The Righteous Will Live by HisFaith

by LA UBF   04/05/2009     0 reads


The righteous will live by his faith���

 The Righteous Will Live by His Faith

Habakkuk 1:1-3:19

Key Verse 2:4

“See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright--but the righteous will live by his faith—”

The name Habakkuk in Hebrew means “embrace.” This word reminds us of a mother embracing her child in her arms. In many ways the relationship between the Lord God and his children is similar to that of the relationship between a mother and her baby. One of the primary characteristics of the mother-child relationship is a mother giving her child loving care with the child leaning on the mother's bosom in full trust. Imagine a pregnant woman. The baby in the mother's womb remains totally dependant on the mother. After the pregnancy, the child comes out of the womb but still remains helpless. Draw in your mind a picture of a mother breast-feeding her son, holding him in her arms. When the feeding is over, the child is fully satisfied. He smiles and falls asleep. 

This picture is reminiscent of the kind of relationship Habakkuk had with the Lord. His days were rough. Yet according to his personal faith he withdrew from his personal relationship with the Lord all the provisions he needed for life. So he thrived even when many went starving to death. How was he able to prosper even during hard times? 

I. I will stand at my watch (1:1-2:1)

When everyone believes, it is easy to believe. When no one believes, it is hard to believe. In the day Habakkuk lived in, it was particularly difficult for anyone to keep his or her personal faith. But Habakkuk overcame the difficulties by coming to the Lord and laying down the problems he had before the Lord.  

According to verse 6 it is very likely that the prophet lived during a period of time when the exile into the Babylonian Empire was drawing near. In 612 B.C., after emerging as the new superpower nation, the Babylonian empire put an end to the Assyrian Empire. In 568 B.C. the Jerusalem temple came down. The fall of the Assyrian Empire was timed with the Lord preparing to export the people of Judah to Babylon in exile. 

In Habakkuk 1:1-4 the Prophet filed a complaint with the Lord for the Lord seemingly tolerated the injustice prevailing in the land of Judah. In vs. 6-11 the Lord addressed the prophet's complaint with the news that the Lord would raise the Babylonian empire to knock down the Assyrian Empire, erase the establishments of Judah, and export the "chosen" people into Babylon. 

In 1:11-2:1 the prophet questioned the Lord about using the Babylonian Empire (the wicked in v. 13) to execute judgment on "the more righteous" (in v. 13), whereupon the Lord answered the Prophet with the revelation recorded in 2:2-20. 

The Prophet had a keen sense of problem on the injustice prevailing inside and outside of the Promised Land. He brought the problem to the Lord. Then another question came to mind. He brought that question to the Lord as well. The Lord answered both questions. And the Prophet solved his inner conflicts. In this way he could keep his personal faith in the Lord despite the majority of people rebelling against the Lord. 

This is like a student doing his homework by himself. A math student for example gets homework on math questions. Some questions are easy to answer and some are hard. But all math problems have their own solutions; for no problems are without solutions. In regard to the hard problems then he needs to study by himself until he can find the solutions. If he cannot, he can secure help from others with superior knowledge. The important thing though is for him to try to “understand” the solutions, for merely getting the answer without understanding the answer [as well as the way to arrive at the answer] is not going to improve his capability on math. When he does not understand how to solve the questions, how can he go for the next level? But when he "understands" the answer (as well as the way to solve the problem) he is in a position to handle other questions. In this way he can become a master mathematician. 

"I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint" (2:1). Here "ramparts" are a facility (or facilities) raised above ground level to provide a better view of what is going to emerge on the horizon. It was there in his ramparts that the Prophet Habakkuk got his "problems" resolved. And his tutor was the Lord himself. He himself entered into the ramparts. He spent time there to find solutions to the problems. And there in his own ramparts he must have cried out the Lord. And it is very likely that in his ramparts he kept close all the means available, such as reference materials like scrolls. His struggles paid off. Understanding came. His mind was enlightened just like a pilot seated in a cockpit of an airplane that has taken off, pushed itself up into the sky, above the layers of clouds, and arrived at the cruise level. Then there was no more smog-screen blocking the vision. Despite all the confusing events and the wicked people running around he could see the Lord's will clearly. 

