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A Tale of Two Empires, Part 1 (Habakkuk Sermon 4 of 9)

A Tale of Two Empires, Part 1 (Habakkuk Sermon 4 of 9)

May 05, 2002 | Andy Davis
Habakkuk 2:2-17
Judgment, Justice of God

I. A Tale of Two Cities

If you would, look with me at Habakkuk chapter 2, which Warren read for us, a tremendous passage of Scripture. And we're going to see in there a tale of two empires. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way." That's how Charles Dickens began his famous novel, "A Tale of Two Cities.

It's a story of Paris and London during the time of the French Revolution. Each of those cities represented something different, something that was going on in history. And so Dickens wrote and represented Paris and London, each of them representing what was going on in their own countries. And yet this concept, a tale of two cities, I think also represents what God has been doing, what has been happening in human history since the very beginning, or really, I would like to adjust it and say, A Tale of Two empires. One for the glory of God and one for the glory and praise of man.

Saint Augustine writing a book called The City of God saw this exact same theme, the city of God and the city of the devil or Man. 410 AD Alaric and the Goths sacked Rome, bringing the Western Roman Empire to an end. Many feared this meant the end of the world, but it was not so. And, Augustine three years later, began writing his great work City of God. The basic concept is that human history can be seen as a battle between these two cities, the city of God and the city of the devil. The city of God is the heavenly Jerusalem, the company of God's people. The city of the devil is man's city on earth, one human empire after another.

They rise, they dominate, they swagger then they stagger they fall and they sink back into the dust. And yet the city of God continues always to advance against the backdrop of this rise and fall of the world. The city of God advances, under the hand of God, and the Scripture teaches here in Habakkuk 2 that the city of man also rises and falls under the hand of God. Augustine wrote it this way, "These things being so, we do not attribute the power of giving kingdoms and empires to any save the true God who gives happiness in the Kingdom of Heaven to the pious alone but gives kingly power on Earth both to the pious and the impious as it may please him whose good pleasure is always just."

What is Augustine saying? He's saying you can't make any sense of the kingdoms of the world. Some kings are good and wise and righteous and they rule well, other kings are insane, megalomaniacs who use their power to dominate and to crush. Kingdoms are given to wicked and sane men, kingdoms given to Jews, who worship God, kingdoms also given to Babylonians who worship their own military prowess. And no one can make heads or tails of it. No one can trace out God's ways, but yet they are perfect anyway.

God in the end, judges wicked men, wicked rulers for how they use their position of authority, and in the end only one Empire will stand, and that is the glorious empire of the kingdom of God. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Human History: A Tale of Two Empires

Now, as we look at human history and see this tale of two empires we see the Empire of human glory rising forth from the earth, snarling like a beast going forth conquering and to conquer, always greedy for more, following the drive and genius initially of a single powerful leader. He organizes his tribe into a military machine, sleek hungry, and powerful. They move out, they take on their own oppressors and they beat them, they dominate them, they pay them back in fold for what they did to them. But they're not satisfied, are they? Because just over the next ridge is a peaceful valley with good fertile farm land. Those people have never done anything to them, but they're hungry, they're greedy, and off they go and they continue to conquer. Why? Because they can.

They're powerful enough, and no one can stop them. And they do it over and over again, until there are no foes left to fight. Then the truly great ones stop and consolidate and they begin to build. They make monuments to their own glory, to the praise of their own name. They build Colosseums and arches, and great walls and fortresses. They build monuments to their greatness. What do they use for material? Well, stolen and plundered materials, of course, things stripped from dead bodies, and taken from live ones and all of it goes into monuments for the praise of their glory. They use slave labor pressed by the whip into great building projects. The great pyramids of Egypt built that way, the Great Wall of China built that same way, Roman bridges and roads and Colosseums built that same way.

They build also fortifications to protect and consolidate their power. Great Walls, like the wall of Babylon and others, watchtowers, Ramparts they build up their military strength so that they can... It says in the words of Habakkuk, set their nest on high to escape the clutches of ruins, so they think. And so, they consolidate their power. And then they enjoy it. They bask in stolen luxury, they recline at feasts on the backs of slave labor. They grow fat, they grow lazy, rich and comfortable, ripe for the plucking themselves, and soon their day comes and it comes on like a tidal wave and nothing can stop it for the next human empire has arisen and it stands on the horizon ready to sweep down into their valley and take what's theirs. Their empire then is gone forever. It's dust in the wind. It's just recorded on the pages of history book. The next empire has its hay day and off it goes.

