Sunday, February 13, 2011

Habakkuk posed a question to God that maybe you have wondered: “God, how long will you permit wickedness on earth without judging it?” It seemed to Habakkuk that God was uninterested, uninvolved, and certainly not judging the wickedness that so pervaded the land of Israel at that time.

God responded to Habakkuk and said that He would take care of it. To do so, he would bring in the Chaldeans (=Babylonians) to judge the pervasive wickedness in Israel. Though God answered Habakkuk’s question, that raised yet another question—and, arguably, a more perplexing dilemma. Habakkuk then complained: “God, how could you judge the evil of your people Israel with an army that is even more wicked than Israel?” This had put Habakkuk over the top.

In Habakkuk 2:1, Habakkuk says he will take his stand at his guard post (lit. watchpost) and see how God will answer (note Habakkuk’s trust and anticipation that God will answer him). And in 2:2 the Lord answers Habakkuk and says to record the vision, inscribe it on tablets so that the person may read it and herald it to all people.

The vision is for an appointed time. It hastens toward the goal (=that appointed time) and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay (2:3). The emphasis in this verse is that there is an appointed time that God has decreed and His decree will most surely and most certainly come. It cannot not come. That vision, as the reader of the book of Habakkuk will soon find out, comprises the rest of chapter 2. It is God’s judgment on the wicked Babylonians (by means of 6 “woe” oracles).

But, Habakkuk 2:4 begins with the startling and emphatic marker “behold” that serves to grab the reader & hearer’s attention. It poses a contrast. Behold, God says, as for the proud one, his soul is not right (=upright) within him. The next word “but” indicates the contrast to the arrogant one. That is to say, God tells Habakkuk in 2:4b that the “righteous one” will live by his faith (or, in keeping the original word order: “the righteous one, by his faith, will live”).

In the context, we know that Habakkuk 2:4a refers to the wicked Babylonians (collectively). They are the arrogant ones yet they are not “upright” before God. But in contrast to them, God declares, the righteous one by his faith and trust in Yahweh that He always does what is right (even if it seems confusing to us!). He is sovereign. He is the God of the nations and He is the God of history. He turns events according to the predetermined and sovereign counsel of His will.

Therefore, let us learn from this verse in Habakkuk that we must, like Habakkuk, remember that God owns world history; indeed, He is the creator and executer of world history. And when “events” seem to go the way that does not seem appropriate in our estimation, or when a circumstance seems to be beyond the bounds of God’s control, or when we think that God could have accomplished something by a better way (usually the way that we propound in our minds!), let us remember one simple yet crucial truth: the righteous man will live by his faith.

As the author of Hebrews aptly and appropriately reminds us:

Hebrews 10:38-39 38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. 39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.


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