2:1 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 Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
3 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.
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
5 indeed, wine betrays him;
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied,
he gathers to himself all the nations
and takes captive all the peoples.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- One feature of our faith is the importance of waiting. Why do you think waiting is something that we are encouraged to do?
- Why is waiting so hard?
- What can we learn about waiting from the experience of Habakkuk?
- What does it mean that the righteous live by faith? What does that have to do with salvation? What does that have to do with living through difficulties?
- God tells Habakkuk to write down the response and make it plain so that it is shareable for future generations. How important is God’s Word in helping us navigate difficult times? How can you allow the Word a bigger voice in your life (especially in troubling times)?
- What is the future of the proud (like the Babylonians)?
- What will happen to the humble that wait on God and look to Him with faith? How does this help us to see and appreciate the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Learning to Live by Faith
*This transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.
All right. Now if the rest of us can track down Bibles, we’ve got Bibles here in the book racks and the chairs in front of you. We’re doing a series in Habakkuk and we’re on page 806. 807. We’re in chapter two now, but I’m going to read the text and then we’ll pray we’ll get to work. We’ll also put the verses up on the screen behind me so you can track along that way. Hopefully that helps you as well. Let’s get after it. This is Habakkuk chapter two, starting in verse one. Reading through verse five reads like this:
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the rampart. I will look to see what he will say to me and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied, write down the Revelation and make it plain on tablet 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. See, the enemy is puffed up. His desires are not upright, but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness. Indeed, wine betrays him, the evil person. He is arrogant and never at rest because he is as greedy as the grave and like death, is never satisfied. He gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the people. This is the word of the Lord.
Let’s pray. Lord, as we’ve opened Your word this morning, we’re praying that you, by Your Spirit, through Your Word, would speak to us. We’re praying that you would help us to become a resilient people who can go through the difficulties of life. And we can live by faith in the promises that You’ve given us. We pray that you would steady us for these difficult times. We pray especially for all the things that are going on within our church family right now. All the hurt, the pain, the health concerns, the interpersonal conflicts. And over all of that we trust that you are a redeeming God who can reconcile and restore and heal. And so we pray these things in Your precious men. Amen.
Habakkuk is a book of the Bible that helps us wrestle with the difficulties of life. Habakkuk is staring at a situation where he recognized the people of God are not behaving as they ought. And he brings that concern up to God. Hey, what’s going on here? What are you going to do about this? He’s asking why? How long? God comes back with a response. Habakkuk is really put off by it because God says, hey, it’s actually going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. And he goes, Hold on, I don’t like that plan at all. So he raises another complaint and here we get in chapter two. We get him like this. What are you going to do about it, God? I’m being honest with you. What are you going to say to me? And we find him receiving this incredible message of faith. Let me show you four features here from the text. We’re going to find the posture of faith, the message of faith, the timing of faith, and finally, faith explained and applied. So we’re going to work our way through the text under those divisions.
