Habakkuk evokes the deer which nimbly “tread upon the heights,” escaping, in the end, the trampling horses of Babylon.
Habakkuk was deeply disturbed and cried out to God for answers. Then Habakkuk waited. God’s response to the prophet was to write, and to await—this time in confident anticipation for fulfillment of prophecy.
Then the Lord answered me and said:God to Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:2-3
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
So Habakkuk did.
Then God outlined both the character and lifestyle, and endpoint, of those who were not upright. This oracle was directed against the Babylonians, who were poised to plunder Judah. However, the truths contained within God’s indictments are as universally applicable today as they were in Habakkuk’s day.
In chapter 2, verses 5 through 20, God described the unrighteous person, and the first flaw is found in verse 4.
Look at the proud!God to Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:4
Their spirit is not right in them.
At the heart—in the heart—of the unrighteous person is a kind of pride that causes the self to rise above all others, including God, in esteem.
Self delineates every aspect of the personality and character: selfish, self-centered, a sense of self-deserving also called entitlement, and a self‑sufficiency that refuses to both acknowledge need and to accept others as having anything of value to offer.
Deceit describes this person’s relationship with themself, others, God, and the world around them: a despiser of the truth about God, uplifted in their own mind, having no sin in their own eyes, certainly with no need of God.
Alas for you who heap up what is not your own! . . . you have plundered many nations. . . human bloodshed, and violence to the earth, to cities and all who live in them.God’s indictment, Habakkuk 2:5-8
Those who are unrighteous by God’s definition would seek to build an invincible domain, amassing wealth and acres of land, enslaving others by force or by economic exigency, amassing power and earthly authority.
They will revel in their own glory, but it will not last.
Will not your own creditors suddenly rise,God’s prophecy, Habakkuk 2:7
and those who make you tremble wake up?
Then you will be booty for them.
Alas for you who get evil gain for your house,God’s indictment, Habakkuk 2:9-10
setting your nest on high
to be safe from the reach of harm!
You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples.
God saw and knew the cruelties and callous selfishness those in power subjected upon those beneath them. It had not slipped passed God’s notice that the marginalized and destitute had gone homeless, cut off from their land and source of living.
Those who are rapacious in power may think they are safe, but the very structure they have created will destroy them,
The very stones will cry out from the wall,God’s prophecy, Habakkuk 2:11
and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.
Alas for you who build a town by bloodshed, and found a city on iniquity . . . peoples labor only to feed the flames, and nations weary themselves for nothingGod’s indictment, Habakkuk 2:12-13
Every empire builder gains territory by crushing and destroying the lives and livelihood of those already occupying the sought-after space. Whoever manages to survive the killing is thrust into servitude, by taxes, by forced labor, by relinquishment of land and material wealth.
Such empires may seem unassailable, but they will indeed fade before God
But the earth will be filledGod’s prophecy, Habakkuk 2:14
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.
Alas for you who make your neighbors drink,God’s indictment, Habakkuk 2:15
pouring out your [poison] until they are drunk,
in order to gaze on their nakedness . . .
Pleasure-seeking has a known side-effect of diminishing returns, so the pleasure-seeker turns to ever more debauched and degenerate means. Their pursuit will be their end.
You will be sated with contempt instead of glory . . . shame will come upon your glory . . . the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you;God’s prophecy, Habakkuk 2:16, 17
the destruction of the animals will terrify you . . .
What use is an idolGod’s Indictment, Habakkuk 2:18-19
once its maker has shaped it—
a cast image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in what has been made,
though the product is only an idol that cannot speak!
Alas for you who say to the wood, “Wake up!”
to silent stone, “Rouse yourself!”
Can it teach?
See, it is gold and silver plated,
and there is no breath in it at all.
Idolatry defines whatever spirituality is left: for having rejected God, now every earthly experience is turned to for personal fulfillment, culminating in the worship of idols. Idolatry offers spiritual experiences without any guilt, for the idolater has created a god that preaches, “You just do what’s good for you.”
Humanly controlled spirituality offers revelation without dragging in the uncomfortable subject of sin, death, or judgment, or of a Creator Who is Sovereign over all the cosmos. A kind of salvation is offered without a real Savior. Such spirituality says, “We are all little gods.”
A Lesson to Us?
What struck me in reading these verses was the total sense of entitlement that this sort of profound self-pride brings about. I thought about all the many ways that God provides for me through other people. How often do I remember to thank them? How good am I at showing gratitude and appreciation? Have I thanked my family, recently, for loving me and caring for me?
I think of all the people in my life who are in service occupations—the cashiers, and servers, those who work at the car wash, who answer the phones of all the business I call, those in the delivery services, or who give people rides.
And my list gets longer! Coaches, librarians, teachers, pastors, everyone who works in rescue or the medical field. Those who care for abandoned and misused animals, the great legions of volunteers who clean up the freeways and the waterways, who visit and care for those who are homebound in some way, who make it possible for hospitals, and schools, and sports to run . . .
To be self-centered is to be blind to all those around us who make life go, who make life possible.
A life of thankfulness to God is seen partly in whether you and I are thankful towards the people God has placed in our lives who care for us.
A habit of thankfulness will help get rid of a lot of pride and sense of entitlement that can creep up on you and me.
It is Habakkuk’s voice who ends this oracle, for he wrote all the Lord had given him to say to the people. To know that evil never escapes God’s notice, to know that God is merciful and also just, to realize God will right wrongs, and establish justice in the whole earth, gave Habakkuk a settled peace.
But the Lord is in his holy temple;Habakkuk 2:20
let all the earth keep silence before him!
[“The Scripture quotations contained herein are from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.”]
[The Fall of Babylon | By https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/fc/fc/32d4c8b927dea8bfbf69f55cbd10.jpgGallery: https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0034440.htmlWellcome Collection gallery (2018-04-03): https://wellcomecollection.org/works/pc9e75j3 CC-BY-4.0, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36614814%5D