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We are looking this morning at the book of Habakkuk, part two of what I hope to be four weeks in this book. Toward the end of the Old Testament, before you get to Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, you have Habakkuk.
We come this morning to chapter 1, verse 12, and I do hope that you can find a Bible. Maybe you brought one, or wherever you are, you can use a device with you and follow along. We’re going to look a few other passages as well, and of course the only authority I have to speak to you is insofar as I am speaking from this book. And as we are inundated with messages and speeches and commentary all week, some helpful, some less helpful, now we come and we want to hear clearly from God, and that means we need to listen to this book.
Habakkuk, chapter 1, beginning at verse 12.
“Are you not from everlasting,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?” Habbakuk says.
“We shall not die.
O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he?
You make mankind like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.
He brings all of them up with a hook;
he drags them out with his net;
he gathers them in his dragnet;
so he rejoices and is glad.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and makes offerings to his dragnet;
for by them he lives in luxury,
and his food is rich.
Is he then to keep on emptying his net
and mercilessly killing nations forever?
I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
And the Lord answered me:
‘Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.
Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.
Moreover, wine is a traitor,
an arrogant man who is never at rest.
His greed is as wide as Sheol;
like death he has never enough.
He gathers for himself all nations
and collects as his own all peoples.”
One of the oldest Christian books after the Bible is a book called The Didache, which is Greek for “the teaching,” and it’s a collection of teachings from the early church, end of the first century, beginning of the second century, some instructions for teachers and prophets and prayers and liturgies, and at the heart of the document are several chapters about two ways to live. And the book begins with this memorable sentence: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.” So choose wisely.
I can’t help but think about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at the very end when the bad Nazi guy has to pick the holy grail, which one was the authentic cup of Christ, and he picks the one that’s all gold and ornate and he drinks it and he thinks he’s going to live forever and in a scene that is etched in my childhood mind, very frightening. You know, he ages in an instant and he shrivels up and dies and the knight who there, had been guarding for 700 years, he had 700 years to think of what he would say if anyone ever made it there, and he says “he chose poorly.” And then, of course, Indiana Jones grabs and he picks the cup, the cup of a carpenter, a humble, wooden cup and he drinks it and nothing happens and he says “you have chosen wisely.”
You must make a choice. There are two ways to live: One is the way of life, and the other is the way of death. There is not with this a third way. Sometimes there are a third way or there’s a fourth way or there are other options, but here you have the way of life and you have the way of death.
And of course we don’t have to go to the early church or The Didache to find that kind of distinction. It’s all over the Bible. Jesus said you are going to be a wise builder or a foolish builder. Are you building your house upon the rock or upon the sand? There is a wide road with many people on it, lots of people, and it leads to death, and there is a narrow path and few people are on it and it leads to life. Proverbs says there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Many people in our day on a path, and if you would ask them and you would, you would give them truth serum and make them take a polygraph, they would say, absolutely convinced in their own mind, that the path they are on is the one that leads to life. Perhaps some of us are convinced of that, and yet Proverbs gives us this category there are some convinced of that and yet the path they are on leads to death.
Psalm 1 tells us there is the way of the wicked, the scornful, the scoffer, the mocker, and there is the way of the blessed man, the whole Mosaic covenant is built upon this distinction. There were blessings that were broadcast from Mount Gerizim and there were curses that were proclaimed from Mount Ebal, would the nation be one that would receive the Lord’s blessing, or here in Habakkuk warning them that after centuries of disobedience they’re going to receive curses from the Lord. So we see often in Scripture this kind of contrast.
Habakkuk gives us another contrast, leading to one of the most famous and most important affirmations in all the Bible.
I want you to look at chapter 2, verse 4. Do you see the contrast? In the first half of the verse you have the way that leads to death: “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him.” So here we have a description of the unrighteous man. And what is his defining characteristic? Now there’s many things that you could say about the unrighteous person, but here his defining characteristic is that he is proud, he believes solely in himself, his soul is puffed up. We know from the context that this is the way of death.
