Scriptures

Habakkuk 2

Introduction

‘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. Then the LORD replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 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. ‘See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.’ Habakkuk 2:1-4

Here Habakkuk says he will be the watchman and wait for the answer, maybe by now Habakkuk has learned to be patient, as he awaits God’s response to his question in regard to God’s using an unholy nation like Babylon to discipline His own people.

We have to admire Habakkuk’s honesty with God, He simply couldn’t understand why God allowed His own people to suffer.

God’s Answer

God answers Habakkuk in the form of a vision, He says, ‘write the revelation down’ which means the revelation will have its time. The whole revelation needed to be written down, not just for Habakkuk’s sake but for the sake of the nation. The nation needed to understand that God was working in and through this unholy nation and so, when they eventually returned from captivity, they could read what God was doing in and through His own people.

God also tells him to write it down and it make it ‘plain on tablet’, which is a reference to writing in capital letters, so that’s it’s easy to read, advertise it like a notice board, the whole nation needs to read this, so that they too would understand what God was going.

The vision was relating to things in the future and has it’s ‘appointed time’ but its fulfilment was coming without delay. There’s a sense of urgency about proclaiming the message of the vision because it concerned not only the Babylonians but also God’s people. The time for Israel being a nation is coming to an end and the time for the Babylonians to come and take God’s people into captivity is about to begin.

The good news is that this captivity would only last seventy years, Jeremiah 25:11. Judgement may not be as immediate as Habakkuk wants it to be, but it’s coming, 2 Peter 2:7 / 2 Peter 3:8-12.

God says that all the unrighteous will be punished regardless of who it is, He will dish it out on His own scale because God knows when the time is right but the righteous will live by his faith, Romans 1:17 / Galatians 3:11 / Hebrews 10:38. God’s people would certainly need faith to be able to walk by faith when they get captured and taken into captivity, it’s time to trust God like never before, Romans 8:28.

The Hebrew word for faith is, ‘emuwnah’ means stability. The idea of stability is spoken of in John 15:5 where Jesus speaks about remaining in Him and bearing much fruit. James speaks of faith being more than just mental knowledge that God exists, James 2:14-16.

‘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. ‘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?’ Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.’ Habakkuk 2:5-8

Notice how God personifies the Babylonians’ drunken behaviour, He uses the words, ‘him’ and ‘he’. This is used to describe how they went about conquering other nations. God isn’t speaking about how evil wine is, He’s speaking about the evil effects of wine in the Babylonians themselves.

They are arrogant and never at rest, and everyone knows that people with alcohol problems rarely stay in one place, they never take responsibility for their own actions. The Babylonians were always on the move, conquering nation after nation, never happy with their lot. Just like an alcoholic, they can never have enough wine, they are never satisfied.

As death is never satisfied with enough dead, so the Babylonians are never satisfied with enough conquests.

The judgment upon the Babylonians for never being satisfied

Here we find the first woe which is in relation to never being satisfied. In the text we find the first of five woes to ‘him’. This is in reference to the Babylonians who wanted to expand their kingdom by going about conquering other nations and taking everything, they could along the way, they didn’t care what they did, and they certainly didn’t show any mercy towards their enemies.

They are like bankers who give out loans but charge extortionate amounts of interest, the abuse those they have conquered by demanding a heavy tribute. God says the Babylonians will reap what they sow, those they mistreated and didn’t show mercy to, will one day return the compliment, Isaiah 33:1, what they have done to others, will be done to them, Obadiah.

‘Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.’ Habakkuk 2:9-11

The judgment upon the Babylonians for being greedy

Here we find the second woe which is in relation to covetousness. Unlike other nations, Babylon wasn’t an empire that grew because of the hard work of their own people, it grew because of all the things they plundered. The Babylonians used the stones which were taken from previous battles to build their own houses.

There’s no doubt they felt invincible in their ‘high nest’, they felt that their army was so powerful that no one could bring them down. One thing they forgot about was they were absolutely hated by the nations around them and so, it was only a matter of time before those nations would rise up against them. We know this was the case because later the Medes and Persians went up against them and totally destroyed the city of Babylon.

