The Righteous Will Live By Faith
Read Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ESV)
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
Do you ever feel discouraged because God seems silent even in the midst of great evil and suffering? How does Habakkuk encourage you to continue to trust God?
It might be hard for some to keep the faith these days. Sin and evil have always been a part of our world. But man, it sure seems to be snowballing these days and that snowball is going downhill fast. We live in a culture that doesn’t like to call sin, sin. Instead, we like to shout sin and embrace it with pride. Like the prophet Jeremiah said, our society does not seem to be ashamed and has forgotten how to blush (Jeremiah 6:15). Isaiah 5:20 warned: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil….” That is just what we are seeing. On top of that, violence abounds in our nation, wars are being fought all around us, and economic hardship looms.
Habakkuk was a prophet who ministered to Judah when it was on its last leg as a nation. Scholars aren’t sure of the exact date, but we know Habakkuk wrote it before the Babylonians invaded Judah, probably around 605 B.C. Sin was pervasive and warnings to repent were long ignored. Habakkuk complained that God was allowing all of this sin to go unpunished and he didn’t understand why. But what I respect about Habakkuk is that when he was struggling with issues that tested his faith or caused him to doubt, he didn’t run from God. Instead, he ran to God. He was open and honest with God about his questions and concerns.
He said, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). He continued that iniquity, wrongdoing, destruction, violence, strife, and contention were rampant. But “justice never goes forth” (1:4).
In the next few verses of chapter 1, we read God’s answer which was probably surprising to Habakkuk. First, God reassured him that He was working. In fact, he was planning to bring the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) to punish Judah for their sins. But that confused Habakkuk even more. The Babylonians were even more corrupt and evil than Judah was! Why were they the nation that would be used as Judah’s judgment?
God responded that justice was for sure on the way but all in His time. God said, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:3-4). In other words, those who trust God know that they may have to wait for God to fulfill His promises, but they know that He ultimately will. God also reminded Habakkuk that He is in charge of the entire world: “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
Habakkuk ended with a prayer of praise. He had a lot of questions but he knew that only God had the answers. Habakkuk wisely turned to the Lord with his doubts, worries, fears, and complaints. Even though the answer from God wasn't what he was expecting, by the end of his conversation with God, Habakkuk was content. He understood that the Lord was God and he was not. He knew what God had done for Israel in the past and he remembered all His mighty works. He knew that God was sovereign and powerful. And even though he feared what was to come, he knew that God was a righteous judge.
In today’s verses, we read Habakkuk's response to God in a song of faith. Even though he knew hard times were coming, he still rejoiced in the Lord. He knew God would strengthen him. He still found joy in his salvation. In fact, that is our Scarlet Thread of redemption for today. Habakkuk trusted that he would experience salvation from the Lord, no matter what.
Friends, we don't know exactly what the future holds or how long the Lord will tarry. But we do know that no matter what, “the LORD is in his holy temple.” He is in control and we can trust Him. Justice will be served in His time yet for those of us who trust Him, He is the God of our salvation! If you are experiencing some doubts or have concerns about the state of affairs in the world, do what Habakkuk did. Turn to God rather than run from Him. We won’t get all of the answers, but we’ll draw closer to the One who has the answers. When we are close to Him, we can live by faith.
God, sometimes it feels like suffering and evil are taking over the world. It often makes me wonder: how long until You return? But I trust You. I know that “though the wrong seems oft’ so strong, God is the Ruler yet” (Babcock). One day, You will right all wrongs. So I take joy in You, the God of my salvation! Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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