Habakkuk’s Faith

“….but the just shall live by their faith.” — Habakkuk 2:4

             God now turns upon the justice due to the pridefully defiant.

            The Chaldeans represent those who have renounced God in their pride. They are “figures” for our education about the holiness of God. 

            Judah is not so wonderful, as we have seen, that God would preserve one sinner out of them over the Chaldeans, except for His covenant relationship with them to provide the world with a Redeemer.

            And the Chaldeans are not so wicked as humans that they cannot be redeemed. Yet, in this chapter, they represent all who oppose God’s Anointed. And God tells what will befall them.

God’s Sure Justice

            What God says about justice to the ungodly, he means for our encouragement. It is necessary that we see the full future of all who oppose our Lord. If violence and error were never abolished, terror would reign and God would not be Sovereign Lord at all. But our God is indeed Sovereign. 

            This is good news! But it is also sobering and humbling news. It is for our good that we learn to fall to our knees in honor and humble respect, and, yes, fear. 

            God shows us the full fury of His might against those who oppose Him, against all who cause others to stumble, against all oppressors. To try to paint a hopeful picture here is, as Philip Dodderidge says as preface to Ezekiel 13:10-14, “like painting the face of one who is ready to die, or laboring to repair a ruinous house, by plastering and adorning its walls, while its foundations are decayed.”[1] Their destruction is so “that ye shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek. 13:14). 

God’s Sure Salvation

            It must also be noted that God intentionally contrasts the illusory life of the rebellious with the hope for those whom he addresses–his people: “…but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). 

            It is by our faith that we are saved, not by works (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38); and it is by lack of faith that any should fall, regardless of works (Matthew 7:21-23).   God tells Habakkuk just how the godly should live during these torrential times of judgment: with believing hope in God for refuge and redemption.  

            When we can’t see His face, we trust in His character.  We read His Word and believe the promises He has given us.  God fulfilled His promise to bring us a Redeemer and now we have the Holy Spirit.  We await His coming again: to fulfill the gathering in of His willing, believing children, to judge all who follow after evil, and to enact His holy reign on earth as it is already in heaven.  

“…that they shall know that I am God

            What could be worse for those who appease men, and gorge themselves with men, and pose themselves as gods demanding men’s worship, but that mankind would turn upon them and … tease them.

            In an age of bully-consciousness, ridicule must be understood to be the worst that could come against us. Taunts reach deep into the soul and destroy it from the core.

            God does not recommend that we do the taunting, here. The very fact that God rises up on behalf of the downtrodden and oppressed and violated should show us that God loves people. God does not charge His people to bully others….ever.  God wants us to understand that the Chaldeans will receive back that which they have themselves measured against others. Those who taunt are the watching world. 

            It is important to understand, too, that speaking the truth against a perpetrator is not bullying, but exposing the darkness (much like the “me, too” movement today). We are commanded to do so (Ephesians 5:11-14).

            Even still, the way of this world is that the betrayer is betrayed, the liar is deceived, and those who wield the merciless sword shall die by it. Evil is never loyal to its own. Yet it is God who is Sovereign; it is by His Light of Truth and Grace that the secrecy of evil is exposed. 

  • Watch out, you who profit by others’ loss and grief! How long do you think your triumph will last? Will not your Creditor come to call you on your own Debt which is too great for you to pay (Matthew 18:21-25)? Because you have plundered the nations, an “insignificant” people will plunder you, for your merciless violence has reached its final limit. (v. 6-8)
  • Watch out, you who look good in appearance and set yourselves high above others. Yet, you have built your house with “untempered mortar”, whitewashing your houses of death (Ezekiel 13:10-14) and sinning against your own soul. For the now-mute stones you have used, those whom you have trampled in your wreckless stampede for success, will cry out from your own home. Even the roof that protects you will cry out and give way. The voices of the oppressed will be heard and God will repay. 
  • Watch out, you who make slaves of men, who “suck [men’s] blood” and “kill [men] by degrees, by a slow tormenting process”, to build great empires [1]. Your “corporate” success stupefies the lowly and your fame seems endless, but what will you do when the Lord rises up in His righteous fury to call you to account? Your “yes” men who give you the honor you crave “labor in the fire”–their toil is fruitless; all will be consumed in the fire of God’s judgment.
  • Watch out you who drug others with your own lust, weakening them so that they slave to please your basest desires. The Lord is holding the cup already that you, too, will drink; their shame will be your own, and will cover over all that you have done so that nothing is left to speak of you at all. 
  • Watch out, for your violations against your neighbor will overwhelm you. Even the beasts of nature will terrify you because you have violated God’s order in all creation–the land, your empires and all that is within them that you have destroyed. 

That Day is Coming…

            God’s warnings have been fulfilled throughout history against ungodliness and oppression. We have seen the defeat of evil tyrants whom we had feared would succeed over the whole world. We have seen even recently the exposure of secret predatory behavior from those who wield public power. We have seen the fall of corporate giants who tried to gain by throwing the “little man” into the gears. We have seen the fall of those who have polluted everything they touch through pride and avarice and lust.

            Yet we still wait to see righteous justice in our personal as well as global lives.  We long for the day when the lion will lie down with the lamb in peace.  We long for a day when there will be no fear, personal or national.  We do see enough even now that we know God’s principles of cause and effect are true. That Day is coming.  Look for it. 

            This knowledge of God’s sure and coming justice bows our heads. We who are Christ’s own fall on our knees in prayer for mercy, for ourselves and for those who stand and mock in the way of death. This should be our posture. Judgment is coming. 

Upon reflection…

             We’ve got intercession all wrong.

            The question is not “Why does God not respond?” or “When will God respond?” or “How will God respond?” He already has responded in Christ for our salvation and for the appointed time of Judgment. [2]

            The question is “How will I?”

Prayer of John Calvin on Habakkuk 2

     Grant, Almighty God, that as you see us laboring under so much weakness, yes, with our minds so blinded that our faith falters at the smallest perplexities, and almost fails altogether,–O grant that by the power of your Spirit we may be raised up above this world, and learn more and more to refuse our own wisdom, and so to come to you, that we will stand fixed in our watch tower, ever hoping, through your power, for whatever you have promised to us, though you should not immediately make it visible to us that you have faithfully spoken. And may we thus fully prove our faith and patience by proceeding in the course of our warfare, until at length we are raised, above all watch towers, into that blessed rest, where we shall no more watch with an attentive mind, but see, face to face, in your image, whatever can be wished, and whatever is needful for our perfect happiness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

— John Calvin [3]

 © May 2019 by www.ReadPsalm119.com. Taken from an original posting of Habakkuk's Tower. 
 This is part of a series of reflections on the book of Habakkuk. See Habakkuk's Lament(Pt1).


 [1]John Calvin in his Commentary on Habakkuk 2,  freely available at  BibleHub.com, courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library. 

[2] For more on this, see John Piper’s “For Judgment I Came Into This World“, at desiringgod.org.

[3] John Calvin’s Commentary on Habakkuk 2, see footnote [1]; edited slightly for more modern reading by http://www.readpsalm119.com. 

Further Resources:

Exposing the Darkness” by Ligonier Ministries, Inc., a ministry of the late Rev. R.C. Sproul, Sr., at ligonier.org. This is an excellent article on the purpose and value of an offensive stance against evil.  There are two possible results, the author points out:  

Many will hate the light and those whose lives provide the illumination, and they will try to stamp out the light and silence the church ((John 3:19–20Acts 14:8–2319:21–41). Others will feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and see the darkness of their deeds. They will turn from their sin to Christ and thereby begin to glorify the Lord (Matt. 5:14–16).

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