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Our God is a consuming fire, and when He comes in judgment there will be no mistaking it. Habakkuk was already quite convinced that Babylon was sowing iniquity. The word of the Lord comes to him and shows that Babylon will therefore reap the same crop that they planted. God is not mocked.
“. . . But the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab. 2:6-20).
Outline of the Book
Remember the structure of the book. First is Habakkuk’s first complaint about injustice in the land(1:2-4). Then he finds out that the armies of Babylon are the answer (1:5-11). Habakkuk says that this is even worse (1:12-17). But wait, God says. The just shall live by faith (2:1-5). God then answers Habakkuk’s second complaint, which is our text today (2:6-20). The army of Jehovah’s army contrasts with the army of Babylon (3:1-15). Habakkuk finally resolves his dilemma (3:16-19).
Summary of the Text
So remember that this portion of the book is God’s reply to Habakkuk’s second complaint, which was that Babylon was worse than Judah. But Babylon, having come to the end of a long career of grasping piracy, will come to the end of himself. And all his previous victims, who had been heaped up together, will then turn around and taunt him (v. 6). Your vast wealth is going to stick to your boots like thick wet clay. Those the Babylonians had ruled would rise up suddenly, surprisingly, and bite them back (v. 7). Babylon the violent plunderer would soon be plundered (v. 8). Woe to the one who would build his house by gathering in the ruin of his house (v. 9). And woe if he thinks that this grand wealth will serve him as a fortress (v. 9).
When Babylon was on the march, gathering glory, God was seeing to it that they were actually gathering shame—shame for their own house (v. 10). As they troubled everyone, they were actually bringing trouble against their own souls (v. 10).
And then the prophet shifts his voice. Babylon’s victims are no longer taunting it, but now the very buildings they have erected have taken up the woe. The stones in their wall will cry out, and the beams of timber they have set will answer in an antiphonal chorus (v. 11). The buildings built with blood will pronounce a woe on the one who builds with blood, who establishes a city through iniquity (v. 12). The Lord of hosts will see to it that building with wood, hay and stubble will be conducted in the midst of the fire (v. 13).
The manifest destruction of Babylon will result in the knowledge of the glory of God filling the earth (v. 14). This same image is used by Isaiah to speak of the kingdom of Christ (Is. 11:9), and for the one who has the eyes of faith, this is all of a piece—it is a long sustained narrative.
Babylon, drunk on greed and covetousness, will recruit neighboring princes and kings, to their humiliation and shame (v. 15). But as Babylon was the cup-bearer to these others, to their shame, so the Lord will become the cup-bearer to Babylon, but this time in judgment, and Babylon will vomit on its own glory (v. 16). The violence of Babylon will recoil on them—from Lebanon and environs, and all for their bloodthirstiness (v. 17).
Habakkuk concludes by bring the sins of Babylon back to the headwaters, to the gods of Babylon (v. 18). What kind of sense does it make to carve something that you then trust in? An idol is a teacher of lies, and it turns out to be idolaters lying to themselves (v. 18). The artisan makes the thing, and then commands the wood and stone to “arise and teach me.” But, lo, Habakkuk says. They are not breathing. They are dead, and dead quiet.
And so he returns to the worship of the true and living God, the God who speaks. That being the case, we must come to worship, and be silent before Him (v. 20).
Not Just a Defeat of Evil
Jehovah does not just bring evil down in order to create a covenantal vacuum. When Babylon is destroyed, the word of that destruction will go everywhere. And it will be known that God was the one who did it—no one else could bring Babylon low. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will fill the earth up, the same way that water fills the sea. How much glory will God receive from this? How wet is the Pacific?
But God is intent on doing more than just dethroning tyrants. His intention is to establish the throne of His Christ, His Messiah, and it is expressed in exactly the same way.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, Which shall stand for an ensign of the people; To it shall the Gentiles seek: And his rest shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:9–10).
The God Who Speaks
The Lord is in His holy temple. We saw in the verses just before this that idols carved out of inert matter are dead. They are deaf, dumb and blind. And they are dead. They have no breath in them. They cannot speak a word. This is one of the reasons why men love to carve such gods, and why they pray to icons. Icons don’t talk back, which means they don’t rebuke or admonish. They only thing they teach, and this by implication, are lies (v. 18). And so when idols are not animated by demons (1 Cor. 10:21), they are like ventriloquist puppets for the idolaters. This is how idolaters encourage themselves.
The idols are already silent, but the idolaters need to become silent. And why? Because the Lord is in His holy temple. We must be silent because we worship a God who is not silent. He is the God who sent His Son, the Word. He gave us a book full of holy words. Bow your head, and listen to the holy God who speaks. And what He speaks is Christ.