THE POSTURE OF FAITH
The first thing is the posture of faith. Verse one. 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. So he says, I have been honest with you, God. Now I’m waiting. I’ve been honest enough with my feelings and my disappointments and my complaint. He calls it a complaint there at the end. I’ve been honest enough with my complaint. What are you going to say to me? And he uses this analogy, it’s the watchman analogy. He says, I’m going to go up and I’m going to station myself in the rampart and I’m going to look for the word that you’re going to give to me. So the watchman analogy, this is the posture. He’s saying, I’m going to orient my life so that I’m prepared to see what it is that you’re going to do. He’s asking that question, what are you doing, God? What are you going to say? And he’s orienting his life with that idea of, I’m putting myself in a position where I can see what you’re going to do. So a watchman, it’s the idea that they are supposed to go up and they’re supposed to look out and they have a job to do. We find out about it in Isaiah, chapter 21, verses six to eight, where God says, post a lookout, have him report what he sees. Let him be alert, fully alert. And the lookout responds. This is verse eight of Isaiah 21. The lookout shouted day after day, lord, I stand on the watchtower every night. I stay at my post. This is an analogy. And Habakkuk isn’t literally doing these things, but he is spiritually going up to wait for God. He has a posture that says God is going to respond. What I’m doing is I’m behaving as a watch person. And we saw it here in that Isaiah text where it says, this is going to be some work and in fact, it might be a long and diligent process. He’s going to go and he’s going to wait, but he has a job to do. This is not something where he’s folding his hands. You can imagine if you hired somebody to be a watch person and actually have been in places where we had watch people who they had a job overnight to keep us safe in places like Kenya. And if we went out and we found them sleeping and they might say, Well, I do this every night. We never have anything happen here. You’re fine. We would say, you’re fired, right? Like, this is your job, you’re supposed to do this work. And the idea then is that it is something that is to be reported upon. They’re to be alert, fully alert, and that the lookout is saying, every night, I’m staying at my post. I’m doing my job. So the posture of faith is this if you’re going to deal with God in the disappointments of life, you’re going to resolve the stand, watch for Him, that you’re going to position yourself to look out on the horizon and say, I’m not leaving my post until I see what God is doing, until he responds to me. So there’s a God word orientation. One of the commentators puts it like this, and I’m trying to underline this week-by-week. Amerding, one of the commentators, he says, “it’s a wise man who takes his questions about God to God for the answer.” It’s very important that when we’re wrestling with the difficulties of life and we’re saying, what gives God? Why am I having to go through this right now? And how long is this going to take? What am I supposed to be learning? Those questions are best asked and answered in the context of a relationship with God. So we’ve got concerns and we can be honest and we can be brutally honest with God. But we need to be willing to go to Him with our questions so that he might resolve those things for me, as opposed to the foolish way of life, which is to say, I don’t understand God. I’m going to go somewhere else and try to see if I can figure Him out. I’m going to go elsewhere to somebody who can explain to me what it is that God’s doing. No, the posture of faith is a resolute commitment to staying put with God. I’m waiting on Him and until he speaks, that’s what I’m doing. Waiting on the Lord is a big category in the Bible, is something we’re told to do repeatedly in Isaiah. We’re told that those who wait on the Lord are renewed. They’re lifted up. We need to wait for God and his answer. That’s maybe a skill set, as we could describe it, of what we should be doing. If we want faith, we wait on the Lord. We go up, we look, we orient our lives. Where am I going to see his activity and how am I going to hear what it is that he’s doing? Again, it’s work. It’s not being lazy. It is a diligent and resolute commitment. We are persistent in our prayers. We continue to speak out to God. What are you doing? We keep asking Him the questions and then we stay put until we hear from Him. We have patience. Waiting implies time is passing. We’re waiting on God. He might not answer right away, but I’m going to stay here until he does. So it is work. In the New Testament, there were multiple parables where the Lord himself told these different stories with a similar idea here, but he told these stories where he was teaching his followers how to wait. He was trying to underline the fact that it’s not inactivity. You’re not saying, okay, I don’t get it, so I’m just going to not do my job. No, he’s saying you’re waiting on the Lord, but you’re doing that with that posture of work and diligence and commitment. So he tells stories like this. There was a bridal party. They were supposed to be prepared for the bridegroom to come and for the party to start, they needed oil in the lamp so they could light them as soon as the party started. He tells another story about some workers who were hired and given talents, investments, and they’re supposed to put those investments to work and earn more and get more and use those for the glory of God. He tells another story about workers who were given a vineyard to keep and the Master goes away for a long time. And in all these different parables, the Lord is saying there will be a return and it will be sudden. It’ll feel like a thief coming in the night. People