18 “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.
19 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.”
(Habakkuk 2:18-19 NIV)
Today we are looking at the last of the five woes the Lord pronounced against the Babylonians. In a word, that woe is idolatry.
The Babylonians worshipped themselves – the Lord said their strength was their god (chapter 1, verse 11). In Daniel chapter 3 verse 1, King Nebuchadnezzar had made a gold image and made all the government officials bow down and worship it. Most scholars think this was some sort of stylized likeness of Nebuchadnezzar. This would essentially be Nebuchadnezzar declaring himself to be deity / god, and requiring all his minions to worship him as a sign of respect, loyalty, and submission. We know the rest of that story – how Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the image and were thrown into the fiery furnace, and how God protected them.
Notice that the Lord does not start this section with the woe itself, but with human logic. On either side of the woe, the Lord asks and answers questions about the idols that seem to defy basic human reasoning.
Prior to Habakkuk’s ministry, a similar scenario was carried out in the northern part of Israel. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah had a showdown between God and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Remember the questions Elijah asked the false prophets?
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
(1 Kings 18:27 NIV)
As we have noted in previous passages, these woes were largely focused on the Babylonians, and the Lord was using the Babylonians to remind the people of Judah of their own sins. In the parallel account of this same timeframe, the prophet Jeremiah records the Lord’s words against the people of Judah:
27 They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’
and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs to me
and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
‘Come and save us!’
28 Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
Let them come if they can save you
when you are in trouble!
For you, Judah, have as many gods
as you have towns.
(Jeremiah 2:27-28 NIV)
So what do we put our faith and trust in today? What do we look to deliver us from evil and destruction?
- The government?
- Our money?
- Our possessions?
- The military?
- Our health?
In verse 4, the Lord gives us all the direction and focus we need… “the righteous shall live by faith”.
May you be encouraged today by Psalm 46. Take some time to worship the Lord for being in control.