The Just Shall Live by Faith-Clinging to God and His Word When His Ways are Mysterious

Dear Friends,  

In the short but poignant message from the prophet Habakkuk (his name means, to embrace or cling to) we learn a powerful message on how we who have been saved and justified (the just/those declared righteous by God) are to live (living day by day while walking in the Spirit) by faith (“the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen”). We are not just saved by grace though faith but we are sanctified by grace through faith (Ephesians 2;8; Romans 1:16-17; Galations 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-38) meaning that we know and obey God’s Word as we trust in His promises for our highest spiritual good now and our eternal rewards for faithful obedience in this brief life. “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12) “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while (i.e., this brief life – my comment). These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) We live by faith not by sight and we live in the certain hope that in the future (i.e., eternity, heaven) God will justly punish all evil doers who reject Christ and reward every act of trust and obedience for those who have been saved and justified by trusting in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

In his day, the prophet Habakkuk was grieved by the blatant sin and evil committed by God’s people in Judah (1:1-3) and he kept pleading with God to bring justice and to deal with these evil rulers, priests and others. He was more concerned about God’s heart being broken and the plight of the oppressed through this rampant evil and injustice than his own personal happiness. Like Habakkuk, we should be more concerned about God’s name being dishonored and His ways being ignored and rejected than about happy times in America or even in our personal lives. We sing and pray, “God bless America” but Jesus said our first prayer should be, Americans bless God. “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

“How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?” (1:1) We don’t know how long Habakkuk had been praying about this but when God finally answered him he was shocked.  “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans.” (1:6) When God says He’s raising up the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) He means He’s raising them up to be a rod of judgment against the evil people in Judah. Then  Habakkuk asked Him why would He use a people more evil than the evil people in Judah to judge and discipline them? (1:13) In the eternal scheme of things God considers nations and rulers of nations as “a drop in the bucket, dust, nothing, meaningless, like stubble” (See Isaiah 40:12-17) and uses them for His eternal plans but will ultimately judge them and hold them accountable for their disobedience.  God told Habakkuk that He would later judge Babylon for their sins against Him. (2:6-20; also see Psalm 2 and Revelation 20:11-15)                                             

Habakkuk went to prayer (2:1) to try to grasp what the Lord was telling him and the message and vision he received applies to all believers of all times though it has a specific and unique application for the nation of Israel in the millennial kingdom. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; But the righteous (or just/justified) will live by his faith.” (2:3-4) “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (2:14) This verse speaks of the millennial (a1000 years) reign of Christ on a renewed earth and ultimately points to the new heaven and new earth seen in Revelation 21-22.

Habakkuk was encouraged as he recalls (3:3-15) how God had dealt with evil nations in the past as He delivered the Jews from Egyptian bondage and empowered them to conquer Canaan. But verses 12-13 also foreshadow God’s future deliverance of Israel in the tribulation (Zechariah 12-14) and the establishment of the millennial kingdom (Psalm 132; 2 Samuel 7:11-16) and ultimately the new heavens and new earth. (Revelation 21-22)

As Habakkuk was encouraged by the vision of God’s ultimate deliverance, he then pens one of the most beautiful and faith-filled psalms in all of Scripture: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines. Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food. Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (3:17-19) Habakkuk could write this psalm (a song of praise) because he could see (by faith) the glorious future God has for His people in the millennial kingdom and in heaven. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”      

We too need a vision of heaven, of the certain hope of heaven where the deepest longings of our hearts will be realized forever and ever in order to live faithful obedient lives to the glory and pleasure of God. Yet, the devil and his minions are out to destroy our faith in God through the trials that God allows to discipline us and purify our faith so we will be more like Jesus Christ for our eternal good and God’s glory. (See Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Peter 1:6-7) Satan is out to destroy our faith as believers because “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) If we are truly born again this does not mean we lose salvation and eternal life but it does mean we will not experience the full blessing that faithful obedience brings both now in this life and for all eternity. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  The just shall live by faith, not just be saved by faith.                                   

If we think of faith as trusting God and thus obeying Him because we trust Him we must be very careful in what we are trusting Him “for.”  I know this is bad grammar but the point is, if we’re trusting God “for” something He doesn’t promise and we don’t receive what we expect from Him we can get very disappointed and bitter and even turn away from Him; i.e., we no longer live by faith. So what should we trust God for?  We can trust God completely to care for and work for the good of our spiritual growth in Christlikeness and for the good of our eternal soul. Thus if we truly want to please Him by becoming more like His Son Jesus Christ, which is His ultimate goal for our lives (Romans 8:28-29), we can rest assured it will happen as we live by faith. (Meditate on these verses to encourage yourself in God’s promises for the care of your soul: Romans 8:26-39; Hebrews 13:20-21; Philippians 2:12-13).              

If we only look at the hand of God (the trials of our life) we can miss the heart of God (His sacrificial love seen at the cross and the promise of eternal bliss with Him and saved loved ones in a perfect world forever). And we must also see His perfect love (both His tender mercies and His stern discipline) in making our souls to be more like Jesus Christ for our spiritual and eternal good.

Jesus asked this question of those in His day and it applies to us today as we see the signs of His return. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) “Either in the land of Judea, the believers being removed from thence, and scattered among the Gentiles, and not a man, at least in Jerusalem, that had any faith in Jesus, as the Messiah; or in the world at the last day: there will then be little of the doctrine of faith, and less of the grace of faith, and still less of the exercise of faith, particularly in prayer, and especially about the coming of Christ; it will be little thought of, and expected, or faith little exercised about it.”

“Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)                                                                                   

Len and Kristen   

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