Taken from the former empire, the gold is melted down and made into new idols, made into new monuments. And so the cycle of history continues. This, my friends, is the history of the world, the rise and fall of the empire of human glory. Represented in one incarnation after the other but it's the same thing again and again. Egypt then Assyria, then Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, then Rome, then the Huns then the Saracens, then the Franks, then the Mongols, then the Turks, then the Spanish, then the French, then the English, then the American. The rise and fall of the world. Some say the Europeans that came and swept North, Central and South America of the Indians were unjust and acted unfairly. It is true but do you understand what the Indians did before they came. The Aztecs built mighty empires with monuments to their own glory on the backs of slave labor until the conquistadors came in and conquered them. It's always been the same. There's no difference.

The Mystery of God’s Purposes

Now, the Scripture teaches plainly that the rise and fall of the world that I've been describing is all done under the sovereign hand of a mighty God who rules all of it through his inscrutable wisdom and for His own purposes. We already saw this in the book of Daniel, Daniel 4:17. It says, "The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men," Daniel 4:34-35, "His dominion is an eternal dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation, all the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, no one can hold back his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'"

Do you know who said those words? The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. He recognized the sovereign hand of God, even in his own power. God's way cannot be traced out but his overall purpose is clear. He's building an eternal empire for His own glory.

Look at Habakkuk 2:12-14. The contrast is striking. It says there, "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime. Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people's labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Do you see the contest going on in those verses? The one, the empire of human glory, the other, the empire of God's glory. And who wins in the end? God does. His empire rises and it stands forever.

Now Habakkuk 2, we have to understand in context, I've been giving you the historical context, big picture, but there's a specific historical context that Habakkuk faced and what was it? Well, it was the end of the history of Jewish autonomy and rule over the promised land, it's the end over Jerusalem. And why? Because God had brought these people, the Jews into the promised land and given them the Mosaic covenant, and they did not keep the covenant, they broke it and despite repeated warnings from prophets, they broke it completely. And so God was ready to judge the people.

Now, before the final judgment came, there were prophets who saw what was happening in Judah, and in Jerusalem. Habakkuk was one of them, and he looked at his own people and he saw injustice. He saw the people using their power, judges, rulers, commissioners, military people, all those in positions of authority, using it to dominate the poor, to strip them, to plunder them, to throw them in jail and take their houses so that they could build their own mini-empires. It's always the same thing. Building a little mini-empire within Judah, within Jerusalem, adding house to house, it says in the book of Isaiah. As the rich get richer on the backs of the poor through injustice. Habakkuk sees it and says, "How long, O Lord. Must I cry to you for help, but you do not listen, cry out to you violence but you do not save." "When are you going to do something about this, God?" Chapter 1 Verse 5.

I have an answer for you, Habakkuk. "Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I'm going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told. I'm raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless, and impetuous people who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own." They're going to come in like a flood, Habakkuk, and they're going to destroy Jerusalem. They're going to deport the remnant and those who are the blessed ones, the faithful ones, the rest are going to die by the sword, famine, and plague. Judgement is coming, Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 1:12, He laments, he grieves, he says, "Oh, God, my Holy One…" "Righteous One, what are you doing?" "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" How can you allow this to happen, God? You're holy and just and we are sinners. It's true, but the Babylonians are pagans and you're going to use them to evict us from our city, from our home? Wouldn't a revival go better? Wouldn't it be better to refresh us from within God? Could I give you some advice, I don't want to question you, but I don't understand what you're doing. And so, I will stand at my watch and I will station myself on the ramparts and I will wait and see what answer you will give. What are you doing, God. It doesn't make any sense.