The call for each believer to build his or her own ramparts and do the spiritual struggles to understand the Lord’s will is nothing new. In sending Joshua into the battle fields, the Lord God commanded Joshua to do his homework daily, that is, to meditate on the word of the Lord day and night, night and day, for the Lord said to him, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Similarly, a psalmist cried out to the Lord saying, "My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises." 

After Christianity became publicly recognized in 313 A.D., the church started to become corrupt. Then in a revolt against the corrupt generation a few monks established their ramparts in places such as the sites for the underground churches in Cappadocia of the present day Turkey. 

Martin Luther’s day was as evil and confusing as the day of Habakkuk. Like Habakkuk however Luther was able to overcome the confusing generation for he established his own ramparts and there he brought to the Lord all the questions he had. Then the Lord enabled him to rise against the evil generation and post his 95 theses on the door of the building where the public could see the truth in plain view. Following the example of Martin Luther or Habakkuk, we need to build our own ramparts - ramparts at home, at a fellowship, at a church, at work, and on college campuses.  

II. I will rejoice in the Lord (2:2-3:19)

The Lord blessed Habakkuk's struggle to finish his homework by giving a special revelation. The Lord's revelation enlightened the prophet's mind and spirit. He could understand the way of the Lord, the ways of the wicked, and the ways of the righteous. 

Habakkuk was then able to establish his stand. Through personal resolution he stood his ground and became a source of inspiration for the people living in darkness. Let us consider the fruit of his search for the Lord's will in three parts: revelation, realization and resolution.


1) Revelation (2:2-19)

Habakkuk 2:2-3 reads, “Then the LORD replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.’” The contents of certain revelations are specific, such as to the time, people, and events. Some revelations do not give out specific information as to location, time, etc. Rather they come as a principle (or declaration or determination). 

The revelation the Lord asked Habakkuk to write down on tablets belongs to the second (abstract) category. The revelation is laid down as a principle in that it talks about a man, represented in such words as "he," "his," and "him" (2:4). "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright--" (2:4a) Here "he" could be anyone. The first person to fit in was Eve in Genesis 3. The serpent tempted the woman. She became "puffed up." When she saw the [forbidden] fruit there arose a desire which was not upright. She soon plucked and ate the fruit. Thus she became a source of eternal grief for many. 

Figuratively, the position of the person called "he" can be likened to the door to a black-hole. Once you get close to a black hole you get sucked into it and you are gone. Since the first woman Eve got sucked into this spiritual black-hole, each and every day people without a number still step into the hole and disappear into the kingdom of darkness. 

Again it all begins with a man becoming "puffed up" (or getting proud enough to think that he or she can disobey the Lord and get away with it scot-free). But the principle does not discriminate anyone, for it will apply to all with the same consequences, and the steps of the oracle are: 1) you get puffed up; 2) you entertain desires which are not upright; and 3) you get hit with ill consequences. Or put it another way, you become "arrogant"; you become never at rest; you become as greedy as the grave; like death you are never satisfied. You successfully gathered all the nations. You have taken captives all the peoples, and yet you are not satisfied.  

In verses 6-19, with "five woes," the prophet further illustrates the destiny of the one who gets sucked into the black-hole described in the revelation in 4a. 

1) Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortions! (2:6)

2) Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his next on high, to escape the clutches of ruin." (2:9)

3) Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! (2:12)

4) Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. (2:15)

5) Woe to him who says to wood, "Come to life," or to lifeless stone, "Wake up!" (2:19) 

These woes remind us of failed gurus, such as the head of the Madoff Ponzi, or the CEO's of AIG. We are also reminded of the so-called heroes of the past like Alexander the Great. 

So let us take a more serious look at the revelation, particularly, the three stages of downfall: the beginning (or cause); the process in the middle; and the end (or the final state). According to verse 4a, the beginning or the cause is pride. Pride gives birth to and fosters the desires that are not upright. Then, like a chunk of meat being processed into a meat grinder, you get yourself chewed up and ground through a system. 

Inasmuch as the principle remains on a physically invisible realm it remains hidden to most people. So the Lord asked Habakkuk to "write down the revelation and make it plain." 

