Charles Simeon Commentary - Habakkuk 2:20 - 2:20

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Habakkuk 2:20 - 2:20


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GOD GREATLY TO BE FEARED

Hab_2:20. The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

TO any one who beholds the works of creation, one would suppose that there could not exist a doubt respecting the being of a God: and to any one that contemplates an idol of his own formation, one would suppose it absolutely impossible that he should ascribe to it divine attributes, or worship it as his God. Yet experience shews, that God is thus overlooked, and that idols are almost universally substituted in his place. The very people of God themselves, to whom he had so often manifested himself in the most stupendous acts, were ever prone to renounce him, and to place their trust in idols of wood and stone. But a dreadful woe is denounced against all who so dishonour God, and debase their own souls; and the declaration of God to the whole universe is this, “The Lord is in his holy temple: let the whole earth keep silence before him.”

Let us here contemplate,

I.       The majesty of Jehovah—

Viewing him in contrast with senseless idols, let us contemplate him,

1.       As in the temple of the universe—

[He is there as the Creator of all, the Governor of all, the Judge of all. Idols are the work of men’s hands: but men themselves, together with every thing in the whole creation, are formed by God; who, by a single expression of his will, called them all into existence, and upholds them all by the word of his power. Behold the worlds and systems that are around us, every single star preserving its appointed course, and fulfilling the ends for which it was formed: who can behold them, and not acknowledge a God of infinite wisdom, and power, and grace? Or look at the smallest insect, that is scarcely visible to the naked eye, and can be distinctly seen only through the medium of a microscope; and say, whether the Deity be not as conspicuous in it, as in the universe itself? The whole of this is under his continual care. A poor senseless idol, so far from directing others, cannot even move itself, but is carried whithersoever the maker of it wills; and, instead of bearing others, is often itself, as the prophet well observes, “a burthen to the weary beast.” But Jehovah governeth all things, both in heaven and earth; insomuch that not a sparrow tails to the ground, or a hair from the head of any one of his saints, without his special permission. His very enemies, whilst they think to oppose him, do, in fact, accomplish his will: even the crucifixion of his only-begotten Son, though so horrible an impiety, did in reality fulfil his eternal counsels: nor was there any part of that awful event which was not predicted by God, and “by him determined before to be done.”

Nor is there so much as a transient thought in the mind of any man, but it is marked by him, and recorded in the book of his remembrance; and shall be brought forth at the day of judgment, as the ground of that sentence of condemnation or acquittal that shall be passed upon us. He appears, indeed, to be so far removed from us, that he cannot take cognizance of any thing that we do: but “all things are naked and open before him;” and “with him is no darkness at all; but the night and the day to him are both alike.” As for idols, they are unconscious of what is done even to themselves; and themselves are falling to decay, and may at any time be cast into the fire and be burnt. How unlike are they to Jehovah, who will assign to every one his proper doom; and himself exist for ever, the joy of his redeemed people, the terror of his prostrate enemies!]

2.       As in the person of the Lord Jesus—

[It will be remembered by you all, that Jehovah dwelt, as it were visibly, first in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, in that bright cloud called the Shechinah, the symbol of the Divine presence. But yet more visibly, if I may so speak, did he dwell in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ: according as it is said, “The Word was with God, and was God, and was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.” The expression here used has a direct reference to the tabernacle, which was a type of Christ’s humanity: He was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us, as in a tabernacle [Note: Joh_1:1; Joh_1:14. ó ê Þ í ù ó å í .]; and on that very account he is called the image of the invisible God [Note: Col_1:15]; that is, the person in whom the invisible God has condescended to make himself visible to mortal man. In this adorable Saviour “dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily [Note: Col_2:9.]:” and in him all the perfections of his Father shine forth, insomuch, that he is “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Heb_1:3.].” Behold, then, the incarnate Deity, sojourning on earth, to fulfil the counsels of eternal Wisdom, for the redemption of a ruined world. How contemptible are worthless idols in comparison of him! and how must every Dagon fall from its very base before him!]