And then by contrast the second half of verse 4, we meet the righteous man, and his defining characteristic is just the opposite. Rather than believing in himself, he believes in God. And this is the way of life.
So Habakkuk ends with this second complaint and the Lord’s response to Habakkuk before we move into the woes upon the Chaldeans. The climax of this section, and indeed in some sense the climax of the entire book, is found there in this contrast in verse 4. And we’re going to come back to that and land there at the end and this amazing declaration, which the New Testament picks up at least three times that the righteous shall live by faith. That’s the conclusion.
What’s the argument? Well, look back up and remember Habakkuk’s first complaint. So we have two complaints. And you can see a heading in your Bible, before chapter 1 verse 2, “Habakkuk’s Complaint,” before verse 12, “Habakkuk’s Second Complaint.” And remember the first argument: Why don’t you do something about the inequity in our land?
We saw it in chapter 1, verse 4: The law is paralyzed, the Torah. So his complaint is not here about those outside of the covenant community, pressing them or taking advantage of them, or disobeying God, but rather within their own midst the law is paralyzed. It’s become numb. People have become cauterized to their sin.
And the Lord responds, verse 5: Look, see, wonder, be astounded. I will do something about the lawbreakers in Judah.
And what He says that is so astounding in verse 6 is He is raising up this wicked people, the Chaldeans, the next super power to come as Assyria fades and Babylon is on the rise, and so God explains, yes, I see the inequity that you see. I don’t disagree with your assessment of injustice in the land and I will do something about it. I am raising up this fierce and loathsome people, the Chaldeans, to punish those in Judea.
Now, notice, as Habakkuk is going to make a second complaint that here is one of those instances where God gives us something of an answer to the question we asked, and the answer prompts more questions. It’s not always the case that if God were to show us all of His ways in an instant we would say, “Oh, thank you, God, I understand.” Because His ways are not our ways. And sometimes even if we were to get the answers we want, those answers would lead to more questions.
And such is the case with Habakkuk: Lord, you don’t care. Lord, there’s injustice. Lord, what are you going to do?
God says, “Now step back. You wouldn’t believe it, but I’ll tell you. I’m raising up the Babylonians and they’re going to wipe you out.”
Habakkuk says, “You’re right, that’s not the answer that I was expecting.”
God has given more revelation and with that revelation has come at least in the short-term more confusion.
So Habakkuk musters up his courage to issue a second complaint, and he begins in verse 12 with a declaration of God’s character: You are from everlasting, you’re the One without beginning or end, You’re wise, Your covenant is rooted in eternity. He calls Him later, in verse 12, “O Lord,” that is, Yahweh, the covenant name, “My God. You’re our God, you’re my personal God, our Holy One. You are a Rock.”
You see, Habakkuk is expressing truth here. He is confident that God will do what is right. He is confident that even though the whole world seems to have changed, God has not changed.
Is that relevant? Is that something that you and I need to be reminded of? When it looks like are we living in the same place we were three or four months ago. It can look as if everything has changed, and yet all of the most important realities in the universe have not changed. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God and His purposes and His will have not changed. He is forever a Rock.
Habakkuk says, “You are pure, cannot look on evil… ” So he’s building up his case here by mentioning true statements about God, “You’re everlasting, You’re a Rock, You don’t change, I know that you don’t just turn a blind eye to sin.” This is all preface to get to his second round of complaints and questions.
Now before we get there, go back up to the first part of verse 12. Notice this strange statement, and yet an amazing expression of confidence from the prophet: “We shall not die.”
It could be Habakkuk is guilty of wishful thinking. It does sort of stand out in what he is saying, and so some people think he’s saying, “O Lord, you’re everlasting and you can look at evil. We won’t die, right? We’re going to be, we’re going to be fine, aren’t we? You’re not gonna really do this.”
