The Five Woe Oracles
Open Your Bible
Habakkuk 2:1-20, Proverbs 29:18, Hebrews 10:32-39
BY Guest Writer
Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 2:1-20, Proverbs 29:18, Hebrews 10:32-39
Let’s be honest. Sin can be entertaining as a spectator sport. There’s a certain draw to the grit and gore of sin in the lives of other people, isn’t there? At first glance, Habakkuk 2 reads like a cage match to me. God calls out a series of sins, and we’re tempted to sit on the sidelines, cheering, while munching on popcorn.
“Woe to the thief and extortionist!” (v.6, my paraphrasing).
Get em, God! we cry.
“Woe to the crook in his big, fancy house!” (v.9).
Take him down a few notches! we say with a smirk.
“Woe to the murderers and crime bosses!” (v.12).
Make them pay! we heckle.
“Woe to the drug dealer, the keg provider, the predator!” (v.15).
Let ‘em have it! we roar.
“Woe to the mystic!” (v.19).
We’re right, and they’re wrong! we boast.
But wait—look again. This passage isn’t punctuated with the celebration of the “righteous.” There are no “Atta, girls!” for us here. God follows the woes with a dose of truth, one that makes my eyes drop to the floor and my knees weak:
“But the LORD is in his holy temple;
let the whole earth
be silent in his presence” (v.20).
The holiness of God is a spotlight none of us can bear. It isn’t just pointed toward the crooks and the cowards. It illuminates our sin, and then suddenly we don’t feel much like cheering anymore. Coming face to face with God’s holiness, His righteousness, we are silenced by the weight of our sin and our desperate need for mercy. Instead of screaming, “Woe to you!” our sin compels us to respond more like the prophet Isaiah:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty”
(Isaiah 6:5, NIV).
We are a people prone to rebellion against the loving laws of God. We are more likely to obsess over our own reflection than the image of God we bear. We are selfish, self-reliant, and scared. We are shattered by sin, and there is not enough glue in the universe to repair us. And no matter how hard we try, we cannot clean ourselves up or drum up enough righteousness to stand before a holy God. Woe to us.
That’s the truth we must acknowledge before we can truly live out of the forgiveness and grace of our Savior, the grace we all need so desperately. Thank God, He gives it so generously to all nations and people groups (Titus 2:11). One day the whole earth will know the Lord’s glory (Habakkuk 2:14), but the ground will always be level at the foot of the cross. The gospel bids us to gather there—the thieves and the theologians, the swindlers and the savers, the predators and the preachers. We are all guilty, and our sin levels the playing field. But so does God’s grace.
We are sinners turned saints, orphans turned heirs. We were unrighteous, but now we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Blessed are we! The new covenant silences us once again, but this time our mouths aren’t silenced in fear. Instead, we are made speechless by the goodness of our grace-giving God.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.