9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
(Habakkuk 2:9-11 NIV)
Today we examine the second woe that the Lord pronounced against the Babylonians – false security.
Before we begin today’s text, however, I want to back up for a moment and mention something that I failed to call out in yesterday’s study. As we study these five woes the Lord pronounced against the Babylonians, it appears that the Lord is showing Judah (via the Babylonians) the grievous nature of their sin. Yes, the Babylonians exhibited these sinful traits orders of magnitude more than the people of Judah. But sometimes God has to exaggerate a point for us to take notice.
As we look back at Habakkuk’s complaint to the Lord in chapter 1 verses 2-4, Habakkuk laments that the world has gone crazy. Everything is upside down from what it should be. Violence, strife, and injustice rule the day.
Looking back at the first woe, we see the Lord calling out the Babylonians for their greed and extortion, even to the point of bloodshed. Habakkuk called out violence and injustice against the people of Judah as well.
Let’s resume our study of the second woe – false security.
The Babylonians thought they were untouchable and indestructible. They lived in fortified cities and had legions of guards to protect them. But yet, no one can escape the long arm of the Lord.
Remember when we started this study of Habakkuk, we mentioned that the book of Habakkuk was the movie trailer to the full-length feature film of Jeremiah. Listen to Jeremiah’s description of Habakkuk 2:9:
“As for the terror of you,
The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
O you who live in the clefts of the rock,
Who occupy the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as an eagle’s,
I will bring you down from there,” declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 49:16 NASB)
Many scholars believe this paragraph in Habakkuk and Jeremiah is a reference to and description of the mountain fortress of Petra. The city itself was hewn out of solid rock, high up in the mountains. The entrance to the city was through a series of narrow passages barely wide enough for a camel or donkey to squeeze through. An army would have to march through these passages single file, providing ample opportunities for the guards to protect the city.
As we look at the parallels between the second woe to the Babylonians and how it related to the people of Judah, we see the people of Judah thinking their wealth was their impregnable fortress. Whether their fortress was physical or financial, both groups felt they had independence from God and could depend on their own resources to provide and protect.
The Lord finishes this woe by saying that even the building materials of their homes and public buildings would cry out against the injustices.
So what is our Lord’s command? “The righteous shall live by faith”.
Our fortress is not our physical building. Our protection is not our money. Our hope and defender is the Lord.
When we put our trust in our own protection or provision, we are putting second things first, instead of putting God first. And verse 10 reminds us that this does not end well for us.
C.S. Lewis said that if we pursue second things instead of first things, both are lost. If we pursue first things first, we gain both first and second things.
May we keep our priorities on first things as we live by faith.