The Threat of Security (Habakkuk 2:6–20)

This post was originally published on December 29, 2014 and was revised  on April 3, 2020.

Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe from the reach of harm!
You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.
For the stone will cry out from the wall,
and the beam from the woodwork respond.

—Habakkuk 2:9–11


When threatened, picking up a sword could be the most dangerous response. Reaching for a gun when an officer has commanded “Freeze!” is a fool’s act. Sometimes, the supposed wisdom of security is really the folly of unbelief. All our attempts at security might be nothing more than thinly veiled self-reliance and idolatry.

Nebuchadnezzar built an eagle’s nest where he thought his dynasty and kingdom would be safe. Walls were erected wide enough for a chariot to travel on. Much was invested in security, but all this was counterproductive because the most crucial factor in any building program wasn’t heeded—the One who holds the atoms of every stone, brick, and piece of lumber together—God Almighty.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
—Psalm 127:1

All that was for safety only testified against Babylon. The materials gained by evil means antiphonally cry out against her (2:11), just as Abel’s blood cried out against Cain (Genesis 4:10; Habakkuk 2:12). Where men see glory, God sees sin; and He isn’t intimidated. Babylon was a city built with blood and sin; and thus, it was not a city to flee to, but to flee from. Worse than building their own prison, they’d constructed nothing more than a giant lightning rod to attract the unbearable storm of God’s wrath.

Your efforts at security may not be mortared with blood, but if they’re an expression of self-reliance and idolatry, then it’s still bonded with explosive-laced sin and a fire is coming. Tis far better to be Habakkuk in certain-to-fall Jerusalem, confusingly trusting in the Rock (1:12). The righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).

A Refuge, as God (Psalm 18)

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

David’s refuge is a loved refuge. An uncommon word is used for “love” here. Often translated “compassion” it carries the idea of a superior feeling pity towards and inferior. The psalm clearly indicates that David views God as God, as greater than himself. The idea then appears to be that David is deeply moved in love towards his God, such that although David clearly loves God because He is a stronghold, you know that God is indeed loved and not merely used.

God is not a fortress to be used as a means to enjoy something else. God is not a storm shelter. He is a refuge the way a wife takes refuge in her husband.

God is a refuge, but He is a refuge as God. He is not simply a refuge as a refuge. You cannot relate to God as a utilitarian thing but a relational person—a person who is the Lord of glory. You cannot flee to God to protect that which is most valuable to you. You must flee to Him as that which is most valuable.

God is not a refuge from the forces that threaten to interrupt your idolatry. God is a refuge for sinners, but not for sin. Repentant sinners find refuge in God from God. Flee to God to protect your sins and you run to your destruction. Again, God is not a vault for you to house your idols in. He is a refuge as God. There is an indestructible refuge for sinners, but there is no facility secure enough to house idols.

“How Far Is too Far?” Is too Far (Exodus 20:14)

It seems the Pharisees were like hormonal teenagers raised in a dead Christendom; they read the law wanting to know how far they could go (Matthew 5:27–30). You could lust, only you mustn’t commit adultery. When one asks the question, “How far is too far?” they’ve already crossed the line. The law makes hard lines, no doubt, but we shouldn’t treat the law like a cow does a barbed wire fence, straining our necks through the lines to get the green grass on the other side. “But my feet and body are still on the other side.”

Think of the law less like a line between and more like a line to: a line leading you unto godliness, a line to express love to God, a line that you want to climb higher up. The law is a line to pursue deeper intimacy. The point isn’t how close you can stay to sin, but how you can grow closer to the Holy one in holiness. The point isn’t to stay an inch away from sin, but to run miles away from sin towards God.

In Proverbs 5 Solomon calls for his sons to flee the forbidden woman. He doesn’t give his sons wisdom for how to knock on her door and stare only at her face. “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house (Proverbs 5:8 ESV).” But that alone isn’t the full prescription: “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress (Proverbs 5:15–20 ESV)?”

Enjoying the aged and refined scotch in your cupboard curbs the appeal of the illicit and deadly moonshine. Delighting in the truth that God has given you the best grass is the way not to succumb to Satan’s lie that the grass is greener on the other side. The Puritan Thomas Watson commented, “It is not having a wife, but loving a wife, that makes a man live chastely. He who love his wife, whom Solomon calls his fountain, will not go abroad to drink of muddy, poisoned waters. Pure conjugal love is a gift of God, and comes from heaven; but, like the vestal fire, it must be cherished, that it go not out. He who love not his wife, is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a stranger.”

This is a glorious way to fight sexual sin, but it is yet a lesser way. It is a lesser way in that marriage is lesser thing than that which it is a copy of, Christ’s love for His bride. The way to avoid violating the command to not commit adultery, in all that it entails, is for the bride to delight in Her Bridegroom. He is without peer. He is altogether lovely. He is without fault. When we truly see Him, we have eyes for no other. Be intoxicated in the unequalled jealous love of your Savior, and may this overflow into your marriage, and may it keep you from adultery of every sort.

Baal Out (Exodus 20:4–6)

The second commandment isn’t redundant. It does repeat the first command, but whereas the first command tells us not to worship false gods, the second expounds saying nor are we to worship God falsely. How you worship cannot be separated from who you worship. Methodology isn’t a piston that fires independently of theology. Methodology is theological. God speaks to His people revealing Who He is, and then, flowing from that, He informs them how He is to be worshipped.

They are not to make an idol and worship it as God, for idols tell lies. Idols are measurable, our God is infinite. Idols are created, our God is Creator. Idols can be controlled, our God is sovereign. Idols need, our God overflows. Idols were visible, our God is invisible.

And yet, the second member of the Godhead became flesh, the image of God. But how is He represented to us today? By the Word of God. Worshipping God in Spirit and in truth means that our worship is focused on Christ. Our worship being centered on Christ means the preeminence of the Word in Christian worship. Who? Christ. How? The Word. The church gathers simply to pray the Word, sing the Word, hear the Word, see the Word (in the sacraments), and preach the Word.

Our worship is never pure, but where methodology is gloried in and theology sidelined, where the visual receives applause and the audio of the preached Word is only tolerated, be certain that idolatry is underfoot.

Get Drunk and Love (Matthew 22:34-40)

When it comes to gods, deep down everyone is a monotheist. There can be only one. Either God is God, or the individual. All of life is love. Love is constantly being expressed. Man cannot not love. Every bit of existence we have is spent loving, worshipping, something. Yet, fallen men cannot love. In loving themselves, they hate love (John 3:19-20). Men hate light because they love darkness, which is another way of saying that they hate love.

By God’s common grace, and because man is made in God’s image, there is a muted echo of love that the unbeliever may hear and that may resound off and through the unbeliever, but it is always second-hand, always an echo and never the original tune. It is always muted, never amplified. It is always a first-grade crush on your married teacher, never marriage consummated and well aged like a vintage wine. It is like saying that you have tasted wine when a drop, a single drop, fell into your full glass of water. The world’s concept of love is diluted. You could never get intoxicated on it.

Jesus extends the cup of the new covenant, the intoxicating, behavior altering wine of His blood, that we might know love and love. If fallen man loves to hate love, how can he ever love love? Let me give you two answers, which are two ways of saying the same thing: covenant and a heart transplant. Listen carefully to the command, “love the Lord your God.” The context for this command is Deuteronomy, redemption, salvation. God, not because of anything Israel has done, calls a people unto Himself. He enters into covenant with them. And His covenant love gives His people a new heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:31, 33; Ezekiel 36:26-27). A heart that loves Him, that loves His Son, that loves His law, that loves others, that loves His creation—that loves, really loves.