In this study of Habakkuk chapter two, we look at how God answers the concerns of the prophet about dealing with evil. In chapter 1, God had told him that He was going to use the Babylonians to conquer Judah and the prophet questioned the use of such an evil people.
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.
At the end of chapter one, Habakkuk had asked the Lord what He was going to do about the evil of Babylon. Here, we see that he is watching and waiting for God's answer. This verse teaches us a lot about prayer and we see that, if we have questions, we should freely ask them of God. The prophet simply did not have the answer to the puzzling question of how God could use the evil Babylonians. He asked the question and then waited for God's answer. Many follow that pattern but we also see from this verse that it was not a passive waiting. The picture that we see here is of a guard walking his rounds and protecting what was entrusted to him. That reminds us that we are to put into action the things that God has shown us while we wait for Him to show us what we do not understand. We also see that the prophet knows that God has the answer and is confident that God heard and will answer him.
Then the Lord replied: 'Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.'
God began His reply by telling the prophet to write it down on tablets so that it could be read and acted upon. The running with it speaks to the fact that it was meant to be read, understood, and acted upon. The same is true for us today in that God wants us to not only read His word but to put it into practical action in our lives. This is also what James was urging us to do in his letter (see James 1:22-25).
'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.'
God is telling the prophet that He is going to handle the Babylonians but reminds Habakkuk that it will be in His perfect timing. God has an "appointed time" for everything in our lives and in the lives of everything. We, as people, get restless and want things to happen when we think that they should and this can lead to many false prophets telling us what we want to hear. We, like the people of Judah, must trust in God's ability to handle things at just the right time. That is what the apostle Peter was reminding us about in his second letter.
'See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright - but the righteous will live by his faith -'
Pride was the very thing that caused Satan to fall from heaven and it is the same thing that was at work in the Babylonians. This same sin is at work in much of the world today as everywhere you look a man is measured by what he has or what he does. God looks after the humble (which is the opposite of pride) as they trust in Him and not their own efforts.
'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.'
Pride opens the door to other sin as we see here. Because of that pride, the Babylonians lived it up with wine and constantly wanted more and more territory. The same is true today as many think so highly of themselves that they don't believe that they will ever have to answer to anyone else for their actions. We see our fellow man grabbing for more and more of the things of this world as the system rewards those who do so but judgment is coming as we see in Revelation 18.
'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 debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim.'
There is a saying that goes something like: Watch how you climb the ladder of success because you will pass those you crawl over on the way back down. This passage describes the same thing, in that, it talks of the fact that the people that the Babylonians had treated so badly were now going to celebrate the downfall of the Babylonians.
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.
There are two reactions that man can have to fear. The first is to cower down and submit; the second is to stand and fight until the end. This verse describes the latter as the Babylonians were so feared that the people who had not been conquered banded together against them. Fear of anything or anyone but God is not of God and therefore has no place in the lives of His people. If you struggle with fear, then, choose now whether you will cower down and submit to the schemes of the evil one or will stand and fight with the armor that God has provided (see Ephesians 6).
'Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!'
This verse speaks to the selfishness of the Babylonians and the fact that they did not care about anyone else. It seems that it could be a warning to our generation as well in that everyone is out for themselves today. Many know that the times are bad and going to get worse so they grab all they can and build themselves a place that they think will shelter them from the evil days that are to come. This can be expected of those that do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior but many Christians are doing the same things. Our answer to the tough times that are to come is our faith in Jesus Christ not a bunker or a house on a hill.
'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.'
The Babylonians built a huge empire by attacking other peoples but they did not realize that in the process they were building up God's wrath against them. The very buildings that they built testified against them. The same is true of many in our day in that they build mansions for themselves here on earth and even justify it by calling it a blessing from God. The reality is that the very mansion that they build testifies to their lack of concern (love) for their fellow man.
'Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people's labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?'
The Babylonians built up a great empire by killing and conquering but, now, God is promising an end to their reign. It is a reminder to those of today, as well, that the things that we spend so much time on in this world really do not mean anything in the end. At the time of judgment, fire will be used and the things that have been built here on earth will all be burned up.
'For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'
In judging the Babylonians, others were able to see the hand of a holy God in action. The same thing is coming in the last days as Jesus returns in judgment and all the earth will come face to face with the fact that God is holy and in charge (see Revelation 19).
'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. 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.'
It seems that this passage is even more relevant today than it was at the time it was written. In the name of business and commerce, many are peddling alcohol, drugs, etc. to their fellow man but this passage speaks to the judgment that is coming for them. For us who are in Christ, we have the freedom to do all things but we have the responsibility of being a good example for Christ (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). We are not to cause our weaker brothers and sisters to stumble and that is just what many of these peddlers are doing today.
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.
As Habakkuk waits, the Lord lists the charges against the Babylonians. They simply showed no mercy to men or animal and God says that the blood is on their heads. We notice that they are called to account for their actions against the animals and the land as well as for the blood of the people. The same thing goes for each of us that are in Christ as we will give an account of what we have done with the things that God has placed under our control such as a home, a car, money, etc.
'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.'
When this judgment comes, what good are the things that man has created and placed their trust in? The great society that the Babylonians had built had no power to stand against God. The same is true for us today, in that, many are placing their trust and hope in things of this earth and the rulers of this earth. When things get difficult, those things and those leaders will let them down just as it happened with the Babylonians.
'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.'
Here, now, is the fourth time that God has declared "woe" on the Babylonians for their idolatry. We remember that, throughout the Bible, the number four is associated with trials and testing and here the court session is coming to a close as The Judge has made His decision. They have called out to the things that they have made and found no answer. We have to ask ourselves whether we are calling out (trusting) in the things we have made/done or God. We must remember that God's answer is always faith in Him and anything less is idolatry.
'But the Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth be silent before him.'
Whether we acknowledge Him now or not, God is still on the throne and in charge. As with the Babylonians, all people will give an account of their lives to God and there will be no reasonable excuses.