A Strange Comfort

Habakkuk 2:2-20

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.”


When my neck and back are out of alignment, I know something’s not right. I experience pain, muscle spasms and lose range of motion. I know I need to get to the chiropractor to get my bones back into alignment, I need them to be put back into their proper place so my body can function the way it was intended.

Laying on the chiropractor’s table I also know that the adjustment and the violent twisting of my neck and back is going to be painful for a brief time, but I’m willing to endure it knowing that the results will be very good and will relieve me of my greater pain.

The chiropractor judged my spine. He could see that things weren’t as they should be and took action to set it right. He didn’t stand next to me and speak in a condescending tone about my misaligned spine, expecting me to do something about it. He took action. A painful action that I submitted to for my greater good.

The word judgement, in our day and age, has become a negative word; a word that is associated with intolerance and self-righteousness. We recoil from the term itself and from the very thought that anyone, including God, could or should judge us.

My prayer is that after looking into Habakkuk chapter two we will all have a deeper appreciation and longing for the judgements of God; for ourselves and the nations.

Let’s pray…

Main point:
The judgement of God on sin is certain
and the knowledge of it is a strange comfort
to those who live by faith.

Context:

Last week Kyle preached on chapter one of this book, where Habakkuk cries out to God because of the evil that existed within his own people and then is troubled further because the Lord told him He would be raising up the evil Babylonians to judge Judah’s sin.

Kyle pointed to the raw and real questions that Habakkuk was struggling with:

  1. God why are you allowing evil to go unchecked in Your people? Where are You?
  2. How could You allow a nation more evil than Yours to accomplish Your purposes? Will evil continue unchecked forever?God’s people had developed horrible patterns of sin that needed to be judged. The kings of Judah that ruled prior to, and during, the time of the writing of Habakkuk were exceedingly evil; King Manasseh being cited as the worst for having taken part in leading the people of Judah into the practice of sacrificing, into fire, their own children to the Canaanite god Molech and participating in occult practices of consulting mediums and the use of sorcery.

    Habakkuk was rightly troubled at the state of the people of God. He was a first hand witness to the corrupting influence of sin and men’s attempt to rule themselves apart from God’s divinely ordered way.

    Then in 1:6 God tells Habakkuk that He’s going to use the Babylonians to judge the people of Judah. This was not a very satisfying answer for Habakkuk. It only created more burden and confusion for him. I can almost hear him,

    “Really God!? The Babylonians?! They are traitors, wicked men… how could you stand idly by and watch them swallow up the man more righteous than he?” (1:13)

Main point:
The judgement of God on sin is certain
and the knowledge of it is a strange comfort
to those who live by faith.

Kyle left off last week with Habakkuk standing at his watchpost waiting for the Lord’s response to his burning questions. In this very personal interaction, Habakkuk was pressing into God and earnestly desiring a response.

God’s response to Habakkuk:

Which leads us to pick up the text at Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 2.

Chapter 2 verse 2 delivers an easy to skip over yet profoundly earth shattering statement,

“And the LORD answered me…”

The capital L O R D answered him. The name that was unspeakable to the Hebrews, Yahweh himself answered this mere man of clay, this prophet. He answered him to make His ways known, to Habakkuk, to the nation of Judah and even all the way through history to you and I sitting here today.

The fact that God answered Habakkuk’s questions should perk up our ears and grab our attentions. There must be something good here worth digging for, worth listening to and absorbing. What is it the LORD said?

He said, in verses 2-3, and I paraphrase,

“Write this down for all to hear and read. This thing I’m about to tell you is going to happen. It might seem slow according to your plans, but wait for it. It’s going to happen.”

And what is this thing that is going to happen?

The rest of chapter two can be summed up in one statement,

” Babylon will be judged too. Don’t worry Habakkuk, I’ve got this.”

God intimately knew the sins of Babylon and would execute judgment upon them once they had served His purposes.

(Historical side note.) The judgments on Judah and then the subsequent judgments upon Babylon shown to Habakkuk wouldn’t come to pass for a decade or more after the vision was given to him.

So how would knowing God’s plans of judgment be of any kind of comfort to Habakkuk as he endured the evil of his own people and then the evil of an invading nation for decades? You would think this would be extremely depressing news.

Main point:
The judgement of God on sin is certain
and the knowledge of it is a strange comfort
to those who live by faith.

Let’s take a look at what God lays out for Habakkuk in the vision from chapter 2 verse 4 through verse 20:

Three positive statements:

  1. “…the righteous shall live by his faith.” verse 4b
  2. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” verse 14
  3. “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” verse 20

Roughly eleven negative statements about Babylon’s sin:

  1. “His soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him.” verse 4a
  2. “Wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest.” verse 5a
  3. “His greed is as wide as Sheol; he has never enough.” verse 5b
  4. …”heaps up what is not his own…” verse 6b
  5. “You have plundered many nations” verse 8a
  6. “For the blood of man and violence to the earth, to the cities and all who dwell in them.” verses 8,12,17
  7. “Gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high.” verse 9
  8. “Cut off many peoples” verse 10
  9. “Makes his neighbors drink, you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness.” verse 15
  10. “Violence done to Lebanon” verse 17
  11. “Makes speechless idols” verse 18

Three statements of coming judgment upon Babylon:

  1. “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,” verses 7 & 8
  2. “For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.” verse 11
  3. “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!” verse 16

Do you notice that the vast majority of chapter two is very focused on the sin and judgment of Babylon? We don’t find God coddling Habakkuk here or telling him, “Everything’s going to be fine, life will go well with you.”