won’t even be prepared for it. But your job is to be ready. You’re waiting for that. But you’re waiting with that posture of it could happen at any moment and I am prepared for that reality. So it is a Godward waiting that is willing to do the work in the meantime with an expectation that God is going to talk, which is what it’s saying there in verse one. It’s saying, I will look to see what he will say to me. I expect him to communicate. He’s a communicating God. He will talk back to me and I am prepared for that. But then he also is expectant that God will correct Him. It’s an interesting thing. The NIV, I don’t think says it as clearly as some of the other translations, but it’s here in ours as saying what answer I am to give to this complaint. He’s saying, I brought a pretty bold complaint to God and I was honest about how I’m feeling and it was pretty rugged. And what I anticipate is that when God communicates back to me, it’s a rebuttal, meaning he’s going to correct my misunderstanding. He’s going to communicate to me and he’s going to show me what’s really going on. But I expect for Him to do that. Listen, I’ve yet to meet somebody who does this often where in the communication process their expectation is that they’re going to be corrected. In fact, in most of the premarital counseling that I do and this will get me off of the hook of doing a lot of it, but most what I often do is I try to do an exercise where I get the couple into conflict and there’s a particular way to do it. But then all I do is I sit there and I try to show them how they’re communicating to each other. And often all I’m doing is pointing out how they’re each trying to prove the other one wrong. Like you’re not really hearing what they’re saying because you’re busy defending your own honor. You see that? And I just point that out. See, that’s how communication often works. We have our complaints, we have our concerns and we come to the communication task. Rarely do I find somebody who goes into the communication event and says, you know what? I might change my perspective, might be wrong. Even in our communication with God, I think we do the same thing. We tell God what it is he ought to be doing and we tell Him why we’re disappointed that he’s not. But do we have the humility to go to God in prayer and say, I’m going to be honest with Him and then I’m going to expect Him to communicate back to me. And what I imagine will happen is I will be changed. He will have his rebuttal and it will challenge the way that I’m thinking and feeling and that’ll be good. But that’s what we’re called to do. That’s the posture of faith. It is the willingness to wait, to focus on God, to pray, to be resolute in our commitment to Him and to expect that he will answer, and he will tell us what it is that’s truly going on.
THE MESSAGE OF FAITH
Secondly, we find the message of faith in verse two. Then the Lord replied, write down the revelation and make it plain on tablet so that a herald may run with it. So the message here, I’m not talking about the content of it, I’m talking about how God is describing his message that he’s giving. And he’s saying, write this one down, take notes, put it on record what I’m about to say. I want you to take the vision that I’m going to give you, the revelation that I’m going to impart to you and I want you to document it. And I think what he’s talking about here is the entire book of Habakkuk. And he’s saying, put this puppy down on paper because it’s not just you Habakkuk. It’s not just you that needs to hear this word from the Lord. In fact, followers of God in every age and in every place need this message. That’s how important it is. Make it scripture. He’s documenting it so it can be preserved for us and we can read it and learn from it. Write this one down because everyone in every place is dealing with a broken and disappointing world and they find themselves to be also broken and disappointed. So we need to hear the voice of God and he says, put this one down on paper because people are going to feel like you feel Habakkuk, they’re going to ask why. They’re going to ask how long and their circumstances won’t be identical to Habakkuk. I mean, Habakkuk is losing sleep over the Chaldeans, over the Babylonian invasion. I’ve lost a lot of sleep, but not over Babylon invading in the ancient Near East. I’ve never been up at night going, why is that happening? Why did God allow that one? But I have lost a lot of sleep over real life situations from our church, people that are dealing with health stuff or interpersonal conflicts or marriages and all these different things. And then society doing things and the church behaving in a way that is inconsistent with Christ. And I’ve lost sleep over that. And so God says, write this down, because people are going to desperately need this voice from God. Write this one down, because we all could stand to learn from Habakkuk and what God says to him. Now look at it, says make it plain on tablets, which is interesting. O. Palmer Robertson points out that this is an allusion to Mount Sinai. This is an allusion to God giving his word to Moses on top of the mountain. The instance in Jewish history, in the Bible where God speaks and he inscribes on tablets of stone his words of grace, his Ten Commandments. And it’s so significant, right? If you were to ask a Jewish individual what’s the most important historical event in your faith system, they would point to mount Sinai is way up there, probably the top. And here we have Habakkuk being told what I’m about to tell you. Put it down, write this on tablet. And what’s happening is it’s calling our attention to this truth. That the significance of the Ten Commandments and the law of God being given. And that whatever happened at Mount Sinai where God basically took a people to himself and he said, here’s how we’re going to live. I am the God who