last week we noticed the contrast presented by God in 2:4 – The proud vs. the righteous. What becomes evident is that the proud will not survive God’s judgment; but the righteous (just) will live through their faith (faithfulness). Homer Hailey suggests that Habakkuk mirrors the book of Job; in that Job depicts God’s discipline of suffering to the individual, so Habakkuk shows His discipline of suffering for a nation. God’s judgment was coming – the just will survive through their faith.

I. Woes Against a Proud Plunderer: God saw the Chaldeans for what they were. He sees the nations today for what they are as well. Why would He destroy Babylon? Chapter 2 gives us the picture: (several woes)

A. “He is arrogant and never at rest…” (He is a proud man and does not stay at home) God describes Babylon as an arrogant plunderer who violently sets out to conquer and dominate other people. Hab 2:5-8 – 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. NIV

1. A woe against lust: Like death he is never satisfied… Because Babylon was so bent on conquering and plundering others (v. 5), he will become the source of a taunt… ‘Woe to him who increases What is not his — how long must this go on? (NKJV) – how long before he gets what is coming to him?

2. A woe against bloodshed: Hab 2:8 … For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them… v. 12 – “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! (NIV) God speaks against those nations who would attempt to build an empire on the backs of the poor and extend their borders through violence and bloodshed. The security Babylon sought through oppressing the less powerful (v. 9) will work against them because God is against them. Habakkuk uses a powerful image – the stones and woodwork of their buildings crying out against them. Pfeiffer, in his book, The Biblical world describes Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon as “… protected by a huge wall more than eleven miles long and eighty-five feet thick” (Pfeiffer, The Biblical World, p. 127). What could bring this down? In the end the stones and wood of these fortifications “devised shame” to the city and cried out for its judgment because it had been built through cruel oppression of other people.

a. Hab. 2:13-14Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (NIV) Because the righteous Lord is in control evil is self-destructive. In the end, the people of the earth will see (know) the glory of God in His judgment against evil. Burton Coffman writes… “The sands of time shall bury the wicked; the tides of history shall wash them away. The only kingdom that cannot be destroyed is the kingdom of the Lord (Heb 12:28)…. What is true of individuals is also true of nations. The ones which build without the fear of God or concern for his will must discover in the end that their entire existence has been an exercise in vanity and futility.” (from Coffman’s Bible Commentary)

3. A woe against exploitation: Hab 2:15-17 –“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. 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. 17 The 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. (NIV) God describes the Chaldeans as those who exploit people and things for their own good. They get their neighbors drunk so they can take advantage of them. (expose their nakedness).

      • In v. 17 he talks about the violence they did to Lebanon (destroying the cedars) and their cruelty toward animals, evidence that they were only out to serve themselves. They cared nothing about even human life. So what goes around comes around. Those who take advantage of others are usually met by the same fate. Thus God tells them I will make you drink the same cup you gave to your neighbors. – (coming around to you). God will use them and throw them away as well. “Now it is your turn” (v. 16)

B. “Of what value is an idol…?” Hab 2:18-2018 “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.” (NIV) Although Habakkuk does not use the specific word “woe” here these words express another clear reason why Jehovah is bringing judgment on Babylon. Idolatry (false religion)

1. Jeremiah prophesied at the same time as Habakkuk, and he described Babylon as “a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols.” (Jer 50:38) Judah was also a land of graven images, and God was bringing judgment there are well. How does Habakkuk portray the idols of Babylon? Will they be able to provide security from Jehovah’s wrath?

a. In highly sarcastic language, the prophet points out that the carved or molten idol cannot speak, and even if it could it would not tell the truth. “an image teaches lies” (v. 18) implies that the idol worshippers were looking to their own creation for guidance and truth, and the idol was teaching them what was false. It promised security and protection, but it could not deliver. It promised power, but it was powerless. This is characteristic of all those material things in which men place their trust and devotion.

b. Habakkuk’s words remind us of Isaiah’s parody of the idol-maker in Isaiah 44. Read Isaiah 44:9-20 Is this seriously humorous or humorously serious? This biting parody well serves to describe the materialistic humanist who places his confidence in the things of this world (himself). It also well describes the religious man who places his confidence in ritual and superstition. Habakkuk describes him as one who “trusts in his own creation.”

c. He is destined to fail because his idol cannot reveal truth. It only causes him to believe what is not true. Vs. 20 A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Nations who operate without truth are destined to fail.

d. Hab 2:19 – 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. (note: There are many people who believe that Pinocchio is a fairy tale (you cannot make a wood puppet talk or come to life); but you can determine the origin of our universe and the purpose of life by examining an old rock.) “There is no breath in it” – The God we serve is the living God. He alone can speak and guide.

        • The Expositor’s Bible Commentary makes the proper connection in this context: Their (the idol’s) insidiousness is suggested by their ability to usurp the place of God in men’s lives, claiming a trust that belongs to Him alone.” It is all about trust, or faith. The righteous live by their faith in the living God alone.

Conclusion: Habakkuk’s vision speaks to every nation, every people. Men cannot sin with impunity. There is no human fortification against the judgment of God against sin.

  • What is Habakkuk word in response to the vision? Hab 2:20 – But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” This temple is not in Jerusalem – that temple was soon to be destroyed (think higher); It is not even the human heart, thought God certainly dwells among His people. But this Holy Temple is in heaven; far above all rule or authority.
  • This verse depicts Habakkuk’s final exclamation in response to his previous perplexity. Unlike the mute idols of the Babylonians, the living God of Israel has spoken, and no one has the prerogative of rebuttal. He is ready to submissively obey God and live by faith. Have you ever had questions for God? So did Habakkuk. Not a problem. When you looked in the words of God and found an answer (He does not always answer our questions), how did you respond to the answer?
  • “I just cannot see why I have to be baptized to be saved” – Mark 16:1616 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. – God has spoken; He is in His Temple – Keep silent before Him.
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