A thought for the new year.
The social setting of the Old Testament book of Habbakuk is interesting. There had been no word from God for 20 years, not since the prophet Zephaniah. The nation was in a downward slide. They had defiantly ignored God’s message given through Zephaniah. King Josiah had not achieved what he had hoped for. He has begun on a note of optimism and reform but this did not materialize and he met a premature death at Megiddo in 608bc. Habbakuk prophesied during the succeeding reign of Jehoikim, a very worldly and selfish King. His palace was extended and the poor became poorer. Bribery, corruption, lawlessness and oppression filled the streets of Jerusalem. It became so dire that it wasn’t safe to walk in the streets at night. The Assyrians were in decline and the region was living in a power vacuum. I trust you are connecting the dots.
But worse is still to come. The exile to Babylon awaits. So Habakkuk has many questions for God and his prophecies are God’s response to those questions.
Then comes the most famous text of the book:
Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV84) “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—
The real meaning of ‘faith’ in both Hebrew and Greek includes the word ‘faithfulness’. It is faithfulness that saves, they must go on believing and keep faith. The same word is used for faithfulness in marriage. Faith in marriage is to stay in marriage until parted by death. It is used of Moses raising his arms in prayer until the Israelites won the battle against the Amelekites. Faithful praying, faithful working, faithful planning. It’s the same in the New Testament. Believing in Jesus on one occasion is not faith, faith is continuing to believe in him whatever happens. That’s why we will find the phrase often used “He who endures to the end will be saved.
‘The just shall live by faith’ puts the emphasis on continuing to believe. Faith is not a one-time act, it is the continuing attitude for a lifetime despite what may come. Don’t be fooled by the immediate triumph of evil whether by violence or virus. In God’s timing the good will win and the bad will suffer the wrath of God. No wonder he finishes his book with these words that exemplify faith:
Habakkuk 3: 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.