What's the World Coming To?

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Habakkuk 2:6-20

When you read the writings of a prophet, you probably expect to hear at least something about what the future will be. The biblical Habakkuk won’t disappoint you.

A lot of us are curious about the future. We’d like to know what lies ahead – at least, some of what lies ahead. Tabloid magazines do a brisk business selling psychics’ prophecies and predictions about the future. But can anyone really tell what the future is going to be?

Many years ago when I was a little boy, our family was on a long trip far from home. We stopped at a restaurant where there was an amazing machine which claimed it could answer any question about the future you chose to ask it. My brother Tom begged my father to allow him to test the machine. Finally my father relented and gave him some coins, so Tom sat down, asked a question, put a coin in the machine and received back a little card on which was printed the words, “Time will tell.” Another question, another coin, another card: “Time will tell.” By then Tom got the point, and so do you. No machine – or person either, for that matter – can really predict the future. If they claim they can, it’s either a fraud, or a gimmick, or perhaps something more sinister.

But with God it’s different. According to the Bible, he knows the end from the beginning. He knows as much about tomorrow as he does about yesterday. And sometimes God chooses to make the future known to us. He does this by revealing it in his Word through special spokesmen called prophets. Very early in the Bible in Genesis 18 when God was about to destroy the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah he said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” This is the essential fact that lies behind all biblical prophecy. God doesn’t want to hide from his people the things he is going to do in the world, especially when it comes to judging evil and punishing sin. That’s why much of the prophecy in the Bible (including the little book of Habakkuk) consists of predictions of God’s coming judgment upon sinful people and nations.

But prophecy isn’t all bad news about doom and gloom. God also wants to reveal what he’s going to do to save people, so the greatest and most important subject of biblical prophecy is Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is full of predictions about him, many of them in amazing detail; predictions about his birth, his life, his character and work, predictions especially about his death for the sins of the world. And the Bible is also full of prophecies about what will happen when Jesus returns at the end of history and about the way things will be when his kingdom has fully come.

So you won’t have all your questions about the future answered by the prophecies in the Bible. God isn’t going to reveal to you next week’s winning lottery number, or next month’s weather, or next year’s stock market quotations. But he does give some even more valuable information about the future. He tells us where things are headed, what it is that he’s going to do, what the world is coming to.

A WORLD OF JUSTICE

Take the book of Habakkuk, for example. Its second chapter consists for the most part of a series of “woes” – warnings about God’s coming judgment. The prophet pronounces God’s judgment upon five groups of people. The first are thieves and robbers, those who steal from and cheat others in order to enrich themselves. God’s word to them, “What you have done to others will be done to you.”

You robbed cities and nations . . . Now [others] will be as cruel to you.

(v. 8, cev)

The second woe is pronounced against rich and powerful people who exploit and take advantage of those who are weaker (verses 9-11).

You made your family rich at the expense of others. You even said to yourself, “I’m above the law.” But you will bring shame on your family and ruin to yourself for what you did to others.

Think, for example, of a drug lord or a Mafia lieutenant or a greedy business owner who mistreats his employees. Such people think their wealth and power allow them to do anything they want. They build huge and lavish houses and put walls around them and hire guards and install security systems, but those things can’t keep out the judgment of a righteous God. “The very stones and wood in your home will testify against you,” says the prophet (v. 11).

The third kind of people who are doomed are those who resort to violence and bloodshed, people who will hurt or even kill others to get what they want. “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed” (v. 12a, niv). They may get things that way but God says they won’t be allowed to keep them, for he will take away all ill-gotten gains.

Then comes a woe pronounced on a different type of abuser, one who takes advantage of others, not economically, but physically.

Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors . . . till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame. . . . The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you. . . .

(vv. 15-16, niv)

Habakkuk is talking here about people who seduce and corrupt the innocent, who prey upon the weaknesses of others and turn them to their profit or advantage, people like drug dealers, pornographers, or purveyors of filthy or violent entertainment. This pronouncement of doom even extends to those who pollute the earth and rape the environment.

You destroyed trees and animals on Mount Lebanon; you were ruthless to towns and people everywhere. Now you will be terrorized.

