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Habakkuk 2.5-20: Taunted by God

April 11, 2010 Series: Habakkuk

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Habakkuk 2:14–2:14

Habakkuk 2.5-20

April 7, 2010

Sam Ford



Happy Resurrection, the tomb is still empty.  Before Easter, we spent three weeks in the ever-popular O.T. book of Habakkuk.  Today, we’re returning to eavesdrop on a conversation between God and one of his prophets named Habakkuk.  Other than his named meaning “embrace” we don’t know much about the author—but his words don’t make us feel all snuggly.  He’s a prophet writing nearly 2,500 years ago, shortly before the Fall of Jerusalem to the ruthless Babylonians.  It is a time when God’s people are ignoring his law, perverting justice, and hurting one another.


The sin that Habakkuk sees overwhelms him.  And Habakkuk is confused as to why God is silent; why he isn’t doing anything to stop this.   So, he prays to God and offers a tearful complaint:  How long will you ignore evil and let destruction reign?  Habakkuk has prayed before without so much as a whisper, this time God responds with a loud voice, and what he says disturbs Habakkuk.  In the first verse, he describes what God shows him as an oracle, also meaning burden.  God gives him hard words he’d rather not carry.     


God tells Habakkuk that he is working behind the scenes.  In chapter 1verse 4, God says He is doing something Habbakuk won’t believe EVEN if he tells him.  God tells him anyway.  God says He is raising up the godless, ruthless, militant, evil Babylonians as a tool to judge the sins of Judah.  Now, Habakkuk is more disturbed by God’s plan than he is withJudah’s sin.  And so he complains to God a second time, pitting the “sinful” Babylonians against the “not-as-sinful” Israelites.


BUT as he complains, as he struggles with the circumstances, as he questions the “unbelievable” ways that God shows him, he does so from a foundation of trust in the unshakeable rock of God’s character:  I know God is eternal—He knows all things; I know God is personal—He loves me; I know God is Holy—He is sinless, pure, good, just, and perfect in his ways.  I just don’t like this God, it feels unfair:  Will the Babylonians not be judged for what they’ve done and what they’ll do?


v. 4-6  Two Ways to Live

And as Habakkuk watches and waits for God’s response, it comes.  This time, God tells him write His Words down so that WE don’t forget what he says.  He promises Habakkuk that judgment will come—ALL SIN IS JUDGED (pause)—and, even if it feels delayed, it isn’t; God’s timing is perfect.  Habakkuk then proceeds to record God’s lengthy judgment, and what he says about the sinful Babylonian people led by a sinful King: Habakkuk 2.4-5 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith 5 “Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest.  His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.”  6 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say,


The Way of Faith

Beginning with this description, God contrasts the two ways of living life: One is the life of faith and righteousness (right with God).  One is the life of unbelief and unrighteousness (wrong with God):

  • One life trusts God in all things; the other trust themselves in all things
  • One life depends on God to work in all things; the other depends on their own work
  • One life is characterized by humility; the other is characterized by pride.
  • One life is a slave to God; the other is a slave to sin
  • One life loves, cares for, and gives to others; the other ignores, uses, and takes from others
  • One life is a life of self-denial, pursuing the glory of God in all things; the other is self-absorbed, self-seeking, self-serving, and self-glorifying.


The Way of Unbelief…a warning for all of us

Verses 5-20 then is God’s description of and judgment on a life that does not put its faith in God. TWO IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER:


1) the Babylonian king is not judged because he is Babylonian.  He is judged because he is a sinner, leading a sinful nation, who does not worship the one true God. 


2) Anytime God makes a judgment on sin, especially when the prophet is told to write it down, the obvious bad guy is not the only one He wants to hear it.  We should listen and learn.


The Taunt Song  

In this judgment, we are all warned, in a song—it is called a “TAUNT SONG”, 6 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him. There are two songs in Habakkuk.  One is here in chapter two, and one comes in chapter three.  And though you may not sing in church, your life sings one of these songs—either a song of faith or a song of faithlessness.  The Taunt Song is the kind of song that a once oppressed people would sing to their former oppressors—it is a song for the faithless. There are FIVE woes, indicating the stanza of each part of the song. Each stanza shows the “misery of a person or nation” that thinks it can “do it” without God.  