Let us then contemplate,

II.      Our duty towards him—

Well is it said, “Let the whole earth keep silence before him.” Truly, as surrounded by his majesty, and upheld by his power, and saved by his mercy, we must behold him,

1.       With reverential awe—

[He is indeed “greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.” If the rocks trembled at his presence when he descended on Mount Sinai [Note: Jdg_5:5.], much more must his intelligent creation, and still more the sinners of mankind. In heaven, all his hosts, whether of sinless angels or redeemed saints, fall prostrate before him: and on earth, his most favoured people have never beheld his glory, or heard his voice, but they have fallen on their face, as Abraham did, with the profoundest awe, and in deepest adoration [Note: Gen_17:3.]. Even to a fellow-creature the most respectful reverence has been often shewn, and that, too, even by persons of the highest rank, through an admiration of his superior goodness and wisdom [Note: Job_29:9-10.]: what, then, must be due to the God of heaven, whether as riding on the heavens in his majesty, or walking on the earth in the multitude of his tender mercy?]

2.       With meek submission—

[Many things, of course, occur, which we feel to be painful, and are unable to comprehend: for “our God doeth whatsoever pleaseth him;” “nor will he give account to us of any of his matters.” Nor should we for one moment rise against any of his dispensations. However dark or trying they may be, we should say, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.” In truth, his dispensations are frequently ordered for this very end, “to humble us, and to prove us,” as he proved Israel of old: and he says to us, “Be still, and know that I am God [Note: Psa_46:10.].” This is our duty, whether we contemplate his majesty or his love; and in every event of life we must learn to say, Not my will, but thine be done.”]

3.       With humble affiance—

[Great as is our God, he has engaged to interpose in behalf of his people, and to order every thing for their good. On him, therefore, we should rely with perfect confidence; not doubting but that he will accomplish for us that which, on the whole, shall be most for our good. The example of David, in this respect, is most worthy of imitation: “In the Lord put I my trust. How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? For, lo. the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” What? “The Lord is in his holy temple: the Lord’s throne is in heaven [Note: Psa_11:1-4.];” and, as long as he is there to succour me, “I fear not what men or devils can do against me.” In relation to every concern, temporal, spiritual, eternal, this must be our frame: and this our song, “If God be for me, who can be against me?”]

4.       With unreserved obedience—

[No authority must be regarded in opposition to his; no disposition be harboured that is contrary to his will. Of the angels it is said, “They do his will, hearkening to the voice of his word.” Thus should we be listening with deep attention to the manifestations of his will: and, when once we have discovered it, we should fulfil it with our whole hearts. Nothing should deter us, nothing should impede us: we should strive to do his will, with the readiness and constancy that it is done in heaven.]

From this subject we may gather ample matter,

1.       For reproof—

[It is truly surprising, that, with all our knowledge of God, we should be so regardless of him, as not to have him “in all, or any, of our thoughts.” It is not too strong to say of the generality of those who are called Christians, that they are “Atheists in the world [Note: Eph_2:12. The Greek.].” But what impiety is this! yea, and what folly too! If, indeed, we could withstand his power, there were some kind of excuse for us: but “will our hands be strong in the day that he shall deal with us? or can we thunder with a voice like his?” Alas! we must assuredly stand at his judgment-seat, and “receive from him according to what we have done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” I call you, then, to stand in awe of him, and to tremble at his presence: for, if you refuse to fear him now, oh! think what trembling will come upon you, when you shall be summoned to his bar, to receive your eternal doom. I pray you despise not this warning; but today, while it is called today, implore his mercy, lest he leave you to the hardness of your own hearts, and give you up to final impenitence.]

2.       For encouragement—

[God is, indeed, in his holy temple, ready to hear the weeping suppliant, and mighty to save his repenting people. To the Jews of old, access was denied, yea, was denied even to the high priest himself, except on one day in the year, to the more immediate presence of their God: but for you the way into the holiest is made clear; so that you may come with boldness and confidence to the very throne of God, whenever a sense of your necessities, or of his mercies, inclines you to approach him. When your Redeemer died, the vail was rent in twain, in order to represent to you this delightful truth. In Christ, your God is reconciled unto you: in Christ, he is ever nigh unto you, and ever ready to impart unto you all the blessings of grace and glory. Nay: He will make even your own hearts his temple; and “will dwell in you,” and “manifest himself unto you.” To you, then, I will rather reverse the direction in the text, and say, “Keep not silence; but rather plead with him, and give him no rest, day or night [Note: Isa_62:6-7.],” till he grant you the desires of your heart. “Be not straitened in yourselves; for ye are not straitened in him.” “However wide you may open your mouth, he will fill it,” and will “give you exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think.” In reference to his dealings with you, indeed, you must keep the most reverential silence: for “his ways are in the great deep;” “nor are his thoughts” at all in unison “with ours.” But I again say, in reference to all your own necessities, you can never ask too much, nor ever expect too much. Only look to him as “your God;” and you shall surely find him “a God unto you.”]