“And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
“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.”
Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?— and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. 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.
“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.
“Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! 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! 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.
“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! 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. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.””
(Habakkuk 2:2–20 ESV)
Habakkuk had been questioning God and wanting to know why He seemed to be absent, disconnected & slow in acting in judging the wicked. God tells Habakkuk (and us) that He will indeed punish all of the wicked in the right time! God will judge all injustice, but it rarely happens on our timetable. If it seems slow, wait for it. Good counsel. All injustice and sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Christ or at the end of time. Judah would be judged in 586, but Babylon’s judgement would be another 50 years – in 539. We don’t normally think in 50 year chunks. But ultimately, It’s not about them (or us), it’s about Him & His story.
God says that the Babylonians, and specifically their king, are prideful and puffed up; they are relying upon their own strengths, abilities and savvy (sound familiar?). But the righteous shall live by faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 10:38-39) and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Simple faith in the Almighty is all that is required to be deemed righteous by God and yet it seems to be the hardest thing for man to do – to admit that he can’t do it on his own, to admit that he is some how deficient in and of himself. Trusting that God is in control and is redeeming all things for His glory is all that is required. Even in the darkest nights of the soul, there is an abiding trust in God and in his promises. He is at work, never distant, disconnected or unconcerned – regardless of how you feel. Walk by trust in the gospel & in God’s promises and not by what feel or think. Preach these great truths to yourself instead of running through your own feelings and thoughts continually in your mind. You talk to yourself more than anyone else, what are you saying? Are they good, noble, right, praiseworthy things or are they toxic, faith killers.
Habakkuk lands on the sweet sovereignty of God, which is the softest of all doctrines to the weary soul. We know that God sovereignly controls man’s destiny, but we fail to walk in this truth daily. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV). A day is coming when God’s glory will be shown perfectly because sin will no longer cast a shadow over it. Things will not be broken, man will worship Him, lives will glorify Him.
God then points out to Habakkuk that idols are stupid. We craft them and then look to them for direction, meaning and worth. Idols can’t speak, relate, rule or reign. They are nothing but wood with precious metals on top of them. They are not alive or powerful. Our idols are more “sophisticated” today – marriages, children, wealth, fame, approval, relationships – many are good things, but they are created things that cannot direct our lives. But the Lord is in His holy temple and His presence commands silence. What a comparison between powerless, silent inanimate objects and the power and presence of the Almighty. In His presence there is a palpable sense of power, holiness and glory that renders created things speechless (Isaiah 6:4-5). We rant and rave and shake our fists at God, we accuse Him as if we are sovereign, but there is coming a time when our mouths will be shut and we will know that He is God and we are not! “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7 ESV).
What God reveals to Habakkuk about Himself is that He is God – just like in the book of Job – and seeing that renders a man speechless. Far too often, we ignorantly careen through life relying on our senses and feelings for direction. We feel like we have ultimate perspective and understanding – we are limited, finite and ignorant. The most gracious thing that God can do is to crush us and reveal to us that we are not sovereign. When we realize this and embrace the truth that He is in control – and that we are not – when we embrace that He is God – and we are not – our hearts worship. Instead of staying crushed, we are lifted up and God’s power, holiness and justice meets His mercy, grace and glory – and we worship and experience joy. Lord, please teach us that you are God and we are not.