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Last week we left Habakkuk waiting for God to answer his questions and today we learn how God shares with him some woeful words about the judgement that is coming to the proud Babylonians. Whilst the five woes in Habakkuk chapter 2 were written for his context, the lifestyle choices that the people in Habakkuk’s day were making are still being made by people today.

Each woe comes with a description and a warning about what happens if you continue to do it. What are these woes, and how do we avoid them and continue to live godly and faithful lives?

Theft

“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 creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them."

Habakkuk 2:6-8

Obtaining material things or wealth by means of theft, deception or extortion in any area of life. Whether in Babylon, Judah or Belfast, the consequence will be to lose everything.

The alternative is that godly people should be known as those who give, share and are generous.

Injustice

“Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 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 2:9-11

Treating others unfairly in order to provide some kind of security for yourself, regardless of the means used to achieve this. The consequences will be to lose their very lives. Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).

The alternative is a godly position of being a person of integrity and justice.

Violence and murder

“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the LordAlmighty 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 2:12-14

A mindset whereby a person will go to extreme lengths to gain recognition or do whatever it takes to pursue their own agenda. The consequence is that their efforts will come to nothing, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (v.14).

The alternative for people of God is to be compassionate and seek to glorify Him in all you do.

Exploitation

“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 let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them."

Habakkuk 2:15-17

Taking advantage of other people for your own benefit, and specifically through sexual exploitation. The consequence for this is shame and disgrace, and specific judgement for sexual exploitation of other people (Cf. Psalm 75:7-8).

The alternative godly attitude is to love, respect and put others first.

Idolatry

“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 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.” The Lordis in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

Habakkuk 2:18-20

Setting up, trusting or worshipping something in place of God, i.e. anything that replaces love for God by anything that has been given as a gift from God, whether that be our finances, our family, our work, our relationships, our food, our leisure or our clothes. These are gifts from God, therefore, if you put any of them in front of Him, they become idols. The consequence of this is to be deceived and disappointed, since there is unquestionably no life in an idol (v. 19, Cf. Exodus 20:3-4).

The alternative is to be a people who worship God only.

Rather than view these woes as vaguely interesting but not exactly applicable to you, allow them to instruct and teach you, and to warn and witness about the dangers of pride, of living your own way as opposed to God’s way – trusting in, faithful and obedient to God.

The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth be silent before him (v.20)

Idols are lifeless, but God is alive and well, presently and eternally active, and enthroned in heaven. Your response to God’s holiness and justice should be reverential quietness, as you wait patiently for His coming and His judgement. Stop speaking, stop listening, and stop rushing around. Discipline your mind and body to quiet contemplation and listen attentively to what God is saying to you.

Challenge yourself to sit in silence this week and consider how these five woes impact your life.

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