But I don’t think that’s what Habakkuk is saying. If nothing else, Habakkuk is from start to finish realistic, raw, honest, about what’s happening to his people, so I don’t think this is just Habakkuk now in a moment of wishful thinking saying “ehh, I’m sure everything’s going to be fine.”
No, I think he’s saying, “Lord, even as I question You, even as I offer to You my complaint, I know You are eternal, I know You are a Rock, I know You are holy, I know You have made promises, and so God, it can’t be that ultimately we’re wiped out. That can’t ultimately be the case. You promised. We’re Your people, you’re everlasting and you made to us, with us, an everlasting covenant, so, so whatever is coming to us that we may deserve in the short-term, surely, O God, we will not be completely wiped out. Not spiritual death.”
I said last week there’s a difference between a grumble and a groan. Difference biblically between a whine and a lament. Difference between a complaining spirit and a spirit-filled complaint. This is a groan, a lament, a spirit-filled complaint. Notice, this is an important distinction. Habakkuk does not come to God saying, “You must be bad or You must be weak because of what I see around me.” No, he says, “I know You are good, I know You are strong, so how am I supposed to make sense of what I’m seeing and experiencing?”
When I was a freshman in college we, in one of my religion classes, we had to write a term paper, “How would you solve the problem of evil?” Well, yeah, I’m sure freshmen are going to get that figured out. The classic delineation of the problem of evil is you have a God who’s all good, you have a God who’s all powerful, and yet there’s evil, there’s suffering. The righteous seem at times to be suffering more than the wicked, the wicked get ahead for their injustice. How do you explain?
Now there’s been no shortage of answers over the years, existential answers, logical answers, metaphysical answers, and some people try to cut that Gordian knot by removing one or the other. Well, I guess God isn’t really good – He’s powerful but He’s not really good, or God is good but I guess He’s not really completely in control, or He gives us such freedom that He doesn’t really have sovereign sway over what we do. That was famously Rabbi Kushner’s response decades ago, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Habakkuk doesn’t do that. He doesn’t pull away from God, You’re good. He doesn’t pull away from God, You’re strong. In fact, he affirms both of them: You’re everlasting, You’re a rock, so You’re omnipotent and Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, so I know that You’re good. So he doesn’t come and say “because of what I’m experiencing and because of what I’m seeing, I now deny these things about you.” That’s the wrong kind of groan; that’s a grumble, that’s a whine, that’s a sinful, blasphemous statement to make.
Rather, he says “I know this to be true about You, God, and I affirm I and I believe it and right now I cannot square it with what I’m seeing.” That’s a biblical groan. “How, Lord?” It’s now a weak faith that Habakkuk has or a sinful faith, but it is at this moment a confused faith and it’s a grieving faith. At the heart of this second complaint is the realization that Babylon is going to be the instrument of God’s chastisement, and yet surely on an objection scale, are they not worse than Judah?
We read in verse 13: Why do you idly look at traitors? Remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?
So Habakkuk was fine to say, “Yes, we’re wicked,” that was his complaint. “Why do I see the law disobeyed?” But he can’t wrap his mind around, “but you’re bringing in someone, they don’t follow Your law at all. We may have some hypocrites, we may have a lot of imperfection, we may be… But they don’t even have the law. They’re not even Your people. Their army is a rapacious bunch of goons coming to sweep over nations. How can You do this, Lord?”
See, they were used to the wicked being swallowed up, not the righteous being swallowed up by the wicked. Quite literally, in the flood, it’s Noah and his family, those eight righteous persons in the ark while the rest of the world is literally swallowed up in water. When they cross through the Red Sea, was it not God’s people, the Israelites, who made it safely through? When the Egyptians were swallowed up by the sea? Or with the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram, and the ground split open and swallowed up the revelers and the idolaters and those who rebelled against God. So they have in their history, God, You swallow up the wicked.
And now it seems that the wicked are going to swallow up, if not the righteous, then at least those who are less wicked than they. How can this be, O Lord?
