When I started this series on Habakkuk, Cynthia spoke to me after the message and said, “You know, Habakkuk is a book that the Jehovah’s Witnesses never use?” Cynthia came out of the JWs – the reason suddenly hit me – it is a verse we will read today, the most well-known verse in Habakkuk – anyone know it? “The just shall live by faith” – the battle-cry of the reformation. It cuts completely through the doctrine of salvation by works. So let’s read this famous passage and look at it in the context of Habakkuk’s day before we apply it – next time we will spend a bit of time at looking at verse four in isolation. [Read 2:1-5] Remember where we had come to? Habakkuk was having a dialogue with יהוה. [OHP] Q1/ How can יהוה allow evil to continue? A1/ Sin will be judged. Q2/ How can יהוה allow justice to be executed by the wicked? A2/ יהוה knows their evil and they will be judged too. So here we have Habakkuk on his watchtower looking for a vision, revelation from יהוה that will answer his complaint. Habakkuk expected to be reproved for being so audacious as to question יהוה ‘s ways and expected that he would have to defend himself and answer back to יהוה. In fact he never did – except in praise of the wonder of יהוה‘s ways. But answer Him יהוה did! Hallelujah! יהוה answers our genuine cry. For the second time יהוה answered his complaint. Convinced of the righteousness of his complaint, Habakkuk stationed himself and waited for יהוה’s reply.
יהוה goes on record [v.1,2] - Habakkuk spoke to יהוה, laid his complaint before Him, then waited for His reply. He fully expected Him to answer. How often we pray and ask, then go on with our living without waiting for יהוה’s response - perhaps we don’t really expect Him to! (cf. Psalm 5:1-3 Give ear to my words, Oh יהוה, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, Oh יהוה, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Jeremiah 42:4,7 Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to יהוה your God in accordance with your words; and I will tell you the whole message which יהוהwill answer you. I will not keep back a word from you.” 7 Now at the end of ten days the word of יהוה came to Jeremiah.). יהוה answers! Hallelujah! The reply came to Habakkuk. יהוה spoke! - absolutely authoritative, unquestionable, imperative. He did not discuss the issue with Habakkuk, but gave him orders, commanded him what to do. How different to the wishy-washy, anaemic, unimpressive utterances that are attributed to the LORD today. We don’t recognize His voice at all because we do not truly know Him. Habakkuk was told to write down the revelation that יהוה was giving him - it was to be "for the record", was recorded for posterity, written so that it could not be altered or be varied by interpretation, or questioned. It may seem that Babylon was prevailing, that man gets his way – but יהוה has gone on record! His word stands. This is the Divine verdict that man’s might and enterprise will not prevail. Judgement will come and justice will be carried out. It may seem like it is never happening but the written record of what God is going to do stands. Don’t get discouraged by the wicked and unjust seeming to prevail. יהוה has gone on record – we need to remind ourselves of what He says the end and outcome will be. יהוה revealed what was going to happen in the future when Babylon (man’s empire made by human effort, cooperation and enterprise) would be judged. He did so in order that His faithful ones may be warned and escape - "so that the one who reads it may flee" (cf. Zechariah 14:3-5 Then יהוה will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then יהוה, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! Matthew 24:16-20 those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains; Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.). There is coming a time of great judgement upon man and his man-made gods and human efforts, cooperation and enterprise (v.5-17; 3:3-16) but God’s faithful people are warned before hand by the written word of יהוה through His prophets. [The NIV reads "so that a herald may run with it" - written down so that messengers could carry יהוה’s message throughout the land to warn them].
