“Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.”
“Faith is not a one-time act, but a way of life.1”
The author of our text cited above, Habakkuk, lived at a very low point in the history of Judah and the city of Zion. The world, itself, was in incredible upheaval because of the new and growing world power that had shown up on the stage of human history. Babylon had begun to flex her muscle under Nabopolassar who had sacked Nineveh and dismantled the Assyrian empire. (612 BC) She was now on the doorstep of Judah and shortly would raise Jerusalem to the ground under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar II. (605 BC)
Internally, Habakkuk had lived through the great social and spiritual reforms of king Josiah. In 622 BC, the discovery of a copy of the Mosaic Law became the impetus for Josiah’s reformations, which Habakkuk had viewed as God’s good hand upon Judah to restore them to His favor. But, with the death of Josiah in 609 BC, the impact of the reforms was quickly overturned as Josiah’s son, Johoiakim, plunged Judah and Jerusalem into moral corruption and religious idolatry.
The rapid shifts in Judah’s spiritual condition and the darkening cloud of the rising world power had begun to shake the rafters of Habakkuk’s faith and understanding of the character of God. Therefore, in his opening appeal to God, he cites the wickedness and injustice that is being practiced in hopes that God would speedily bring about a new reform on the manner of Josiah’s; but God’s answer is not what Habakkuk had hoped to hear; “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, That fierce and impetuous people, Who march throughout the earth, To seize dwelling places which are not theirs.” (Hab. 1:6) Habakkuk’s wrestlings are now more complex; Will God utterly destroy His covenant people at the hand of such a wicked people? It seems as though Habakkuk’s greatest fears are about to be realized and yet he struggles with where God is in all of this? Has his view of God now been undermined by the great events of human activity?
It is the midst of being planted on the center stage of dire circumstances that the questions about God have become challenged, and Habakkuk is grasping to make sense of all these things. So, it is at this point in his prophecy that God answers the prophet; “Record the vision, And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run. 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.”(Hab. 2:2,3) Once again, it is not the news one would like to hear from God when the picture is already so bleak.
It is at this point that Habakkuk grasps the awesomeness of God under the reality that circumstances and situations of life do not define God, but all events of life and human history are defined by Him. He is the sovereign over the course of human history and He will bring it all to His determined end. This sobering reality brings Habakkuk to the conclusion; “But the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:4) There is no greater conscription to the walk with God than the humble surrender to the awesomeness of an absolute sovereign God; this is the substance of faith. As the writer of Hebrews would tell us; “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”(Heb. 11:1) Behind the scenes of life, God is conducting the music, plotting the course and bringing all the events of time to His purposed end.
So, Habakkuk brings, in like manner, his book to a close with this statement of faith; “Though the fig tree should not blossom, And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail, And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold; And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”(Hab. 3:17-18) Has the awesomeness of God struck you in such a manner?
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.