In fact it doesn’t seem, at first glance, that God is at all concerned about the predicament and anguish that Habakkuk is in as he witnesses sin stacked upon sin.
God just goes on and on about Babylon’s sin and coming judgement.

And if you look ahead to chapter three, you’ll see Habakkuk breaks into song about the greatness of God and proclaims absolute trust in Him.

In what universe does this happen?

How does a man riddled with agony over horrific things being done among his own people, who finds out that he has to wait years for things to be made right, only to find out that the way things will be made right is by a nation more wicked than his and that his holy God is orchestrating all this pain? How does a man go from that situation unto worship and trust in the God who was the one who delivered this bad news to him?

It’s because it wasn’t bad news.

For Habakkuk to hear from God that he knew every one of Babylon’s sins and that they would be punished, was a soul satisfying breath of fresh air. His God wasn’t weak. His God wasn’t taken by surprise. His God wasn’t participating in sin. His God was sovereign over sin!

And his God would eventually deal with all the sin.

Main point:
The judgement of God on sin is certain
and the knowledge of it is a strange comfort
to those who live by faith.

God was reassuring Habakkuk that He was not only aware of all the sin, but He had a plan to deal with it.

Think back to the chiropractor illustration for a moment…

If the nation of Judah could be represented by a person with a body, it would be as if their neck and back were painfully out of alignment. God in His mercy could see this and knew what it would take to make it right. His plan was to do violence to Judah in such a way that they would be restored to proper functioning. He needed to twist their neck and back. It would hurt for a time, but the results would be for their good.

Habakkuk was given this perspective after hearing all of what God had to say in chapter two. He knew his God was engaged and active. He knew his God had a plan and would not remain silent forever.

Next week we get to hear from Kyle what kind of response this generated in Habakkuk towards God in chapter three.

Before sin entered the world through Adam, there were no necks and backs that would get out of alignment. There was no need for chiropractors. And there was no need to submit to the painful work of those chiropractors to be made right again.

But the necessity of pain in judgment is the way it is now. Sin did enter the world. And God’s people have always needed to submit to the judgments of God in order to be made right again. This was true in Habakkuk’s time and it is true in our time as well.

In Old Testament times God’s judgment on sin was fierce and certain. It required great loss of life.

In New Testament times God’s judgment is still fierce and certain and it still requires great loss of life. However, for those whose faith is in Jesus Christ, the judgment of God on their sin was funneled directly onto Jesus. He became sin and took on the full wrath of the Father that was due us.

His death and resurrection provided a way for people to be made right with God once and for all without the death and destruction of all that was around them.

Those who are given faith to trust upon Jesus die a different kind of death. They die to themselves and to their self-rule. They lay down the rights to their life and allow Jesus to be their rightful King and ruler. Death to self and life in Christ is the great judgment or setting of things right again that all of creation was longing for. It was the thing that Habakkuk was longing for when he cried out to God to make things right with the people of Judah.

It is important to remember though that this new way of being judged and made right is only available for those with faith in Jesus. Individuals and nations, much like Babylon in Habakkuk chapter two, are still responsible for their sin. Without faith in Jesus, they are all dangerously positioned in front of a holy God who does not overlook their sin.
We should not be surprised then when a nation like America comes under fierce and certain judgment. God will not be mocked. Remember back in chapter two verse eleven when the LORD said to Habakkuk,

“For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.”

God was saying that the very building materials of the homes that the Babylonians were living in would bear witness against them of their ill gotten gain.

For 43 years Americans have been aborting unborn babies legally. Our county has endorsed the killing of over 58 million children. Currently we are killing just over 1 million babies per year. The vast majority of these children were sacrificed at the altar of selfish ambition, comfort and the pursuit of wealth. We live in a nation that sacrifices children to idols. Our idols aren’t made of metal. They don’t have fire in them that we have to throw our children into like those in Judah did under King Manasseh, but we are sacrificing them nonetheless.

The blood of these children cries out to the LORD for justice. And justice they will have.

Their God will not be silent forever. The God of Habakkuk that judged Judah and Babylon is still the same God today. Judgment is coming. Do not be surprised. We live in a nation that needs to be set right and God will do it. He may, as He did in Habakkuk, use strange means to do it, but no matter what happens remember that He is in control of it all. He has a plan.

And in the midst of whatever may come, remember the promise found in chapter 2 verse 4, “…the righteous shall live by his faith.” You and I are called to imitate Habakkuk. We will be living in and among a people that is being judged and we must be steadfast in our faith that our sovereign creator is working all things for the good of those who love Him and for His glory.

But it’s not just nations that need to be judged.

We all need to be judged individually. We all know that without being set right by God all will be lost. There’s not one of us that would be able to stand in the light of the withering heat and holiness of God.

Oh LORD, may you set us right. LORD, may you give spiritual life even now to those without it. May you bring to death the dependence upon the flesh and set in hearts a faith that will cry out to you in repentance from sin and trust upon Your Son Jesus. Judge us Lord! Set us right!

As we read in verse 14 of this chapter,

May, “.. the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

Give us the ability to live by faith amid difficult circumstances. To trust in You and in your judgments. To believe that all will be made right again. Not according to our timing, but Yours. Give us faith LORD.

Amen.