Before the song begins, God gives us a title for the song in verses 4 & 5– “THE PUFFED UP ONE.”  It’s been #1 on God’s top 40 since Genesis 3.  The Babylonian King, we’ll call him “Puffy”, is prideful and arrogant and never at rest.  Puffy is unconcerned with anything but greed, COVETING what everyone else has that he isn’t content. And he constantly pursues it like a drunk does wine, believing the next drink will satisfy, but it never does. The subheading for the title this song would be, “PUFFY:  MOUTH OPEN AS WIDE AS HELL AND STILL NOT SATISFIED.  The heart of every sin is the same as it was in Eden, believing you can find satisfaction in creation instead of the Creator.  Here is the 1st stanza song:


V. 7-8  Woe ONE:  He who builds a life without Faith (STANZA ONE)

 “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?— and loads himself with pledges!”  7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them.  8 Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.


Building a LIFE without faith

Sin destroys our relationship with self.  So we try to build daily lives without faith .We don’t know who we are—so we covet what other people have trying desperately to find our identity.  The Babylonians decided they were what YOU WERE, so they took whatever was a delight to their eyes.  Conquest after conquest they loaded themselves up with more stuff, taking what they wanted when they wanted it from whom they wanted.  They did not deny themselves any pleasure regardless of who it hurt directly or indirectly.  When we try to build a life without faith, we too will become obsessively concerned with making ourselves a little richer, a little more successful, a little more admired, or some other form of happy because we’re unsure who we are.  The highlights of the year are getting the promotion, the new house, the 50 inch plasma, getting a wife, launching a career, etc.  Even more than that, we find our identity becomes enslaved to obtaining those things.  You worship stuff, and you’ll have a consistent tithing record to the CHURCH OF VISA, and a record of sacrificial service to some other god. 


THE JUDGEMENT:  You will reap what you sow

And when you are so concerned with YOU and YOUR NAME, like the Babylonians, you will become a person who takes and never gives. You will heap and never share.  At their core, the faithesss do not believe the gospel which shows us a God whose very heart is that of a servant.  The judgment is clear.  In the end, the Bible says, we will reap what we sow. Galatians 6.7-8 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  God is not deceived by a fake faith—and in fact, the world isn’t either.  There are too many of us who say we love Jesus but do not live any different than the world who says they hate him.


V. 9-11 Woe TWO:  He who builds a house without Faith (STANZA TWO)
 9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm!  10     You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples;  you have forfeited your life. 11     For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.


Building a HOME without faith

Sin also destroys our relationship with family.  So we often build a home without faith.  The Babylonians are compared to Eagles who build their nests high and way so as to be safe from harm.  Their security, peace, and hope is found in the perfect tree they set their nest in, and how they build in it.   Their security is in their own work, not faith in God’s.  We also concern ourselves with our own security.  We put all kinds of time, energy, and resources to building a fortress around our families for both comfort and protection.  All the while we put little or no time, energy, or resources into building a home rooted in a faith in God.  The truth is, without God at the center of our home, we are not safe or secure.  The must ask ourselves the a question from verse 11, “If our walls could talk, what would they say about our faith in God?”  Would we look any different than the Babylonians?


THE JUDGEMENT:  You have a security, but a legacy of fear

The judgment for building without faith is Shame.  The Babylonians built their home through evil plundering of others.  We don’t do that exactly, but Verse 10 does say that we devise shame—that sounds intentional.  We don’t kill people in building our home, but we do kill.  Every time we make a decision, we kill something—the suffix – cide, means to kill, death.   When we decide to build our home on something other than faith—we will a foundation of faith.  We rely on our own work and it will fail shamefully.  Jesus said, Matthew 7.26 “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. But your home will either be built on a foundation of belief or unbelief.  And when a storm comes, people will be filled with fear (losing __________), because security wasn’t in God.  The house will either fall in shame, or withstand the storm—what will be your legacy?  


v. 12-14  Woe THREE:  He who builds a community without Faith (STANZA THREE)

12     “Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity!  13     Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary 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.


Building a community without faith

Sin destroyed our joy in work.  So we often work without faith.  Work was part of God’s creation before the fall.  Mankind was given the responsibility AND the capacity to build.  But at the fall, work became difficult and undesirable.  And even when men build, they often do so to glory in their own work, either for survival or success.    Back in the beginning of Genesis, God condemned the tower of Babel because they tried to build a city dedicated to the glory of God.  It is clear that people can find “success”, you can build apart from the glory of God.  It is possible to build an organization with a lot of members AND without faith.  It is possible to build a career without faith.  It is possible to build a church that is not dedicated to the glory of God?  How?  You compromise what is right for what is convenient, to give people what they want, not what the Bible says they need, you work according to the values of the culture,  without regard to the counter-cultural values of Christ.


