True Security Through Faith Alone
A sermon on Habakkuk 2:9-11 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA 5/6/01
Please turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Habakkuk. In the last sermon in this series, we opened by considering a contemporary musician whose group sold over 50 million records and had signed an $80 million contract. But he wasn’t happy, and he wasn’t satisfied. While on the surface that seems hard to understand for some of us – “How could anyone with $80 million not be happy?” – we saw that this is exactly what the Bible teaches: Money, and other things in this world, do not bring happiness, they do not bring satisfaction. God is the ultimate source of our satisfaction and happiness – so our faith in this all-supplying God leads to satisfaction.
This morning, let’s imagine that the date is two years ago today, May 6, 1999. And you are working for this same musician; let’s say you clean his house. He’s so happy with his $80 million contract, he showers gifts on all his employees, including you. As you leave his house he hands you an envelope, saying, “Here, I thought given my good news you should have a little bonus!” You drive around the block, then pull over to the curb, open the envelope, and pull out the check. The amount: $50,000! A $50,000 bonus. You calm yourself down, and think, “I’m not going to blow this by spending it all. No! With the right investment I can make myself financially secure for years to come!”
So you get some advice from a friend, who tells you, “Look, $50,000 invested in Microsoft in 1981 would be worth millions today! You’ve just got to pick the right stock, and you’ll be set for life. And do I have the stock for you! DrKoop.com goes public next week – this internet company can’t fail!”
So you buy $50,000 worth of DrKoop.com. Six weeks later that $50,000 is worth $150,000 and you think, “Boy, I sure did the right thing. Soon, I’ll have no worries in the world!”
Then the bottom falls out. And by May 6, 2001, do you know how much your $50,000 is worth? $243.
What is the lesson here? Last time we saw that God is the source of all true satisfaction in this life. Today, we see that God is the source of all true security in this life. Both examples use money, but do you see the difference? If we find our joy and pleasure in the things that money buys, we are finding our satisfaction in money. On the other hand, we find our security in money when the size of our bank account or broker’s statement makes us feel that we are protected from danger, protected from events that could derail our life.
Both attitudes are wrong, biblically. Habakkuk makes these points clearly for us in the verses 2-11 of chapter 2. Let’s read those verses again:
2 Then the LORD answered me and said, "Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. 3 "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. 4 "Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. 5 "Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, So that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, And he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations And collects to himself all peoples.
6 "Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him, Even mockery and insinuations against him And say, 'Woe to him who increases what is not his-- For how long-- And makes himself rich with loans?' 7 "Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, And those who collect from you awaken? Indeed, you will become plunder for them. 8 "Because you have looted many nations, All the remainder of the peoples will loot you-- Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, To the town and all its inhabitants.
9 "Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house To put his nest on high, To be delivered from the hand of calamity! 10 "You have devised a shameful thing for your house By cutting off many peoples; So you are sinning against yourself. 11 "Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, And the rafter will answer it from the framework.
In verse 3, God tells Habakkuk that He is in control: His revelation is certain to occur at exactly the right time, even if it seems to tarry or delay. Habakkuk is to live by faith, believing that God will fulfill His plans exactly at the right moment, and trusting in God’s good character. He is believe and trust even when circumstances seem to indicate that God is not good, or not in control.
As we saw last time, the remainder of chapter two is a series of five lessons on how not to live by faith. Recall that this chapter contains five woes proclaimed against the proud one, the Babylonian, who is not living by faith. We saw that there is a common structure to each of these pronouncements of woe. In each case, the proud one has an objective, a good goal that he is trying to accomplish. But by pursuing the goal – instead of pursuing God – the proud one distorts the good goal. Furthermore, the proud one ends up doing evil to accomplish the goal. But he doesn’t attain the goal, and God frustrates the proud one in the end, so that he loses even what he had. Furthermore, God punishes him appropriately, providing us with valuable lessons about living by faith.
We can outline each “woe” by asking four questions:
When considering the first woe, we saw that the objective was happiness or satisfaction; the method was stealing from others, plundering them; the appropriate punishment was that he himself would be plundered. Finally we noted three lessons:
Let’s now consider the second “woe,” verses 9 to 11 of Habakkuk 2.
The Objective: Security
Look again at verse 9:
9 "Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house To put his nest on high, To be delivered from the hand of calamity!
