The Babylon Syndrome
Text: Habakkuk 2
Proposition: The five woes that God pronounces over Babylon are like a syndrome of effects arising out of pride that can destroy a nation and its people.
Introduction: What do AIDS, FAS, Downs, and Carpal Tunnel all have in common? The short answer is that they are all syndromes, just some of the more than 91 syndromes indentified by the medical community. A syndrome is a collection of factors that together bring about a condition or illness. Syndromes can also occur as relational disorders like the Stockholm Syndrome where captives identified with and became sympathetic to the very people who held them captive. What I’d like to show you this morning is a syndrome that can destroy an entire nation just as effectively as it can destroy an individual. There are five contributing elements to it. This syndrome was first identified 2600 years ago, the words of a vision given by the Lord, it’s the Babylon Syndrome… Habakkuk 2:5-20.
1st Woe – “to the person who lives by the philosophy, ‘I will get everything I can and it doesn't matter how I do it.’ ” (appreciation to Ray Stedman for the headings)
In verse 5 Habakkuk describes the king of Babylon as a proud man who inflames that pride with alcohol. What becomes apparent is that pride is what fuels greed. He has more than what he needs at home, more than enough to occupy his responsibility yet there is never enough. It isn’t about needs… it’s about not being satisfied because the hunger of pride craves a significance. So Nebuchadnezzar thirsts and thirsts taking conquest after conquest and the more he does so the less it matters how he does it. Pride yearns to have recognition but the only lasting significance and recognition only comes from God.
2nd Woe – “to the person who is devoting all his efforts towards being secure and safe in his old age.”
In verse 9 it sounds like this, “Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house,
that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of disaster!” The key term here is ‘who covets evil gain’. You know what the term ‘covet’ means, ‘ You give shameful counsel to your house cutting off many peoples and sin against your soul." The counsel is what others around you hear and see and it’s shameful because it cuts others off in order to achieve its goals. The thing is your own soul knows that this is not what faith looks like, it’s not what love looks like and your own soul is calling you to a way of trusting in God for significance and security. When you don’t listen to that soul cry, that voice of conscience, you sin against your own soul. Metaphorically the very house itself, the stone and the timbers will cry out against this kind of pride.
3rd Woe – “to those who trust in violence to achieve what they want.”
To intimidate by violence and bloodshed may appear to work for a moment but the end of it is a great ruin. It’s missing the binding agents of freedom, of dignity, of faith built on truth. Look at verse 13, in the NLT it reads like this, “Has not the LORD of Heaven’s Armies promised that the wealth of nations will turn to ashes? They work so hard, but all in vain!” Have you ever seen those little car seats for infants that have a toy steering wheel on them? Can you imagine being in rush hour traffic, six lanes wide, bumper to bumper and you look over and see your toddler stressed right out, craning his neck to the left and right, spinning the steering wheel as he seeks to jockey the car in the rush hour. Perhaps that’s exactly what we look like when pride governs us, when we lose the perspective of how great God is. The outcome of the fall of Babylon, a nation that dwarfs the aspirations of ISIS, was seen by the whole world and the cause of its fall was just as clearly seen by the whole world. It is as verse 14 says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
4th Woe - “to the man who humiliates those around him in order to rule”
When you read the book of Daniel you soon see that king Nebuchadnezzar and his successors did exactly this. But then you hear of how God humbled this great king in an instant, causing the king to lose his mind and making him graze like a cow, tended by his servants like he was livestock until God restored him. It would be exactly as verse 16 said, “The cup of the LORD’s right hand will be turned against you and utter shame will be on your glory.” The great woe of pride is that it brings us exactly the opposite of what it promises. The great power and riches of Babylon fell in one night to the Medes and the Persians.
5th Woe – “to the man who trusts in a false god to give him life”
It’s just like verse 19 says, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! It shall teach!’Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver yet in it there is no breath at all.” The Babylonians were polytheistic, making gods of their own devising and then empowering those gods with the might of their belief. But they were just stone and wood. It was wanting a god that could be shaped and manipulated and pride assured them it was truth because they wanted it to be so. “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
1. It is the place where He chooses to be worshipped not the place where man determines Him to be worshipped.
2. He is available this moment, the LORD is in His holy temple.
3. The pride of man with all its demands and restrictions is told to be silent. There are no other names to be invoked when we stand before Him, only the name of Jesus. Man’s pride instills rebellion, God’s grace and Holy presence quells it.