Habakkuk 2 is God's answer. I will explain myself. He basically gives him a four-part answer. You have to look across the whole chapter to get this, but the first answer is

  • The Babylonians are going to get theirs in turn. They will be destroyed. The nation invading you will in turn be destroyed.
  • Secondly, the nation that rises up after them to destroy them will in turn be destroyed as well. They're going to labor, they're going to struggle, they're going to build their own empire, but their labor is only fuel for the fire.
  • Thirdly, I am building a kingdom for my own glory, I'm building an empire and it's spreading from shore to shore. And people all over the world will know my glory and they will praise and worship and honor me, that is my kingdom. And I'm going to keep working at it until I'm finished.
  • Number four, individual people can enter my Kingdom, only one way, through faith. Simple faith in God, we understand simple faith in Jesus Christ as the only provision for salvation. That's a four-part answer in Habakkuk Chapter 2.

The first three are big picture, what is God doing in the world with empires, the moving of one and another, the sweeping one side or the other, and in the end there's this kingdom being built and then the individual answer comes through, believe, trust obey, follow and enter the kingdom of God, that's the answer.

II. Message #1: Babylon Will Be Destroyed in Turn

Well, let's look more carefully at this first answer, namely that Babylon will be destroyed in turn. Habakkuk is concerned about God's justice, isn't he? It seems unjust it seems that God's ways don't make any sense. And so Habakkuk is filled with anguish and he prays, and he needs an answer. Now, Babylon is not specifically mentioned in Habakkuk 2, isn't that interesting? And that's why I know that it applies through all ages. It's not just Babylon that he has in mind here, but in the end, Babylon is in view. Look at chapter 3:16.

Chapter 3:16, this is Habakkuk's answer. "I heard, and my heart pounded. My lips quivered at the sound. Decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us." And who's that? That's Babylon. So Habakkuk interprets the answer in Habakkuk 2 to be applied to Babylon, and so it is. He's speaking about Babylon.

Now, he describes the enemy very carefully in verses 4-5, look with me as he describes him. Verse 4, it says, "See he is puffed up, his desires are not upright but the righteous will live by his faith. Indeed wine betrays him, he is arrogant never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations, and takes captive all the peoples."


So what do we see first? First, we see arrogance. See, he is puffed up, he's puffed up. You see that in verse 4. It all starts with a lofty self opinion in one individual, one talented individual. I'm not going to deny that, but one individual starts to look inward and find what's there. And says, "Wow, I'm really something, aren't I? I can go places, maybe even to the end of the earth if I'm good enough." And he starts to move out, the future conqueror ultimately really worships himself, doesn't he? He starts with small successes within his own tribe, he's able to consolidate, maybe overcome some local opposition. He's able to maybe work together a consolidation or a coalition of tribes and they start to get powerful and off they go. He's got energy, he's got intelligence, he's got leadership, he's got personal magnetism, he has a unique vision of the times, and of other nations.

And He begins to believe himself to be invincible. You can stick in any of the conquerors names there, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, all of them, they're all the same, one after the other.

Unrighteous Desires

After that comes unrighteous desires. Look, it says his desires are not upright. What does that mean? Well, he sets his heart on unrighteous things, ultimately, he wants to be worshipped. He also wants a comfortable lifestyle with luxury and ease. He covets other people's lands and houses and farms and women and gold and silver and everything. He wants it for himself. But more than anything, he sets his heart on individual personal glory. He wants to make a name for himself.

Genesis 11:4, they built a tower to reach up to heaven, Tower of Babel. "Then they said, 'come let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.'" Do you hear that? That's the same motivation. And that was Babylon the spirit of Babylon. Let's make a name for myself.

And then what does it say? It says after the statement we've already looked at the righteous will live by his faith, verse 5, "indeed wine betrays him." what an interesting thing to say. Where does wine come in at this moment? It's an odd thing. Well, I've done a careful study of wine in Habakkuk 2. And I think that wine is in a small way, the fermented result of putting grapes in a certain place, and you drink it and you get drunk. That's the literal interpretation. We're following the literal interpretation. And so in one sense, he's a drunkard. But I don't think that's the ultimate meaning of wine in Habakkuk 2. I think it has to do in terms of the conqueror with an arrogant overbearing self-confidence that goes beyond the boundaries that are reasonable. He is confident that he can do anything. Nothing is too difficult for him. That's the conqueror. What about the conquered? It's the drunkenness of being conquered, the drunkenness of terror and fear and running around like you're insane, the night before the battle because you know you're going to get killed the next day. And there's terror in that, and there's a wine that gets poured out and you drink and it's the wine of destruction. This theme is repeated again and again in the prophetic books.

