- Woe To Ill-Gotten Gain (verses 6-8)
- Woe To Inhumanity (verses 9-11)
- Woe To Iniquity (verses 12-14)
- Woe To Intoxication (verses 15-17)
- Woe To Idolatry (verses 18-20)
If you don't know where Habakkuk is now, you'll never know where it is! Habakkuk chapter 2, and we're finishing - God willing - this evening, chapter 2 of Habakkuk. You'll remember that there's three chapters to this little book. The first chapter dealt with the problem, the burden, of Habakkuk. Then the second chapter dealt - we've seen a little bit of it, verses 1 to 5 - it deals with the vision that Habakkuk was given. Then we'll see next week - God willing - the prayer that Habakkuk prays.
Let's look at chapter 2 again, we'll begin reading at verse 5. You remember last week we dealt with verses 1 to 4, and we thought about the vision that was given to him: that he was to write it down, he was to publish it, it was to be clear and plain, it was for an appointed time - he was to be patient, he was to wait on it. And you remember that we saw that the message and the answer that Habakkuk was given, is the answer of God to all ages, and all people - that the just shall live by faith.
So we pick up the reading at verse 5, and we're reading right through to verse 20: "Yea also, because he transgresseth" - that's the Chaldeans, the Babylonians - "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: Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! How long? And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them? Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, 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. Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 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? For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. 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! Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory. For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him".
Let's come before the Lord, and ask His help in a word of prayer. Let us pray: Dear God, we acknowledge that the Lord Jehovah is in His holy temple, and we bow in silence before Thee to hear what Thy word would have to say. Lord speak to us, we wait for Thee, we ask that Thou mayest come, in Jesus' name, Amen.
If you were to turn now with me to Acts chapter 17, for a moment, Acts chapter 17. We don't have time to read the whole passage, but we have there the account of Paul the apostle. Paul the apostle is standing in main street in the city of Athens. He stands there and, as we read in verse 16, he is absolutely angry and livid for some reason. This ancient classical city is walled with temples and false gods. What was Paul's reaction? He went into the city and he saw altars, he saw statues, to an 'unknown god'. All the gods of Rome, all the gods of Greece in different names, all the gods of Babylon that there have ever been - all set before him, temples to different deities, statues to a god that they did not know, in order to be on the safe side, in case there was one that they hadn't found out about. But as we find Paul in Acts 17 and verse 16, we read this - it says that his spirit was stirred within him. J.B. Philips translates it like this: 'While Paul was there, his soul was exasperated beyond belief at the sight of the city completely given to idolatry'. The Amplified Bible puts it like this: 'Now while Paul was waiting upon them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw a city full of idols'.
Why was Paul angry? That's what verse 16 of chapter 17 of Acts means: Paul was angry, his blood, his righteous blood, boiled at the sight of such idolatry in this city - but why was he angry? There are several reasons. He was angry at the power of false religion to delude people - are you not angry at that? As a believer in Christ are you not angry at the cults, and the false religionists, and the apostate protestants - are you not angry at it? How they delude men and women and send them to hell - he was angry at the reckless devotion to those powerless gods that men, women and children were bowing down to. He was angry at the staggering wealth that was sacrificially given to build these temples, to these fraudulent deities before him. He was so angry that Christ was not given the love and the devotion that He ought to have been given as the God of all eternity. He was angry that men's hearts of flesh were crying out in their need, but they were crying out to gods of stone. He was angry that the atoning blood of Christ was trampled underfoot. He was angry that the intellectuals mocked at the resurrection, at the ascension of the living Son of God. He was angry that people that were walking around in this city were one heart's beat from an eternal, inconceivable, horrible hell - yet one heartbeat away, they could eat, they could drink, and they could be merry.