The objective is clear: The proud one wants “to put his nest on high, to be delivered from hand of calamity.” Kids: When a squirrel builds a next, where does he build it? On the lowest branch of the tree, maybe three or feet high off the ground? No? Oh, on high branches! Why? To be safe from prowling dogs or other prowling animals (such as children!) who might harm his babies. Yes! And that’s what the proud one wants to do: He wants to be safe; he wants his household, or his country to be safe and secure.
Is this wrong? Is it wrong to desire to be safe from evil? Surely not! Paul tells us to “weep with those who weep,” that is, with those who suffer from the impact of evil on this world. Calamity in this life is a cause for sorrow. And God promises that in the life to come there will be no more sorrow, weeping, calamity, or death.
So, once again, the objective is good. Indeed, God promises that He will achieve this objective for us in the new heavens and the new earth. In effect the objective is the desire to end the impact of evil on our lives. The problem is not with the objective, but with the means chosen to accomplish it.
The Means: Reliance on Self for Evil, Dishonest Gain
What methods does he use to achieve the goal? In verse 9, the words translated “gets gain” by themselves imply something wrong; in Ezekiel 22:27, for example, those words are translated, “gets dishonest gain.” They connote greed, or covetousness. Literally, these words mean “to cut a cutting” or “to rip off a piece.” We use a similar word picture of stealing when we say, “He ripped me off!”
But Habakkuk adds the word “evil:” the proud one “gets evil gain.” Why do that, when the verb and noun alone mean that he has acted dishonestly?
The purpose, I believe, is to highlight the wrongheaded nature of the proud one’s action. The same word translated “evil” in the first phrase is translated “calamity” at the end of the verse. So we might translate verse 9: "Woe to him who rips off his evil cut from others for his house, to put his nest on high, to be delivered from the hand -- of evil!”
Do you see how foolish this is, how a just God could never put up with this? The proud one does evil in order to protect himself from evil. In trying to avoid the impact of evil in the world, he brings more evil into the world. You’ve heard advice like this, haven’t you: “Eat or be eaten!” Or the distorted golden rule: “Do unto others before they do unto you!”
Yes, it is good and right for us to desire to be free from the impact of sin on the world around us. We should indeed desire to live in a world free of sorrow, danger, and tragedy. But God would not be God if He were to tolerate our bringing more evil into the world in order to save ourselves from its impact.
The Punishment: Loss of All Security
Look at verses 10 and 11 again:
10 "You have devised a shameful thing for your house By cutting off many peoples; So you are sinning against yourself. 11 "Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, And the rafter will answer it from the framework.
Consider verse 11 first. The very house he tried to make secure will call out against him! He built his house on high so he would be safe; but the materials he used to build themselves condemn him. No matter how secure he thinks he has made himself, there is no escape: he will fall.
Second, verse 10: “A shameful thing” does not in Hebrew refer to private guilt, and internal feeling. Instead, “shame” here paints the picture of the conquered inhabitants of a foreign land, paraded in chains behind the successful general in his home city. Consider the way the same word is used in Psalm 25:
2 O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me. 3 Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.
“Do not let me be ashamed” is parallel to “do not let my enemies exult over me.”
The last phrase in verse 10, “you are sinning against yourself” can be translated “you are sinning against your soul” or “your life is forfeit.” In trying to save his life, the proud one loses his life. This is just what Jesus says in Mark 8:35:
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.
So we might paraphrase verse 10, “You thought you were so smart, devising a security system for your people. Well, you know what? Your plans didn’t lead to security for yourself and your people. Instead, your plans will lead to your death and their shame, their public downfall! You will lose what you most want, and what you thought you were achieving by evil means.”
Thus, the proud one will receive an appropriate punishment. He will lose his security, he will lose his life, his respect, everything.
There are two lessons and one corollary I want you to take away, as you live by faith:
Let’s consider some of the things of this world that we are tempted to trust:
1 Timothy 6:17 reads:
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
The point is not: “Don’t plan! Don’t make good investments!” Rather, the point is, What do we say to God? Do we say, “Oh, Lord, I’ve worked hard to gain some security – please, please, please don’t ask me to give it up!” If we say that, we’ve made money our security, and we are like the proud one – even if we made the money honestly. By grasping for it, holding on to it tightly, treating it as if we “earned” it by our own power and strength, we ourselves are sinning, are committing evil.
