God's Five Woes
In our series on Habakkuk, we learn that Habakkuk represents a believer who is focusing
on the circumstances of this life, and it is not going well.
Habakkuk's experience in these three chapters takes him from fear to faith.
His problem was that God's people were suffering, but the barbarians were prospering.
In his despair Habakkuk is questioning God's plans, and the way that God is dealing with
His chosen people.
Habakkuk questions God.
As a result God reminds Habakkuk of His sovereignty, and then, Habakkuk has a more
humble attitude toward God.
He continues to ask questions, but not as though he doubted God's sovereignty,
but now he wants to know more so that he could better understand his struggle
with all the adversity.
God answered Habakkuk by saying: "The just shall live by faith."
In this chapter the five woes of God to the Chaldeans are universal principles.
The principle is that everything that is evil will be met with the judgment of God.
Habakkuk learns that the Chaldeans would be in power for a while, but the limit of their power
and prosperity was absolutely fixed by God..
The wicked may triumph for a while, but it will not last.
Their doom is sealed.
Habakkuk asked God, "What about these wicked people?"
He also asked, "God, what are You going to do about them?"
"Are You going to judge them?"
Verses 4-5 contain an important statement about the proud.
The proud person puts himself first, and then he uses and abuses others.
But the righteous are humble and they put others before themselves, and they do things
for the good of others.
God tells Habakkuk to "Behold the proud."
Habakkuk wondered why Babylon which was even more sinful than Judah, and that it would
be used to bring judgment to Judah.
God assures Habakkuk that He sees the proud.
Pride is always obvious.
The rich are proud of their riches..
The poor are proud of having less.
The talented are proud of their talents.
The religious are proud of their religion.
Unbelievers are proud of their unbelief.
The nonconformists are proud of being outcasts.
The educated are proud of their intelligence and learning.
The simple are proud of their simplicity
Pride is everywhere.
C. H. Spurgeon also said: "Wherever pride is found, it is always hateful to God.
Why, pride is even hateful to men.
Men cannot bear a proud man; and hence it is that a proud man, who has any sense left,
often sees that it is so, and he therefore tries to affect manners of modesty.
He will seem to be humble, when he really is not, if he has the suspicion that all about him
will dislike him if they know him to be proud.
But God cannot bear pride; it is a part of his daily business to put down the proud."
Now let us look at the five woes in this chapter.
You may be asking, "What is a woe?"
We know that a "woe" is not good.
"Woe," can be translated as "misery."
Woes are warnings to all who are going in the wrong direction.
These "woes" are warnings from God that judgment is coming.
These woes have to do with the final end for evil people.
Habakkuk gives a series of "woes"to describe how bad Babylon is, and each woe is followed
by a reason for it.
The proud person thinks that he deserves better.
He wants more.
He will do anything to get it.
Now let us look at these five woes in chapter 2 that God pronounced upon the Chaldeans
warning them that judgment was coming upon them.
The first woe is found in verses 6-8:
"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." (CEV)
The first woe refers to the greed of the Chaldeans.
The Chaldeans were getting rich at the expense of others by conquest of their homes,
making vassals of the nations, extorting from them huge contributions of materials,
money, and men, and bleeding them dry.
Throughout the history of the world, conquering nations often impose unjust terms
financially on those they oppress.
In verse 6 God says: "Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own!"
God pictures Babylon as deceptive money-lenders, who are loaded with the debts to
the nations that they have conquered.
They have conquered many nations, and they have raped and pillaged them.
They ravaged them of all the wealth which they took for their own.
God tells them in verse 7 that the day is coming when the debts will be collected.
Verse 7 says: "They shall rise up suddenly and bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee,
and thou shalt be for booties unto them." (ASV)
There is coming a day when all those that they have robbed, and fleeced,
and mistreated will turn on them like an angry dog upon them and bite them like a serpent.
The word "vex" in verse 7 means to shake violently, to pick up a man
and turn him upside-down and get the money out of him!
This is what God will do to the Chaldeans.
Woe two is found in Verses 9 to 11:
"Woe to him that getteth an evil gain for his house, that he may set his nest on high,
that he may be delivered from the hand of evil!
Thou hast devised shame to thy house, by cutting off many peoples, and hast sinned against thy soul.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it." (ASV)
The Chaldeans (Babylonians), were covetous, self-exalting, proud people.
In verse 9, God describes them like eagles who set up their nest on a high mountain,
and they do it because they think it will be impregnable to predators.
So, they go up on a mountain which is high enough so nobody will be able to get to them.
Verse 10, it says: "Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people."
Nebuchadnezzar made his house out of all the plundered remains of the conquered cities
that he had trampled.
