Ungodly Appetites

Habakkuk 2:5         “Ungodly Appetites”         8-07-11 a.m.

      In Leonia, New Jersey, back in 1995, a man was arrested for stealing a truck full of Snapple.  It turns out he had previously worked for Snapple, and had been fired from his job for stealing and drinking the beverages.  Undaunted, he dressed up as a Snapple delivery driver and made off with a whole truckload of it.  The police officer who reported on the crime made the statement: “He just has an uncontrollable appetite for Snapple beverages.” 

     Well, we may shake our heads and laugh at that, but the truth is, there are many such uncontrolled appetites running rampant in America today, leading to the demise of many individuals and families – and they are about to put our whole nation under!

     As we return to the Book of Habakkuk this morning, we are looking at Chapter 2:5-8.  Last week we addressed :4, one of the most blessed and used verses in history, where God told Habakkuk that in the midst of trials and questions “the righteous will live by his faith.”  Salvation and eternal life are by faith, and a person who is following the Lord must persevere by faith.  But in a world that is deteriorating morally and spiritually, the life of faith is rare.  In Habakkuk’s day, sin was rampant, and God was going to condemn both Judah, and the people of Babylonwho would judge Judah, for their sins against Him. 

     As we look at the rest of Chapter 2, we find a series of 5 “woes” of God’s judgment; each linked to a sin that the people of Habakkuk’s day were committing.  We would be foolish to believe that we could continue in the very same sins that God judged in Habakkuk’s day – and that He would not punish us for them today.  As we saw in Chapter 1, God is a holy God.  His eyes are too pure to look with approval upon sin.  Addressing these sins is not an enjoyable task, but it is one that we must do if we hope to turn back to God and find His blessing.  The first sin we find addressed here, in :5-8,  is the sin of the uncontrolled appetite. 

 I.  The Ungodly Appetite is for More

     Verse 5 describes the uncontrolled appetite:  “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home.  He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied.  He also gathers to himself many nations and collects to himself all peoples.” 

     These words describe the Babylonians, and the appetite for more that controlled them.  The first example that it gives is regarding their appetite for alcohol.  It says, “Wine betrays the haughty man …”.  History tells us that the Babylonians had an infamous addiction to alcohol.  You may remember the story in Daniel of how Belshazzar’s Babylonian kingdom fell while he and his men were feasting with wine instead of guarding their kingdom.  One of the “uncontrollable appetites” that they Babylonians had, for which God would judge them, was for alcohol.  Now our main topic today is not solely alcohol, but the much wider problem of uncontrolled appetites in general.  But I think I would be remiss if I did not speak at least a word here.  I have seen over the last years a lessening of conviction in many Christians against the evils of alcohol, and I believe that this is a dangerous, dangerous thing.  Perhaps a generation ago there was too much legalism regarding alcohol; perhaps then there was too much emphasis on avoiding some of the “public vices” – and perhaps some in the church acted as if the sum total of following Jesus was just “don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance.”  Christianity is a lot more than just the things you avoid, but I think today many people are falling into the opposite danger.  They are not recognizing the dangers of these things – and especially alcohol.  I have no doubt in my mind that if I were to ask for a public show of hands here there morning, of every person who had someone in their family, or some close friend, whose life had been destroyed by alcohol, virtually every hand in this room would go up.  Alcohol is dangerous; it is dangerous.  Be careful, mom and dad, what you model for your kids.  There is an old saying: “What the parents allow in moderation, the children take to excess.”  Don’t be surprised, mom & dad, if you dabble with a little, that your kids will plunge into a lot.  As we look at this passage which warns of the excesses of so many things, let us not ignore the fact that the warning here originally involved alcohol.  As your pastor, let me urge you to stay away from it entirely.  It is absolutely, absolutely destructive. 

