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Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
One of the most obscure books in the Bible – a book you may never have read nor even heard of – is the Book of Habakkuk. It’s a small book – only three chapters in length. It is the fifth book from the end of the Old Testament, nestled between Nahum and Zephaniah. In most Bibles it occupies two sheets of paper. If you’re still looking for it it is on page 1307 in your Pew Bibles.
The Book was written by God through the Prophet and Preacher Habakkuk. If I were to ask you to spell his name most of you would get it wrong.
Hebrew names have meaning, and
Habakkuk means “a wrestler”
We know nothing about Habakkuk. He isn’t mentioned in the Bible outside of this Book, and he is not written about in history. But Habakkuk was a wrestler.
He wrestled with God.
He wrestled with God in prayer.
Habakkuk was confused.
He was a righteous man who loved the Lord.
But he had questions, so he wrestled.
Habakkuk sought the Lord in prayer, and recorded not only what he said, but what the Lord said. The first two chapters of Habakkuk’s book is a prayer journal.
Habakkuk Was Burdened
Habakkuk 1:1 (KJV) The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
The word “Burden” is the Hebrew מַשָּׂא massa’ means “something that cannot be carried”. Habakkuk was weighed down and overwhelmed. The land that he was in was fallen into grievous sin. Habakkuk had prayed about the sin of Judah many times, but it seemed as if God was not listening. He said:
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (KJV) O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! 3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. 4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
The land was filled with evil. Judah had gone from God. The righteous were outnumbered, it seemed, as if 1000 to 1. Violence filled the land and no one cared.
As I read this, I think of our great Country and its collapse into evil. Watch the news. Read the papers. On a three day weekend there were 74 murders in Chicago – and no one cared. If a gunman went into a high rise and shot down 74 people there would be cries throughout the land for gun control. If a madman killed 74 school children people would be demanding the government do something. But 74 die in Chicago – the murder capital of the world – and no one cares. Babies are aborted by the hundreds, and no one cares. Murderers are released after just a few year in prison, and no one cares. Violence was all about Habakkuk. He cried out against it. He asked God to do something about it. What will God do?
Our Loving God Will Do What Is Best
The world is fond of that Bible verse which says:
1 John 4:8 (KJV) He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Yes, God is love. But what does that mean? How is God as “love” manifested? The world never reads the NEXT verse of Scripture that says:
1 John 4:9-10 (KJV) In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
John says “God is love. Let me show you a picture of ‘love’. Do you see that Man hanging between those two thieves? Do you see the blood pouring from His wounds. God loves Him. That’s God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Hear Him groan. See His bones show through His skin? That’s love in action. He was nailed to that tree because God is JUST, and God loves you. Jesus is taking my punishment and your punishment on Himself. There’s love. That’s love!”
We don’t know what love is, nor what justice is. But God does. Habakkuk went to God in prayer, asking God to do something. And God answered Habakkuk, but not as he expected. God told Habakkuk:
Habakkuk 1:5-7 (KJV) Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. 6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. 7 They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.
God tells Habakkuk “I’m going to raise up the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) and they will march through the land.”. God’s Israel has gone from the Presence of God, so God is going to send a terrible people to conquer them. The Babylonians will not be conquered, but will terrorize and conquer. God will smite His people who are acting as unbelievers with the worst kind of unbelievers.
Habakkuk is flabbergasted. How can God raise up the Babylonians and send them against Israel? Habakkuk speaks to God once more:
Habakkuk 1:12-13 (KJV) Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction. 13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?
God, we are Your people! The Babylonians are not Your people, but we are. You cannot look on evil, so how can you support the wicked Babylonians against your own people?
Habakkuk was confused by God’s answer to prayer.
There have many times in my life when I have prayed, but God seemingly did not respond to my prayers, or perhaps answered prayer with something I didn’t understand. The Bible tells us that:
Romans 8:28 (KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
How can a baby born diseased be for my good?
How can the death of a child be for my good?
How can cancer, or a debilitating disease upon a loved one be for my good?
Yet the Lord has said that “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord, to them who are the called according to His purpose”. God called us to salvation for His purpose. God called us to salvation because He loves us.
As Habakkuk shares his confusion with God …
… and we can share our confusion with God.
(He loves us, and will listen to us.)
… he ends his second conversation with the Lord by saying:
Habakkuk 2:1 (KJV) I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
Habakkuk stopped talking. He stopped speaking. He stood upon his watch, that is, he listened for God’s answer. Habakkuk knew that God is always right. He knew he would be “reproved”, yet he still shared his heart with God.
