Woe to Abusers and Victimizers

Scripture Focus: Habakkuk 2.15-17
15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, 
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, 
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 
16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. 
Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! 
The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, 
and disgrace will cover your glory. 
17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, 
and your destruction of animals will terrify you. 
For you have shed human blood; 
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

Reflection: Woe to Abusers and Victimizers
By John Tillman

Habakkuk describes the host of a party who betrays his neighbors by getting them drunk and then taking sexual advantage of them. This story has a chillingly familiar ring. 

The details could be copied from today’s headlines. It is similar to reports of heinous actions exposed during the #MeToo era. The betrayal goes beyond the sexual element. These people were neighbors who trusted their host and accepted drinks poured by his hand. Only afterward did they realize the person they thought was friendly was victimizing them. What seemed like generosity was selfishness and what seemed like hospitality was making them hostages to the host’s lust.

No era has ever been without sexual abuse and sin. However, this description by Habakkuk is metaphorical. The scene he paints is about a larger, worldwide pattern of abuse. The host in this metaphor is Babylon. Nations who allied themselves politically with Babylon bought into the hype of Babylon’s greatness and superiority. They thought they were guests at this party enjoying the wealth and spoils of Babylon’s reign, but actually, they were just victims lured into a trap. They were eventually despoiled and humiliated.

When we sip from the cup of empires, we will be dominated and controlled by them. It’s easy for us to be suckered and find ourselves victims of those who at first seem to be on our side. Whenever and wherever we live there are and will be those who will seek to take advantage of us.

Babylon, like Nineveh, was a city built on bloodshed and humiliation. Habakkuk proclaimed that exactly what was done by Babylon to others would be done to them in return. God will bring justice to victimizers and abusers. All the wickedness they think they have gotten away with will be exposed. They will be the ones naked and exposed and shamed. Let us pray for that day.

Let us pray that all victims, nations, groups, and individuals will see justice fall on their abusers and victimizers. Let us pray that abusers’ defenses and excuses and denials will be stripped from them. Let us pray that all victims would find shelter, acceptance, care, and healing in the arms of the church. 

And finally, let us pray that we will be wise and discerning, not easily falling into the traps set by those who would take sexual, spiritual, or political advantage of us. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!

Today’s Readings
Habakkuk 2 (Listen – 3:20)
Mark 7 (Listen – 4:28)

Read more about Beyond Consent
Our culture has groomed many of us to accept the idea that the “freedom” of unlimited sexual experiences is harmless

Read more about Degrading Each Other
As the #MeToo movement sweeps around the world, Jesus stands with the victims, claiming their pain as his own…

He Became Poor — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Habakkuk 2.6-8, 18-20
6 “ ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods 
and makes himself wealthy by extortion! 
How long must this go on?’ 
7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? 
Will they not wake up and make you tremble? 
Then you will become their prey. 
8 Because you have plundered many nations, 
the peoples who are left will plunder you. 
For you have shed human blood; 
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? 
Or an image that teaches lies? 
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; 
he makes idols that cannot speak. 
19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ 
Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ 
Can it give guidance? 
It is covered with gold and silver; 
there is no breath in it.” 
20 The Lord is in his holy temple; 
let all the earth be silent before him.

Reflection: He Became Poor — Love of Advent
By John and Melissa Tillman

Dissatisfaction that leads to debt…
Looking to wealth for security…
Drunken revelry…

The themes of Habakkuk 2 sound like a godless, joyless, commercialized Christmas. We can get trapped in the trappings of Christmas. Their shine and glimmer can become idols to our own desires.

The idols of our modern age are not that different from those of any other age. Instead of worshiping the true God, in whom we live and move and have our being, we make for ourselves idols to our liking. Our culture worships a nameless pull, a desire for more, a never ending hunger. 

Habakkuk describes a hunger like the grave.

The prophets all connect the accumulation of unjust wealth with bloodshed of the poor. 
Whether this is intended to be literal or metaphorical, it shows that God acknowledges that part of the wealth of the elite comes from the life’s blood of the poor. In addition, the reasons God gives for his just acts of judgment against Israel and Judah include idolatry and moral failures, but also always include offenses related to oppression of the poor.

Another sign of God’s deep love for the poor is that Jesus entered the world through the womb of a poor girl to become a part of a poor family. He even chose to live the last few years of his life as a poor, homeless man.

Jesus comes to proclaim good news to the poor as one of the poor. 

His love extends to all of us in every form of our poverty.
Our poverty of wealth…
Or our poverty of compassion…
Our poverty of family…
Or our poverty of care…
Our poverty of justice…
Or our poverty of grace…

Whether our poverty is of physical things or spiritual things, Christ proclaims to our impoverished hearts his good news. He became poor so that we might, through his poverty, become rich. (2 Corinthians 8.9)

His love will fill us with good things. (Luke 1.53)
His love will perfect us into the image of himself. 
His love, if we let it, will make us shine like stars that proclaim the goodness of God in a dark world.  (Philippians 2.15)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Habakkuk 2 (Listen – 3:20)
Luke 21 (Listen – 4:18)

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Read more about A Prayer of Hope :: Hope of Advent
Lord, as the world grows darker, the hope we have in Christ, burns brighter.