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“The Righteous shall live by Faith”
When we left Habakkuk, he was staked out on the wall waiting for a reply from the Lord. He knew that God would send an answer, but he didn’t know when. Furthermore, he was aware that the answer might not be what he expected. Habakkuk shows that he has grown in his understanding of the Lord. For, rather than impatiently demanding an answer from the Lord (Habakkuk 1: 2-4), he is now waiting patiently for God’s answer. Instead of assuming that he knew what the answer would be, he is now wondering what God would say.
Verse 1 –Waiting
“I will stand on my guard post And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.”
The Bible has much to say about waiting on the Lord.
How to wait on the Lord
Benefits of waiting on the Lord
Just like there are examples of correct and incorrect ways to speak to God in the Bible, there are also good and bad examples of waiting on the Lord in Scripture. I picked two examples recorded for us from the time around the death of Jesus:
Peter and John in the Garden Just before the Lord was taken to be delivered to death, the two disciples closest to Jesus failed the test of waiting and praying with him in the garden. Twice.
How much better to be remembered in scripture like —
Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. (Mark 15:43)
I know that I need to grow in proper waiting. I once found an prayer journal from several years earlier in which I recorded my prayers as well as answers from the Lord. As I looked back through the entries for prayer, I saw items that I had prayed for faithfully for a while. But, as time went on without results, I went on to other things and quit praying for those initial things. The amazing thing was that many of these requests HAD been answered. But, I had missed the joy of seeing that answer when it happened because I had lost my focus and quit waiting.
So, in this culture of drive-through food, instant messaging, quick delivery, rapid responses… how well do you wait for the Lord?
Verse 2–Write it down
“Then the Lord answered me and said,
“Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.”
When God does speak to Habakkuk (and we have no idea how long he sat on the wall waiting), he instructs him to inscribe the words that He was giving to him on a tablet. While the complete meaning of “That the one who reads it may run” is uncertain, it seems clear that the tablet was to be clearly readable from a distance. Perhaps for someone who was moving quickly, ie running. Probably, the message on the tablets would be something that a messenger would read, then run and announce to the people. In today’s language, God is asking Habakkuk to post His words on a billboard!
Even today, we use the words “etched in stone” to mean something that is sure, a firm contract, an unchangeable event. For God to etch His words in something… stone, wax or wood are three options that I found in commentaries on this passage… meant that these things were surely going to happen.
The King James Version says that Habakkuk had to “make it plain upon tablets”, to which Charles Spurgeon replied…
I have sometimes thought that certain ministers fancied that it was their duty to make the message elaborate, to go to the very bottom of the subject, and stir up all the mud they could find there, till you could not possibly see them, nor could they see their own way at all . . . They tell people all the difficulties they have discovered in the Bible, – which difficulties most of their hearers would never have heard of unless their ministers had told them. (Spurgeon)
When WE share God’s words with others, we should try our best to make it plain.
As I was preparing this lesson, I thought, “How cool would it be to live in the time of the prophets!” To see Habakkuk sitting on the wall, waiting…knowing that the Lord was going to speak. Then, what excitement to see him hurry down from the wall and began carving out tablets with the actual words of God! Who wouldn’t run to see the words, then run to tell others the fresh, exciting words of God?
But, God convicted me that I have something even greater. Something that Habakkuk or the people at that time didn’t have. I have the completed word of God to his people, both testaments, in book form, in digital form… even on my phone. I have continual access to God’s complete revelation! And, that is also something I should hurry to read and then run to tell others!
“For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.”
The seemingly contradicting language about timing in this verse demonstrates how different God’s view of time is from our view of time. This verse says the vision is for an appointed time. Then, it says it hastens toward the goal and will not fail. (Sounds soon.) But, then it says, “though it tarries, wait for it”. (Sounds far away.) But, finally, it will certainly come, it will not delay.
Some things seem like delays to us. However, God is sovereign over time. He has a plan that determines events to happen at an appointed time. If everything happens when it is appointed, if everything that God wills is certain, there is no delay.