The very materials, the stone and the beams, they plundered from the cities they conquered, would cry out for revenge. We remember that Jesus speaks of the stones crying out, Luke 19:20 and we remember that Peter tells us that Christians are living stones, 1 Peter 2:4-6.

The judgment upon the Babylonians for their cruelty

‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labour 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.’ Habakkuk 2:12-14

Here we find the third woe which is in relation to cruelty. The judgment here is the same as the one Jerusalem received, Micah 3:10 and the same as the one Jehoiakim received, Jeremiah 22:13 / Jeremiah 22:17.

The Babylonians were going to be condemned because they were building their empire on the lives of others. God says that all the effort it took for the Babylonians to build their empire, is eventually going to go up in smoke, their efforts were a waste of time and for nothing. They will be judged for it and so, once again we’re reminded that God is working on things and His glory shines through it all.

Some believe that phrase, ‘the earth being filled with knowledge’ possibly has a Messianic meaning, Daniel 2 / Daniel 7 / Matthew 28:18-20.

The judgment upon the Babylonians for their drunkenness

‘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! You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.’ Habakkuk 2:15-17

Here we find the fourth woe which is in relation to drunkenness. The Babylonians were inhumane, they had no respect for other people, they played with the people they conquered. But God says the same thing will happen to them.

The effects of wine in the hands of a drunkard are used to describe the craziness of the Babylonians. Everyone knows that the stronger the alcohol they drink, the faster they get drunk and lose their senses.

If you’ve ever been to a wedding where there’s lot of alcohol on offer, it doesn’t take long for someone to get drunk and try to become the centre of attention. They think they’re being funny, but people are actual laughing at them, not with them because of their drunken behaviour.

God is saying, here is a picture of someone giving someone else a drink with the purpose of getting them drunk. This what the Babylonians were doing metaphorically, they made the nations around them drunk so that they could expose their nakedness and once they did, they took full advantage of them by conquering them and raiding their cities for their wealth.

The Babylonians were violent and idolatrous but now it’s judgement time for the Babylonians who did nothing but oppress the nations around them. It’s time for them to face ‘the cup’, which is the outpouring of God’s wrath, Jeremiah 25:15 / Isaiah 51:17ff. It’s time to reap what they had sowed.

Lebanon was famous for its mighty trees which stood strong, like everything else around them, the Babylonians cut them down to build their own empire, Isaiah 14:8.

The judgment upon the Babylonians for their idolatry

‘Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 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.’ The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.’ Habakkuk 2:18-20

Here we find the fifth woe which is in relation to idolatry. This is the way God sees idolatry, dead idols are better than they are, Jeremiah and Isaiah also speak about this, Jeremiah 10:15 / Jeremiah 51:18 / Isaiah 40:18-20 / Isaiah 41:7 / Isaiah 42:17 / Isaiah 46:5-7.

There is no value in an idol made by human hands, to think that people trust them, even though they can’t hear or speak shows us how depraved the Babylonians were in their religious beliefs.

In effect, when someone speaks to an idol, they imagine the idol is speaking back to them, but the truth is the idol worshippers are only answering themselves, in their own minds. God is basically saying that idol worship is foolishness, it’s stupid.

Notice that ‘the Lord is in His holy temple’, God is reminding them that unlike those idols, He exists, and He reminds all those who are faithful that He is in control and He is working for the good of His people, Romans 8:28 / 1 Corinthians 10:13 / Revelation 21:4.

Remember His people were about to be taken into captivity and they needed to know that God was in control, it was part of His plan.

When God comes in judgement against a nation, all the other nations should sit back and watch and listen. They need to watch out and make sure they are being faithful to God, so the same won’t happen to them.

Application

We must never fall into the trap of thinking it’s wrong to ask questions of God, if we didn’t ask God questions about what’s happening in our lives or in the world around us, there would be something wrong. Surely this tells us that we care about what’s going on, it helps us realise that most of the time we don’t understand God and His ways, Isaiah 55:8-9.

We live in a world that likes to ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ religion, we live in a world where people want something they can touch and see before they will believe.

Even in the religious world today people have the same mentality, but God says, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’, Romans 1:17 / Galatians 3:11 / Hebrews 10:38, they will ‘live by faith and not sight’, 2 Corinthians 5:7.

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Psalm 133:1

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