He uses this word picture in verse 14 and following. We’re like fish. We might say, “Lord, we are going to be fish in a barrel. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.” I’ve hardly been fishing, just a handful of times, I know that’s very sad for some of you, and I have never actually shot anything, that’s also sad for some of you, and I certainly have not shot fish in a barrel, but if I understand the analogy correctly, it’s supposed to be a very easy thing to do, because you have fish in a deep barrel and they can’t go anywhere and so if that’s the way you hunt, then you’re going to be largely successful.
Well, Habakkuk says we are like fish in the sea just awaiting their hooks and their dragnet. We, Your people, human beings, and we are being treated like nameless, random fish in the sea. The created order is being overturned. We are not exercising dominion over the fish of the sea, as Genesis 1, but rather we are going to be easy pickings for Babylon, verse 15. He brings all of them up with a hook, he drags them with his net. And to make matters worse, verse 15, he gathers them and he rejoices and is glad. Babylon is going to gloat over us. And then to make matters even worse than that, they are idolaters, they will sacrifice to his net, make offerings to his dragnet. They get rich, they love in luxury. He’s building his case here: God, don’t you see the Babylonians? They’re traitorous people. They’re swallowing up those who are more righteous than themselves. They’re going to be shooting fish in a barrel and they’re going to gloat over us and then they’re going to make idols out of it, and they’re going to become rich because of it. How is this acceptable to You, God?
And you see finally, verse 17, is he then to keep on emptying his net, mercilessly killing nations forever? Is this Your plan, O God?
That’s the complaints.
Habakkuk says, chapter 2, “I’ll wait. I will stand at my watchpost. I will go situate myself on the tower. And I’m going to wait to hear what You have to say.” Like a sentinel waiting for the messenger to arrive, as you might do at the top of a tower in the city, waiting, and do you see in the distance, do you see the rider on horse? Or do you see the runner on foot? Is he coming with a message from the king or from the battle front to tell us what is happening and what will take place? Habakkuk says “There I am, I’m watching, I’m waiting.”
It’s like Moses stood waiting in the cleft of the rock, Balaam stood in waiting for the revelation that God would bring him to Balak, Elijah was told to go to the mountain and stand in waiting for the revelation of God. It is the nature of prophecy to wait for a word from the Lord.
And do you see the end of verse 1? Again, it’s confusing, but it’s striking: “And look to see what he will say to me and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”
Some translations have “what I will answer concerning my rebuke.” It seems that even as Habakkuk is offering his complaint, he knows on some level that he’s wrong. He’s anticipating the Lord will not relent. He’s anticipating that the Lord is not going to tie up all the loose ends as He sees them in the present. Habakkuk is already thinking of what his answer will be. As I said, some translations, instead of “my complaint” have “my rebuke,” which would mean that Habakkuk is anticipating that God is going to come back with a second rebuke to him and Habakkuk is already thinking “how will I answer that rebuke?” because he knows that he’s not fully gotten this right.
Well, even if it’s answering my complaints, the suggestion is still the same. Habakkuk knows that he has not spoken the last word. And this is another sign of a healthy way to lament, or grieve, or complain. It’s one thing if I make a complaint to my wife. If you know my wife, you know that it would be rare that I would have a reason to complain. But it’s one thing to community to my wife as if I am now giving the last word about her plans or a meal or whatever, and then I’ve already come to my mind, here it is, here’s my infallible decree, here is my complaint, take it or leave it. It’s another thing if I come with a complaint and I stand ready to consider her reply. That’s a healthy way to offer a complaint.
And so Habakkuk is standing in this position. Not saying, “Lord, take or leave it, I have the last word. I see it all clearly.” But there is a posture of humility even as he says hard things to the Lord, because he anticipates, I’m already thinking how will I answer concerning my complaint? How will I respond to what I know the Lord is going to respond to me? Habakkuk realizes “I am not giving the last word to God.”