Paul was angry that the devil had a hold on men and women - that men were captives to fear, to lust, and then the devil himself would take them to the bottomless pit. Is it any different today? Did the prophet not say that there is nothing new under the sun? We as God's people, and God's children - as we look into a world that is more godless then our generation, or indeed this century has ever known - do we not look and does it not stir us up? Do we not stir ourselves as we look to a world that will give money, that will give devotion to any god, any pastime, any intellectual belief, they will do anything for some kind of notion of salvation - but they will never bow the knee to Christ! Does that not make you angry? Can I ask you: are you angry? As a Christian, are you angry? Have you anger within you? And if you're not angry, why is it? Why is it that the church militant today, is no longer militant? Why is it that we do not go on the attack? Why is it that we fear? Why is it that we hesitate? What is it that chills our urgency? Have we not got a message? Why do we keep it within four walls? Why do we feel fear as we come to a loved one, or even to someone that we do not know, and we try to share the Gospel - why is it that in today's generation we can't find the guts to do it?
What were David's words to his brother? Remember young David, and he went and he took the lunch, the bread and cheese, to his brothers at the order of his father. They laughed at him because he was saying: 'Well, what are you going to do about this big guy, Goliath? Are you not going to face him?' - and they laughed at this young whipper-snapper that was talking big. David turned round to him and he said: 'Is there not a cause?'. Friends tonight, is there not a cause? Is there not a cause to be angry? Is there not a cause to have our spirits stirred within us? What we need today is a baptism of holy anger! There is a command in the word of God - there are many commands: there is the command to be saved, there's the command to be baptised, there's the command to be ye filled with the Holy Spirit - but there is also the command to be angry and sin not! Of course, many of us get angry and sin - because we get angry at the wrong times, at the wrong things, with the wrong motives. But there is an anger, the anger of God Almighty, the anger that is in a heartbeat, a drumbeat, with the very heart of God - an echo of God's heart within our hearts and souls, a heartbeat of holy anger - the actual anger of God, by His Spirit, within our beings. Do you have it?
Are you angry? If there's anything wrong with Gospel preaching today - and there's plenty wrong with it, but if there's one thing wrong with it, it's this: that the anger of God is no longer preached. The anger of God, the wrath of God, and that is depicted in the law of God. Whenever the law is not preached - and let me say: when the Gospel is preached, we are not saved through the law, but the law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. If we do not preach the law, death will not be realised by the person we are preaching to. If they don't hear that they have broken every law of God, that they have fallen short of God, that they have angered God, that the condemnation and the wrath of God is upon them, they have no hope of being saved! One scholar put it like this: 'The Gospel that is preached today, it neither wounds nor heals'. A strange thought, that the Gospel should wound a person, isn't it? But the Gospel wounds a person to the deepest depths of their soul, when they realise that they can do nothing, when they realise that they are so depraved before God that even their very righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight - and nothing from themselves, within themselves, or that they can create, can be acceptable in the sight of a holy God.
Do we preach the anger of God? Do we preach that you must die to live? Do we preach that God is holy, and in order to come to Him, we must be holy as He is holy - but we cannot be holy because we are sinners, and the only holiness that we can have is the imputed holiness of the righteous, sinless, spotless Lamb of God? That's the Gospel! It wasn't realised as much in the Old Testament, of course, but it was still the Gospel. This was the way the prophets preached, you know. Look with me quickly to a few passages of scripture in the minor prophets - Hosea, straight after the book of Daniel: Daniel, Hosea - Ezekiel, Daniel, then Hosea. We notice from the minor prophets, and indeed the major prophets, that when these prophets were delivering their message they always began with the law. They always began with the sin of the people, how the people had broken God's law, God's anger towards the people, the wrath that was abiding on them at that moment.
[In] Hosea chapter 1 and verse 2 you see it, the second half of the verse - right through it, but look at the second-half: '...for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord'. Turn to the next book, Joel, Joel chapter 1 and verse 5, again in the first few verses starting off this book you can see it. Straight away the prophet Joel hits them between the eyes with their sin: 'Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it is cut off from your mouth'. Turn to the next book, Amos chapter 1, Amos chapter 1 and verse 3: 'Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof' - verse 6 - 'For three transgressions of Gaza' - verse 9 - 'For three transgressions of Tyrus' - verse 13 - 'For three transgressions of the children of Ammon' - and so on throughout that book, continually Amos presents them with their sin.
