Tables turned

There are times in life when we anticipate a certain event to take place but the tables are turned and the unexpected happens.

  • What unexpected event comes to mind where things did not turn out as you anticipated.

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly turned things upside down. Many events had to be cancelled. The imposition of the lockdown regulations and the requirement of hand sanitization, masks covering both nose and mouth and social distancing, curbed many regular activities.

Last Friday, our suburb was dealt a huge blow when our power suddenly switched off . . . and only returned 108 hours later! That was for some. Our complex had been affected by the prolonged power outage and we only returned online after 116 hours.

The experience made us very aware of how we depend on electricity! No lights. Internet unaccessible. Unable to charge phones. No way to heat food. Freezers-full of food thrown out.

An expensive five days. It also made us aware of what so many if our country go through on a regular basis. Many have no power. They have no running water. No flushing toilets. Ever.

In our text, for this week Habakkuk announces how the tables are turned on the Babylonians.

Habakkuk 2:16 NIrV

‘But the Babylonians will be filled with shame instead of glory. So now it is their turn to drink and be stripped of their clothes. The cup of anger in my powerful right hand is going to punish them. They will be covered with shame instead of glory.’

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

As we noted in the previous verse (Habakkuk 2:15) the Babylonians were engaged in shameful and humiliating activities.

  • What are some of the shameful activities of our modern-day society?


When the king of Ammon died, he was succeeded by his son Hanun. Because his father had been kind to King David, David sent some of his officials to express his condolences. (2 Samuel 10:1.2)

Hanun’s officials saw this as David’s means of spying on the city so,

“Hanun arrested David’s officials and had their beards shaved off on one side of their faces. He had their robes cut off just below the waist, and then he sent them away.”(2 Samuel 10:4 CEV)

The story continued: 

“When David heard about what had happened, he sent word for them to stay in Jericho and not return until their beards had grown again.” (2 Samuel 10:5 GNB) 

David’s army subsequently attacked the Ammonites and defeated them, causing them to flee back to their city.

  • Can you think of someone who has had an unexpected experience that caused them shame? Can you think of a way you can help them put it behind them?

Misinterpreted Motives

David’s motives were misinterpreted—and that lead to warfare. Often our good motives are misunderstood.

  • Can you recall an occasion when you did something with pure motives, only to have it rejected by others? How did you respond?

An elderly lady in one of my congregations had been the church organist for many years. Because she was not receiving much of a pension, I managed to find out her bank details. Our church Board of Management then organised for a certain amount to be deposited in her account every month.

After many months she discovered where the money was coming from and I received a very stern rebuke from her and was instructed to stop the payments immediately.

Tables are Turned

Through Habakkuk, God declared that the tables would be turned on the Babylonians. Instead of glory, they would encounter shame.

In Bible times, conquering armies often led their captives back to their capital city in chains. There their captors received a glorious welcome from the citizens of that city. 

Certainly, in the past, the Babylonians had gloriously, victoriously, returned with their captives in tow after each conquest. However, the time was coming when they would be filled with shame instead of glory.

Where they had taken advantage of their enemies, the time was coming when it would be their turn to drink and be stripped of their clothes.

They had humiliated those they had conquered, but, they would themselves be conquered and humiliated.

Cup of Anger

The disgraceful behaviour depicted in Habakkuk 2:15 may not be regarded as serious or even regarded as normal in this sin-sick world of ours. But one day everything will come into the light—for God knows. God sees. And He will not let sin go unpunished.

The “right hand” is a symbol of God’s vengeance upon all sinners, paying back in kind what the judged person had done.

Just as the Babylonians made their neighbours act like drunkards under severe onslaughts, so the Lord would give them a cup of judgment that would make them like those drunk with wine. The very thing in which the Babylonians glorified would become the object of their shame. 

Babylon is pictured as being worthy of contempt, as a drunk staggering around, who has lost his self-control and the respect of everyone including himself.

Babylon’s Judgement

  • Do you recall an occasion when everything seemed to be going wrong and you could see no solution to the problems you were facing? Then unexpectedly God turned the tables and the problems seemed to melt away.

As we noted earlier on in our study of this prophecy, earthly Babylon is symbolic of spiritual Babylon. God’s final condemnation of symbolic Babylon is, “Treat her as she has treated others. Make her pay double for what she has done. Make her drink twice as much of what she mixed for others.” (Revelation 18:6 CEV)

National Babylon was able to get away with her violent actions and her humiliation of her enemies for a time. Yet finally, God through Habakkuk, indicated that there would be a time when they would encounter His severe judgement.

