“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Habakkuk 2:18-20)
The LORD revealed to Habakkuk a series of woes which the prophet was not only to receive but also prophesy to the people. The “five woes” is structured in five stanzas with three verses contained in each stanza. Today’s text contains the fifth and final stanza, which was God’s concluding announcement of woe upon the Babylonians. Each woe contained a particular sin for which God judged the Chaldeans as guilty. The first sin was extortion. The second sin was exploitation. The third sin condemned Babylon for being bloodthirsty killers and despots. The fourth sin was debauchery. The final woe concerned idolatry.
The final pronouncement of “woe” does not occur until the middle of the final stanza. Rather, what begins God’s concluding oracle against Babylon is a thought provoking question: “What profit an idol?”
An idol is often called a graven image carved out of stone or wood or molten metal. These figures then, and now, have no benefit whatsoever. What affection the individual had, or has, for these objects, they still are blocks of wood, stone, or shaped metal. It represents a lie and not the truth.
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “To trust in such an idol was to trust in an object that teaches lies, for people were deceived and deluded by it, thinking it could help them. But idols and images were lifeless. Since they were the worshipers’ own creations, idols could not aid them (cf. v. 19). Carved or cast, they were dumb objects. The oracles attributed to them were obvious lies, for idols cannot speak.”
The Prophet Isaiah writes, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:18-23).
R. C. Sproul, Jr. writes, “The root of idolatry, however, is here—images move us at a basic level, and evoke worship in us, worship that God abhors. I first felt this watching a movie that presented an image of Christ—The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. When Aslan first appeared on the screen my heart swelled and like a teetotaler taking his first drink, a health nut tasting his first Twinky, I thought, “Oh, so this is what He warned us about.” I was taken up, enraptured, spellbound because of the sheer majestic beauty of the Lion.”
Dr. Roy Zuck explains that, “No help or guidance comes from a lifeless object even if it is encased in gold and silver (cf. Isa. 40:19). It has no breath or spirit and therefore no life (cf. Gen. 2:7). Isaiah frequently taunted the Babylonians for their trust in numerous false gods, which were nothing but man-made idols (Isa. 41:7; 44:9–20; 45:16, 20; 46:1–2, 6–7; cf. Jer. 10:8–16). Idols are valueless for they cannot talk, come alive, guide, or breathe. And idolatry-worshiping man’s carvings rather than the Creator-stands condemned under God’s woe.”
The final woe contains a concluding statement summarizing the entire five stanzas. In effect God told Habakkuk, and others who would question Him, to be quiet. God is on the throne. He knows what He is doing far better than we in our limited knowledge and understanding can comprehend. Therefore, we are to be silent before Him (Job 40:3-5).
What objects in your life compete with God for your worship and affection? It could be another person, place or thing. It could be an idea, achievement or position of power and responsibility. Whatever it may be that competes for God’s worship, honor and glory, immediately repent of that the sin of idolatry.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!