Justice is coming soon [v.3] - The revelation was written down because it is future. It may seem that it is never going to be fulfilled. But its fulfilment is assured - it awaits its specific appointed time - the end time ("it speaks of the end" NIV). Habakkuk had asked “how long?” (cf. 1:2, 17) would it go on forever? – it seemed that injustice was prevailing that there would never be an end to wickedness. He was assured of יהוה‘s purity and righteousness but it seemed that God was being very slow to do anything. Have you ever felt that? Why doesn’t God do something? Have you ever been impatient? But God is going to act and He is not slow about it [2 Peter 3:9,10 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.]. There is a day appointed for יהוה’s judgement upon the whole human system (human government and empire building) - Babylon. This prophecy of the destruction of Babylon and man’s efforts, enterprise and gods is CERTAIN - its fulfilment is ASSURED. It may seem that the unrighteous prosper, that man’s underhanded schemes work and profit but יהוה here gives total assurance that this appointed judgement will take place. It will not prove false, it hastens toward the goal, it will not fail, it will certainly come. It may tarry, seem to take forever, but wait expectantly for it - for its fulfilment is most definite, totally certain. Don’t give up hope, keep expecting, waiting eagerly for יהוה’s coming when He will judge the world in righteousness (cf. Psalm 96:13 יהוה is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness.). Certain judgement is on the way for all the works of man, it is hastening to fulfilment, nothing can prevent its coming about. The faithful are warned, the foolish take no heed and will be destroyed. We need to wait expectantly Jesus is coming soon! [James 5:7,8 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.] The promise will be fulfilled and in His time God will do it rapidly. We can apply this verse to promises that the LORD has given us – It was very precious to me when I was praying earnestly for revival but we must be careful that we do not misapply it [Christina] – it only applies to that which יהוה has said that He will do. Supremely this applies to Jesus’ coming to judge the world – it is coming soon! Three times in the last few verses of Revelation 22 Jesus says that He is coming quickly [Revelation 22:12 Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.]. When יהוה acts, He will do so speedily. Things will come to a rapid fulfilment (cf. Isaiah 60:22 “The smallest one will become a clan, and the least one a mighty nation. I, יהוה, will hasten it in its time.”)
The righteous, not the proud will prevail [v.4] - יהוה told Habakkuk to carefully and accurately record the revelation that He was about to give for future posterity. The fulfilment was certain although the wait may seem long. Now the message, prophesying His future judgement on Babylon (man and his enterprise and efforts) is given. "He" is "Babylon", or the empire of man, human organized society that has rejected יהוה. Man’s basic flaw is PRIDE! That is the root behind all sin - an inflated concept of his own value and importance - thus his world is man/self centred rather than Christ centred. Man’s pride doesn’t want to be dependent upon another - so he does things by his own plans and schemes (cf. v.10); builds his own empire (cf. v.5), amasses material goods for himself (cf. v.6); builds, organizes - all by his own efforts and ability. His arrogance considers himself superior and more important to others so he gains for himself at the expense of others - he has no regard for the welfare of others (cf. v.7-13). What he worships is what he himself has made (cf. v.18,19). It is all man’s doing and originates in man - man is the centre. This is utter arrogance and pride - to which יהוה is utterly opposed! (cf. James 4:6). Man’s soul is not upright - all his desires are perverted and wicked (cf. Psalm 14:1-3 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. יהוה has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men t see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.). Man is proud but יהוה is opposed to proud. It is not the proud but the righteous who will prevail. יהוה will bring the proud down and it is the meek, the lowly, the poor and humble that He will exalt in the day that He comes. In the end it is the righteous who will prevail. The righteous are those who have God’s righteousness credited to them on the basis of faith – we will examine this key doctrine next time.
The life of faithfulness [v.4] – But in utter contrast to the proud is the man of faith – the rich are proud but the poor and humble are rich in faith. Here is a vital spiritual concept: “faith” – so let’s do a basic word study: if you look up in the O.T. of the NASB the word “faith” occurs only four times, and the Hebrew word that is translated “faith” here is translated as “faith” only in this verse. Similarly, using the old KJV you will only find the word “faith” only twice in the whole of the O.T. But if you look at the N.T. you will find “faith” 246 times. You are led to the conclusion that the O.T. and the N.T. are very different – the N.T. is a book of faith and the O.T. is not. But you would be completely wrong! This is just one of the pitfalls of doing a word study in English. The thing is that the Hebrew word for faith used in this verse does not occur only once in the O.T. but 49 times and the verb 147 times – so if it is only translated “faith” this once, what is it usually translated? “faithfulness” “truth” steadfastness”. In the NT the noun is translated “faith” 238 times but “faithfulness” only three times. So what is translated “faith” in the N.T. is translated “faithfulness” in the O.T. In both Hebrew and Greek the word for faith means both faithfulness and faith – there is no difference – the problem is with English. We have made “faith” into a mental assent to a set of propositions whereas it is the commitment of a life steadfastly and faithfully, basing your life faithfully upon. If