Blogging with Habakkuk (13) – How to Lose It All

(Part 13 in a series of posts on Habakkuk.)

Habakkuk 2:6-8

Last week we saw that God made a general promise that he would judge Babylon. Habakkuk 2:6-20 gets more specific as it highlights Babylon’s specific sins and God’s corresponding judgments. But even more importantly, this passage highlights the various ways in life that people seek to advance themselves to their own ruin.

Do you want to know how to lose it all? You just have to follow man’s way, which is summed up by Jesus with these words: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Man’s way is very simple: “Gain whatever you can however you can.” Man’s way is the way of selfishness and greed. Man’s way is how you lose it all.

Verses 6-20 contain what is called a “taunt song.” In this particular song, Babylon is mocked by the very nations it conquered. And although the song is obviously directed against Babylon, Babylon is never even mentioned by name. The words are generalized in such a way that the song could apply to anyone who acts in the way Babylon acted.

The taunt song in this passage is made up of five different woes. Each of the five woes in the song first identifies a specific sin of greed or selfishness, and then pronounces God’s judgment upon that sin. Babylon’s greed manifested itself in 1) theft, 2) injustice, 3) violence, 4) exploitation, and 5) idolatry. But to what profit? The irony of the song is that those who practice these things may think that they are gaining wealth, security, power, pleasure, guidance and direction, when in reality they will lose all that they hoped to gain.

We will just look at the first of these woes today and pick up on the others throughout the week.

1) Theft (verses 6-8)

    – The sin: Stealing from others to gain wealth for yourself

The first woe is found in verses 6-8 and deals with the sin of theft. Look at verse 6: “Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?”

The sin here is identified as stealing from others in order to gain wealth for yourself. Stealing and theft are as old as the human race. The very first sin of humanity involved stealing. Adam and Eve took from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Stealing is such a serious sin that God made it part of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

When we think about stealing, we often think of someone breaking into someone’s house or perhaps robbing a bank, but those are only two ways that we can steal. I’m guessing that most of us have never broken into a home or a bank, but we have stolen in many other ways. We can steal from our employers by padding our expense reports, by taking things back from the office that do not belong to us, by loafing on the job, by leaving early or arriving late, or by calling in sick when we are well. We can steal by short-changing our customers, by overpricing goods or services, or by price gouging in a crisis. People steal from insurance companies by making fraudulent or misleading statements, people steal from the government by cheating on their taxes, and students steal in school by cheating on tests or plagiarizing papers. Stealing is a much bigger problem than breaking into houses or robbing banks. We are guilty of stealing anytime we take something that is not rightfully ours.

Why do we do it? Why do we steal? We steal because we think that somehow we will gain an advantage by stealing. We steal from others in order to gain wealth for ourselves. But stealing is wrong because we do harm to our neighbor whenever we take something that does not belong to us.

    – God’s judgment: You will lose all that you have taken

What is God’s judgment when you steal? Appropriately, you will lose all that you have taken. You will lose rather than gain. Look at verses 7-8. God says, “Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. 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.” Babylon had plundered many nations. Now the nations would plunder Babylon in turn. THe Babylonians would lose everything because they had stolen from the nations.

Jeremiah 17:11 says, “Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.” We may think that we gain some type of advantage when we steal, but we never do. Adam and Eve thought they would become like God by eating from the fruit of the tree. Instead they fell into sin and judgment. We need to realize that we never gain any advantage by stealing. Proverbs 10:2 says, “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.” When you steal from others to gain wealth for yourself, God says you will lose all that you have taken.

(Looking ahead: Next time we will look at the second and third woes, injustice and violence, found in verses 9-14.)

Here are the links to the whole Blogging with Habakkuk series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.

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