You see this so often in the Psalms. And I know Pastor Tom was teaching in the Sunday School hour if you were able to watch that before coming here about psalms of lament, and you see this often in the psalms that it’s not always where the psalmist starts but where he ends. Sometimes there’s a lot of meandering, sort of God-ward prayer before you come to the conclusion that God wants you to have.
And so Habakkuk realizes this is a conversation in process. And he needs to think about what his next response will be, because surely the Lord will have something more to say, and indeed He does.
Verse 2: “The Lord answered me: Write the vision.” Okay, so God says, “all right, second complaint, here’s the second answer. I want you to make it plain. I want you to get tablets.” Now surely they’re thinking tablets, they’re thinking of the 10 commandments, so this is important. Why did you write tablets? Probably so you can not only have it written down authoritatively, remember it, but perhaps so you can put it somewhere publicly, as kind of a bulletin board, post it to your blog, put it on Facebook. Okay? Ready? I want this to be absolutely clear. Write it down, and I want you to run ahead with it. I want everyone to get this message.
And then verse 3: The word is going to go out far, wide, quickly, but the fulfillment of the word may test our patience. “The vision awaits its appointed time.” And there’s this back and forth in verse 3, which is a lot like what Peter says in 2 Peter chapter 3, that with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, and yet He is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness. It’s the same thing here with this prophetic word. The vision is waiting its time, it hastens to the end, the prophecy wants to be fulfilled, and yet “if it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” So the back and forth.
It’s going to seem long for some of you. It may seem like it’s not coming. It may seem as if there’s a delay, but wait for it, because in God’s timing, it will not be slow.
And the bottom line, the most important word, is there in the middle: It will not lie. It is fixed. It will happen.
And then rounding out in verse 5 is another description of what is coming from Babylon, like a drunken man on a rampage, like a greedy man where death is never enough, Babylon will gather for himself nations and collect people as his prized possession, conquering enemies and nations. That’s the word that is running forth. And in the middle of it, in fact at the very heart of it, there is this contrast.
And so we come back to the very place we began, in the two ways in verse 4. Verse 4 is the actual message, the answer that the Lord wants to put on tablets and run forth. He says in verse 2 “write the vision” and then verse 3 is explaining it may seem like it’s delayed, but wait for it, it will come, and now here is the vision itself that you are to write down, and it’s introduced with that word behold, look, attention, listen, all capsules, underline, bold, 24-point font, here it is: There’s two ways to live, and I want you to run fast and furious, Habakkuk, and I want you to post it all over Judah. There’s a way to live that is proud and puffed up, and it is not upright. And then there is this way, that the righteous shall live by faith.
Do you see how the Lord’s answer is directly related to Habakkuk’s daring confidence at the beginning of his complaint? Remember in verse 12 he says what seems like a non sequitur, “we shall not die,” right, God? There’s gotta be a way here. You’re not completely going to wipe us out. It’s the end of us, right? We shall not all die.
And now the Lord comes and He answers Habakkuk’s second complaint, and He says, “Indeed, Habakkuk, you’re correct. There’s a way that you will not die. The righteous shall live by faith. You cannot stop the Babylonians from coming.”
We may not be able to stop a virus, or upheaval. The Lord says to Habakkuk, “You cannot keep the nation from being judged, but you can keep yourself and anyone who will listen to your message from being guilty of the same things they are guilty of.”
As I said last week, I don’t know. I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I work for a non-prophet. I don’t know what the Lord is doing. It seems quite possible that in the midst of all this the Lord means to judge our nation. Why? He would have any number of things to choose from, wouldn’t He?
And we may not have a choice in whether the Lord executes judgment. We don’t have a choice in the days in which we are meant to live. But we have this choice: If we will be guilty of the same things.
And so, Habakkuk, here’s how you can live: The righteous shall live by his faith.
