The Woe of Idolatry: Commands and Pride

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; The molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. But the LORD is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him.

— Habakkuk 2:18-20

Following the introductory statements of idolatry, the Lord now pronounces the woe. “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, “Awake.” How pitiful it was to trust their lives to a god they could command. Our God is all-powerful and will not and cannot be commanded by pitiful man. It is only by His grace that we are allowed to come boldly before His throne in prayer to make our requests. And it is only by His grace that our prayers are answered. “To the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach!” Here, once again, the idolaters are commanding their idols. But instead of commanding their idols to wake up, they are now commanding their idols to teach. Our God teaches, but again, this blessing is by His grace. It is by His grace that we can make our petition to the Lord as the psalmist did in Psalm 86:11, “Teach me thy way, O LORD.” We should desire for our Lord to teach us His ways. But where the idols have no desire to teach its idolaters, our God delights in teaching us. He has provided for us His precious Word. Every spiritual answer can be obtained from His Word. If we lack wisdom, God is desirous to bestow it.

Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. Their idols not only were made out of earthly, non-spiritual materials, there was no breath in them. Scientists are even now trying to replicate the breath of life, but the breath of life can only come from one Person. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). The Babylonians were looking in the wrong direction for life. Jesus Christ Himself is Life. To the Samaritan woman our Lord said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13–14).

Returning to our summary verse, there were statements that lined up with the previous four woes, but none seem to directly point to this fifth woe. There is, however, a statement that doesn’t have much to do with the previous woes but can give us some insight into the woe of idolatry. We read in the summary verse the statement, “he is a proud man.” Combined with this statement, this fifth woe may just be the most fatal of the five. Lucifer was cast out of heaven because of pride. The builders of the tower of Babel were scattered because of pride. The Babylonian nation was destroyed through pride. And many people will spend eternity in hell because of pride. These Babylonians formed their own idols from the work of their hands. The pride of their hearts led them away from the Savior. This woe applies just as easily today to those who in the pride of their heart reject the Lord. They set themselves up as their own idol. They’ll live life the way they please. The poor lost soul has the choice to either accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their life or remain in condemnation. A born-again believer also has a choice. They can either submit to the Lord’s will in humble submission or through the pride of their heart reject the Lord’s will, leading a spiritually defeated life. Woe to the idolaters!

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