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.’
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?
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.
- 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.
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.