Habakkuk was probably concerned with what was going to happen to his people in his lifetime… like we are concerned with the events and people that we know in our lifetime. We aren’t normally concerned with timing that happened 200 years ago, or with things that will happen 200 years from now. But, the eternal, holy God was raising up and putting down nations to complete his eternal, holy plan.
So the rise of Babylon to judge Judah, would lead to the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persians. These would lead to ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire which was the perfect time for the Messiah to be born and enter the world. And, this eternal, holy timeline is marching right along through our civilization, and right up to the return of Christ. The timing of the judgment of Judah and then of Babylon were just two stops on a timeline of many appointments to the kingdom. Every appointment… right on time.
Verse 4–Two categories of People
“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.”
God begins in verse 4, to tell of the coming judgment of the Chaldeans. But, instead of describing two kinds of nations, he describes two kinds of people. Even though the over-arching theme of Habakkuk is judgment of these nations, God is always concerned with individuals.
So, God divides the people into two groups– The Proud, with a soul that is not righteous, and the Righteous, who live by faith. There have always been those two groups of people… the lost and the found, the saved and the condemned, believers and unbelievers, sinners and redeemed.
It is interesting, that, when Habakkuk was speaking to God, he was concerned about “the more wicked” nation swallowing up the “less wicked”. Habakkuk saw variations within the group of the “wicked”. However, God points out that there are just ultimately two groups of people.
The Proud Man
Rather than calling the unrighteous lost or condemned, God uses a prevalent sin to describe the unrighteous– pride. The sin of pride is a sin of being against God, denying a need for God, considering yourself as God. It was a great sin of the Chaldeans, as we saw in the previous passages. It was the sin of Satan, when he exalted himself to be like God. It is also the sin of many who don’t follow God.
From Guzik’s commentary:
Pride is everywhere and takes all manner of shapes.
·Here is the rich man, proud of what he has
·There is the poor man, proud of his “honor” in having less
·Here is the talented man, proud of what he can do
·There is the man of few talents, proud of his hard work
·Here is the religious man, proud of his religion
·There is the unbeliever, proud of his unbelief
·Here is the establishment man, proud of his place in society
·There is the counter-cultural man, proud of his “outcast” status
·Here is the learned man, proud of his intelligence and learning
·Here is the simple man, proud of his simplicity
The judgment that God is going to declare in the upcoming verses is directed at the Chaldeans. This is His answer to Habakkuk about whether or not they would go on destroying other nations forever. However, I can’t help but think, since it would be the primarily the people of Judah who were reading the vision inscribed on the tablet, that God is also calling out to the “proud, unrighteous” of Judah– the ones Habakkuk was complaining about in the beginning of chapter one– and calling them to faith and righteousness.
The time of God’s seeming delay was still a time of grace.
The Righteous Man
Here in the tiny book of Habakkuk, is this amazing statement that is picked up in the New Testament–
“The righteous shall live by faith.”
From the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary, the three uses in the NT are:
1. In Romans 1:17, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4b as the Biblical foundation for the gospel that he preached.
2. In Galatians 3: 11, Paul uses this verse to contrast the law, by which no one can become righteous, with the righteousness that comes by faith.
3. In Hebrews 10:37-38 these same words describe faithfulness through suffering.
Furthermore, from what we have already studied in Habakkuk,
1. Faith is the basis for correct conversations with the Lord.
2. Faith allows us to wait patiently for the Lord’s answers and actions.
3. Faith carries us through situations that are beyond our comprehension.
Points to Remember:
God is in control, even when the circumstances look grim. Though we don’t have access to the divine timeline of God, there is a perfect timeline, and everything and every one (including you and I) keep our appointments on that timeline.
God is a God of salvation, even in the midst of declaring judgment,. Anyone who read the tablets, repented of his pride against the Lord and turned in faith would be granted righteousness. That salvation also continues today.