And so I think that's what's going on here. Initially, it's wine. And I think, actually, literally wine is involved all the time, right? When men fought battles they would get drunk because they lacked the courage to face getting skewered with the sword the next day, and the conquered would also drink the night before the battle because they were terrified themselves. But the conqueror has an over-confidence and wine is ultimately going to betray him.

Talk about drinking and driving, one of the greatest dangers of people who drink and then drive, is that they have an over-inflated confidence of what they can do, they're convinced they can stop in time. They're convinced they can drive twice the speed limit around that curve. And yet they're impaired by their over-confidence, they're impaired by the wine, the alcohol, and they crash and die. And I think that's ultimately what it means here. Wine betrays him. He thinks he can do anything.

1941, Adolf Hitler had an army sitting in France and all over and he couldn't cross the channel to get into England, didn't know what to do with it, so he figured he would go Eastward and invade Russia. Never invade Russia. Russia is huge with limitless resources of manpower and there's always one more mountain ridge and one more and it's like, a funnel that just keeps getting wider and wider. And after a year of fighting, he's on a 1500-mile front. What was he thinking? I can do anything, wine betrays him, he loses the war as a result. And so it is with every conqueror. They always overreach themselves.


Thirdly, restlessness. It says, "He is arrogant and never at rest." The restlessness is Satan-like. Job 1:7, "The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' And Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.'" He's not satisfied because only God satisfies. And so he's got to move, he's got to go conquer. Restlessness is caused by discontent. He's not satisfied with what God's given him, and so he rides forth for more. That leads immediately to greed. Look at verse 5, "Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations, and takes captive all the peoples." A fire never says, "I've had enough logs tonight, no more. I'm fine, I'm satisfied." Fire is always going to take one more log. The grave never says, "We've had enough dying this month. I have my quota, no more death, I'm finished for the month, maybe next month we'll get going again, but it's enough." No, the grave is never satisfied. There's always room for one more. And so it is with the conqueror. He always thinks there's room for one more.

Alexander the Great after the Greeks had reached the Punjab region of India, they came to the Hyphasis River and refused to cross it. The army said, "No more." [chuckle] How much is enough for you? They had conquered 27 different regions. He built Alexandrias all over the world, not just the one in Egypt that still bears his name, but everywhere there was an Alexandria. How many more cities do you want to your name? When is it enough? He says, gather the army, I've got to talk to them. So they come out and he starts to persuade them to keep going. This is Alexander the Great, that's what he says, this is from a historian, Arrian, "All Libya to eastward will soon be ours and all Asia too, and to this empire there will be no boundaries, but what God himself has made for the whole world." Boy, he's ambitious. "Gentlemen of Macedon and you, my friends and allies, we must not halt. Stand firm, for well you know that hardship and danger are the price of glory and that sweet is the savor of a life of courage and of deathless fame beyond the grave." What is motivating him there? The glory of his own name. It's never enough. Ultimately, he wept because the army wouldn't go any further. All of that leads to power. He wants to control, it's a disposition to dominate. He wants to control.

And so in verse five, again, "He is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied. He gathers to himself all the nations, and takes captive all the peoples." The culmination is relentless empire building, this is the spirit of Babylon.

The Prophet’s Response

Now, what does the Prophet say to this? What is the answer to such a spirit? Well, God gives in Habakkuk 2 a five-fold woe. Now the word woe to a prophet, is a word of impending judgment that has not come yet, the prophet sees it coming and through his mouth, through his words, he is speaking judgment from God. And so five times the word of woe was spoken to the suppressor. Look at verse 5-6, "Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations, and takes captive all the peoples. Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn saying, Woe to him." Now, here at last, the oppressed, the prayers and hopes of the oppressed start to rise up to heaven and they're crying for deliverance from these oppressors, from the boot of the oppressor. And so up it goes and they start to cry, they have nowhere else to turn to. Just as Habakkuk did it in chapter one. They start to pray.

