Summary: Habakkuk was burdened by the wickedness, violence, and destruction that were going on in the land of Judah. And God was going to use the evil and barbaric Babylonians to punish Judah. Although that seemed like a perversion of justice, God would deal wit
Woe, Be Gone!
Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in the state of Minnesota, made famous by author Garrison Keillor. It’s a town where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” With this kind of reputation, it may seem odd that the English word “woebegone” is defined as “strongly affected with woe, exhibiting great woe, sorrow, or misery or being in a sorry state.” The term could also mean “shabby, derelict or run down.”
That hardly seems like a fitting description for a town in which the natural human tendency is to overestimate one’s capabilities. But the word “woebegone” could also be a compound word, composed of “woe” “be” and “gone” as in “Woe, Be Gone!” This would make more sense: that a town which thinks so highly of themselves would be characterized by an absence of woe.
The Need for Patience:
In our text this morning, the prophet Habakkuk proclaims a message of woe and a message of hope. Habakkuk had experienced a profound dilemma. He was burdened by the wickedness, violence, and destruction that were going on in the land of Judah. It seemed as if the Lord would not even lift a finger to save the righteous from the oppression of violent men. And so, Habakkuk wanted to know why God wouldn’t listen. Habakkuk wanted to know why God wouldn’t help. And Habakkuk wanted to know why God even tolerated all this.
God revealed his amazing plan. God was going to use the evil and barbaric Babylonians to punish Judah. This didn’t make any sense at all. This revelation seemed like a perversion of justice. “Why would God use a nation that is even more evil than Judah to provide discipline?” Habakkuk wondered. Habakkuk waited for God’s reply, and God answered. God would deal with the Babylonians in his own way and in his own time.
God speaks to Habakkuk clearly and truthfully. God commands Habakkuk to write down everything that is being revealed to him so that it can be proclaimed in all the land of Judah. God was continually at work. God would not destroy his people. God’s people would be disciplined. But God’s judgment on the Babylonians was also on its way.
God assures Habakkuk that the appointed time will come. It may seem like a long time. But it will indeed come and not delay. God’s message to Habakkuk points toward a future goal. It speaks of the end. Like a panting runner pressing toward the finish line, the appointed time hastens to arrive.
God will provide his people with salvation. Even in discipline, God will preserve his people. Through God’s discipline, his people will be reconciled to himself. They will be purified like a precious metal in a refiner’s fire.
God’s revelation will not prove false. Circumstances often suggest that hope is nothing but wishful thinking. Sometimes faith contradicts experience. But God’s Word is true. Even though the fulfillment of God’s plan seems delayed, it will come to pass according to God’s perfect plan. “Wait for it,” God says.
The Scorn for the Enemy:
God summarizes again what the Babylonians are like. They are puffed up. Their desires are not upright. They are arrogant and never at rest. They are greedy and never satisfied. They wreak havoc on all the nations and take all the people captive. They think that they are worthy to enjoy whatever they want, and therefore they make it their business to obtain it all by whatever means they choose.
God announces the destruction of Babylon in greater detail in a song of woe. Since pride had been their sin, disgrace and dishonor will be their punishment. The Babylonians will be viewed with contempt. They will be despised by all the nations they had abused. In fact, those very nations will be the instruments of their disgrace. All those nations conquered and plundered by the Babylonians will in due time witness the fall of their conqueror and join together in a song of derision and reproach.
It’s a song of woe. Woe is an interjection of distress pronounced in the face of disaster or in view of coming judgment because of certain sins. The first stanza in this song of woe emphasizes that those who brutally mistreat others will one day experience the same treatment.
The Babylonians had made themselves wealthy by extortion and violence. They had viciously heaped up the wealth of the nations. But in time, the victimized nations would suddenly arise in revolt. They would unexpectedly strike back. The Babylonians themselves would be victimized in the same way that they had victimized other nations. The spoiler would be spoiled. The plundered would suddenly arise to plunder. Babylon would reap what they had sown.