Look at Obadiah, the next book, chapter 1 and verse 3 - and straight away, as soon as he opens his mouth, he is confronting the people with their sin. Verse 3: 'The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?'. Jonah is the next book, who in chapter 1 and verse 2, Jonah is told by God: 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me'. The next book is Micah, in chapter 1 and verse 5 and verse 7: 'For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah?' - the places where they worshipped false gods - 'Are they not Jerusalem?', verse 7, 'All the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot'.
Do you see the pattern? I could go on right throughout the Old Testament prophets, all of them, and that is the pattern. They preached the holiness of God, they preached the failure of men and women, of boys and girls, to reach the holiness of God - but today in our generation, it is not 'PC', politically correct, to preach sin, to preach the righteousness of God, and to preach the unrighteousness of men. These preachers preached against sin. Hamish McKenzie said that this type of preaching, hell fears it, earth requires it, heaven ordains it - and do you know what I have found in my short lifespan? God blesses it. It's the only message that God blesses, because if God is to save a sinner and heal a sinner, they must be wounded from their own self-righteousness, their own sinfulness, their own lack of being able to approach into the very presence of God. Woe is onto me if we preach not this Gospel!
So, now God answers Habakkuk. Habakkuk's question was what? 'What about these wicked people? What are You going to do about them, Lord? Are You not going to come in judgement? Are You not going to come upon them and judge them?'. I've called our study: 'The Welcome Woes', because Habakkuk - although they're not very nice things that are said to him - Habakkuk welcomed them because they were God's answer to his prayer. I want to look at these five different woes. It's interesting that history is punctuated with nations who trampled, time after time across the world, countries under their feet, men's blood and bodies beneath their armies - but God says: 'Woe unto you'.
The first woe that Habakkuk is given by God, that he delivers, is: woe to ill-gotten gain - it is found in verses 6 to 8 that we've read already. First of all, in verse 6 you see halfway through God says: 'Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his!'. In other words, ill-gotten gain. God pictures Babylon here as deceptive moneylenders, who are heavy with the debts to the nations that they have conquered. They have conquered so many nations, they have raped and pillaged them, and ravaged them of all the wealth that they have, that now they have amassed such a wealth, such a great weight, that he says: 'ladeth himself with thick clay!' at the end of the verse. It's like pouring mud upon you, the wealth that they have accumulated by taking from others. But God says that this great debt that they have accumulated through their wars, and their empire seeking, in verse 7 He says that one day is coming when the debts will be collected. The day is coming, and He uses two words, where there will be a nasty bite, and they will be vexed suddenly - verse 7: 'that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them'. There is a day coming when all those that they have robbed, and fleeced, and mistreated in ill-gotten gain, when they will turn like an angry dog upon them and bite them like a serpent. That word 'vex' means to shake violently, to pick up a man and turn him upside-down and get the money out of him! To take every debt that they had, and what God would do is He would throw the Chaldeans to the nations - as the verse says - as booties unto them.
These five woes, before we go any further, they're easy to apply to Babylon, aren't they? They're even easy to apply to Judah, and we ought to apply them to Judah, because these sins were happening within God's people - but what about us? I want, as we go through these five woes, to ask ourselves as individuals, as the nation of the United Kingdom, do we think we are getting away with it? It may be debts to ourselves, it may be national debt, but one day - God says - that those who have ill-gotten gain, the divine Debt Collector will bring pay day! People may forget, history might forget, but God never forgets. God says in Numbers 32:23 - and let every person dabbling in sin listen how serious it is - God says: 'Be sure your sin will find you out'. How many Christians are there in business - since I have come into the Lord's work it makes me ashamed - 'Tell it not in Gath' - of Christian businessmen who fleece their employees, who stick the boot in at every opportunity. You know about, don't you? The testimony that they bring before them and after them, because of the way that they treat people - and God says, whether it be in a personal, moral way, or in business, or wherever, God says: 'God is not mocked, His name will not be trodden in the dirt - but whatsoever a man or a woman soweth, that shall they also reap'. One day, no matter how unfair it may seem at this moment in time, internationally or individually in your personal life, one day the tables will be turned. Woe unto ill-gotten gain.
