The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
The absolute holiness of God is a truth of both natural and revealed religion. We could not worship one who was not supremely holy. Every reason we have for believing in God at all is a reason for attributing this character to Him. The words of our text are an appeal to God on the ground of His holiness; an appeal to Him to explain what seemed inconsistent with this. It is the old, old problem. Why does God tolerate the existence, even permit the triumph, of the wicked? The holiness of His personal character must be offended at them; the righteousness of His rule demands their exposure and defeat; and yet again and again we see them prosperous. The results which are brought by the rule of God in a mingled world, where sin is allowed to display itself, are just the ends which a Holy Being would delight to secure.
I. Consider the imperfect holiness of good men. It cannot be said of any one of us that we are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Some evils we cannot bear to see; but there are others of which we are very tolerant. There are few ways of bringing the evil of sin home to us more effective than making us see sin in others, and feel the bitterness of sin at the hands of others. The ungodly Jews were to learn, by the invasion of the still more ungodly Chaldeans, what a hateful thing ungodliness really was.
II. Consider the partiality of our appeals to the holiness of God. Personal antipathy wonderfully sharpens our sense of wickedness, and personal liking equally dulls our apprehension of the Divine judgment. God is wholly free from this disturbing partiality. What seems to us tolerance of evil, or indifference towards us, is often but the patience of wisdom working for ends which our partiality will not let us see.
III. The Divine method of rebuking evil is another thing to be considered. His method is to let wickedness expose and punish itself; and this it is sure ultimately to do.
IV. We have not a true conception of the holiness of God when we view it as impulsive merely; it bears the sight of evil in confidence of overcoming it. To overcome evil, and turn it into penitence and faith and love, is the object of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, when He endures the contradiction of sinners against Himself, and holds His peace in presence of unrighteousness.
A. Mackennal, Sermons from a Sick Room, p. 29.
Habakkuk 1:16The word "drag" simply means a large fishing-net. The bold metaphor of the text is that of a fisherman whose mind is so overborne by the large draughts of fish which he is continually taking, that he begins actually to worship those nets which are the instruments of such wonderful success.
I. The sin of man keeps repeating itself throughout the ages. Notwithstanding all the lessons of the past, there are still multitudes who forget the living God. They are not at all anxious to be doers of the right; but they are anxious that "their portion be fat, their meat plenteous." And when they are successful, they are puffed up with pride. They glory in their own skill and power. "They sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their drag."
II. "What have we that we have not received?" Our very existence is itself a boon from God, and all our faculties and blessings are gifts of His bounty. The highest blessings for man are not material, but spiritual—not the fat portion and the plenteous meat, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is for want of grasping these two simple, cardinal truths that men so often fall into the worship of the net. Rank, wealth, intellect, business, such are some of the nets men worship. But God is not mocked, and in many ways He breaks men's idols before their very eyes. Let us take God's gifts with humble gratitude; let us use the powers which He has given us, not for our own aggrandisement, but for His glory; and instead of casting forth our net merely to enrich ourselves out of others, let us seek to become, in the good, true sense of the word, "fishers of men."
T. Campbell Finlayson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 168.
Reference: Habakkuk 1:16.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 170.
O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.
For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.
They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.
Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.
They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it.
Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.
Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?
And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?
They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.
Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.
Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?