“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, NKJV)
Habakkuk was concerned about the prevalence of injustice in his nation, the kingdom of Judah–God’s chosen people. Habakkuk wondered why God allowed injustice to proliferate among His people: “Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (vs. 1:4).
God responded that He was, in fact, planning to do something about the injustice in the land by sending the Babylonians to invade Judah and take its people into captivity.
Habakkuk probably had something less calamitous in mind than the downfall of his country when he addressed God about injustice in Judah. So, Habakkuk asked God why He would use the wicked (Babylonians) to punish the righteous (Judahites)? “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” (vs. 1:13).
God replied: “The just shall live by his faith!” (vs. 2:4). In other words, there was no entitlement for being God’s people. Nobody had an inherent claim to God’s name. God’s chosen people were those whom He justified–those who chose to believe in Him and His Mercy and live accordingly!
“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it because it will surely come; it will not tarry. Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith'” (Habakkuk 2:2-4, NKJV)
The book of Habakkuk is one of my favorite in the Bible. We know Habakkuk wrote his prophecy some time before the siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC by the Babylonians because his prophecy was actually a prediction of the Babylonian conquest of Judah.
In this short book Habakkuk asked God two challenging questions and God answered both in Chapters 1 and 2. Then, Habakkuk offered an inspirational prayer that concludes with a memorable proclamation of faith in Chapter 3 that we will consider in the following post.
But the significance of the book of Habakkuk is that it contains one of the most familiar (and powerful) verses in the Bible–both Old and New Testament–that is a fundamental premise of our Christian theology. And, you know it, whether you know it comes from Habakkuk or not!
Like many good citizens today, Habakkuk was concerned about injustice in his nation, the kingdom of Judah. Habakkuk wondered why God allowed such oppression to proliferate among His chosen people: “Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (vs. 1:4).
“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17, NASB).
James maintains that faith is a two-step process. Belief is the first step of faith and works is the last step.
According to James, faith is not completed without works because works is belief put into action. Faith starts with belief, but works is the culmination of belief. Belief is faith sitting down. Works is faith walking!
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).
In this powerful declaration, the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians of his own life experience as an example to demonstrate that trying to gain justification by the law only exposes not exonerates sinfulness.
“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, HCSB).
Commentators differ as to whether Romans 5 belongs thematically with Chapters 3 and 4 where the Apostle Paul argues for the imputation of righteousness through Christ or with Chapters 6-8 where Paul describes the new life in Christ.
“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” According to the Hebrews writer the new covenant of Jesus is founded on better promises than the old one. While the Mosaic covenant informed people of God’s moral law, convicted them of sin, and established a pattern of sacrifice and priesthood, it did not redeem sinful people; it only offered a promise of redemption that was fulfilled in Christ. Suppose you go to purchase a new car and the car dealer first offers you a deal that’s not affordable for you and so he comes back with a better deal–more options on the vehicle and a better price that enables you to purchase the car. God has offered us a better deal because it has better promises–it redeems us to eternal life. God’s better deal is Jesus Christ, Who as God’s Son is the high priest and mediator of this new covenant.