It’s just three words in Hebrew: Saddiq, the righteous one. Notice, not just innocent, but positively righteous. The contrast to the first half of the verse, the one who is not upright, this is the one who is upright. So this is the one who has a positive legal verdict from the God of the covenant: You will be decreed as a covenant keeper. How do you receive the eternal blessings of the covenant and be deemed a covenant keeper? Well, you must be righteous. And we’re going to see next week, verses 6 and following, the curses. So the Lord’s not done with Babylon. He’s not, this isn’t the last word about Babylon. Their day is coming. Their judgment is coming. The Lord is not going to ignore their sins, but here talking about the covenant people, He says this is how you can be saved. You must be righteous, saddiq.
Okay, well how am I to be a righteous one? By his faith. Just one word in Hebrew, emunatow. By his faith, or some translations by his faithfulness, which I think mean essentially the same thing, “by your steadfast trust in the God of the covenant.”
Like Psalm 119:30: I have chosen the way of emuna, the same word faith, or faithfulness.
Proverbs 12:17: Whoever speaks the truth, or speaks of trusted faith, gives honest evidence, that is, will be acquitted. This is not an abstract faith, this is not by his faith in an abstract set of theological principles, but very concretely, you must believe God in the midst of a world crumbling around you. And so you do not have faith without faithfulness, and you do not have faithfulness that doesn’t start with real faith.
So the righteous, by his faith, shall live. Yeah, yeah. The righteous may suffer when the Babylonians come, but ultimately they will live, they will live forever. And it’s the way to live, it’s the way to have life that is blessed, even if you live among a people who are cursed. You cannot avoid the collateral damage that will come when the Babylonians sweep over you, but you can be innocent. More than that, you can be righteous.
Habakkuk 2, verse 4, is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament because it’s one of the most important verses in the New Testament. And they could be three separate sermons on their own, and you don’t have to turn there, but perhaps in your notes just write them down. Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament.
First, in Romans 1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith, for faith as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith.” There Paul is saying the Gospel is the power of God for salvation because when we believe in the good news, we will be counted righteous and be saved. And those three Hebrew words in Habakkuk are going to be the centerpiece for Romans, the most important, most famous letter ever written. Here’s how you can be revealed as righteous: By faith.
And then Paul also uses these words in Galatians 3, chapter 11, chapter 3, verse 11: “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall live by faith.” So in Romans 1 he draws from Habakkuk to say “here’s what it looks like for the righteousness of God to be revealed. It is from faith to faith. Here’s how you can be a righteous person. And now in Galatians, he want to make clear what it is and what it is not that produces this decree of righteousness. It is now works or the law; that’s not how you’re going to get it.
That’s not how they got it in Habakkuk’s day. Who was that going for them? Isn’t it amazing, when the Lord answers the second complaint, He doesn’t say “and the righteous.” Because remember Habakkuk’s first complaint is the law is paralyzed. Their disobeying the law. It would make sense that God would say, “Well, you’ll be righteous if you go back and you start obeying the law.” Of course, they should do that. But that’s not what He says. No, the righteous will live not by law keeping but by faith.
Now we know that in God’s economy that when you have that faith, it produces in us those good works. But that’s not what, the Lord says to Habakkuk, and that’s not what Paul says in Galatians here. It’s not by law keeping, it’s by faith.
And then there’s a third time, in Hebrews chapter 10. And here, when the author to Hebrews quotes from Habakkuk, it’s to a slightly different purpose. In Romans 1 it was about righteousness, in Galatians 3 it’s about faith versus works of the law, and here in Hebrews 10:38 it’s about perseverance in the midst of persecution.
So Hebrews 10:37 he pulls from Isaiah and from Haggai: “Yet a little while and the coming One will come and will not delay.” And now he goes to Habakkuk, “But my righteous one shall live by faith.”
And verse 39: “We are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls,” which leads then to the famous Hall of Fame of faith in chapter 11. The Hebrews were facing here opposition for their faith, being misunderstood, being mistreated as Christians, and so now the writer pulls from Habakkuk to say “here’s how you have to live, here’s how you’re going to persevere.”
