The Righteous Shall Live by His Faith
Habakkuk 2:2-20- God’s second response
We have now read Habakkuk’s first lament (1:1-4) consisting of the question, why is there wickedness within Israel, and what are you going to do about it? God’s first response (1:5-11) consists of the confusing but straightforward answer, “I am raising up the wicked and evil nation of the Chaldeans.” Habakkuk is then driven to his second complaint (1:12-2:1) which asks the question, how can you solve injustice with injustice? You made a covenant with Israel to be their God forever; how can we be wiped off the face of the earth? He finishes by saying that he will wait for a response, for as long as necessary. Today we look at God’s second and final response to Habakkuk’s lament (Hab 2:2-20). It really could be two sermons due to the content, but we will try and tackle it in one devotion.
I. Words to the Wise (2:2-5)
1. God hears and speaks (2a)
Habakkuk’s first question is how long I shall cry for help, and you do not hear (Hab 1:1). God’s response in verse two is that he does listen, and he does respond. The Hebrew says, he replied, and he said, emphasizing that God speaks. God has not left him in the silence, God has not left his covenant people, he will recuse them, and he will preserve them, even from the wicked evil nation of the Chaldeans. In amongst disasters and worries, many people point to Christianity and cry, “where is your God?” (Ps 42:3; 115:2). Habakkuk teaches us that God not only hears our prayers, but he can respond to our questions. It is not a silver bullet; it is not a life of paradise going forward for Habakkuk and the Lord’s people. However, God is a God who hears our cries and also responds to our petitions and pleas.
2. God’s message is clear and is to be told (2b)
God tells Habakkuk to do three things, 1) write the vision down, 2) make it plain on tablets so that 3) he may run who reads it. You write something down to remember it. We have the very words penned by Habakkuk in 600 BC. Not only God hears and speaks, but he has preserved this very book (and the rest of the Bible) for the church today and through this age. The book teaches us about God, his character, his attributes, and his sovereignty in ordaining everything that comes to pass. We also learn how God’s people can face troubled times. We do not wait for the invasion of the Chaldean army, but we do learn how the righteous should live and how the proud will fall. “All Scripture,” Paul writes, “is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Habakkuk is to write the words on a tablet, for durability. The message is to be sent for many to hear. God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). Even the book of Habakkuk gives us a glimpse into the believer’s life during times of lament.
3. God’s timing is perfect, and it will come to pass (3)
Habakkuk several times questions God’s timing asking how long? (1:2, 1:17). Like a child in the car asking, “are we there yet?” God’s response is similar to, “we will get there when we get there.” God responds that it will happen at the exact moment I providentially make it happen. Interesting, he doesn’t tell Habakkuk, Tuesday, March, 605 BC. Hardly ever does God tell us exactly what date things will happen but tells us to be ready. Galatians 4:4 says, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” The perfect time Christ was born of a woman, under the law. Like blowing up a balloon but not knowing when it will pop, God tells Habakkuk to wait anticipatorily. In the movies of Lord of the Rings, Frodo tells Gandalf that he was late. Gandalf replies, “A wizard is never late but arrives precisely when he means to.” God’s timing is perfect, and he has always done what he has promised to do. We are also commanded to wait and watch for Christ’s return (Heb 9:28; 1 Cor 15:52; Matt 25:13).
4. The proud is not right and never rests (4a and 5)
The proud man puffs himself and believes he is right all the time, and this is his demise, for this makes him proud. He is not right within himself. His soul is puffed up. The word for soul is found in verse 5 for greed and life for verse 10. His soul is puffed up, and like an endless pit, it is never satisfied but wants more. One commentator says, “Death never takes a holiday.” Death is never satisfied. A trash can be full, or stomach content. But the proud man is like the grave. Never do you see the image of the grim reaper with a no vacancy sign, come back next week we have reached our quota. Greed never finds rest, for there is always more to be had. This is an excellent contrast from verse 4b.
5. The righteous shall live by his faith (4b)
A famous verse that you might not have known was in the book of Habakkuk. This verse is quoted two times by the apostle Paul (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11) and once in the book of Hebrews (Heb 10:37-38). This verse was one of the sparks that ignited the reformation for Martin Luther when reading Romans. Luther writes, “Then finally God had mercy on me, and I began to understand that the righteousness of God is a gift of God by which a righteous man lives, namely faith, and that sentence: The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, is passive, indicating that the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” This echoes the verse in Genesis speaking of Abraham, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” The word believed is the same root as the for faith in verse 4. This affirms that the steadfast trust is the way of receiving the gracious gift of life.
A scholarly debate that we don’t have time to go into does this verse mean “The righteous person shall live by his faithfulness to God” or “God’s faithfulness that the righteous shall live.” I believe it speaks more of God’s faithfulness rather than man’s internal faith. John Calvin aptly describes the grace which Habakkuk commends, “that faith which strips us of all arrogance, and leads us naked and needy to God, that we may seek salvation from him alone, which would otherwise be far removed from us.” An article concludes, saying, “Faithfulness means placing one’s whole life in God’s hands and trusting him to fulfill it, despite all outward and inward circumstances; despite all personal sin and guilt; despite all psychological and social and physical distortions. Faithfulness is life by God’s power rather than by one’s own (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30–31), and there it is truly life because it draws its vitality from the living God who is the source of life.” James Montgomery Boice claims that Habakkuk 2:4 shows us the life of a believer in times of crisis.
II. Woes for the wicked
The rest of the passage is more what we would come to expect for an oracle from a prophet. This addressed the ultimate question Habakkuk has been trying to find the answer to. What will you do about the wickedness that we see? The next section (vs. 6-20) is called a song of taunt. Similar to the song, you would sing on a playground, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.” This is the victory song played after a sports game. We see this in verse 6a, “Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him.” The Lord tells Habakkuk to write down five woes that will be sung to the Babylonians at the end of their reign. Like I said before, this could be two devotions. You could spend a lot of time looking and thinking about these warnings to us today and how we should be cautious about the sin in our lives. Simplify the five woes for the wicked are:
- The thief will be robbed (6-8)
- The houses built will be deconstructed (9-11)
- The fortified city will be demolished (12-14)
- The shameless will be humiliated (15-17)
- The carved images will be ineffective (18-20)
The woes finish with the earth being silent before God. God was seemingly silent at the beginning of the book of Habakkuk, but now everyone is quiet and waiting for him. The woes to the Babylonians are significant warnings for us. They speak of the proud who finds no rest in verse 4-5. We need an alien righteousness that comes from God and not us. They are great warnings for us to be cautious about the seeds we plant and the fruit that we will bear in our lives. A life of thievery will only bring the fruit of theft. Although many wicked people in the world look like they are living the best life now, they will get what they are sowing. The Babylonian’s sought to make their kingdom, but it did not last the test of time. Soon they would be overtaken by the Persians, then the Greeks and then the Romans… the list continues. Eventually, all nations will perish, and one will remain, the city of God.
We are pilgrims in this world waiting for our true home, and our passport says Heaven where our citizenship lies. We face persecutions and trials of many kinds, but we know that the righteous will live by his faith.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5:1-5