(v. 17, cev)

That’s the fourth word of judgment.

The fifth and final kind of sin which God will judge is the sin of idolatry.

Woe to him who says to wood, “Come to life!” Or to a lifeless stone, “Wake up!” Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; [but] there is no breath in it.

(v. 19, niv)

Now that’s interesting. All the other sins in Habakkuk’s list have a very modern ring to them. They mostly deal with social injustice. They’re all about hurting or exploiting people, especially the poor and the defenseless. It’s a very contemporary -sounding list; even ecology is mentioned. And everyone with a conscience can agree that the kinds of things in these lists are very bad and deserve to be punished, especially since the punishment in most cases is to receive exactly what has been inflicted upon others. You know, one of God’s favorite forms of judgment in this world is to cause people to experience the same kind of things they’ve done to others. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.” That’s how Jesus expressed it. Or as we like to say, “What goes around comes around.” So when a murderous terrorist is gunned down or a thief loses his money or a corrupt ruler is overthrown and disgraced, we can understand and appreciate that kind of justice. It seems right.

But when it comes to idolatry, many people can’t see why this is such a serious sin. After all, for a lot of us, an idol in the literal sense – an object of wood or stone that people bow down before and worship – is something we see only in the movies. Idolatry simply isn’t part of our daily experience. And after all, don’t people have the right to worship any way they please? So why is that such a terrible thing? We forget that what idolatry really means is following a false god. It’s putting something ahead of God in your life. It’s loving and serving some thing or some one more than you love God. Idolatry means to worship the creation instead of the Creator. And that is part of the reason why it’s the most serious sin of all. All these other sins are committed against what God has made, but idolatry is a sin against the Maker himself. More than that, every other sin stems from this one. What you worship determines what you do. People who worship gods of their own making tend to develop morals of their own choosing. And that leads to more suffering for everyone.

But God’s Word prophesies a coming time when this and every other sin will be judged. The kind of world we live in now isn’t going to last. The world where God is insulted or ignored, where people are hurt and abused and exploited and corrupted, where lying and cheating are commonplace, where violence and bloodshed stain our streets, where moral and physical filth blots every landscape – that’s not the world as it’s going to be. Listen: Things won’t always be the way they are now. God won’t put up with all this evil forever. Or even for very much longer. Judgment is coming. Justice will be done. Wrongs will be righted. Evildoers will be punished. And the righteous will be delivered.

That is what the world is coming to. Now, whether or not that sounds like good news to you depends, of course, on whether or not you’re one of the exploiters and abusers. If you are, you had better repent and become one of the righteous who look forward with joy to the coming of God.

A WORLD OF GODLINESS

The news that God is going to judge evildoers is bad news for some. It’s good news, though, for everyone who loves what is right and who longs to see goodness and truth established in the earth. But there’s some even better news prophesied here by Habakkuk. Christians have been praying ever since Jesus taught us to for God’s kingdom to come here on earth: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Habakkuk tells us that our prayers are going to be answered. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). What a beautiful and justly famous verse from this small but rich book! One day, after God has judged all things, only he and his people will be left. The New Testament speaks of a time when God will be all and in all. That’s what Habakkuk is looking forward to here. How full of water is the ocean? Well, that’s how full of God the creation will be! Everywhere, everyone will know him. Every hill and tree and stream, every home and family, every tribe and nation, every person will be full of God, filled with his life and glory.

Of course, the earth is full of God now. God is here and everywhere. But the tragedy is that so many people don’t know it. All around we can see people who were made by God, who are loved by God, who should be living for God, but who don’t know him. They never seem to think about him. Or they’ve gotten themselves entangled with substitute gods, with idols of one kind or another. But some day that’s all going to change.

Jesus will reign where’re the sun

Does his successive journeys run.

No one will say any longer, “Where is God?” for everyone will see him. They will know him. It’s beginning even now, whenever and wherever someone turns in faith to the Lord Jesus. When you start to believe in Jesus, your eyes are opened, and your life begins to be filled with his life. You start living for his glory, and longing for his return, when he will make all things new and fill the whole world with his knowledge.

Do you know him? Are you looking forward to seeing him, and the world that is coming?