God says to this great empire: 'You may set yourself like an eagle upon a mountain,
and think that nobody will touch you, and nobody will get to you.
You may make yourself luxurious by the spoil of your enemies and your victims,
but God says: 'Woe to your inhumanity.' ''
In verse 11 God is telling them that they may have carried many people away with them,
but He says that the very stone of your habitation -- your house -- will "cry out of the wall,
and the beam out of the timber shall answer it"..
God says that the masonry and the timber within your house will testify to what you are doing
to those around you.
Verse 10 says: 'Thou hast sinned against thy soul'!
Verses 9-11 are declaring woe to the exploiter.
The exploiters are those who pursue evil gain to provide protection for their houses.
They are building their futures by taking advantage of the less fortunate.
They are money-grubbers who seek to pad their accounts in any fashion.
God is telling them that the plunderer will be plundered, the extorter will be extorted.
James Montgomery Boice wrote: "Here is a man who has tried to accumulate as much
as he can by more or less honest means, but when he finds he cannot get enough,
resorts to unjust means to enlarge his portfolio and place himself beyond the possibility of ruin.
But ruin comes."
There are those who are looking to exploit others and can innocently begin to do that.
They look for loopholes in the law in order to make a quick profit, ignoring those from which
they are profiting.
Materialism can be addictive.
A person can never get enough.
They are never satisfied.
So in the end, the exploiter becomes an extorter.
The exploiter is deceived.
He thinks that his deceitfulness is all right because he is trying to provide for his future and
the future of his family.
He is sees it as building a nest egg for a college fund, or planning for retirement, etc.
These are certainly appropriate goals.
But the exploiter uses questionable means to accomplish his goals.
But Christians should not live like that.
Christians must place their dependence and trust in God believing that He will provide,
in His way and in His time.
This does not mean that we should not work to provide financial security for our families.
Jesus said that it is the meek, not the exploiter, that will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)
So, God is teaching Habakkuk that the just who live by faith "store up" for themselves
"treasures in heaven." (Matt. 6:20)
Christians are to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness." (Matt. 6:33)
God's financial system is spiritual, not temporal.
There are those have their minds set on this world, and not on God and His ability to provide.
God told Habakkuk says to those who act this way -- you "are sinning against yourself."
That is the same sin today.
It is the greed of wanting 'More, more, more!'?
This woe is to those who covet evil gain.
God addresses those who are greedy, and tells them that they are ripe for judgment.
The greedy thinks in terms of nothing but gain, but will end in losing his own soul.
Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21 is the perfect example of the greedy man who sins against his own soul.
The third woe is found in verses 12-14:
"Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
And founds a town with violence!
Is it not indeed from the Lord of hosts
That peoples toil for fire,
And nations grow weary for nothing?"
For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea." (ASV)
This woe is pronounced on those who promote violence.
This woe focuses on the city which has been been built by the bloodshed of others.
God addresses the violence of the Chaldeans.
We can see the progression from individual and corporate greed to that of bloodshed.
Their desire to have things and satisfy their appetites was so important to them
that they resorted to violence, and killed to gain properties and finances.
They used the riches of plundered cities to build Babylon.
Secularism motivates their efforts.
Secularism leads to goals of materialism, and hedonism.
All such building will be burned in the fires of God's judgment.
It will prove to be vanity or emptiness.
This woe can also apply to the building of church buildings.
It is possible to build a large church by secular means.
That can be done by using good marketing, advertising, and other secular techniques.
Find out what the people want, then give it to them.
If they want bowling alleys or gymnasiums, give them bowling alleys or gymnasiums.
I have heard of one church that removed all the pews from their sanctuary
and erected a boxing ring in their building and have wrestling matches every Friday night.
It seems that they are just giving people what they want.
A church built for secular purposes will grow, but it will not endure.
When the taste of people change and they will seek for another attraction.
Christians must strive to build the right way -- God's way.
They will build so that God's will be foremost, and so that God receives all the glory.
Only then can it stand against the assault of the evil one who seeks to build his kingdom
by evil means, whether it be destruction from without or destruction from within.
But look at verse 13: 'Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people
shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?"
Think about these Chaldeans, going through cities, plundering all the riches, their temples,
their jewels, and bringing them back to their Babylon, and building their city bigger and bigger.
In this verse God says that they are doing it for the fire.
One day it will all go up in smoke, and that will be the end of it.
Historians write that this great city was 15 square miles, with 350 foot high walls,
87 feet thick, six chariots could go along it at one time.
The walls were 35 feet below the ground so that no one could tunnel under into the city.
There were 250 watchtowers, 53 temples, 180 altars to Ishtar.
