In Charles Dickens’ novel, “The Tale of Two Cities”, at the start of the story he writes – “It was the best of times and the worst of times”. This certainly could be said for the world we live in today. In recent years we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of deaths across the nation and the world, because of covid. There have also been many great disruptions of the normal flow of life in many different areas. Yet at the same time, some have used these opportunities to greatly enrich themselves and others have taken full advantage of the situation to promote their own political or environmental agendas. Certainly, this statement could also be said for the world in which Habakkuk lived some 2700 years ago. As he looked around, he saw great prevailing evil in his world, and while his heart was breaking over this evil, others were living lives of great pleasure in horrible sinfulness, which was the source of Habakkuk’s great offense.
In Habakkuk 2, we see God speaking to him about the message of justice and how God is going to deal with the Judah. But there is a profoundly significant biblical principle that is found in the fourth verse of this chapter where we read, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith,” (Habakkuk 2:4 NKJV). It’s important to recognize that it is God who is speaking here, and throughout this chapter, He is referring to the pride and arrogance of the Babylonians, who were going to be the ones God chooses to judge Judah. To be proud and haughty is to have a feeling of self-dependence and self-sufficiency. This certainly would describe the Babylonians, as well as many living in America in the 21st century.
It is the second part of this verse that I want us to consider briefly in our blog today. With the word “but”, God sets a contrast between how the proud live and how the righteous or just should live. We enter with reverence into this clear statement of gigantic spiritual truth. In fact, this little statement, “the just shall live by faith”, is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom.1:17; Gal.3:11; and Heb. 10:37-38). Remember whenever God repeats Himself in the Word of God, it’s an important principle He doesn’t want us to miss. One thing that we all tend to do is to live by our own self-standards, but God would have us develop a wholehearted commitment and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this whole passage, God is talking about the judgment He is going to bring through the Babylonians who were proud and arrogant. In the midst of these warnings, God tells us that we are to live in a very different way. “But” – here is a very important thought, in order to fulfill God’s promises for us we are to live by the fidelity of the Word of God, prompting us to act out of a faith that believes God can still move and work. The New Testament tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God and so many today are so proud that they can’t please Him, because they don’t trust in Jesus. But having a living “faith” is having a spirit of trust in the living God. To “live by faith” means to have a devout belief in Him and to live for the spiritual and invisible realm.
We were designed for more than just the accumulation of things in this present world; we were designed to be in a loving relationship with our Creator. Our loving God has made a way for us to be in a relationship with Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is very easy for even Christians today to live like practical atheists. All that you have to do is not allow your faith to affect any area of your life or decision making and you are living like a practical atheist. But this word about “living by faith” would become the keynote of the apostle Paul’s life and later the battle cry of the Reformation.
Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make this truth known so we can apply it to our lives. We are not to be governed by fear, materialism, greed, lust or any other thing, but we are to be governed by the Holy Spirit and live by the light of a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Outward circumstances in this life are never without some kind of pain or discord. If we make our peace dependent on perfect adjustment to outward circumstances, peace will never be ours. But if we choose to live a life of faith and find God in everything and everywhere, then we will live in fulfillment of the challenge to “live by faith”. Living by faith should lead us into a totally different lifestyle than those who walk only by sight and not by faith. As we grow in righteousness and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ then peace and joy should overflow our relationship with God and with others.
Living by faith,
Pastor Rich Sivo