And the prayer is answered. The conquest comes, the former conqueror is toppled and what happens then is what we call in the Bible a taunt song. They have a celebration, they sing a song.

How many of you have seen the movie Ben-Hur? It's my favorite movie, I love that movie. Just watching it with the kids the other day and the stories of a Jewish, a powerful ruler, a rich man and his friend, Messala is that his name? Yes, Messala, and they were boyhood friends got along great when things were simple but they each grew up. He went over to Rome, Messala did and rose in the Roman Army and became drunk with the glory of Rome, and brought that drunkenness back to his so-called friendship with Judah Ben Hur. And he tried to enlist Ben-Hur's help in betraying his own people. And they start to discuss and they start to yell and argue and in the end, there's no reconciling the two of them. And Messala said to Judah Ben-Hur, "Look to the west, look to Rome, that's where the real glory is, that's where the real power is, it's not that." Pointing up to heaven. "Not that." And Ben-Hur looks at him and says, "I tell you that Rome is an affront to God." I can't say it like Charlton Heston, he said, God better than anyone I've ever... "Rome is an affront to God and on the day Rome falls there will be a cry and a shout of freedom such as not been heard in history."

Well, it's heard again and again, isn't it? When the oppressor is finally toppled, the taunt song goes up, and that's what Habakkuk 2 is. The woes really come from the lips of the conquered again and again, but really from God.

Look at verse 6, "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods, and makes himself wealthy by extortion." Look at verse 9, "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin." Verse 12, "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed, and establishes a town by crime." Verse 15, "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk so that he can gaze on their naked bodies." Verse 19, "Woe to him who says to wood, come to life or to lifeless stone wake up." All of these are immediately directed to ruthless conquering Babylon. But, they're really for anybody who meets the description. Anybody.

Now, why does God's justice come? Well, because wicked corrupt hearts lead to wicked corrupt actions. It's not necessarily corrupt to conquer because Joshua conquered under the direction of God. But if you have wicked motives and your motive is not the glory of God, then you cannot conquer and be held guiltless. And so out of these corrupt motives, pride, unrighteous desires, discontent, covetousness, greed, evil plotting and love of ease, comes wicked actions.

Now, what do I mean by love of ease? Look at verse 9, "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin." What is that? Well, I know that when we conquer you, you're going to be angry at us, and you're going to want to come after us, so we're going to make Babylon so strong that there's nothing you can do. We're going to make the walls 350 feet high, so wide at the top that you can drive a chariot with four horses. We're going to have a river running right through the center of the city, we're going to have farmland within the walls of the city, you'll never be able to starve us. We're going to stock up food enough for three years, are you going to bring food enough for yourself for three years? No sieging army can handle that. And we've got 100 bronze gates and we've got ramparts so high you can't even see them. And you cannot conquer us. That's what they're doing, they're setting their nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin and so they're easy and they're comfortable.

Jeremiah 51:53 says, "Even if Babylon reaches the sky and fortifies her lofty stronghold, I will send destroyers against her, declares the Lord." Ultimately the wicked motive is self-glorification. Isaiah 47:7, "You said, I will continue forever, the eternal queen." That's Babylon's attitude.

Well, what wicked actions? Well look at it. Look at verse 6, "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods, and makes himself wealthy by extortion. How long must this go on?" This is violence, this is extortion, plunder. Look at verse 9, "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain." Then there's murder and destruction. Verse 8, "You have shed man's blood, you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them." He says it again in verse 17, Cruelty, "The violence you've done to Lebanon will overwhelm you and your destruction of animals will terrify you, for you've shed man's blood, you've destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them."

III. Judgment Predicted: Your Victims Will Arise

God is perfectly just and he's not going to tolerate or accept this, and so judgment comes. And it's an interesting kind of judgment. Who is going to do the justice? Who is going to conquer Babylon? Well, their own victims will. Look at verse 7 and 8, "Will not your debtors suddenly arise. Will they not wake up and make you tremble, then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you." You see conquerors that rule in ease, they get lazy and fat and comfortable and easy. And they're prime picking for those that have built up years of resentment. And so, they rise up and overthrow their tyrants.

