Habakkuk 2:4 See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright, but the righteous will live by his faith.
The verse, “the righteous shall live by faith” has been quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17) (Galatians 3:11) and (Hebrews 10:38)
But look at the sentence before that because the entire verse shows the two ways you can live and one is not the right way! “He whose soul is not upright in him shall fail”. Some Bible translations say, “His soul is swelled up within him”. That means he’s puffed up with pride and it’s how the Babylonians were described: everything was for their glory. They thought they could run their lives themselves. But, God hates pride. In Isaiah it says, “For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty. Against everyone who is lifted up.” Pride was why Satan became Satan. In Proverbs we’re told pride goes before the fall.
And we see here that the Babylonians will fail. They will be punished. And in fact we know from history that their great power only lasted about 70 years before they were conquered by the Medes and the Persians. 70 years may seem like a long time to us, but it’s a dot in eternity!
The second part of the verse tells us how as Christians we should live. By faith! The revelation God gives Habakkuk is not just that the Babylonians are going to destroy Israel, or even that the Babylonians will be punished. Look ahead to verses 14 and 20:
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
The revelation is, “I am working all things together with perfect timing so that my name is exalted over all the earth. Every creature will bow before me in silence.” The response to the revelation is, the righteous shall live by Faith. We become righteous by believing God, not by “being good.” By believing all His promises. By reminding ourselves of God’s character and by waiting on His perfect timing.
This answers two very important questions:
1. How can I become right with God? Live by faith!
2. How can I live a life worthy of God’s calling? Live by faith!
One of God’s promises most people turn to is Romans 8:28 “We know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
We remember God’s character and ask how an action or trial is consistent with God’s character. In this case, the Babylonians will reap what they sow. More then them losing all they gained and being disgraced, God was working all things together for His glory. This event was then added to the Bible to show how God was using them to show how it meant to live by faith and to not live by faith. That we need to value God’s promises and His Word. That we need to trust His character, even when things don’t make sense and believe His timing is perfect.
God lets Habakkuk know (and therefore us, because Habakkuk wrote it down for us, remember) that God is in control. That He’s bigger then the Babylonians. Bigger than anything.
This story teaches us to wait confidently on the Lord. We’re going to find out at the end of this book we can even be joyful in what we know the Lord will do. That even when we go through bad times we should worship God and recognize His strength. It gives us new understanding of God’s power and love.
We learn that evil will get its due in proper time. God’s time. And in the meantime we don’t sink down to the level of evil. Our job is to be concerned with our own encounter with God and worship and praise Him through it all. We learn that it’s ok to ask God questions. And in fact Habakkuk didn’t sit around complaining to people, He went straight to God. We also learn an encounter with God can change our perspective on life. Habakkuk’s circumstances didn’t change from that encounter, but God removed the doubt and confusion.
All of these things taught to us by the book of Habakkuk give God glory. God uses stories and people in the Bible to teach us things. He doesn’t just say, “You must forgive.” He gives us the story of Joseph and the story of the Prodigal Son.
Romans 10:17 says that faith, comes by hearing or reading God’s Word as though it truly is God speaking to you.