Habakkuk lived in a time of crisis. He was alert to the situation of his world and ready to give the message of God to his generation, but he did not receive straight and immediate answers from God. Actually, what God told him about what was going to happen—the judgment of Judah by the Babylonians— confused him. How was it possible that an evil people would be used by God to execute His judgment on the sins of His people? Habakkuk’s theology of providence, his doctrine of sin, and his view of God were at stake. He needed to be stretched. He needed to question his too-moralistic view of God. The same applies to us. When we are confronted with evil around us, our theology goes through a stress test.
believing god then
With all his questions, Habakkuk did not need to become an agnostic or a skeptic. Unbelief and skepticism are never the answer. He needed to believe in God and trust His Word even though this meant not having all the answers. In other words, he needed to live by faith. “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). Faith in God was crucial for navigating the crisis Habakkuk was in, and faith in the same God is crucial for surviving our present-day crisis. Faith opened for Habakkuk a whole new perspective on the crisis. Judgment and salvation would surely come. The righteousness of God would prevail and set things right. Faith enabled Habakkuk to see God’s dealings with the world in a new way. He could then celebrate God’s providence and His salvation.
The message that the prophet received embodies a principle of faithful submission to God that issues ultimately in eternal life. In the work of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God has been fully revealed and is imputed to those who trust Him.
believing god always
The righteous shall live by faith. Habakkuk learned it. The Apostle Paul taught it (Rom. 1:7). Martin Luther and our Protestant forefathers took this biblical principle seriously and understood it as the capstone of the biblical gospel. Much of what happened afterward depended on a new appreciation of this text: “The righteous shall live by his faith.” Living by faith made the difference in Habakkuk’s life, and it made a difference in the sixteenth century. It will surely make a difference even in our post-Christian, secular world.
Living by faith does not mean that we understand all that happens around us, nor that we are righteous in ourselves. It means that we trust God, that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and that we live by faith. As we pray that our witness and efforts will be instrumental in bringing a new reformation according to the gospel, let’s remember our forefathers and -mothers whom God used in the past. The principle that applied in Habakkuk’s times still applies today: “The righteous shall live by his faith.”