- Publish It (verse 2)
Habakkuk had to ensure that God's message was clear, plain and understandable for all to see.
- Patiently Wait For It (verse 3)
The fulfilment of God's word would come in the future, so Habakkuk was told to wait under the assurance that - yes - the answer would come in God's time.
- Patiently Live By It (verse 4)
Habakkuk receives a partial answer in the present. He is not to live like the Chaldeans, as his own god, but rather to live by faith.
The book of Habakkuk. We've now reached chapter 2 and we've been thinking - if it's your first time here this evening - on the subject 'Majoring On The Minors' and we've been going through the book of Habakkuk. And we will hope, before Christmas - God willing - to get through also the book of Haggai. We've gone through, right through chapter 1, we just started chapter 2 last week, chapter 2 and verse 1.
Let's read from chapter 2 and verse 1, we're just reading down to verse 4: "I will stand", and it's Habakkuk speaking, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he", God, "will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith".
Just to recap for those who are perhaps here for the first time, in chapter 1 of Habakkuk we have the questioning prophet. He was questioning because there was such evil, such degradation and injustice within his nation, Judah, at the particular time that he was a prophet. He was crying to God in prayer, asking that God would come and in some way - even in revival - that God would speak to His own people, that God would heal them, that God would revive their souls and bring them back to Himself. No matter how much Habakkuk prayed to God, no matter how much he cried unto God with fasting, with prayers, with tears, in sackcloth and ashes - it seemed that the heavens were brass and that God was not answering him, there was absolute silence from God and from heaven. Of course, this was the great burden of Habakkuk and he went on to say: 'Lord, why have you given me such a burden? Such a burden in my heart, on my soul and on my back, that bows me down day by day and humbles me - why do You let me see what is going on in our nation, in our country, in Your country and You won't do anything about it? You won't answer our prayers'. God yet remained silent.
But God did not remain silent for too long, for you remember in verse 6 - after verse 5, where God had said: 'I'm going to do something, something marvellous and wonderful in your day, and if you saw it, if I told it to you, you wouldn't even believe it! And it's actually happening now, I've put it into sequence here and now'. Here it is in verse 6: 'Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans' - and we saw what an awful nation the Chaldeans, the Babylonians were. How they would come from the North and how they would be God's instrument of judgement upon His own people. And this created a second question from Habakkuk's lips, he asked: 'Lord, You haven't answered me for so long, and now when You answer me, You answer me in a way that I cannot believe! How can You, a Holy God use an instrument to discipline Your sinful people, an instrument that is more sinful than we ourselves?'. We saw that Habakkuk couldn't make head nor tail of it, and so what happens? He goes in on himself and he begins to question himself, perhaps, and if he understood the message aright - but then he begins to question his God, and he sees that God is holy, God is eternal, God cannot look on sin and he asks: 'Lord, if this is You, if this is what You are like, why are You using these people to judge Your own nation?'.
Habakkuk got so confused, so frustrated, so perplexed that he did the one thing that we all only can do in such a situation: he got on his knees, he put his face in the dust before God and he cried upon the living God. He argued with God, he wrestled with God, but he got onto his watchtower, it says in chapter 2 and verse 1, he got onto the watchtower and he cried to God - and after it he said: 'I'm going to sit here and I'm going to wait 'til God answers me! Even if it means that I am reproved, I will wait'.
We're picking up the reading at verse 2. 'Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom found in women and never in a man' - isn't that right? Patience! Patience is something that is seldom found, not only in women and men, but in our world today. And as we look around, not only in the world but in the church, and you look into McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken that is meant to be a fast food outlet - all you can see is impatient people! No matter how fast it's coming out, there are still impatient people! You go to a bank - and now in the banks they've got the money so much at hand that it's even in a hole in the wall, that you don't have to go during the day - but often there's queues at it, and there are still people pulling their hair out in impatience to get the money out of the wall. Traffic jams - and today's generation and world, what do we have? 'Road rage', people that are so impatient - we have faster motorways and highways and roads than ever we have had, yet still people are impatient! Someone put it like this: 'Modern advertising has created an expectation gap within young people, that they have been taught through advertising to expect instant solutions'. Instant solutions! 'You need this! You can have this! If you have this price, you can have it! It'll change your life! It'll make you lose weight! It'll make you clever! It'll do all sorts of things! It will change your world!' - and what it really is, is attempting to reach the top at one single leap, and that - I believe - is one of the reasons why there is so much misery within our world today. People who want everything now! People who want success now! And let me say this: Christians who want Christian maturity and growth right now.
As Christians, what do we expect? We expect the world to be transformed and changed instantly, don't we? We expect instant answers to our prayers, we expect instant salvation for our loved ones, we expect instant healing of illness, we expect in our personal lives instant guidance to every obstacle, every situation and every decision that we have to make. And even when we ask God for patience we say: 'God, give me patience and do it now!'. We are people with little patience. Let's learn a lesson from Habakkuk, this man was prepared, he got up on his watchtower, he brought to God real questions, he wasn't point-scoring, he wasn't trying to call God's bluff - but he got onto the watchtower and eagerly, not apathetically, eagerly and earnestly he waited for an answer, he waited for his God! And his patience paid off - why? Because God said this: 'Habakkuk, lift your pen', and we see it in verse 2: 'And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it'. And that's the first point this evening - he was told to publish it.