something is true, if someone is reliable then you can trust them, have faith in them. Faith and faithfulness are intrinsically linked. Why is this word translated “faith” here where it isn’t anywhere else in the whole O.T. – purely because this verse is quoted in the N.T. where it is rendered “faith” – we will look at that connection next time. So translators have been less than consistent (dare we say honest?) being influenced by the N.T. Of course the Jews are not influenced by the N.T. – this is how they render the verse: “Lo, his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright, but the righteous man is rewarded with life for his fidelity.” So the TEV is consistent in rendering it “faithful”. Why make such a big deal about it? – because in the context of the passage “faithful” is what is meant. Habakkuk was distressed by the evil Babylonians being used to judge, by the unrighteous prevailing – but יהוה said that He was going to act soon, what was required was that he faithfully hang in there until יהוה ‘s final judgement came to pass – the final page hasn’t been written yet. And in our own day as we see the wicked prosper and injustice prevail, what is required is that the righteous ones faithfully hang in there trusting God. It looks like evil is prevailing, that unrighteousness is increasing but the final page isn’t written yet. What does God’s word say? That Jesus is coming to rule in righteousness and equity! That is the hope that we faithfully hold on to, we lift up our heads waiting expectantly for Jesus’ return, for the fulfilment of what יהוה has promised. That is the life of faith – basing your life on what God’s word says, not on the circumstances that you see around you. The godless had turned aside from following יהוה - they are not faithful to God, don’t rely on Him, In utter contrast, the righteous man will live (the others being destined to perish in the judgement carried out by the Babylonians) – he will live because of his faithfulness - he hasn’t departed from his reliance upon יהוה (as opposed to man who relies on his own enterprise). Those that are faithful to יהוה will be preserved in the remnant. Wickedness will increase and seem all pervasive at the end (just as it was in Habakkuk’s day) - what יהוה looks for is those who, amidst the all pervading humanism and man/self centred society, remain faithful to Him alone. To the faithful יהוה will grant life. The lives of His faithful ones will be spared (cf. Luke 18:7,8 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faithfulness on the earth?” Matthew 24:44-46 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’). The root concept of "emunah" is "CERTAINTY" - being totally reliable, completely dependable - this is the mark of the righteous man. We Christians should be faithful but who readily we up and leave when things go wrong [cf. John and Beth]. The righteous will live, but those trusting in themselves will perish. The proud man who arrogantly leaves God out of the equation is soulish and that soul has become twisted and perverted - he is as dependable as a crooked arrow - there is no uprightness or faithfulness in him - he cannot be relied upon. What יהוה is looking for is faithfulness, dependability. "But the righteous shall live because he is faithful.
יהוה condemns the proud [v.5] – The Babylonians were proud, that is what characterised them, that’s what characterises natural man – but the proud will be humbled. יהוה condemns the proud. The verses that follow are a taunt against them for they will have their day. Babylon is humanism, man glorying in himself and his own cooperative strength. The human centred man is utterly arrogant, proud and haughty - ruled by soulish desires. He is soulish - ruled by his soul. He is ruled by his desire for alcohol and food. Staying out late drinking. Never satisfied. What his soul demands, he gratifies - this makes his soulish appetites greater - his lusts get greater and greater - expanding and expanding until they take over! Never satisfied, never content, always wanting more and more. The ridiculous extremes to which this soulish desiring expands are evident in our consumer society. With advertising egging them ever on. The material accoutrements that men must have just go on and on, becoming gods which are worshipped. This never satiated hunger is carried to ridiculous extremes in existential thrills, to get a buzz - man goes to the grave itself still seeking to gratify the demands of his soulish desires and still not satisfied - be it drugs, bung jumping, para-ponting and various other adventure sports, fast cars etc. Indulging in alcohol which reveals their true depravity, betrays him for what he really is under his respectable veneer. Never satisfied, always gadding about, not content just to be at home living a simple life - always dining out, out to concerts, shows, movies, at the pub - unsettled, dissatisfied. An insatiable hunger drives the soulish man. Never content, never satisfied. “I can’t get no satisfaction!” Always some new scheme, enterprise, ambition. Man, in his pride and arrogance, must rule, conquer, be in a position over others - rule over nations and peoples - gather people to him or under him to support him in his enterprise. Draw together the collective energies of man, to unite to achieve even great things (one world government) - to be god himself (cf. Gen 11:1-9). This is the heart of Babylon, the heart of mankind - arrogant and ambitious. The revelation to Habakkuk is the certain destruction of this whole system (cf. Rev 18:1-19:6). The faithful eagerly await the fulfilment of this certain outcome that יהוה has determined and planned. Man and his might and self-reliance will be destroyed – in the end it will be the faithful who will prevail [“Furthermore it is required of a steward that he be faithful.”]. יהוה’s answer to Habakkuk is that the prevailing wicked will not always do so, they will have their day of judgement and it is the faithful who will remain – they will live, the proud will perish. What יהוה looks for is for FAITHFULNESS.