Gaining an Advantage
Do you recall a time when someone deceived you to gain some form of advantage over you? Think about it, or if applicable share it with your group.
Habakkuk 2:15 NIV
“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!”
In Habakkuk 2:5, we saw the effect wine had on the Babylonians themselves. Here the Lord deals with their use of wine to gain an advantage over their enemies.
The Fourth Woe
Our verse introduces us to the next of the five woes.
- We saw the first of these woes in Habakkuk 2:6 …. ‘extortion’.
- And the second was in verse 9 …. ‘unjust gain’.
- The third woe we found in verse 12 …. ‘bloodshed’.
- The next woe against the Babylonians, which we look at today, was that they deceived their neighbouring nations to obtain an advantage over them.
The prophet’s words indicate that the Babylonians not only had a passion for wine themselves. But in fact, they also used wine as a means to take advantage of their neighbours. The Babylonian goal was to impair the judgment of the nations that they were seeking to conquer, in order to weaken their ability to resist.
A modern-day example of this can be seen in the man who sneaks a rape drug into a woman’s drink to gain an advantage over her.
“To give one drink who is in want, who is thirsty and poor, or a weary traveller, or ready to perish, is charity; but to give a neighbour drink, that he may expose himself, may disclose secret concerns, or be drawn into a bad bargain, or for any such purpose, this is wickedness.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
In effect, our verse firstly contains a stern warning against those who cause others to become intoxicated. And secondly, to do this to take advantage of them.
A Stern Warning
Moreover, the drink that Habakkuk is referring to is alcoholic. Alcohol given to someone so that their judgment would be impaired.
Here in my country of South Africa, as in many other countries of the world, alcoholism is a major problem. In many communities, a large portion of a working man’s income is spent on strong drink.
Alcoholism takes a firm hold on an addict. They become so intoxicated that they lose control of their words and actions. They are a pathetic sight to see.
Sadly, when a person has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and is undergoing treatment and counselling in an attempt to break the curse, just one sip of alcohol can be a major setback to their recovery.
I know of a man who was ‘on the wagon’ and doing so well. Then one Sunday he attended a church service where communion was celebrated with real wine being served as part of the sacrament. Just that small amount of wine was enough to cause him a major setback to his recovery. With this in mind, in none of my churches did we serve wine. Instead, we used grape juice.
We have a friend with a drinking problem. Consequently, we know that should we invite him to any celebration we must ensure that we don’t have alcohol available.
- Do you have family, friends or acquaintances with a drinking problem? Be aware of their problem. Ensure that you are not guilty of escalating their downfall.
New Life in Christ
Bear in mind, drunkenness belongs to the way of the world. Not part of the new life in Christ.
“You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good.” (1 Peter 4:3 The Message)
“Let us conduct ourselves properly, as people who live in the light of day—no orgies or drunkenness, no immorality or indecency, no fighting or jealousy.” (Romans 13:13 GNB)
The Babylonians were guilty of seeking to impair the judgement of their enemies to gain an advantage over them.
As indicated in Matthew Henry’s commentary, to give a single drink to a thirsty visitor, traveller or someone who is dehydrated is an act of love and friendship. But to give someone several drinks to take advantage of them in any way is sinful in God’s sight.
Most versions have a similar translation of our verse, to that of the New International Version. However, the Good News Bible throws a different light on the verse.
“You are doomed! In your fury you humiliated and disgraced your neighbours; you made them stagger as though they were drunk.”
Most of us have had a humiliating experience at some point in our lives. Some of these experiences we can have a good laugh about later. Others stir up a sense of shame. Does a particular experience come to mind? Are you able to speak about it openly?
Child of God
Although the words of our verse were specifically aimed at the Babylonians they also serve as a warning to us today not to go down this path. The loving God does not approve of any action which deliberately demeans or humiliates another.
With this in mind ask yourself – Is someone perhaps uptight with you because consciously, or even unconsciously, at some point, you have belittled, demeaned, or humiliated them?
Remember you are a child of God, a joint-heir with Christ. The world may seek to put you down, but God regards you as someone special.
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7 NIV)
Think about this:
Have I personally humiliated someone or was I a witness to someone being humiliated? Ask the Lord to give you the courage to make things right with that person.
If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.