saves you. I’m the God who rescued you, who brought you up out of slavery in Egypt, therefore, here’s how you live. And he gives them this covenant document that says, here’s how we’re going to live in relationship together. Now, that is an incredibly significant event. And here we have Habakkuk being told, now write this revelation down on tablets of stone because what this word is, is comparable in its significance. That’s crazy. Walt Kaiser puts it like this. “This vision given to Habakkuk compares an importance with the original giving of the law to Moses at Mount Sinai.” Now, why am I saying this? Most of us have never really thought about it. We definitely need a word from the Lord to understand how to live in a relationship with Him. We definitely need to understand how salvation works and how we should behave as people who are following God. We certainly need that. But what we also need is a word from the Lord that tells us how to live in this broken world. We need an understanding of suffering, a theology of suffering that allows us to deal with life as it truly is. So that when we find brokenness and sin and pain and hurt and disappointment and failing health and all these different things, we understand God is not silent. He has spoken and he has shown us what he’s up to and he has given us his voice in these times. So we have the voice of the Lord and we have it written down for us and made plain and we have it as the ground and the foundation of our faith. In fact, in the Bible we’re told the importance of the Word of God for faith in general. In Romans chapter ten we’re told people come to saving faith when they encounter the Word in a particular way. And in fact, there’s an argument in Romans chapter ten and it’s basically saying people aren’t Christians unless they’ve heard the Word proclaimed to them and it’s asking rhetorical questions with answers associated to [each]. It’s saying how can they believe unless they’ve heard? How can they hear unless somebody preaches? How can somebody preach unless they’ve been sent? How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news? And that argument is saying people become Christians because of God’s voice being communicated to them. So when we think about faith and the message of faith, we need to be reminded of the significance and the importance of the Word of God. If we want to be people who have a resilient faith that can handle the disappointments of life, we need the Word. And my question then is what environments are you placing yourself in where you can come in contact with a Word that could give you faith? And certainly coming to church and hearing the Word read and preached from would be a good start. But I would encourage you to also find other ways to bring on and intake more of God’s Word to help you. And the crazy thing in my pastoral experience is a lot of times when people go through the difficulties of life they do the exact opposite. Instead of trying to go to the Word, they start to back away from the local church and the preaching of the Word. And instead of continuing to go into the Word in prayer and waiting and asking God to speak, they start to drift away from those, those habits, those practices. And, and that my friends, puts you in an incredibly vulnerable place. How are you to know what God is saying to you if you’re not allowing Him to communicate to you through His Word? We need the word. But finally we’re told in that last sentence so that a herald may run with it. It’s a really weird sentence, right? What’s going on here? I know a few of you that are runners and I’m sad for you. I know you enjoy it. I don’t understand it. I know a bunch of you run, but when what I’ve never seen is somebody running with a book, right? Like, maybe on a treadmill. Possibly. But why is it saying the literal translation of it actually says “that he may run that reads it.” What does that mean? That he may run that reads it. Okay, write this down. Make it plain, put it on tablets that he may run that reads it, which is that’s just a really weird sentence to me. But then I started looking at what it could possibly mean, and I think it means two different things. And interpreters and commentators go in different directions here. I think they’re both right, which is why I’m going to share both of them with you. The first one is when it’s talking about running, it’s using a metaphor to talk about a way of life. The Bible often does this. It talks about walking with the Lord, walking in the way of the Lord. It also uses the metaphor of running. So the Apostle Paul could say this I have fought the good fight. I have run the race. What does it mean? Like he did a five K? What’s he talking about here? No, he lived according to God’s assignment for his life. He did that. He ran the race that God had assigned to him. He did his life the way God wanted. And I think that’s what’s happening here. It’s telling us, make this plain. Make the message of God’s word, his Revelation, plain so that people can live it out, so that people can run with this thing. They can take the truth of what it’s like to live by faith in God in a disappointing and troubling time, and they can run with it, they can live it. Make it plain in that way. But the other thing that said here is the word that we get in NIV. Herald it. The word to proclaim it’s, saying not only should you live this thing out, publish it, proclaim this thing, herald this thing. You’ve got news about what God is up to in this world. Make it known. Take this message that is plain to you, live it, but also communicate it, because you’re not the only one. You’re not the only one who’s living through difficulties, and other people need this word, too. God is alive. He loves you. He cares for you. He’s not inactive in these things. He is at work. And there is a word for you here. So the message of faith in verse two.