Secondly: woe to inhumanity. Verses 9 to 11, look at it: 'Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!'. The Chaldeans, the Babylonians, had become covetous - they were self-exalting, proud people - and what that usually brings is unfairness and inhumanity. Look at verse 9, God describes them like eagles, eagles who set up their nest on a high mountain, and they do it for the purpose, that they think it will be impregnable to predators. If they go up on a mountain, if they go high enough, nobody will be able to get to them. Verse 10, it says that: 'Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people'. Did you know that Nebuchadnezzar made his house of all the plundered remains of the conquered cities that he trampled underfoot? 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 inhumanity''. You may have carried many people away with you, but He says in verse 11, 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'. In other words, the very masonry, the very timber within your house will testify to what you are doing to those around you. Verse 10: 'Thou hast sinned against thy soul'!
You remember Cain slew Abel? The first murder, the first murderer, and what happened? God summoned Cain before His holy face, and He asked him: 'Where is your brother?'. 'Am I my brothers keeper?' - and what was it that God said to him? In Genesis 4 and 10, He said: 'The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground'. There is the blood of millions, there is the cry of unborn babies, there is the cry of the exploited poor that we were thinking about last night, there is the cry as we thought about last Monday night of persecuted Christians, of victims of terrorism, of personal abuse - there is the cry of a multitude of innocents that have cried in righteousness to God, but God has heard them, and God will answer! And woe to all those who partake in inhumanity! You're here tonight, you might not be saved, you might be dabbling in the world, you might be a backslider - well, look at verse 10, because it says this: 'Thou hast sinned against thy soul'. The sooner the better that people who are sinners, and dabbling in sin, realise that they don't just sin against God, they don't just sin against the people that they're exploiting or harming, but they actually sin against their eternal soul - and the end thereof, the wages of that sinning and harming and mutilating of that soul, will be hell! Beware that you do not sin against your soul.
Obadiah spoke to another empire, it was the Edomite empire, and he spoke in the same way - talking about them in verse 3 of the chapter as eagles. But He said that you're setting yourselves up as eagles, God said: 'Though thou exalt thyself as eagles from there will I bring thee down'. Their sin in verse 9, look at it, was covetousness - it was the sin of their age, it is the sin of our age, of every empire, of every government, and of every individual, I believe, that does not have Christ in their life - it is their sin! You think about it for a moment, is it not the sin of the age, the cry: 'More, more, more!'? Is it not the cry of even the church of God: 'More, more, more!'? And, God forgive us, even some of the preachers of the word of God: 'More, more, more!'? And how many preachers, pilgrim characters, Christian servant-like attitudes, have been destroyed because of the love of money and things? You know the tele-evangelists, the evangelistic statesmen, with the fancy rings, the fancy suits, the fancy hair - destroyed because of covetousness. Woe to inhumanity.
Thirdly: woe to iniquity. Verses 12 to 14, look at it, you see what God is saying here: 'Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!' - He is saying that the cup of iniquity, Babylon's cup of iniquity, is swiftly filling because they are building their great empire, their cities, with blood. They are establishing them by iniquity, they have used the riches of plundered cities to build Babylon. 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?' - what does that mean? 'Is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire', what does that mean? Think about these Chaldeans, going through cities, poor people, rich people, plundering all the riches, their temples, their jewels, bringing them back to their home city of Babylon, living around it all - they're building their city bigger and bigger, the skyscrapers, the institutions, the government, everything they're building bigger and bigger - do you know what God says in verse 13? They're doing it for the fire.