So you see how Habakkuk speaks to these different situations: How you are saved, and what sort of mechanism it is that saves us, namely faith not works, and then how you live as one who has been saved.
Faith is not just, you know, something we put in to the equation and then we get righteousness and then we move on to the rest of our life. No, the righteous shall live by his faith.
So think on these two questions in closing: How can I be saved? Habakkuk gives us the answer that’s true from start to finish in the Bible. We saw it with Abraham in Genesis chapter 15, verse 6, that Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness. In the garden there was a tree and if Adam had obeyed and listened to God, there would be life in that covenant of works. After that, it is one strand covenant of grace. Don’t think that in the Old Testament, well, they were saved by the law, or that in the Mosaic covenant they were saved by obedience from… No. The only way that God’s sinful people have ever been and ever will be saved is by faith.
“We will not die,” Habakkuk says, and the Lord says, “right, here’s now you can live, by faith.”
How can we be saved? Not by works of the law, but by faith and the promises of God.
And the second question to leave you with: How shall I then live?
Because to be fair, you know, Paul certainly is using Habakkuk in a legitimate way, but to look most immediately at the context in Habakkuk, the question was, was not immediately “How do I pray a sinner’s prayer and become a Christian?” or “How do I become righteous?” It was rather thinking about the way in which the gift will continue to be received and embraced. What is the way of life?
And in the midst of that, the Lord says that way, how shall you live, is the way of faith.
Will we accept God’s word in the midst of a barrage of bad news? By any objective or subjective measure, 2020 has not been the year that we were hoping for. If this is the year you were hoping for, you gotta hope for some better things.
Someone reminded me earlier in the week it was, it was in 2020 when the Australian bushfires, and that was the big catastrophe. That was like eight catastrophes ago, in 2010. We had an impeachment in 2020. A global pandemic, still going, more dead than died in this country fighting in World War I. 40 milllion unemployed, plunging into a massive recession or worse. The killing of George Floyd, now protests, sometimes riots and looting. Six blocks in Seattle have declared themselves to be free from the United States. And you can look even more personally and it seems like, Ravi Zacharias died. Tim Keller put on Instagram last week he has cancer. There’s murder hornets. There’s monkeys stole vials of coronavirus. I mean, it’s just… And we still have an election to come.
And some of you say I could almost take all of that, but I have cancer, and my husband died, and my kids won’t talk to me. It’s not global catastrophe, it’s personal loss and catastrophe.
So, so this word, “the righteous shall live by his faith,” sometimes it’s easier for us to believe the salvation part. Okay, “I get that, I believe and Jesus loves me and He died on the cross and I’m going to go to heaven and I’m going to be safe. I believe that.” But faith is not just there, it’s here. That’s where it was for Habakkuk. “You have Babylonians coming; you don’t know when, but I promise they’ll come and they’re going to wipe you out. They’re going to destroy the temple. They’re going to take over Jerusalem. You’re going to be punished. This is going to be the worst possible news for your entire nation. Now do you have faith?”
It’s in the midst of that scenario that the Lord says the righteous shall live by faith. Do you believe, dear Christian? Do you have faith in the midst of all that is going around that God is with you? Do you have faith that sin is not the last word? Do you have faith that death will lose its sting? Faith that prayer matters? Faith that God has a plan for the church and a purpose for you? Faith that heaven is real? Faith that God will not leave you nor forsake you? Faith than in all of these things we will be more than conquerors through Him who loved us? Faith that Jesus is worth it?
The righteous shall live by faith.
How shall we be saved? How shall we live? The answer is the same: By faith.
Let’s pray. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. We hope for things that we do not now see. Give us this gift of faith that we may believe and trust that all of Your promises are yes and amen in Christ, and they are true not only in Christ, but for us. May that be our resting place, our blesses assurance, our confidence, our hope. In Jesus we pray. Amen.