THE TIMING OF FAITH
Third, we find the timing of faith in verse three. Verse three, for the Revelation awaits an appointed time. It speaks of the end, and it will not prove false. I’m going to try to get ahead of this one here. We are not good with God’s time as a society. It’s just not a strong suit that we have. In fact, I would put it like this our obsession with time is a blind spot in our society. We are an instant society. We want everything right now. We want everything our way right now. And we have zero patience for anything not going according to our timetable. And I saw this most clearly when visiting other places like Honduras and Haiti and Kenya and Israel and Turkey. What I see when Americans enter into a different environment with a different societal understanding of time, americans are incredibly rude. They look at the timing and they go, why can’t you guys show up on time? Like, what’s the problem? We determined a time together and you said you were going to be there and then you didn’t arrive on time. What’s your problem? And their problem is they live in a society where it’s very unpredictable. Things break. They might be on a dirt path and a wheel flies off of their car and then they have to phone for people to bring a new wheel and put it back on. Like all these things happen. And so their timing is very different. But Americans say that is broken, fix it because we want you to move a little bit quicker and to arrive on the timeline that we like. And here’s what a lot of other cultures would say to us, “We’re not broken. You are.” Your obsession with time and your thought that everything ought to go the way you want it and to be under your control, that’s unrealistic. Now it’s a facade in our culture. We do a pretty good job with it. But there are so many things beyond our control that affect timing. But anyways, when we look at this and we see that this revelation awaits an appointed time, I’m just trying to tell you, you’re not going to like what I have to say here because we don’t like God’s appointed time. We like our appointed time. When we pray for something, the expectation is God is going to do it, especially if it’s aligned with what he wants. Why wouldn’t he just go ahead and make it happen today? But that’s not how God works. So I want to show you a few different examples from scripture so you can begin to think through. I’m praying for something, maybe even something that God wants. Why isn’t it happening? How long God? How long do I have to endure this difficulty? Let me give you a handful. These are just ones I jotted down in my notes to show you a variety of timelines. In Daniel chapter ten. Daniel prays and fasts and he has knows the heart of God. He’s praying for what God wants. He he can discern that. And then we’re given a timestamp in that chapter. We’re told 21 days later an angel shows up, he’s praying, praying exactly what God wants to have happen. It doesn’t happen for 21 days. And the question you might have when you’re walking through that is what gives, God? Why not sooner? Why can’t you do this a little bit quicker? Or Acts, chapter two. Jesus was talking to his disciples, and he told them in chapter one, wait here, and then I’ll send the Holy Spirit, and you will be clothed with power from on high, and you will become my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria into the very ends of the earth. Stay here and wait for that. They go, Sounds great. Your power from on high on us. We’re your witnesses. Got it? Roger. Ten. four. They call a prayer meeting. They go, okay, guys, let’s get together. Let’s pray about this thing. God is going to send his Spirit, and we’re going to be lit up, and we’re going to do ministry. It’s going to be exciting. But what we find out is they have the prayer meeting, the Spirit doesn’t show up. What gives? God? You told us that’s what’s going to happen. But there was an appointed time, and it was perfect timeline, because it was God’s timeline. On the day that Jesus was arrested and executed, it was the day of the Atonement. He died at the start of the Passover. And then on the Jewish calendar, they had another holiday coming up 49 days later. It was the harvest of the first fruit. It was another celebration. It was the time when he brought in the crops, and it was the beginning of the fullness of what you could experience. When you bring it all in, God says, that’s my appointed time. I’m going to send my Spirit on that day, because it is the first fruits of what I’m going to do. And so they’re praying, what gives, God? What gives? And then at the appointed time, God pours out his spirit. 