What does He mean? God is permitting them to do it for His big bonfire. One day it's all going to go up in smoke, it's going to be the end of it, and this great city that historians tell us was 15 square miles, with 350 foot high walls, 87 feet thick, six chariots could go along it at one time - they were 35 feet below the ground, the walls, so that no one could tunnel under into the city! There were 250 watchtowers, 53 temples, 180 altars to Ishtar (sp?). Isaiah, in chapter 14, describes this great city of Babylon as the golden city - but God says, listen to this! God says: 'All the blood, all the sweat, all the tears, of this world, of Babylon, of any world or country, of any man or woman who was without Christ, all of it is in vain'! Why? For except the Lord build a house, they labour in vain that build it. Oh, the sooner this old world realises this the better. The sooner that they realise that it's nothing without Christ in this world - and Babylon, you know, is a type, it's a picture of all of the worldly religion, the worldly system that is a living without Christ, a godless power that denies Christ and lifts themselves up as God. But this word, and even the rest of the word of God, especially the book of the Revelation, testifies that soon it will all perish! Why? Because Jesus is coming again, the word of God says in Daniel chapter 2 and [verse] 45 that He, the Lord Jesus Christ, is that great stone that is cut out of the mountain without hands - and He will break to pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, the gold - He'll destroy all of the nations of men, and He will set Himself up as Lord and Master of them all. Hallelujah!
Verse 14, is that not what He says? 'Habakkuk, this is your message, this is your answer. Look into the future, you see what's happening now, but look up' - and let me say that this was the message of the book of the Revelation, because we forget sometimes that the book of the Revelation is a letter. It is a letter to persecuted Christians, and what John - and what the Holy Ghost, the Lord Jesus Christ through John - was telling these Christians: 'You're being fed to the lions, you're being put to the sword and crucified upside-down - but look up! Look at God's programme, look at what's happening up here, and know that in end I will triumph'. That's the message, that's God's message to you. If you're going through trial, if you're going through tribulation, if you're going through all sorts of perplexities and temptation, the message is this: 'Look forward, for there is a day coming when there will be no more pain, no more exploitation, there will be no more injustice or cruelty, no more sorrow or sinfulness - but the Lord shall reign!' - and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge, not of sin, but the knowledge of the glory of God. What a day that will be, when the Lord Chief Justice will reign in His earth, and even the animals won't exploit one another! Isn't that amazing?
But fourthly and quickly, look at it: woe to intoxication. Woe to ill-gotten gain, inhumanity, iniquity - verses 15 to 17: woe to intoxication. You see, what he is saying here is 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!'. If you look at verse 5, you see that that's how the Babylonians rose 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'. His drive, his desire, to inhabit the earth and swallow it all up as his empire was driven by alcohol. You can see it within the word of God, and throughout it, that these men were given totally to wine, wine motivated them to their brutish behaviour that we've already studied.
You can see it in Daniel chapter 5, that it went right throughout the whole Babylonian empire - and in the end, in Daniel chapter 5 at the very end of the chapter, you find that it was the downfall of the very Babylonian empire. You remember Belshazzar, in his debauched drunken orgy, and he cursed God and he mocked God in blasphemy and sacrilege - and there was the writing on the wall, and maybe it's God saying to someone here that you're weighed in the balance and found wanting. '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'. What does that mean? It means this: that Belshazzar was killed, the empire changed from the Babylonians to the Medo-Persian. They began through drink, but they were damned through drink.