Look at verses 15 and following, "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk so that he can gaze on their naked bodies." I don't think this is talking about some perverted drunken feast. I think what's going on is, this is the language of conquest and you're going around to your neighbors and you're going to pour out the cup of conquest to your neighbors. Now, says God, it is your turn. The cup from the Lord's right hand is coming around to you. Now you drink and you get exposed, you will be stripped, you'll be left for dead. That's what he's saying. The cup from the Lord's right hand is coming around to you and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you've done to Lebanon will overwhelm you and your destruction of animals will terrify you. Isn't that interesting? The way you handled animals when you invaded, I see it all. Sparrow doesn't fall to the ground apart from the will of God. I watched, I saw, for you have shed man's blood, you've destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

Well, what happened? Well, the book of Daniel tells us what happened, you remember Daniel Chapter 5, Belshazzar's feast. Belshazzar King of Babylon invited all these nobles to come in and drink from the cups that were taken from the temple of God, blasphemy. And they drank and they celebrated the gods of wood and iron and clay, and stone and that very night, Belshazzar died at the hands of the Medes and the Persians, because they crawled under the wall of Babylon and opened the gate while everyone was drunk. Everyone was sleeping it off and Babylon fell in a single night.

IV. Summary and Application

Now, what application do we take from this? Well, if you were Habakkuk there in Jerusalem so long ago and you know that the Babylonians are coming, you feel terror, you feel pain, you wonder what God is doing. And then when God answers, in effect, he's saying Wait for me. Wait joyfully for my powerful word. Habakkuk asked for wisdom, this Habakkuk 2 is God's answer, this is what's coming. Now, how long is that going to take, God? Okay, for the conquerors come in and go through that whole cycle, that's seems like it's going to be a while. I'm an old man. Yeah, it's going to be a while.

Wait patiently for God's word to be fulfilled. God's word will be fulfilled no matter how improbable it seems. Habakkuk took that word and believed it and rejoiced. Look again at Chapter 3:16 and following. He hears, he's afraid, and yet he makes a commitment. He says, "I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us." And then he says this, "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God, my Savior." It's easy for a pagan to be happy when things are good. A believing person can rejoice when things are devastatingly difficult. So wait patiently for God's word.

Secondly, be humbled by God's sovereignty. You look at that and say the nations are rising and falling, what can we do about it? The answer is nothing. But God rules over it all, the God that you love, the God that you call your Father is navigating history. That includes what's going on in Afghanistan. That includes what's going on in our country. That includes what's going on in Jerusalem right today, how appropriate is that? That includes all the events of human history. God is absolutely sovereign over all of it. Be humbled by that. Realize the limit to your own power. And God doesn't owe us any explanation for what he's doing.

Thirdly, never doubt God's perfect justice. Some of God's ways seem unjust. It could be that some time this week something will happen to you that will make you question God's justice. I hope not. Don't ever question God's justice. God is always righteous in everything he does. He knows what he's doing. And his justice is perfect and right.

And then ultimately, I want to urge you to flee to the only place of safety. There is one, and that is Jesus Christ. Look again at verse 4, it says there, "The righteous will live by his faith." The righteous will live by his faith. I don't have any idea what's happening in your hearts as you're listening to me. Do you realize what we've described is a picture of judgment from God? The Babylonians came to judge God's people. The Babylonians themselves in turn will be judged. Do you realize that Judgment Day is coming? Are you ready for it? Are you ready to face and stand before a holy judge, who knows everything you've ever said or done? Are you righteous enough for that? There's no safety anywhere except in the blood of Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ alone is a safe refuge in the ebbs and flows of history, regardless of what you're going through. The cross of Jesus Christ alone because Jesus died on the cross, the wrath of God is turned away for all who believe in Him.

The righteous will live by faith. And then having trusted in Christ, you just go through the ebbs and flows of history over which you have so little control and you accept the things that God has given you by faith. And even if the fig tree doesn't bud and there are no grapes on the vine, even if the most terrible things you can imagine happen in your life, yet you can rejoice in God your Savior. In the end God will bring you into His Heavenly Kingdom. Trust in Christ, trust in his blood, have faith in him regardless of what's going on in human history, God is building his empire for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

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