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The Just Shall Live By Faith

The prophetic book of Habakkuk is a book of questions and answers. The time setting is around 605 B.C. The kingdom of the chosen people has rebelled and turned away from God. Out of Israel only Judah is left... and they will soon be destroyed and taken as captives by Babylon.

Habakkuk asks his questions, maybe you have asked the same questions… God replies with some unexpected answers… Throughout this book we are presented with one of the most important spiritual lessons of the bible… THE JUST WILL LIVE BY FAITH.

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Habakkuk 1:1-4 Habakkuk sees the decay and decline of his beloved Judah. He has been praying to God to intervene... but nothing is happening... God is not punishing the evil doers... and Habakkuk asks "how long until you act"?

The sorry state of the chosen people is the inevitable consequence of their request for a king... going all the way back to Samuel 8:18. A desire to be ruled by other men rather than God. A wrong-headed desire that is also the story of human history.

King Manasseh had been the last straw... He had led the whole nation into a whole new level of idolatry, occult practices, and sexual perversion… a direction they were only too willing to follow.  God's judgment was made and dishing out the punishment was just a matter of waiting for the appointed time.

Habakkuk's question, and God's response, reminds me of the instances where people asked Jesus a question... and the response they get startles them... because it does not fit inside what flesh and blood humans think are the acceptable or possible answers. God is eternal, He has a completely different perspective on the same events. He says "my thoughts are not your thoughts".

God's Answer

The Living God also asks "how long"... how long will you refuse to hear My commands and obey Me"? He too agonizes over unbelief.

God sees and feels distress over Israel even more deeply than Habakkuk... His solution is radically different from what a man like Habakkuk would think up. Habakkuk would probably suggest a program of social reform and spiritual renewal.

But, God says "Habakkuk, prepare to be utterly amazed and I am going to do something you would not believe". His judgment and subsequent punishment was going to be so devastating that you could very easily doubt that it was from the hand of God. Unless you have faith.

Habakkuk 1:5-11 - God's plan was to destroy the kingdom of David using a surprising instrument... the wicked, evil, violent, proud nation of Babylon.

Historically... the Babylonian empire rises up on the world scene fast... it takes only about 50 years for them to become a world superpower. Babylon’s decline would be equally fast... Babylon was a short lived empire... as if their only purpose was to do God's bidding and then disappear.

We will see that God's reaction to Israel's rebellion can only be understood by fitting it into His larger plan for humanity. This is a way to build faith!

Habakkuk's Questions God Plan of Punishment

Habakkuk 1:12-13 how is it justice that you would punish Judah using a nation that is far worse… Yes, we are deserving of punishment… But Babylon are far worse. Aren’t they more deserving of wrath and punishment?

Habakkuk 1:14-17 Habakkuk provides more details on how Babylon is cruel, godless, relentless and will  destroy Israel without mercy. Relatively speaking, Babylon is far worse than Israel. Shouldn’t the worst offenders be dealt with first and hardest?

Habakkuk 2:1 Habakkuk steps back… realizes the audacity of his complaint... challenging the methods and purpose of YHWH. Habakkuk expects to be rebuked... but at the same time he is already preparing to dispute the matter further.

Question: why would God be more concerned with punishing Israel than Babylon... even though Babylon were even worse? Answer: because Israel knew better. They had the commandments, laws and statutes of God even if they did not have the spirit of understanding. They had God's presence among them.

Biblical Principle: To whom much is given, much is required.

Perhaps you sigh and cry for the sins of the USA... perhaps you ask God to address the crimes and injustice you see all around you. How will God deal with our nation?... a nation where the bible is readily available... a nation where there is freedom to preach the truth without fear? … a nation that knows better! … I believe judgment is coming upon the USA.

Biblical Principle: To whom much is given, much is required.

And what about us? The people of God... the Church of God… we have been given much… what does God expect of us? Do we make the same mistake as Habakkuk in defining our righteousness by comparing ourselves to others? ... I know I have my problems but what about him?... they are even worse... so relatively speaking I am better!

The kingdom of God is not defined by being an incremental improvement over the kingdoms of human origin. It is defined by total holiness… In the same way the people of God are not declared righteous because they are better than the next person… the people of God are declared righteous be a total dedication to holiness.

Multiple time we are warned not to consider ourselves good/virtuous/righteous by comparing yourself with other human beings… but by comparing ourselves to God.

Each of us must have faith in God’s righteous judgment and focus on our own path of overcoming… rather than on how much others need to be judged and corrected.