Babylon is a picture of all of the worldly religions that are living without God.
It is a godless power that denies Christ and becomes their own god.
In verse 14 God says: "Habakkuk, this is your message, and this is your answer.
Look into the future, you see what's happening now, but look at what's happening.
and know that in end I will triumph."
To you who are here, God has a message for you.
If you're having troubles and trials, and if you're dealing with perplexities and temptation,
the message for you is to look ahead.
For there a day is coming when there will be no more pain, no more exploitation,
there will be no more injustice or cruelty, no more sorrow or sinfulness.
The Lord shall reign, and all the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God.
The fourth woe is in verses 15-17:
"Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, to thee that addest thy venom,
and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
Thou art filled with shame, and not glory: drink thou also, and be as one uncircumcised;
the cup of Jehovah's right hand shall come round unto thee, and foul shame
shall be upon thy glory.
For the violence done to Lebanon shall cover thee, and the destruction of the beasts,
which made them afraid; because of men's blood, and for the violence done to the land,
to the city and to all that dwell therein." (ASV)
The fourth woe says that the shamers will be exposed to public shame
This verse says that alcohol was used to entice others to sin.
Verse 15: 'Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him,
and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!'.
Verse 5 tells us how how the Babylonians came to power:
"Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home,
who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied,
but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people." (Verse 5)
It was wine that encouraged their brutish behaviour.
The fifth chapter of Daniel tells of the the downfall of that same Babylonian empire.
Belshazzar was in his drunken orgy when he cursed God and mocked God in blasphemy
And then, the hand writing appeared on the wall which said:
" Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting." (Daniel 5;27)
"In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.
And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old."
Belshazzar was killed, and the empire was taken from the Babylonians and given
to the Medo-Persian.
Their drinking brought about their downfall.
God warns of the danger of alcohol in Proverbs 20:1 when He says:
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging:
and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
Those who feel that there's nothing wrong with a social drink should read this verse.
God is warning of the dangers of alcohol, and the consequences of drinking.
The damage of drunkenness affects millions of lives and families.
Every year in the United States alcohol is responsible for almost 100,000 deaths
(25,000 by drunk drivers alone), 6 million non-fatal injuries, and more than $100 billion
in economic losses, such as unemployment and loss of productivity.
In America alcoholism is the number three health risk after heart disease and cancer!
Every twentieth alcoholic is under the age of 13.
3.3 million teenagers have drinking problems!
More than 42 million children live in alcoholic-dependent houses, and 50% of them
will become alcoholics themselves.
Four out of ten hospital admissions, 50% of car accidents, 55% of arrests, 64% of murders,
60% of child abuse cases, are all alcohol-related, and every 23 minutes someone dies
because of a drunk driver.
These statistics tell us that our society is saturated with sin.
"Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor."
In this verse God rebukes both the drunk and those who promote drunkenness.
Though they think that alcohol makes them feel good, God says they are filled with shame
instead of glory.
In Ephesians 5:18 Paul calls drunkenness, dissipation; drunkenness is a waste
of resources that should be submitted to Jesus.
Here in Habakkuk God promises a cup of judgment and just recompense for their sin.
In verses 15-17 God is saying that luxurious living and wild entertainment is "shameless living"
at the expense of others will make a person disgusting not only in their eyes, but also in God's.
There are those who have no shame in nakedness!
That is the progression of sin and wickedness.
The heart becomes so hard that it can look at sinful behavior and not even blush.
The wicked man's glory is vain glory.
The wicked will receive their glory which is "utter disgrace." (v. 16
It is different with the righteous.
The righteous are ashamed of their sin because they have offended a loving Father.
They are ashamed of their sin because they know the price that was paid so that their sins
could be forgiven and their unrighteousness made righteousness.
The righteous person's glory is full in God and Christ!
The fifth woe is found in verses 18-20:
"What profiteth the graven image, that the maker thereof hath graven it;
the molten image, even the teacher of lies, that he that fashioneth its form trusteth therein,
to make dumb idols?
Woe unto him that saith to the wood, 'Awake'; to the dumb stone, 'Arise'!
Shall this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath
at all in the midst of it.
Jehovah is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." (ASV)
The fifth woe is the woe concerns idolatry.
God condemns this sin.
Woe to the idolater. (Verses. 18-20)
Idolatry is the foundation of all sin.
Idolatry occurs when somone glories in the creature rather than the Creator.
Verse 19 says: "Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath
at all in the midst of it. "
Their idols are over laden with gold, and precious things, and to the outward appearance
they are very appealing, and they are so beautiful that they fall down and worship them,
but there is no breath in them.