49 days later. All right. How about Jeremiah? I’m just giving you all these different timestamps. Jeremiah gets a message from God. They get taken out of their homeland. They’re all bummed. They’re devastated by this reality, by the exile. And God says to Jeremiah, hey, bud, I know this is a bummer. I know you want to go home. It’s not going to happen anytime soon. In fact, what I’d like for you guys to do is start building houses and planting vineyards. We’re going to be here a while. And pray for this place. I know you don’t even like this place, but begin to pray for the peace of this city that I have sent you to, because you will be in exile for 70 years. And Jeremiah goes, Whoa, whoa, I didn’t sign up for this. Are you kidding me? And he writes a prayer. He writes a book of the Bible called Lamentation where he’s like, this stinks. God, what are you doing? How is this okay with you? And he’s praying. And the answer to his prayer and the longings of his heart and even the longings that align with the heart of God are not going to come true for. 70 years. Do you have a faith that can handle that kind of timeline? The kind of timeline that says, it could be a while? Guys, I know I’m praying for something, but it might be a very long time. I’ll give you two more quickly. Simeon and Anna from The Christmas Story. When Mary and Joseph bring their baby child, Jesus of Nazareth, to the temple, they come into contact with two people. One is a dude named Simeon, and we don’t know how old he is, but it tells us he has been waiting for the consolation of Israel. And he sees this child and he goes, oh, this is it. Here he is. And then he prays. He writes a song, and he prays this song out, and he says, my eyes have seen the consolation of Israel. I’m good God, you can bring me home. I can rest in peace. When you pray like that, I can tell you this much. You’re not young, right? If you’re like, my life is good. I checked all the boxes. Bring me home. That means you’re at the very end of your life. So he’s been waiting for this for his entire life, and he finally gets to see the Lord himself in person. Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Penuel from the tribe of Asher. She looks at the same child, and we do get a timestamp on her. She was previously married, lived with her husband for 7 years, has been a widow ever since, and is now 84 years old. So she’s at the end of her life. This child comes into the temple, and she recognizes he’s the one here’s, the Messiah. This child is bound because the rise and fall of many in Israel she recognizes, but she’s at the end of her life. So my point is, when we are waiting in faith, we have to be willing to say, I can do this. If it’s three weeks, if it’s 49 days, if it’s 70 years, if it [only] shows up on the final stretch of my life on Earth, or maybe it doesn’t even happen during my lifetime, there is an appointed time that God has, and it will come true. And I’m going to be okay with that timeline over against my timeline. I’m going to be okay with what God is up to. Verse three says, though it linger, wait for it. If it tarries, wait for it. It will certainly come and will not delay. God is saying it’s going to come true, but from your perspective, it might feel like a delay, like it got hung up at the airport, like it just isn’t. It might show up, it might not. But he’s saying, in the meantime, if that promise feels like it’s a long ways off, here’s your job. Wait for it. It’s going to come true. From God’s perspective, it’s a certainty. But from our perspective, it might feel like it is slow in coming what we find out is that God’s timeline is different. In fact, Peter, in his one of his letters, he writes it like this. He says, do not consider God low in keeping his promises. He’s not slow in keeping his promises. He’s just on a different timeline altogether. Because for him, 1000 years are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years. So Peter is writing to a church that’s saying, okay, what gives God? How long do we have to suffer for the name’s sake? And he’s saying, who knows? Your job is to wait faithfully. He’s not slow in keeping his promises. They will come true. There’s a certainty to it. But your job in the meantime is to wait in faith.