THE JUDGEMENT:  You have a community but no lasting-substance

The truth is, any form of building apart from faith will never have lasting substance AND, more importantly, will not please God.  It may grow, it may “succeed”, but it will in the end be a conduit for the glory of God OR be crushed by it.  Because God is the one that gives us both ability AND opportunity to build—an all that we do, all that we work, all that we build, is intended to bring glory to Him.  But when men boast in their own success OR rely on their own ability to work, they begin to believe they do not need God.  God will judge that, now, or in eternity.  Apart from faith, our work may be considered “good”, but it is never glorifying because you believe you are doing it.  Ephesians 2.8-10  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  What work has God given you to do? 


V. 15-17 Woe FOUR:  He who builds relationships without Faith (STANZA FOUR)
     “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness!   16  You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision!   The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory!  17   The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.


Building relationships with Faith

Sin destroys our relationship with creation.  So we often use creation without faith.  The Babylonians were a people of corruption and perversion.  All of their relationships self-serving—people and all of creation were tools to be used for their own entertainment.  Not only did they throw big drunken parties and dance nasty, they abused the environment, ravishing the forests of Lebanon and slaughtering animals.  Their relationship with nature, relationship with alcohol, relationship with sex, relationship with all of creation centered on the pursuit self-glory.  We do exactly the same, taking the good things God has given us and perverting them for our own pleasure.  All of creation is for us to steward for God, not use and abuse for ourselves.  Those who live by faith, approach creation differently, love people differently, drink differently, eat differently, spend differently, conserve differently, and interact with all of creation differently  This is not legalism, this is about a decision to bring HONOR to God in how we live or DISHONOR to him and ourselves.  1Corinthians 10.31 says whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God


THE JUDGEMENT:  You will feel shame from the Lord’s wrath.

Those who do not honor God as God, to see themselves as stewards, will abuse creation.  The judgment is a strong right hand b-slap of God’s wrath.  Instead of being admired, the wicked will be ridiculed and overwhelmed with shame.  Sometimes this occurs by God’s active wrath, but often it occurs by his passive wrath—where God lets people pursue their passions.   And that pursuit will result in disgrace and, when it does, the heart of the individual as one “uncircumcised” is revealed.  They are not a child of God.


V. 18-20 Woe FIVE;  He who builds spirituality without Faith (STANZA FIVE)
18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies?  For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!  19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise!  Can this teach?   Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.  20  But the Lord is in his holy temple;  let all the earth keep silence before him.”

Building spirituality without faith

Ultimately, sin has destroyed our relationship with God.  Clearly, men still try to build spirituality without faith.  Both the Babylonians and us are guilty of breaking the FIRST COMMANDMENT before we are guilty of breaking any others—we worship other gods.  It has been said that we are more “spiritual” of a culture than we’ve ever been—it has also been observed that we are more corrupt then we’ve ever been, making the sin that Habakkuk sees pale in comparison.  Not much has changed.  Everyone agrees that things should be different, that people, that I should be living differently, especially those who confess faith in Jesus, and many of us cry to God “WHERE ARE YOU?”


Conclusion Let all the earth keep Silent

God is telling Habakkuk, and thus telling us, to stop complaining, stop doubting, and know that ALL SIN will be judged.  He is not indifferent to suffering, he is in control, and His glory will fill all things.  The faithful will trust in God to make them right, the unfaithful will put faith in their own work.  There will be three kinds of responses to God’s TAUNT SONG, one who says I can fix myself, one who says I don’t need to be fixed, then a few who say I can’t fix myself.   The problem is revealed in first 14, the world and your heart is not filled with the glory of God—you can’t buy that at a store.


The evil in our lives, very similar to the Babylonians, is not the result of a problem outside of us.  It is an internal condition of the heart.  The faithless says either I can fix myself (I’ll work harder) OR the faithless says I’m pretty good.  The Bible teaches that, without faith it is impossible to please God.  Any amount of work to “fix ourselves” or denial that we don’t “need fixin” can only lead us to be like PRIDEFUL PUFFY.  We don’t need to be reformed into Sam version 2.0, we need to be transformed into Jesus 1.0.  We need to become new creations.  That is what Jesus offers.  2Corinthians 5.17  17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.