Habakkuk 2:18
What use is an idol, that a craftsman should carve it--or an image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.
Sermons
National Wrongs Ending in National WoesHomilistHabakkuk 2:18-19
National Wrongs Ending in National Woes. No. 5D. Thomas Habakkuk 2:18, 19
The Misapplication of the Teaching of Art in the ServiceArchdeacon Cooper, M. A.Habakkuk 2:18-19
Worship, False and TrueS.D. Hillman Habakkuk 2:18-20
The prophet, in recounting the sins of the Chaldeans, finally recalled to mind the idolatry prevailing amongst them. He thought of the temple of Bel, "casting its shadow far and wide over city and plain," and of the idolatrous worship of which it was the centre, and he broke forth in words expressive of the utmost scorn and contempt, and then closed his song by pointing to him who alone is worthy to receive the devout adoration and adoring praise of all the inhabitants of the earth. Notice -

I. HIS EXPOSURE OF THE WEAKNESS AND FOLLY OF IDOLATRY. (Vers. 18, 19.)

1. He appealed to experience. His own people unhappily had been betrayed into idolatry, and he asked them whether they had ever profited thereby (ver. 18).

2. He appealed to reason. The maker of anything must of necessity be greater than that which he fashions with his own hands and as the result of his own skill; hence what greater absurdity could there be than for the maker of a dumb idol to be reposing his trust in the thing he has formed (ver. 18)?

3. He denounced the idol priests, who, by using dumb idols as their instrument, made these "teachers of lies" (ver. 18).

4. He declared the hopelessness resulting from reposing trust in these. "Woe unto him!" etc. (ver. 19).

5. He indulged in scornful satire (ver. 19). This verse may be fittingly compared with Elijah's irony of speech addressed in Carmel to the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27). The verse is more effectively rendered in the Revised Version -

Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake!
To the dumb stone, Arise!
Shall this teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver:
And there is no breath at all in the midst of it." The weakness and folly of idolatry as practised in heathen lands is readily admitted by us; yet we are prone to forget that the idolatrous spirit may prevail even amongst those who are encompassed by influences eminently spiritual. Love of the aesthetical may lead us to become sensuous rather than spiritual in worship. Attachment to science may cause us to slight the supernatural and to deify nature. Desire for worldly success may result in our bowing down in the temple of Mammon; so that the counsel is still needed, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).

II. HIS PRESENTATION OF JEHOVAH AS BEING SUPREME AND AS ALONE ENTITLED TO THE REVERENT HOMAGE OF HUMAN HEARTS. "But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."

1. The contrast presented here is truly sublime. From impotent idols the seer raises his thoughts and directs attention to the living God.

2. The temple in Jerusalem was the recognized dwelling place of God. The prophet saw looming in the distance the invasion of his country by the idolatrous Chaldeans, followed by the destruction of the temple and the desecration of all he held so sacred in association with it. Still he was assured that through all the coming changes Jehovah would remain the Supreme Ruler and Controller. Unconfined to temples made with hands, their overthrow could not affect his role. "His throne is in the heavens;" he reigns there; and fills heaven and earth, dominating the universe, and guiding and overruling all to the accomplishment of his all-wise and loving purposes. "The Lord is in his holy temple."

3. Our true position as his servants is that of reverentially waiting before him, acquiescing in his will, trusting in his Word, assured that, despite the prevailing mysteries, the end shall reveal his wisdom and his love. He says to us, "Be still, and know that I am God." Then let no murmuring word be spoken, even when clouds and darkness seem to be round about him; the processes of his working are hidden from our weak view, but the issue is sure to vindicate the unerring wisdom and infinite graciousness of his rule. Happy the man who is led from doubt to faith, who, like this seer, beginning with the complaint, "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!" etc. (Habakkuk 1:2), is led through calm reflection and hallowed communion to cherish the conviction that "the Lord is in his holy temple, and that all the earth should keep silence before him." - S.D.H.