This principle is applicable to all who are puffed up and thereafter dragged away by a variety of desires such as the desire for money, power, or people. Each desire has its own period of development (or manifestation), so the revelation “awaits an appointed time.” In addition, the revelation speaks of the end and it will not prove false. Here the "end" is the end of the development; so that when the end comes the fall becomes completed. The kingdom which began based on wicked desires finally collapses.  

2) Realization (2:20-3:16a)

The revelation helped the prophet realize the beginning, the process, and the ending point of the things that were going on before his eyes. It helped him to see clearly why things developed and were unfolding as the way they were, how long it will take for the injustice [being staged or to be staged in the days] to complete its course, and when it will come to an end. 

This revelation brought Habakkuk to personally meet the Lord who remains "sovereign" at all times - past, present, and future. 

At the moment of Habakkuk prophesying, he was able to see clearly the Lord ruling "in his holy temple" (2:20). In a prophetic vision he could see the Lord's mighty works of redemption for the people Israel - the works the Lord fulfilled from the day the Lord revealed himself to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai to the day when the prophet was ministering in Judah. 

"God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden" (3:3-4). This passage reminds us of the scene where the Lord God first revealed himself to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai in order to give his law [Moses’ Ten Commandments] to his people. [Read Deuteronomy 3:1-4.] 

In Habakkuk 3:5-15 the Prophet mentions plagues, pestilence, distress, disasters, and so forth. These phenomena accompany the presence of the Lord. These destructive forces represent the manifestation of God's divine character which must judge any hint of wickedness that is present in his presence. 

The realization of this vision came with the spiritual force stemming from the presence of the Lord approaching, so that as the prophet came to be exposed to the Lord's presence (or nearness of it), and as the Lord’s influence penetrated into the prophet’s inner world in the form of the audible sound of prophecy, the prophet felt immediate judgment upon him, so he says, "I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled" (3:16).


3) Resolution (3:16b-19)

The revelation helped the prophet realize that the disobedient has no inheritance in the Lord. The Lord made this already clear in the Law of Moses such as the book of Deuteronomy. But for a while the Lord's revelation slipped out of the Prophet’s mind. The injustice raging inside and outside of the Bible-Belt put up a smoke screen and so for a while the prophet got confused. But now that the smoke screen has been removed, he could see everything clearly. This helped him to renew his position as a believer. He was able to take his stand.

Let us read verses 16b-19. This passage reminds us of the Lord's words, "Man's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions,” but in one's relationship with the Lord. In the Middle East the economy still depends on crops of fig tree, grapes, olives, other foods in the fields, the number of sheep in your sheep pen, or the number of cattle in your stalls. But the prophet says that even when these sources of material possessions fail, he is still going to rejoice. Why? It is because he realized that man thrives on his personal relationship with the Lord, not on the abundance of his possessions. Thus he confesses, "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments." 

In conclusion, Habakkuk 2:4b reads, "The righteous will live by his faith." Again when all others go unbelieving, it is not easy for one to keep believing. But thanks to the revelation, the prophet could overcome the world. He was convinced that true life comes with one's personal relationship with the Lord. As one remains in the Lord and walks with him, the Lord fills him with the joy of salvation. The Lord makes his feet as light and free as that of a deer, enabling him to go on to high heights. 

One word: the righteous will live by his faith


Class Exercise:

1. In Hebrew, Habakkuk means ___________.

2. The first time the word "sovereign" appears in the book of Habakkuk is in ____________.

3. Fill the blanks: 

(1) "How ______ must I call for help, but you do not listen?" 

(2) "I will...station at my ________: I will look to see what he will say to me..."

4. Habakkuk 2:4a reads, "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright-", whereas 2:4b reads, "but the righteous will live by his faith." Explain in your own words the life of the righteous as it stands in contrast with life of the man described in 4a. 

5. Read Habakkuk 2:13-14 and describe in your own words the import of the question, "Has not the LORD Almighty determined".

6. The book of Habakkuk begins with ______ to the Lord, but ends with _______ to the Lord. This change in the author's attitude to the Lord took place because: ___________________________________

The end

      Teman refers to the land of Esau (or Edom), which land is also known as the land of Seir.