Today we continue through Habakkuk with the second of the five woes in chapter 2, which are part of God’s reply to the prophet’s plea for justice.
9 ‘Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
These woes have a particular relevance to the Babylonians – and this second woe also has a general application for those who have acquired their wealth through, shall we say, ‘nefarious means’. It pointedly warns of the futility of deriving any sort of security from ill-gotten gains. Whereas the first woe was directed at those who very visibly gained their wealth by violence, this woe was referring to those who gained from unjust practices and through the ruin of many people. The expression in verse 9 regarding setting high nests, might be also be seen as feathering their own nest.
Despite efforts to disguise the manner in which the wealth was obtained, the very edifice of security will witness against them. The stones of their house will cry out and the wooden beams will be in vocal agreement. I really puzzled about this picture and it reminded me of Jesus’ remarks when he entered Jerusalem amongst such excitement on the first Palm Sunday. He rebuked the Pharisees for wishing to quieten the praising crowds and said that if the crowds were silenced, then the stones would cry out. (See Luke 19:39-40) I wonder if there is some great truth that all of creation will be aligned to praise God, and Paul mentioned that creation has been groaning, waiting for the time of revelation (see Rom 8:18-23). Something to look forward to!
For me, this picture of the stones bearing witness to the shameful greed of some, is still a difficult one to grasp. However, I was reminded of the very graphic example not far from here. Racton Monument is a clear stone-build statement of the extravagance of George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, build probably to show off his wealth or possibly to watch over his ships docking in Emsworth. However, it was unlikely he ever got to see it – a true folly. He died without a son and heir.
What legacy will you and I leave?
We thank you for the many blessings and riches you have given us. Help us to be wise stewards of your provision. Guide us into honest and wholesome ways of acquiring our daily bread, and to be generous to those in need.
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Tomorrow’s Reading: Habakkuk 2:12-14