TODAY’S READING: HABAKKUK
“And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3
The book of Habakkuk deals with the age old question, “If God is good, then why is the world filled with evil and violence?” This is exactly the question Habakkuk asks of God.
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” – Habakkuk 1:2-3
The question about the existence of evil and violence is the one that mankind has always wrestled and struggled with. Interestingly, one meaning of the name Habakkuk is a wrestler or a struggler.
God’s answer to Habakkuk’s question about evil and violence does not explain their existence. Rather, God’s answer in Habakkuk 2:2-3 only assures us that evil and violence will come to an end. They will be defeated. God’s answer is one we must embrace. Interestingly, another meaning of the name Habakkuk is embrace.
God tells Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain on tablets. 2 Corinthians 3:3-6 says, “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Whatever the vision is that God is writing, it is to be written directly on our hearts. This vision would be clearly understood, plain, for it would be written by the Holy Spirit. Because it is written by the Holy Spirit it is life and death. And, this vision on our hearts would give us confidence through Christ toward God and cause us to know that our sufficiency for life is from God.
The reality of this vision would seem like it was delayed. It might even seem like it would never come, that the vision was really just a lie. But, God told Habakkuk to wait for it. The vision would be fulfilled in its appointed time.
Galatians 4:3-6 says, “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'”
The fullness of time had come. It was the appointed time for the vision to be fulfilled. Therefore, we know that the vision God told Habakkuk to write about was the crucifixion of Jesus, the defeat of evil, violence and death, the elementary principles of the world that we would be freed from. For, ever since Cain and Abel, evil and violence has ruled the world.
1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The devil’s works are stealing, killing, destroying (John 10:10). The devil’s works are lies and murder (John 8:44). Hebrews 2:14-15 says that the Word of God, Jesus, became a man “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Jesus defeated death by dying.
Jesus defeated evil and violence without any evil or violence of his own.
Jesus defeated evil and violence with good and love.
Do you believe that?
I mean do you truly and fully believe that?
To believe that evil, violence, and death are defeated by dying (to yourself), good, and love requires faith.
Faith is God’s answer to our questions about evil and violence. Therefore, God tells Habakkuk, “But the righteous shall live by faith.”
Dying appears to be a defeat, a loss.
Good appears to be losing out to evil.
Love seems impotent in the face of violence.
What can dying, good, and love possibly accomplish in the face of death, evil, and violence?
God says you will live by faith that dying, good, and love do indeed defeat death, evil, and violence.
Dying, good, and love seem so foolish and weak in the face of death, evil, and violence. But, not to God.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
God’s statement to Habakkuk that “the righteous shall live by faith” is quoted three times in the New Testament.
Romans 1:16-17 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
Paul links the righteous living by faith with the gospel, the good news, that says evil and violence have been defeated. This gospel is the power of salvation.
But, why does Paul need to say he is not ashamed of the gospel, the defeat of death through dying, evil by good, violence by love?
The gospel, the good news, and “son of God” where both terms originally associated with Caesar, the ruler of the world at the time of Christ and Paul. The gospel of Caesar, the son of God, would be proclaimed as he returned from a victorious military campaign in which Caesar subjected people to the slavery of his rule through death, evil, and violence. The gospel of Caesar could be proclaimed because he came home alive.
But, Paul says he was an “apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God.” This gospel was “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:1-4)
Paul’s gospel, the gospel of God, has the true victor, the true ruler of the world, dying, seemingly defeated by evil and violence. And, this is why Paul had to tell the Roman church that he was not ashamed of the gospel. He was not ashamed to say that dying, good, and love, defeated death, evil, and violence.
The second time Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted is in Galatians 3:11-12, which says, “Now it is evident that no is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather, ‘The one who does them shall live by them.'”
If one does the law will live by them. But, why is no justified by the law?
Habakkuk followed his questions about evil and violence being everywhere and seemingly winning with the statement, “So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”
We cannot be justified by the law because the wicked always end up in control of the law. The wicked paralyze the law by using it for their own selfish desires. So, the wicked never allow justice to go forth from the law, perverting any justice that goes forth from the law.
So, no one be justified by the law because the law is actually used as a cover for death, evil, and violence. Therefore, the righteous live by faith that death, evil, and violence are defeated by dying, good, and love instead of trying to be justified by the law, which will always be perverted by the wicked.
The last time Habakkuk 2:4 is quotes is Hebrews 10:36-39, which says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
What is the will of God for man?
Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
The will of God for man was to rule in his image, which is light, love, and life (see my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus). To rule in God’s image is to rule the way Christ ruled, which is to rule by dying, good, and love. Therefore, to shrink back and be destroyed is to rule by killing, evil, and violence.
If we rule the way Christ rules, then we will receive what is promised by God.
What is promised by God?
Perhaps what God declared in Genesis 1:31 after he created man in his image and gave man his will – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” God’s promise for us is a very good creation. This is just what Paul speaks of in Romans 8:18-30.
So, Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of the things not seen.” God created the world to be very good. Despite all of the death, evil, and violence that now permeates the world, God will one day restore the creation to its very good status. That process started with Christ’s death on the cross, but it is not yet complete. Therefore, we need faith. Faith is the assurance that Christ’s dying, good and love truly defeated death, evil, and violence. Faith is the conviction that even though death, evil, and violence are so prevalent and seem to be winning that Christ’s death has truly secured the victory of a very good creation, a creation without sin, death, and suffering, for us.
Take note of those who are listed in Hebrews 11 as having lived by faith.
Enoch did not see death.
Noah, who lived at a time when every intention and thought of man was violence but he himself was blameless, was saved through violence by the ark, which is a type of Christ.
Abraham was called out of Babylon, the first empire to rule the world with violence. He went to live in a land of promise, seeking the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. He was seeking a city that was not ruled by death, evil, and violence but by dying, good, and love. That city was Christ.
Sarah conceived, brought forth life, with a man who was good as dead.
Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith.”
And, as you read through the rest that are listed in the hall of faith, you will find that their deeds of dying, good, and love are recorded. For, this is what means for the righteous to live by faith.
So, faith, living by dying, good, and love, is God’s answer to all the evil and violence in the world. We live by faith that Jesus defeated death, evil, and violence by dying, good, and love.