God Answers Habakkuk

God is going to help Habakkuk understand by giving him a big picture view of God’s plan for dealing with the nations. Having this long range view builds faith… it gives meaning and purpose to human experience, human suffering, and human history. So, knowing the big picture [and the scripture that backs it up] is worth your attention.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 . "here's my answer, write it down so it can be shared far and wide and off into the future". From the human perspective waiting for justice to be done may seem long... may seem forgotten... but it is certain and will not be averted. It is an answer meant for Habakkuk and meant for us in the 21st century.

God’s answer will take us all the way to the end times… but it also reaches back into the past.

Remember back to the golden headed image of Nebuchadnezzars dream. That’s the story of humanly devised self government from the time of Israels demise to Christ’s return as King of Kings. But the story of Babylon goes back further.

From the beginnings at Babel… to the hammer that smashes the last of Israel in 605 B.C. … to the end-time government of the beast… Babylon is the name given to human self rule… a rule that is confusion, violence, and injustice.

Complete understanding was not given to men like Habakkuk to see all the ins and outs, times and dates,  of how this grand plan would unfold. Much of prophecy can only be understood after the fact. Habakkuk would have been in the same boat as Daniel who was told "go about your business Daniel, the details of how this all comes to pass are sealed up until those days".

To believe without seeing takes faith...

Habakkuk 2:4 the puffed up cannot be just or righteous. The proud is a law unto themself. The proud does not accept revelation and therefore cannot be granted life everlasting. But the humble believe what He says... and for them His word is a pathway to life everlasting. Truly, the just shall live by faith.

God will now address how judgment comes to all nations

Habakkuk 2:5-7 human nations and governments are drunk... intoxicated and mixed up by false ideas, disinformation, deception, dogmas and doctrines of men. And, humanity likes it that way because those  lies appeal to the flesh.

In answer to the question "how long"... God's answer is "it will come upon you suddenly". Humanity is able to delude themselves that  because God's judgment does not come quickly, it does not come at all. They do not understand why YHWH is patient... that He is giving ample time and opportunity for change… ample time  and opportunity to prove that flesh and blood cannot build the righteous kingdom.

Habakkuk 2:8-13 God is very concerned with the "non-religious" issues of man's inhumanity to man. He saw the holocaust, he saw the atomic bomb dropped, he saw the slavery, centuries of religious war, oppression, poverty, human degradation and cruelty.

He did not speak, because the appointed time has not come. He gives humans beings time to speak out... but we do not... usually we simply replace one set of sins for a different set of sins, equally ungodly.

Our materialism, our wealth, our technology leads us astray... and like the stones of the walls built by human hands... they will cry out against us and be our downfall.

All of it is vanity and fuel for the fire... God says we work ourselves to the bone for nothing.

Habakkuk 2:14 everything we have worked to build will be wiped away because it is built on the wrong foundations. All will be replaced by a culture and a society filled with the spirit of God. That is how righteous government will be established on planet earth.

Habakkuk 2:15-17 human governments, cultural institutions, false religions will be exposed...stripped of their fancy clothing and made objects of shame…. Before learning can happen a lot of unlearning will be required… the lies we live by will have to be laid bare.

This reckoning is not only for those who live through the Day Of The Lord… Remember too, that when Jesus talks about the resurrection of "the rest of the dead"... the time of the white throne judgment... He says to the audience at hand that some of them were in for a rough time.

Lets not be naive that the second resurrection will be a great big family reunion. When the rest of the dead rise up there will be a vast population of people with hardened attitudes, deeply encrusted layers of corruption, greed, personal vanity will have to come to repentance... people like the men of Babylon.

God will deal with them. Your time is now… judgment begins withe the people of God… and He is preparing you now to help deal with these people at the appointed time.

Habakkuk 2:18-20 all the stuff that people have created... whether it be material objects... or an alternate reality of lies, self delusion, and deception... is worthless before God.

Only belief and obedience to God and His will is of any lasting value. To see this clearly, remain silent before God, and live by His will takes faith

Habakkuk's Final Response: A Vision of Christ

Habakkuk 3:1-12 Habakkuk can visualize the King of Kings returning and striding like a colossus striding though the earth... with great power... using that power to put down rebellion... pouring forth His righteous wrath. Wrath that destroys  sin, oppression, greed, racial hatred, sexual perversion, religious deception… by eliminating it to the very foundation.

Habakkuk 3:13-15 salvation begins with the Messiah [the anointed, the Christ], He will overthrow  Satan... the true leader of wickedness, deception, and lies will be stripped of his disguise.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 the faithful believer may be frightened by the calamity all around... the faithful may have to share in the ravages of drought, famine, war... the faithful may  be tempted to doubt.

But through faith you can have peace of mind... confidence in God's righteous judgment and hope of resurrection! Faith that is built upon the firm foundation of trust and obedience toward the living God…  faith that is built on a confident expectation that these events will come to pass.

The just shall live by faith!

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