I can't stress this enough, but there are four things that I want to say from this passage about alcohol. The first thing is this: that it entices sexual sin. Look at verse 15, it says that they were making people drunken that they may look upon their nakedness. You see, what alcohol does, as an intoxicating poison, it lowers our personal inhibitions about certain things - and we do things when we are drunk that we would not even consider when we are sober. You don't believe me? Look at the word of God, Noah - he didn't do it, but he had something done to him. He was in his tent because he had made a vineyard to himself and planted it after the flood - imagine the man of God, Noah, he'd got drunken from his own hands. He was in the tent, and it says that his son uncovered his nakedness - I'm not saying and going into what this is this evening, because it's not appropriate at this moment in time, but it was the sin of homosexuality I believe, and drink was the origin of that sin.
Lot: you remember? He's drunken, from whose hand? Not even his own hand, but the hands of his very daughters - why? Because they wanted to raise up seed from him - and drink was the origin of incest, as the two of them in a cave slept with their own father. This is what drink brought into the world - such sexual sins, and you've only to look outside of this hall this evening to see it. How many girls are taken unawares, because they can't even remember what happened the night before?
Secondly: there is shame, because it says that they uncovered their nakedness, and that was a shameful thing to do. That was their motive in doing it - but God was saying: 'What you have done to others, taking advantage of them, that will be done unto you'. Verse 16: 'Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory'. Have you ever seen a drunk man being sick? It's a detestable thing. God's saying: 'You have filled My cup of wrath so much, that you're going to drink it my boy, and you're going to spew it - and that will be the glory that you have left'. God doesn't mince His words, does He? In verse 17 we see that their drinking brought squander, because they spent all that they had on their drunkeness, they wasted the resources that had been delivered and achieved by their conquering of other nations.
Let me say this - I couldn't find any statistics for the United Kingdom, but in the US of A at this very moment 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 drink problems! More than 42 million children live in alcoholic-dependant 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. Is it any wonder, that in Proverbs chapter 20 - and listen to this, Christian - in verse 1 God says: 'Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise'.
Let me say, that one thing that has grieved me is the Christian that likes a tipple. I have heard of youth leaders bringing their Youth Fellowship to the pub in this land, in this city. I have heard of them bringing them to their home, sending them to the fridge to open it and to take a beer - youth leaders! People who feel that there's nothing wrong with a social drink, denominations that have shares in breweries, the social drinking trend - what is it? It's from the devil himself! God has said what drink is, God has said what drink brings, and if you're the Christian and you're dabbling in it - you're a fool! For in verse 15 you read that you're not to take it because it's to take advantage of the weaker brother, and if you're a Christian and you're drinking socially, or you're drunken on a regular basis - you are sinning against God and His word. Because there is the law of the weaker brother, and you could be causing another weaker Christian - you might think you can handle it - but you could be causing them to be a drunk. I don't know, but there's very few things grieve me more than this. The word of God pronounces upon you, I believe, that if you cause one of these little ones of Christ to sin, it were better that a millstone were put around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
Quickly, my time is running on - as usual! The fifth woe is this: woe to idolatry. Verse 18 to 20, look at verse 18 and 19: 'What profiteth the graven image' - this is their last sin that He condemns - 'that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it'. Sure, we all know that, don't we? Sure, you make something with your own hands - whether it's a wooden god or not - you've made it, how can it be a god and better than you if you've made it? Yet there are thousands of people all over our land, and every week they bow before idols. All over the world, and it does them no good - but it does do them evil, because the word of God says that behind every idol there is a demon, there is a system of evil. There is nothing in them of themselves, but it is absolute foolishness - can an idol talk? Could an idol answer Habakkuk? Could an idol teach the word of God to Habakkuk? Of course it couldn't! But an idol is just like the world, isn't it? What does it say in verse 19? That they are over laden with gold, precious things, to the outward appearance they are so appealing, they're so beautiful - you could almost fall down and worship them - but there's not a breath in them. It's just like the world, isn't it? Whether it's a tipple, whether it's illicit sexual behaviour, whether it's gambling that we were talking about last evening - no matter what sin it is, even self-righteousness 'church-ianity' - no matter what it is, it's nice on the outside, but there's not a breath of life in it.
