There is an interesting contrast in the second chapter of Habbakuk. There are two statements about wood and stone. One statement says that they cry out, the other that they are mute. Which could be considered somewhat confusing. The statements are both made of the Babylonians – ruthless, bloodthirsty oppressors, whose empire was founded on brutal violence and unimaginable cruelty. They were pagans; their religious worship was centred on idols – images, statues. The prophecy of Habbakuk mocks them mercilessly for this.
“Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.” (Hab 2:18 NIVUK)
The problem with worshipping idols is that they don’t represent the truth about the way the universe is. These gods are figments of the human imagination. A man invents a god that doesn’t exist, and then he trusts in it for his salvation. What nonsense! They don’t exist, they cannot save, they cannot even speak! Yet the prophet tells us in the same chapter that there are instances when wood and stone can speak, indeed they cry out.
“Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain… The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it” (Hab 2:9a, 11 NIVUK)
Anything created and built by oppression, violence, injustice, exploitation screams to high heaven the guilt of those who have made them. The Babylonian houses of luxury, purchased with plunder taken from those they had mercilessly killed, scream out an unending cry to heaven about the guilt and wickedness of their owners. They do not shut up, they do not pause to take breath, they just scream. This is a cry that God will hear.
This is a testimony that the Great Judge will act upon. In stark contrast to the imaginary gods, figments of the human imagination – gods who do not speak, who cannot act, who are not real or true – the God of the Bible is very real, He does speak, He does act.
Which all give pause for thought. What does my home say about me? What is your home saying about you? Are we like the Babylonians, is there anything that we possess that was obtained through exploitation, oppression, injustice? What about the wood in my home? Was it stolen from a forest owned by an indigenous people, illegally cut down, destroying the habitat of birds and animals? What about that ‘phone in my pocket? Was it built by people trapped in a form of economic slavery, denied a safe working environment, denied trade union representation, forced to live in squalor and to work 16 hour days? What about the clothes and the trainers I’m wearing? Were they made by children, working inhuman hours in a hellish sweat shop somewhere in Asia?
God hears the cry of the oppressed. He always acts against oppressors – sooner or later. Listen to your home. Can you hear anything?