Blogging with Habakkuk (14) – How to Lose It All

(Part 14 in a series of posts on Habakkuk.)

Habakkuk 2:9-14

Yetserday we began looking at the taunt song against Babylon found in Habakkuk 2:6-20. We saw that the taunt song contains five woes against Babylon. Each woe first identifies a specific sin, and then pronounces God’s judgment upon that sin. Yesterday we looked at the first of these five woes dealing with the sin of theft.

1) Theft (verses 6-8)
    – The sin: Stealing from others to gain wealth for yourself
    – God’s judgment: You will lose all that you have taken

Now we will look at the second and third woes:

2) Injustice (verses 9-11)

    – The sin: Treating others unjustly to gain security for yourself

The second woe is found in verses 9-11 and deals with the sin of injustice. Look at verse 9: “Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!” (Habakkuk 2:9)

The sin here is identified as treating others unjustly in order to gain security for yourself. The phrase “to set his nest on high” is a picture of an eagle making its nest high and secure in the rocky cliffs, safe from trouble and harm. Babylon committed gross injustices in order “to set their nest on high.” They conquered cities, they exiled the people to foreign lands, they subjected them to forced labor, they plundered their wealth – all in order to build their own walls high and to make their cities secure.

This is a temptation for all of us. We all long to be secure, and we are often tempted to treat others unfairly in order to strengthen our own position. But we must remember that God is just, and he pronounces a woe upon all who would act unjustly.

    – God’s judgment: You will forfeit your life

What is God’s judgment for those who practice injustice? You will forfeit your life. You will lose the security you thought you would gain. Look at verses 10-11. God says, “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.” (Habakkuk 2:10-11)

The picture here is of the person who has built his house by treating others unjustly. Everything he has was gained through unjust means. This brings shame upon his house. The whole house cries out in testimony against him. He had hoped to gain safety and security in life, but instead God tells him his life is forfeit.

Jeremiah 22:13-17 says, “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor . . . your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.” It is a lie and a deception to think that we can obtain any type of security by means of injustice. When you treat others unjustly to gain security for yourself, God says you forfeit your life. You lose the very security you had hoped to gain.

3) Violence (verses 12-14)

    – The sin: Hurting others to gain power for yourself

The third woe is found in verses 12-14 and deals with the sin of violence. Look at verse 12: “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!” (Habakkuk 2:12)

The sin here is identified as hurting others in order to gain power for yourself. Once again this is exactly what Babylon did in their conquests. They had a well-deserved reputation for cruelty and violence. They committed unconscionable crimes against the nations they attacked. And what was the purpose of all this violence? The Babylonians were greedy for power. They didn’t care who they hurt as long as they built their empire.

You may think, “Well, I’m not a violent person. Surely these verses do not apply to me?” You may not be a violent person, but we can all be tempted to hurt people in other ways in order to increase our own power. It happens at schools all the time. We may not physically hurt the other person, but perhaps we say something to damage their reputation in order to strengthen our position in the peer group. It can happen at work. We climb our way up to that promotion by stepping on the backs of our co-workers. It can happen at home. The husband who physically or verbally abuses his wife does so in order to gain power for himself. Anytime we hurt another person in order to increase our own power in the relationship, we have committed a type of violence against that person.

    – God’s judgment: All your efforts will come to nothing

What is God’s judgment for those who try to gain power through violence? All your efforts will come to nothing. Look at verses 13-14. God says, “Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:13-14)

God is sovereign. He is the only one with real power in this world. And he has determined that all your efforts at grabbing power for yourself will prove useless in the end. All your labors are only fuel for the fire. Instead of increasing power for yourself, you are increasing your judgment. Your labors will not only provide fuel for the fire of God’s judgment, they will be burned up and destroyed themselves. You will lose it all.

Verse 13 captures perfectly the futility of the nations in this world as they jostle and scramble for power and command. “All of their labor is just fuel for the fire. The nations exhaust themselves for nothing.” All of their efforts are wasted in their mad dash for supremacy and control. The Babylonians thought they were establishing a lasting world empire. It didn’t last even a hundred years. Empires come and empires go, but God remains forever.

Maybe you’re just grabbing for a little empire of your own – whether at school, or at work, or at home – but it doesn’t matter whether you are grabbing for the whole world or just a part of it. The principle remains the same: God owns it all! You exhaust yourself for nothing when you grab power for yourself, because the whole earth “will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” God is sovereign. God owns it all. The whole earth will be filled with his glory. When you hurt others to gain power for yourself, God says all your efforts will come to nothing.

(Looking ahead: Next time we will look at the fourth and fifth woes, exploitation and idolatry, found in verses 15-20.)

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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  1. Blogging with Habakkuk (1) at Ray Fowler .org
  2. Blogging with Habakkuk (21) - Trusting God No Matter What at Ray Fowler .org
  3. Blogging with Habakkuk (5) - Does God Care? at Ray Fowler .org

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