What can we say instead? “Lord, you have blessed me beyond what I could have imagined, and far more than I deserve! You are the source of all that I have. Show me how I can best use these resources for your glory!”
Can you say that to God?
In Luke 12 Jesus tells of a rich fool who has an abundant harvest. He says to himself,
19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'
We frequently think of this parable as a story about not putting our trust in money. That is certainly one of the points, but Jesus also is emphasizing that we have no control over our health. As most of us here this morning know from personal experience, our health can change suddenly and seriously. Yet, although we all would acknowledge this intellectually, we most often act as if our health were guaranteed indefinitely. This carries over to the next point:
We cannot trust in others – a husband, a wife, our children, our parents, our friends. For they may die at any moment, or their faithfulness might wane. Proverbs 25:19 says,
Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble.
If you have a knee that buckles occasionally, you don’t try to walk across a narrow bridge over a raging river. Others are like that buckling knee – even the best person cannot be the source of true security.
We already saw this in Habakkuk 2:10: The proud one though he was very bright, he thought he devised a plan that led to security – but that very plan led to his downfall.
We saw this also last November in our series on Jeroboam (first sermon, second sermon). This king of Israel thought he was politically savvy; he thought it was political suicide for him to send his entire army, all the men of his country, into enemy land several times a year to attend religious festivals. So, contrary to God’s law, he devised his own form of worship in his own kingdom. But instead of bringing him security, this plan led to his downfall. God had promised him that he would father a dynasty as enduring as that of David if he would walk in God’s ways; instead his dynasty lasted only a few decades.
There are many more false sources of security we could mention: our experience, our strength, our righteousness, our forecasting ability. But the bottom line is that living by faith means trusting in nothing in this world.
2) Living by faith means finding security in God alone.
Throughout the Bible, hundreds and hundreds of times, God tells us to trust in Him and in nothing else. He reveals Himself to us as our Rock, our Fortress, our Shield, our Shade, our Helper, our Shepherd; He shows that He is all-loving and all-powerful.
Our family recently memorized Psalm 121, which presents God as our security in a strikingly complete way:
1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. 8 The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.
The Psalmist looks around in fear at the surrounding mountains; will his enemies suddenly appear in force, descend upon him and destroy his loved ones? Where can he turn for help? His helper is Yahweh, the very one who made those mountains! Surely He is more powerful than any creature He made!
Furthermore, not only will He guard us from the terrors of complete destruction, He even cares about the minor slips of our life – He will guard all the details, so that we don’t slip. Even if we put our foot in the wrong place, God is there, superintending us.
In addition, His protection is constant – He never takes a break, He never takes a nap. And His protection is complete – it is protection from “all evil”, not just some possible evils. Even more, His protection holds no matter what we are doing – when we go, when we come – and for all time.
The final clause in verse 7 summarizes the Psalm: “He will keep your soul, your life” The proud one forfeited his soul; when we place our trust in God, we know that He will guard us, watch over us, and keep us until the end.
We are free – free! We all want freedom – and this is the greatest freedom of them all: knowing that nothing we do can separate us from God’s love, from the love of the most powerful being of all.
Freedom for what? Not freedom to complacency and laziness. Not freedom from difficulties and trials; indeed, Jesus promises us that we will have persecutions and tribulations in this world. But we have a freedom to follow God wherever He may lead; a freedom to step out in faith; a freedom even to fail, to misread God.
A staff member at the US Center for World Missions writes, “Now I think I understand what faith is; it is not the confidence that God will do what we want Him to do for us, but the conviction that we can do what He wants done for Him and let Him take care of the consequences.”
In the same article, Ralph Winter writes, “You can’t be any kind of a solid Christian if you are unwilling to do anything He asks. . . .You don’t lose if you go with God. But you have to be willing to lose or you can’t stick close to God.
So where is your security? What do you trust?
The only true security you will find in this world is in God alone. He alone is our rock and our salvation. He alone will never leave you nor forsake you. He alone frees you from the need to watch out for yourself, to harm others to protect yourself. And in Him alone will you find the life that is truly life.
So, Christian, Trust Him! Depend on Him! Believe in Him! Step out in Faith!
This sermon was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on 5/6/01. The quotes are from Ralph Winter, "Join the World Christian Movement!" Chapter 116 in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Third Edition, edited by Ralph Winter and Stephen Hawthorne, William Carey Library, 1999, p. 722 and 723.
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