     But as I said, the message of this text is not solely regarding alcohol; it really speaks to uncontrolled appetites of all kinds.  Verse 5 says the Babylonian “enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied.”  The Hebrew here is literally that he “widens his soul”; he “widens his desire.”  Hebrews scholars tell us that these words picture for us an insatiable desire.  The specific desire that it is referring to here is the Babylonians’ uncontrolled appetite for conquering other nations and peoples.  Chapter 1:6 says they “march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.”  :9 says “they collect captives like sand.”  Chapter 2:8 here says “you have looted many nations.”  They had an uncontrolled appetite, not only for alcohol, but also for countries, and people, and possessions.  They had a rampant appetite for more, more, more.    

     It just so happens that this “uncontrolled appetite for more” is one of the signature sins of America today.  And I am not only speaking of caloric intake – although it can certainly involve that.  There is a lust for “more” in our nation that is rampant throughout our population.  People want more money, more sex, more clothes, more alcohol, more drugs, more homes, more land, more cars, more channels, more pornography, more of whatever they are collecting – more, more, more! 

     This uncontrolled appetite for more is behind the debt problem in America.  I was listening to one of our Baptist leaders speak of how few American Christians tithe.  On average, Christians in our country give about 2.5% of their income to the Lord’s work – about ¼ of the 10% minimum they should be giving.  But, he said, the problem is even worse than that, because not only are we 97.5% of our income on ourselves, we are not only spending 100% of our income – many of us are borrowing on top of that, buying even what we can’t afford to pay for, so we are actually spending 107 or 110, or 117 percent of our income – for things we just think we HAVE to have!  There is an unbridled appetite for more in America that is driving many families to ruin. 

     And this same unbridled appetite is reflected in our nation’s budget, with a yearly shortfall in our Federal budget of over 1.5 TRILLION dollars a year!  It is not that the Federal budget is 1.5 Trillion Dollars; the government is spending 1.5 trillion dollars more than they take in, every year!  It is a path to national economic disaster – and yet our Congress met this week, in emergency session, and raised the national debt ceiling by 2.5 Trillion dollars, and did almost nothing to trim our budget deficit!  Virtually all of the cuts that were made will not go into effect for 3-4 years; we are just continuing down the same path of economic madness, spending more than we can afford as a nation. 

     We see it all through our nation: from individuals, to families, to our nation as a whole; there is an unbridled appetite for more.  But it would be one thing if all of that “more” was doing any good; if it was really bringing satisfaction.  But it isn’t.    

 II.  The Ungodly Appetite is Never Satisfied.

     One thing the Bible makes clear is that although the appetite is always for more, it never really does satisfy.  We see that here in :5; it says:“He is like death, never satisfied.”  Proverbs 30:15-16 says that the grave never says, “enough”; it is never satisfied.  R.L. Smith once wrote: “Death never takes a holiday.”  Death never has enough; no matter how many die, it is never satisfied; it always sweeps more and more into its net, and is never satisfied.  In the same way, the Bible says, the uncontrolled appetites of sin are never enough; they never satisfy.  You try to feed those appetites with more and more, but it is never enough. 

     I remember when I was very young, hearing the story of how someone once asked a very rich man, how much money did it take to really make you happy.  With a wry whisper, the man said: “More; always one dollar more!”  The message was clear: it is never “enough.”  The uncontrolled appetite never has enough. 

     And so many people in our country today are a living example of this.  Some of you are:  You are caught in an uncontrolled appetite, and you cannot get enough:

— some of you, like that rich man, can’t get enough money

— some of you can’t get enough food

— some of you can’t get enough sex

— some of you can’t get enough pornography; your eyes will never be satisfied

— some of you can’t get enough alcohol

— some of you can’t get enough drugs

— some of you just can’t get a big enough house, or enough land

— some of you can’t buy enough clothes; though your closet is bursting at its seams

— some of you can’t gather enough things for your collection; it never ends; it is always more, more, more

     What many of you don’t realize is that you are caught in a trap from which you cannot escape without God’s help. 