What profiteth the graven image, that the maker thereof hath graven it.
Homilist.
I. That men often GIVE TO THE WORKS OF THEIR OWN HANDS THE DEVOTIONS THAT BELONG TO GOD. These old Chaldean idolaters gave their devotions to the "graven image" and to the "molten image" that men had carved in wood and stone or moulded from molten metals. It was the works of their own hands they worshipped. Are men's sympathies in their strong current for God, or for something else? Do they expend the larger portion of their time and the greater amount of their energies in the service of the Eternal, or in the service of themselves?

II. That men often LOOK TO THE WORKS OF THEIR OWN HANDS FOR A BLESSING WHICH GOD ALONE CAN BESTOW. These old idolaters "said to the wood, Awake, to the dumb stone, Arise." Now, it is true that men do not say formal prayers to wealth, or fashion, or fame, or power, albeit to these they look with all their souls for happiness. Men who are looking for happiness to any of these objects are like the devotees of Baal, who cried from morning to evening for help, and no help came.

III. That in all this MEN ENTAIL ON THEMSELVES THE WOES OF OUTRAGED REASON AND JUSTICE. "Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake, to the dumb stone, Arise."

1. It is the woe of outraged reason. What help could they expect of the "molten image, and a teacher of lies"? What answer could they expect from the dumb "idols " that they themselves had made? How irrational all this! Equally unreasonable it is for men to search for happiness in any of the works of their hands, and in any being or object independent of God.

2. It is the woe of insulted justice. What has God said? "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." All this devotion, therefore, to the works of our own hands, or to any other creature, is an infraction of man's cardinal obligation.

(Homilist.)

of religion: — There is some difference of opinion as to the exact time at which the prophet Habakkuk delivered his message. But there is no question that it coincided with the period in which Israel came in contact with the great empires of the East, and was allowed to be humbled and punished by them. One of the consequences of intercourse with these empires, ending in the Captivity, was to familiarise their minds with buildings and workings of art which, while they marked the absence of a knowledge and worship of the true God, presented marvellous instances of the power and skill of man! The mind of man, in his fallen state, is ever prone to forget God and to reject Him; it is ever prone to corrupt the simple idea of His majesty and power. The idolatry of power was expressed in the architecture and image. worship of this period. The words of the text refer to it, The dumb stone (of the monuments) speaks still; it speaks of abject submission to irresistible power. It speaks of rule and might and iron will; but there is no love, no tenderness, no hope in its utterances. History re-echoes the prophet's denunciation, and extends it to after generations, embracing the later and more engaging forms of art thus employed. The message of works of art addresses itself to the carnal and the sensuous that is in us. It does not bring us into contact with the unseen and the infinite. There is a woe in it. May we not, descending the stream of time, go on to point out that the prophet's woe also lights upon what is called Christian Art — on them who, in the Church of Christ, have said unto the wood, Awake, and have called upon the dumb stone to teach? The woe has taken effect in bringing down a thick pall of dark superstition and loss of spiritual life wherever the practice has prevailed. It is not to the wood or to the stone that we are directed for our instruction in Divine things, but to the Word and to the testimony. And therefore it is that in the arranging of our churches and the adjusting of their ornaments, at the time of the Reformation, it appeared right to those who were charged with this work that the wood and the stone which had been setup to speak and to teach should be excluded from this office; that no attempt should be made, by an exhibition of the passion and death of our blessed Lord, to the outward eye, to move the feelings and to strengthen the faith; but rather that such things were to be removed as a danger and a hindrance to acceptable worship. In place of ornaments and images the Reformers put the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. It cannot be denied that in our day there is some danger lest too much importance be attached to external appearance, to architecture and decoration. While we do not look to the wood to Speak, or to the dumb stone to teach, we will not hesitate to make both minister to the comeliness of the sanctuary. In so doing we shall not impede but assist devotion. Holding fast the essential truths, and taught by the Word of the living God, we may rejoice with thanksgiving for the comeliness of the sanctuaries which now cover our land in every direction, and cheerfully do our part, that the wood and the stone may be made worthily to set forth the honour of God's service, and furnish us fitting accompaniment for the prayer and the praise we offer in His name.

(Archdeacon Cooper, M. A.)

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