I think this is tremendous in verse 20. We see this, that there may not be a word of exhortation, or encouragement, or direction, or anything from a wooden dead idol - but listen, there's a God in heaven who knows what is going on, who knows your heartaches, who knows your concerns, your temptations, your tribulations - there is the Lord Jehovah who is in His holy temple, and let all the world keep silence before Him! Christian, take encouragement: God is in control. He is on His throne, He - if I can say it reverently - is in the driving seat, and He in His own time will answer. He says: 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay' - and as Habakkuk was told, though it tarry, Christian, though it tarry - wait for it.
Can I saying in closing: have you idols in your life? Have you? Let me put it another way - you might say: 'Of course I don't have idols in my life, David, what do you think I am? A pagan?' - let me ask you this question: has Christ got all of you? For that's the same question. What does the hymnwriter say?
'The dearest idol I have known,
What'er that idol be.
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee'.
Do you have them? Do you know what the word of God says, and I want us to think about this for one minute. It says this - you've been listening to five woes - do you know what the word of God says? Judgement begins in the house of God, with you. Do you want a revival? Do you? I would love a revival, but it will never happen if we don't deal with our sin - won't happen! We've got to deal with the sin that is in our lives, and as the word of God says: we've got to break up that fallow ground, that ground that hasn't been farmed on for years has to be broken up - break it up, for it's time to seek the Lord until He come and rain righteousness upon us! Charles Finney said: 'Take a pen and a paper, and write on one side of a page sins of omission - the things that you don't do - and sins of commission - the sins that you do do. Write them down before your eyes, think about them, try to recollect them, and look on them, and weep upon them, and confess them before God' - that's breaking up the fallow ground, mourn and confess your sin!
Joel chapter 2 verses 12 and 13 put it like this: 'Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments' - I don't want words, I don't want prayers, I don't want sermons, I don't want books, I don't want reputations, I want your heart - 'turn unto the Lord for he is gracious and merciful'. In the revival in Lewis - and you've heard me talk about it before - the fire came down, and I heard Duncan Campbell on a tape preaching on that subject of Elijah on Mount Carmel, and the fire coming upon the sacrifice. Now he said something, and it was his own imagination, but it was a good illustration. Here it is: he likes to think that after the prophets of Baal were cutting themselves, and crying and weeping, for their god to answer by fire - when Elijah came up and he made the sacrifice, and you remember what he did, he poured all the water three times around it and on top of it to make it hard for God. He likes to think that the animal sacrifice that was on the altar, all those little bits of meat, flesh, that were placed all over - that perhaps there was one little bit of meat that was just lying at the side of the altar. It wasn't until Elijah took that bit of meat and just placed it onto the altar, until the fire came.
Friend, Christian friend, the fire of God will not come upon your life until all the flesh is on the altar. What about it?
Let's pray, and let us all ask ourselves as our heads are bowed: is everything on God's altar? You can fool me, you can fool yourself, but you can't fool God. Let's face it: He isn't going to bless without it. It's as simple as that. There might be a backslider here this evening, and they know all too well what we have been talking about - because God's woe has been on their life because of the sin that's in it. You're maybe not saved, and you recognise what we're talking about - well, why not get right with God tonight, and come to Christ? You can speak with me at the door, you can get saved right where you are, where you sit - but listen: Jesus Christ is coming again, and He'll reign here, and if you're not His you'll not reign with Him.
Our Father, we thank Thee for this word - oh, it's powerful - and all we can say is this: in this sin cursed world we ask for a breath of Thy Spirit. Come and revive us, oh Lord, mercy drops are just about round us falling - but, oh, for the showers we plead. Lord, save souls here tonight if souls need to be saved. Bring backsliders back, take our full commitment in surrender - we pray, dear God, that the fire may fall. And we say Lord, 'Maranatha', come and deliver us from this place, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth tape in his Habakkuk series, titled "The Welcome Woes" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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