God speaks about the idolater, who treats inanimate objects as if they had life
and intelligence, but there no life in that idol.
Verse twenty is tremendous.
There isn't a word of exhortation, or encouragement, or direction from a wooden idol.
There isn't anything that a dead, wooden idol can do.
Verse 20 reminds us and assures us that there is a God in heaven who knows
what is going on, and who knows your heartaches, and who knows your concerns,
your temptations, and your tribulations
The Lord Jehovah is in His holy temple, so let all the world keep silence before Him!
As Christians we can be assured that God is in control.
He is on His throne, and in His own time will answer all our questions.
So Habakkuk was told even though it tarries -- wait for it.
Christian, though it tarries -- wait for it.
Do you have any idols in your life?
Does Christ have all of you?
Someone has written:
'The dearest idol I have known,
What'er that idol be.
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee'.
God's Word teaches us that "The way of the transgressor is hard."
This is true whether it be an individual, a nation, or the whole world.
The worldly man may make a fortune by evil business methods, and be on top of the world.
But we must look at his ending.
Look at him dying of on his bed; see him buried in a grave, and think of the doom
and woe that are his destiny!
The ungodly are fools when they become drunk with temporal success.
Their end is fixed.
From past history we have seen how godless nations which were once the most powerful
nations on earth and the whole world laid at their feet.
Then, we remember their end.
Nation after nation has risen only to fall.
The time came when the woe pronounced by God came to pass.
We have lived through an age in which we have seen this same principle in operation.
And whatever may be happening in the world today, the principle is still the same.
Woe is declared on the ways of all who are opposed to God.
They are doomed.
They may have great temporary success, but just as their star arose, it will descend.
The woe, the judgment of God upon the unrighteousness is certain.
No one can even attempt to predict what God is going to bring about,
but we can be certain of the ultimate triumph of God.
" Jesus shall reign where'ere the sun
Doth his successive journeys run.
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more."
At times It may appear that the enemies of God and His people are being trampled,
and it may seem as though they are going to exterminate the Christian Church!
Yet, a day is coming when " at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father".
The earth shall be filled with the glory of God.
The Evil One will be cast into the lake of fire, and everything opposed to God will be destroyed,
and there will be "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness".
The city of God will descend, and all of God's people will shall enter in.
Everything unclean will be shut outside, and God will be all and in all.
The ultimate triumph of God is sure.
In the light of all this, we must not trust, or commit ourselves to any power other than God Himself.
We trust in God alone!
" But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." (verse 20)
Not only must the heathen be silent, but Christians must also keep silent.
There must be no questioning, no uncertainty about the goodness and the holiness
and the power of God..
Remember that God is His holy temple..
So, let us humble ourselves and bow down before Him and worship Him.
Let us magnify His grace, His might, His power, His goodness, and in the quietness
our soul wait for Him.
The message of Habakkuk is still relevant today,
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
And to use the words of Habakkuk, "the righteous will live by faith".
And God is saying that those who plunder others will also be plundered.
Those who seek security and economic gain at the expense of others will be condemned
Those who seek to further their own prosperity by unholy means will be brought low,
and those who seek their own glory will bow before the glory of the Lord.
Those that humiliate wil be humiliated.
Those who shame others will themselves be shamed.
Those who trust in idols will become like them, dead with no life within them.
The proud and the person of faith will have two different endings.
One is destined to die, the other to live
You have read the five woes from God.
Are any of these sins in your life?
God's Word reminds us that judgement begins in the house of God.
To every person living in sin, God says in Numbers 32:23: "Be sure your sin will find you out".
I would ask you to bow your head and close your eyes.
Now picture in your mind a clean sheet of paper and a pencil.
Visualize writing on one side of a page your sins of omission which are the things
that you have not done, but you should have.
Then, on the other side of the paper write your sins of commission.
These are the sins that you have done, but shouldn't have done.
Write them in the eyes of your mind, think about them, remember them.
Look at them, and weep about them, and confess them to God
It is time to get our lives right with God.
1 John 1:8-9: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
There will be no peace or rest for your soul until you have confessed them to God.
God is saying that doesn't want just words, or false promises.
God wants all of us!
Is your everything on God's altar?
You can fool me, and you can fool yourself, but you can't fool God.
Let's face it:
This is how you will receive peace of mind and rest for your soul..
All On The Altar
"You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.
Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.
O we never can know
What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul
He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.
Who can tell all the love
He will send from above,
And how happy our hearts will be made,
Of the fellowship sweet
We shall share at His feet,
When our all on the altar is laid.
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul."
-- Words & Music by Elisha Albright Hoffman, 1900
Sermon adapted from several resources by Dr. Harold L. White