FAITH EXPLAINED AND APPLIED
Well, finally, faith explained and applied in verses four and five, reads like this. See, the enemy is puffed up. His desires are not upright, but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness. We get this line here at the end of verse four. Most important line in the whole book. So if later on somebody says, hey, I heard you guys are doing Habakkuk at church. Weird. What’s that about? You can go right here. It’s this line. This is the book, verse four. Halfway through it, the righteous person will live by his faith. That’s what it’s about. That’s what the entire letter is about. The entire book of Habakkuk helps us to understand what that means. This is such an important verse for all kinds of different reasons. Let me show you what a Rabbi said. This is from the Talmud. It’s the Jewish interpretation of the law and its application. And they wrote this document, and Rabbi Simlai put it like this, and I’ll explain it. And then I’m going to read the whole thing again all at once. But he said it like this. Moses gave 613 commandments. You want to know how to live with God? Here you go. Here’s a document. It’s pretty big, 613. But do all these things and live in a relationship with your covenant and savior God. David reduced the commandments down to eleven in Psalm 15, because in Psalm 15, David asks the question, who can ascend the mountain of God? Who can live with God? And then God gives him a depiction of the kind of person and he gives the attributes, and there are eleven of them in Psalm 15, he reduces it to eleven. The prophet Micah gets it down to three. And Micah, chapter six, verse eight. You guys might be familiar with it. It reads like this. What does the Lord require of you trying to figure out, how do I live? What does God want? What does the Lord require? And God speaks through Micah. Reads like this. To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Okay, now we’re getting manageable, right? I can remember that one, by the way. All of these fair game for a life verse you just want to underline and say, I’m going to try to do this. So act, justly love, mercy, walk humbly with your God. Three things. So now it feels manageable. Well, Isaiah gets it down to two. In Isaiah 56, verse one, he puts it like this maintain justice and do what is right. Okay? Now this is at my level, like I can do this. Two things. Now let me read this whole paragraph again. This is from Rabbi Simlai. “Moses gave Israel 613 commandments. David reduced them to eleven, Micah to three, Isaiah to two, and Habakkuk to one. ‘The righteous shall live by his faith.’ That verse is so significant that it becomes a crystallizing verse as to what it means to live with God. It becomes a verse that explains what it is to have a relationship with the living God. Walt Kaiser said, one can hardly find higher praise for any one single text in the whole Bible. Habakkuk 2:4 rates at the top. It is a depiction of how to have a relationship with God and how to live in a disappointing world. It’s talking about a relationship with God. And in fact, John Skinner points out this word, the righteous. It’s a declaration throughout Scripture. It’s a judicial declaration. It’s a sentence, like when somebody pronounces not guilty, that sentence that’s declared over somebody. In the Old Testament, this word is often used in that sense of when somebody is declared by God to be right, which is it’s alluding to Genesis chapter 15. If you remember, Abraham was told this audacious promise, you’re going to have kids. Like, I’m a hundred years old. Biologically, I don’t think that works, but nice try, God. And God says, no, you are going to have a child. It’s going to be your own child. And he believes. And then in Genesis chapter 15, we’re told, and it was credited to him as righteousness. He believed the promise of God and God declared him right. That’s what’s going on here as well. In Habakkuk 2, it’s saying the righteous person has been declared right, and they’re standing with God and now they’re living faithfully. They’ve been declared righteous by faith. That’s a key tenet of Christianity. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. We trust in Him for our salvation. God declares us, you are right. Not because we’re awesome, or we did all kinds of great things, or we did all these different Christian activities and we earned our way into heaven. No, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and we are justified through faith in Him. But we also live by the same principle. If we were to ask, okay, that’s how I became a Christian. What now? Now I have to live in a broken world. Now I see hurt and pain and health concerns and all this stuff going on around me. What now? Give me a new word. And he says, same word, live by faith. You came into it by faith. Now you live by faith. Live by faith in the Son of God, place your faith in Him and that will steady you through the seasons of troubling times. That will help you to understand how to live. You will maintain that relationship with your God through your faithfulness to him. Live the same way, live by faith. And then it gives us a contrast. That’s how the righteous live by faith in God, but here’s how the wicked live. Verse four. See, the enemy is puffed up, his desires are not upright. Verse five indeed, wine betrays him. He is arrogant and never at rest because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied. He gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. And here we have it. Habakkuk is saying God through. Habakkuk says really just two ways to live. On the one hand, there is a way that is wicked. It is to do the world through a selfish grid that is all about you. To live arrogantly, to live selfishly, to live for your own grandiosity, doing everything to try to build up your empire and your kingdom and make yourself look great and strong and powerful and all these different things. But what you have there is an insatiable appetite you are wanting and desiring, but you’re never satisfied and you just live your life that way and it makes you a brutal person, it makes you self-centered, makes you egotistical, it makes you harsh as you deal with people and violent and evil. But there’s another way to live. It’s the way of the righteous living by faith in God, trusting in the promises of God and waiting for God to bring that final conclusion. And when you do that, when you patiently wait on the promises of God, it changes you. The patience of waiting on God’s promises, it transforms you. The New Testament says as much, that through this patient endurance of faith you become more like God. You become gentle and kind, compassionate and gracious. You look at the world around you and you can be totally honest with the brokenness that you see. But you know that there is a God who is working all things together for good and you know that his promises will ultimately come true in Jesus Christ. One more step. Before we wrap up here, I want to show you what Habakkuk could not have imagined. But it was there when God was telling him hey dude, I know you’re really bummed about the Chaldeans coming in and trashing the joint and I know you’re bummed about the people of God not living up to the calling and I know you’re asking why and how long? And then I tell you I’m going to send this evil army. And you’re like, how can you do that, God? But he says, Listen, there is some good news coming. Your way, there is an appointed time when the end will come. And he goes, Great, let me put it on my calendar, because I want to know when we can expect those rotten Chaldeans to beat it. Like, I can’t wait for them to be gone. He’s like, no, something even better than that. The end that I’m talking about is not just the end of their harsh rule. It’s the end of every evil and harsh rule. In one Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul picks up on this and he says, there’s an end, and it’s an appointed time, and it’s a certain reality, and it’s coming our way. In one Corinthians 15, verses 22 and following, it says, in Christ, all will be made alive, but each in turn Christ the first fruits. Then when he comes, those who belong to him, then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power, for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. What Habakkuk is pointing us in the direction of is that glorious end. It’s the good news of the Gospel that God has a promise that he is going to undo all the hurt and pain and violence in the world. He’s going to come, and he’s going to wipe away the tears from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sickness or pain, for the old order of things is going away. And he who is seated on the throne says, see, I’m making all things new. And we as believers in Him get to look forward to that day. And we get to live by faith in that promise. The righteous live by his faithfulness.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for the good news of the gospel and the hope of glory that we have. We cannot wait for Your return. We cannot wait for you to come and make all things new, to make all things right. Lord, we pray that you would give us faith that would allow us to live by faithfulness in troubling time, come what may. Help us to be the kind of church that is informed by Your word that has been made plain for us so that we could live by faith in the Son of God. We pray in his name. Amen.