There is no reason to hide your heart from God. God knows your innermost thoughts. We are told in …
Psalms 139:1-2 (KJV) O LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me. 2 Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
So Habakkuk stopped talking, and just listened to God. The Lord told Habakkuk:
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (KJV) … Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
“Habakkuk – write what I told you down so it can be read. Give it to a runner, and have the herald read it. The Babylonian invasion is coming. It has an appointed time, and it will come.” But then the Lord tells Habakkuk:
The Just Shall Live By Faith
Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
The verse has two parts. The first is:
his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him
The “lifted up soul” or prideful person is never upright. We become prideful when we think ourselves to be God. We are prideful when we think we know better than God. We are not God. God is good, and righteous, and just. God always knows what is best. God establishes the standards of life. He says “yes” or “no” to our behaviors. In short:
God Is God And We Are Not!
What God has said is RIGHT will never be WRONG, and what God has said is WRONG will never be right. God sets the standards. When we in pride try to set the standards our society collapses. The Bible says:
Psalms 33:12 (KJV)12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
Israel had wandered from God, and now it as Jesus said. Do you remember that text where Christ is the Vine and we are the Branches? Jesus said:
John 15:5-6 (KJV) I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Most people hear verse 5 but do not pay attention to verse 6. If we abide not in God, if we do not cling to Him, then we wither, and MEN gather the withered and cast them into the fire and they are burned. When we wander from God we become the subjects of the Babylonians. When we wander from God we lose our blessing, the blessing of His Presence.
Our souls must not be lifted up. We must bow down to Him Who loves us and gave Himself for us!
The second half of the verse is:
but the just shall live by his faith
Those who are UPRIGHT, JUSTIFIED by faith in God shall live by their faith in God. When things happen around us that we do not understand let us, like Habakkuk, wrestle with God in prayer. But let us continue in our faith. Let us trust our God. He knows what is best. God reveals in the next few verses that He will later judge Babylon as well. The Lord says to Babylon:
Habakkuk 2:8 (KJV) Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
God will use Babylon to chastise Israel, but then Babylon will fall to another nation. God will judge. God will do what is right. As Abraham said to the Lord:
Genesis 18:25 (KJV) That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
God will not slay the righteous with the wicked.
The death angel will not strike where the Blood is.
God’s people will endure.
The wicked will be judged.
God will see to it.
Why is God going to bring judgment on Israel, and later on Babylon. The Lord tells us and Habakkuk:
Habakkuk 2:14 (KJV)14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
God will cast down all idols. He will be glorified. He will be worshiped by His people. God is God. God’s final word to Habakkuk was:
Habakkuk 2:20 (KJV) But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
Let us reverently worship our God. He is in Heaven, and rules the earth. We have no reason to accuse Him. The Just will live by his faith. Once more,
The Just Shall Live By His Faith
Is Declared FOUR Times!
This beautiful text is quoted three times in the New Testament, a total of FOUR times in the Bible. The FOURTH Commandment commanded a Day of Rest for the Child of God, and we REST in this four times repeated statement.
- The first time this beautiful phrase is found in the New Testament is in relationship to the Gospel:
Romans 1:16-17 (KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
We who are saved do not rest in our works of righteousness, but in ability of Christ to save us. He paid for our sins on Calvary. He shed His Blood for us. The Scripture clearly states:
Romans 3:23-25 (KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
We stand clean before God because Christ cleansed us by His Blood. I believe His shedding of Blood brings remission of sins. This is the Way unto salvation.
- The second time this wonderful verse is quoted is in relationship to the Law:
Galatians 3:10-11 (KJV) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
It is not by keeping the Law that we are saved, but by loving Christ. We are told in:
Galatians 3:13 (KJV) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
He paid the Law for us in full. We live by faith in Him, following Him, loving Him.
- The third time we see this wonderful phrase is in relationship to the obedience the Gospel brings.
Hebrews 10:38-39 (KJV) Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
We are to follow God by faith. He loves us, and we love Him. Forever.
Understanding The Phrase My Heart Sings
The first two chapters are the prayer journal of Habakkuk, but the third chapter is a SONG. Faith trusts in God. I don’t have time to go over the whole of this song, but I want you to see the last three verses of it. Habakkuk sings:
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (KJV) Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Though my fig trees do not produce
Nor my grape vines yield grapes
Though the olive trees be barren
And the fields be like a desert
Though my sheep be all killed
And my cattle be diseased
Though I lose everything, yet I will REJOICE!
I will REJOICE IN THE LORD, THE GOD OF MY SALVATION. I belong to God. I do not belong to my stuff. I will trust in Him. When Job lost everything he said:
Job 1:21 (KJV) …. Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
This is a life of faith. We love Him because He first loved us. The last stanza is one of the most beautiful verses in Scripture.
Habakkuk 3:19 (KJV) The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.
When I trust in Him – living by my faith – He will make me like the mountain goat. I will be able to walk on dangerous paths just as sure as if on flat ground, for my God will make me do so.
We serve an amazing God. Let us live by our faith.
May Christ touch your hearts with His Word!