     Some of you may have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.  Where is the end of that?  There is no “end”, is there?  It will never be satisfied – not until every last dollar you have has been spent; not until your marriage has been lost as a casualty; not until you have driven every loved one away; not until your body has been wasted and destroyed and finally given in death as a sacrifice to that horrible addiction.  There is no end to it.

     But there are many other insatiable appetites as well.  Years ago I read an article that the Lord used to help protect me; the article stated that when a man looks at pornography, there is a chemical that is released in his brain, which gives him a “high”, just like a drug.  And after repeated viewings of pornography, that man is as addicted to pornography as any addict is to drugs.  He may even want to get away from it, but there is now a neuro-chemical dependency that makes that habit incredibly difficult to break. This is why it is so important — just like in alcohol, not to take that first drink — never to get started on pornography.  This is why it is important to set up safeguards by keeping your computers out in the open at home, and using filtering software, and whatever safeguards you can put in place.  This is NOT an obscure problem.  If you are involved in it, you are not the o only one.  Studies tell us that 50% of the men in CHURCH on Sunday morning are involved with pornography.  Those figures can be hard to believe, but I am given to understand that they are true.  I know of a pastor who said, “Those numbers wouldn’t be true in my church”, so he did a survey and found that over 60% of the men in his church had viewed pornography in the last 6 months!  It is rampant.  And there is no end to it.  Proverbs says that death and the grave are never satisfied, “and the eyes of man are never satisfied.”  It lures you in, but it never truly satisfies.  It will destroy your ability to enjoy a normal physical relationship with your wife; it will lead to the destruction of your marriage, the destruction of your family, and it will lead you down the road to ever-increasing levels of perversion.  There is no end to it.  “The eyes of man are never satisfied” the Proverb says; and that scripture has no better application than to pornography.  

     But there are many other applications of this verse.  Some of you ladies – and men — are addicted to shopping – and I am not kidding.  Several years ago, they reported on CBS that studies indicate that when you buy something, you can get a “rush” of excitement – some of you know that feeling.  It turns out, again, just like with pornography, that this comes from the release of a chemical in your brain that give you a real “high.”  So there really is something to that “retail therapy” that some women talk about – that “high” that comes from buying.  One shopper who was interviewed by CBS put it this way:  “When you’re feeling bad, and you buy something good … you feel better.”  What that shopper – and so many others of you – have experienced is real.  There is a “shopping high.”  The problem is, that “high” doesn’t last long.  It soon goes away; and then you need to go back out shopping again, to get something else, to get another “high” – and again, where does it end?  It can become a never-ending, never-satisfied addiction that not only misdirects your resources from where God would have you spend them, but also can absolutely ruin your and your family financially!  You have an addiction to something that is NEVER going to be satisfied.  Like death, it “never takes a holiday.” 

     But whatever your particular appetite is, the heart problem is the same:  you are looking for satisfaction and pleasure and fulfillment where it was never intended to be found.  You are looking for it in the endless accumulation or experience of things, which are finite, and can never ultimately fulfill you.  The truth is, your appetite can only ever be ultimately fulfilled by Someone or Something Infinite – and that “Someone” is God!

–That is why Psalm 149:2 says: “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the sons ofZionrejoice in their King.” 

–This is why Psalm 16 says: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” 

     We can experience pleasures and joys that never end, when we find them from the infinite, unending source where we were designed to find them from: God Himself.  But most people are not doing that; they are seeking to fulfill their appetite in ways which will never truly satisfy them. 

 III.  The Ungodly Appetite is Judged

     The sin of the uncontrolled appetite is a sin first and foremost against God.  We are supposed to find our pleasure and joy in Him, and instead we seek to fill the void in our lives with something else.  So we end up making idols of those things, and spend our lives in a mad rush to feed that appetite which is never satisfied.  But it is all idolatry.  When you continually seek to fill your life with something besides God for satisfaction, that is idolatry, and God says He will judge it.  We see that here in Habakkuk 2.  God tells Habakkuk in partial answer to his questions, thatBabylon, this rapacious people, is not going to “get off the hook” with God; they WILL be judged.  They WILL have their day of reckoning. 