Final Judgement

Similarly, a time is coming when all sinners will face God’s judgement. For, as Paul put it in his letter to the Roman Christians,

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23 CEV)
“When you sin, the pay you get is death. But God gives you the gift of eternal life because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.”
(Romans 6:23 NIrV)

Yes! We are all sinners! But praise the Lord, through faith in Christ God assures those of us who have opened our lives to Jesus that,

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” ( Isaiah 1:18)

Jesus Christ paid the debt incurred by our sin when he died on the cross of Calvary.

Have you received God’s free gift of eternal life yet? If not please email me. I woud love to help you take that step.

P.S. If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Protecting Our Integrity

Habakkuk 2:10 CEV

‘But you will bring shame on your family and ruin to yourself for what you did to others.’

Image by Peter Timmerhues from Pixabay [spacer height="20px"]

What a Horrible Verse for Today!

When I first read that verse, my reaction was, “What can I tell my readers that will encourage them, with a verse like that?” Then I remembered an incident that happened to my wife and me a short time ago. 

We were approached by a fellow Christian for a substantial loan to enable him to purchase an item for his business. Now, financially, we live from moment to moment. We don’t have money to lend out. Yet, strangely, we had just received a gift of money which was still in our bank account. We intended to put it away into savings until we needed it, which we knew would be in a short time.

Our initial reaction was, “No way! We need this money!” But then we remembered the words of Jesus.

“When people ask you for something, give it to them. When they want to borrow money, lend it to them.” (Matthew 5:42 CEV)

What did this say to us? After much discussion and prayer, we agreed to loan him the amount he required, trusting his promise that he would repay us by the end of the week.

Well, the end of the week arrived but no funds were forthcoming. A further week passed. Eventually, we had to contact him and subsequently his wife, asking him where the money was. By this time, we needed it.

Each time, we were assured it was on its way. He had our bank details, and the money would be there “tomorrow”. But, as we all know, tomorrow often never comes.

Finally, we sent him an email message stating that because he had not kept his promise, we needed to take the matter further. No reply. Then a friend took it to Social Media, and, suddenly, the money was repaid. No apology or explanation. But we got our money back.

As far as we were concerned, his integrity was severely damaged, his firm’s name brought into disrepute, and he brought shame to his wife. Even more serious, he brought damage to his Christian witness. It has also taught us a hard lesson. One we will not be repeating!

Failed Promises

  • Have you had a similar situation where someone made a promise which they did not fulfil? How did you deal with the situation?
  • How would you deal with a situation where a friend and colleague makes a sincere promise, only to renegue on it?

God declares, “But if you don’t keep your promise, you will sin against the LORD and be punished.” (Numbers 32:23 CEV)

“The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” (Psalm 37:21) Click To Tweet

Family Shame

We noted in the last study that there is such a thing as a lawful gain, where God brings comfort and encouragement to a family. We also saw how those who wrong others in their efforts to gain finances do far greater harm to their souls. Makes you think, doesn’t it? What harm did our friend do to his soul in the process of attempting to defraud us?

People who attempt to fraudulently deceive others and hope to get away with it, are fooling themselves. They are undermining their witness as Christians, and they disgrace themselves and their family.

  • Can you recall a situation where someone has brought shame to your family by their actions?
  • Have you forgiven them? What does God’s Word tell us to do?

“Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do.  ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’ (Romans 12:19 MSG)

I have to admit, when we tried to get that money back, we were thinking of the finances we needed. We weren’t worried about the man’s soul, or the shame he was bringing upon his family.

But having done all we could to straighten things out, we could then leave it in God’s hands. He would deal with the offender.

The Roadblock of Shame

  • Can you think of other situations where the actions of one person have put others in a poor light?

The Bible Commentator, James Burton Coffman, has this to say:

“By riding rough-shod over weaker and less fortunate people, the Babylonians thought they were building their own security; but actually they were destroying it…. Sin always has a violent recoil impacting upon the sinner himself.”  (Commentary on Habakkuk 2:10. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible)

Not only does our sin affect ourselves and humiliate our family and others, but it most certainly harms our relationship with God.
The prophet, Isaiah, tells us,
Your sins are the roadblock between you and your God. That’s why he doesn’t answer your prayers…..” (Isaiah 59:2 CEV)
That’s quite a thought, isn’t it? When we are faced with a time of unanswered prayer, it would be worth us searching our hearts. Have we done something to harm another, perhaps without intent?

Honesty Rewarded

Shame causing harm to our relationship with others as well as with God is the bad news. But there is also good news through God’s amazing grace:
“I, the LORD, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 CEV)  
God invites us to be open and honest with Him. And He rewards our honesty and true repentance.
“But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.” (1 John 1:9 GNB)

Setting the Record Straight

Let’s forget other people’s sins for now. How about us? Is there some unconfessed sin that is marring our fellowship with God?
If you realise there is a problem, don’t waste time. Do all you can to put things right. Then be open and honest with God and seek his forgiveness.


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.