     In fact, verses 6-20 of Habakkuk 2 are actually a song of judgment uponBabylon; it is like a “song” of 5 “stanzas” if you will, with 3 verses each.  Each of the “stanzas” contains a “woe” – indicating that God is going to judge that sin.  We see it here in verse 6: “Will not all these take up a taunt song against him … WOE to Him who increases what is not his …”.  God says here that He is going to judge those who have these uncontrolled appetites – who have put other things in the place where only God belongs.   

     I did not follow the Caylie Anthony case closely; I am so sorry that the media made a circus out of the whole thing.  But I know that many people were upset with the verdict; it was all over the news; it was all over Facebook.  One of the best responses I saw to that verdict was a picture of a sign that someone put up; it read: “Caylee’s warriors, relax; I’ve got this one – God.”  Many find comfort in that – that God will judge.  He is not going to let any sin get by; it will all be found out and judged.  But is that really comforting?!   Jesus said, “by your standard of measure it will be measured to you!”  YES all sin will be judged – but that means that YOUR sin will be judged!  That means that YOU cannot continue in YOUR ungodly sins and appetites without expecting the hand of God to come upon YOU!  As surely as justice would be done in Judah; as surely as justice would be done to Babylon; as surely as justice will be done to the murderer of Caylee Anthony – as surely justice will be done to our nation – and justice will be done to YOU!  This truth should call us all to repentance …


     There is every indication that we are living in climactic days – just like in the Book of Habakkuk; and it is time for us to hear the word of God, and get our houses in order.  We need to restrain our lusts and appetites – for whatever they are.  More than anything else, you need to see what your root problem is: you are looking for something from other people or pleasures or things that you cannot have truly satisfied anywhere but with God.  And then take some specific steps to address your problem area. 

     For some of you, who know for sure that Jesus is your Savior, this means that today you need to consciously stop seeking your fulfillment in the wrong places.  You need to purposefully begin to seek the Lord every day – and all through the day – and find in HIM what you have been trying to find in those appetites that has been dominating your life.  Learn to worship Him; discover the sweetness that comes when you sing to Him;  find the pleasure and joy that are in His presence.  And take some specific steps to help reign in your misdirected appetites: get on a budget; get in a Financial Peace class; set up safeguards, close off areas of temptation get an accountability partner to help you – whatever you need to do. 

     But the truth is, some of you can’t do this, because Jesus is NOT your Savior, and you don’t have any help against this appetite.  This is where Jesus words in Luke 11:24-26 are so applicable.  He said, “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.  Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go and live there – and the last state of the man is worse than the first.”  Jesus is saying there that it is not enough to try to “cast out” an evil spirit – or a bad habit.  You may “kick it out” for a time – but it can just come right back if it finds its place in your heart empty and ready for it again.  The point is: for ultimate healing, you have to have something else in your heart.  You’ll never overcome your uncontrolled appetites, if you don’t have something in your heart that is greater than that appetite.       

— you can clear out your credit cards, but you’ll go right back and fill them up again – some of you have done that very thing, haven’t you? – and that is what you WILL do, until you get your heart right, and start finding your fulfillment in the Lord instead of on charging things that you can’t afford!

— you may stop drinking or drugs for a time, but you’ll be right back on them again soon, unless you get the Lord in that empty place in your heart, who will give you a new power to overcome that addiction!

— Whatever your problem area is, it is not enough to know that you have an uncontrolled appetite, and want to change it.  You’ve got to have something else to take that empty place in your heart: and that “something” you must have is the Holy Spirit of God.  And thank God, you CAN have Him in your life today – if you will admit your sin, and ask Jesus to be your Savior, He will forgive you, more than that, He will send His Holy Spirit into your heart, and help you to overcome that ungodly “appetite for more”!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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