'Habakkuk, here's your answer. Have you got a pen and a paper? Are you ready to take what God is going to say to you? Are you ready for the answer to your prayers, for everything that you have longed for?'. God's message, at last, was coming to Habakkuk! Incidentally, when you go into the quiet place with God do you take a pen and a piece of paper? For if God was to tell you what God told Habakkuk, could you remember it half an hour after your quiet time? Do you have a pen and a paper? Do you know what God's going to say? Are you so earnest to expect something from God that you're ready to write it down? Habakkuk was, and the message came in a vision. Isn't that interesting that it says, in verse 2, 'write the vision'? Do you know what that tells me? That this message of Habakkuk's, it wasn't a military message, it wasn't a social message, it wasn't a political message, it wasn't a philosophical, educational message - but it was a spiritual message, it was a message that men needed to hear. Men don't need an educational message today, they don't need politics - sure, look what politics has done for our land: nothing! They don't need psychology, they need Christ! They need God, they need a spiritual message, a spiritual vision and that's what Habakkuk got.
It was a vision and it was spiritual - but look at verse 2: it was plain. He said: 'when you write the vision, make it plain upon tables' - write it upon tablets, it's plain! It wasn't a complicated message, it wasn't a message with extravagant language that [you] needed a code or a dictionary to interpret, it hadn't a vocabulary of its own. It was something that the ordinary man in the pew, the ordinary 5' 8", ordinary working class person knew what it was - and like Martin Luther, Habakkuk was told: 'Preach to the simplest farmer in your pew'. Friends, is our message plain? 'Is the message clear and plain, Christ receiveth sinful men' - is it clear? Is it plain? Can everyone understand it? Do we bring it in a message that is palatable for our contemporary society today? I'm not saying you change the message, I'm not saying you water it down, or you change it, or you make it acceptable - but is the message clear and plain?
He said: 'Take a pen, write it down, make it plain and clear' - but it was written, it was written, it was objective, it was something that he could hold and it was something that other people could read - and it was written simply because God wanted his message to be permanent. Isn't that why in business we insist on so much to be written in black-and-white? Because the word is the bond and we want to hold people to it. And God wanted to be held to His word, He wanted His written word to be His bond - and praise God tonight that His word is permanent! See if it hadn't been permanent, everybody under the sun, every religionist, every cultist, every humanist and pagan would have been changing it all down [through] history - but praise God, God wrote it down so that we would know what His message was!
It was to be written, but it was to be run with. Look at verse 2: 'Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it' - it was to be read challengingly. It was a message that, when someone read it, he ran with it, he published it, he proclaimed it, he preached it with joy because it was such good news! Is that not the Gospel? 'Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord' - do we? 'Jesus saves, Jesus saves, tell it out far and near, across the sea, across the land that Jesus saves'. 'Send the light, the blessed Gospel light, let it shine from shore to shore' - listen: verse 2 says this to me: do you publish it? Do you gossip the Gospel? Do you preach the Gospel? Is the Gospel part of your life, through your words, through your very man or woman, your person? Do others around see that you're Christ's and that Christ lives within you?
Do you know what Paul said? Look quickly at 1 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 20 - listen to this, this is Paul the apostle - and let me say this: this is the same apostle that wrote in Corinthians chapter 11 about the Lord's Supper, it's the same apostle that wrote about the headcovering, it's the same apostle that wrote about eldership ruling within the assembly, it's the same apostle that forbade women to have leadership within an assembly or to speak within an assembly. It's the same apostle, but look what he says with regards to the Gospel: 'Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some'. Friends tonight, can I ask you - and I ask this of myself, but I ask it sincerely and I must ask it of us here - do we bring people, do we gossip the Gospel, do we by all means and by any means bring people to Christ? Or is it by no means? Let's face it, let's ask ourselves it personally: no means - is it no means in our life that we try to bring people to Christ? Or is it by every means possible?
Can I go off on a detour for one second? A few weeks ago there were two souls saved in this place, and can I say quite simply: God saved them, but do you know what we did? Two people brought one person each. There was a message - it's written down by God - and those two people realised how important that message was, what it could do for a life, and because of it they ran, they published it by bringing someone to hear the Gospel - and praise God, God saw fit to save their lives! But friends tonight, if we don't bring them they'll never get saved - and in fact, more than that, if we don't go to them, that is the message of the Gospel - to go, not to bring, to go! To go to them were they are and by all means to seek to reach them for Christ.
He was told to publish it, but let's look secondly at this: he was told in verse 3 to 'patiently wait for it'. Verse 3, God says: 'For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry' - he was to patiently wait for it. You might say: 'Hold on a minute, was God not giving him the message to write down? Had God not already given it to Habakkuk?', well, yes He had, but no He hadn't. Because although God was giving him the prime substance of the message that He was telling him, it was something that would have its fulfilment, its culmination in an appointed time in the future. What do I mean by that? Well first of all, what I mean by that is this: there is a time for all things and God has a time for everything. Harry Ironside said that: 'There's nothing harder for a man to do than to wait on God's time' - isn't that right? We are very impatient creatures and we can't wait on time, our own time, let alone God's time. To wait on things that God is bringing in time, seems to be to us as time that is wasted. But to Habakkuk - he was willing in verse 1 to stand, to sit, to kneel on that watchtower for no matter what time it took, until God answered him - and such an attitude was right, it was proper, it was the condition of the soul on the watchtower. And as he stood on the watchtower, he was above the world, the cares of the world, he wasn't weighed down with the affairs of this life. He was away from the sniping of the world, the influences of the world, the mindedness of the world - and because of that he could get to God - from the thoughts of men, from the thoughts of psychology and sociology, from the thoughts of liberal theology, from the thoughts of all things - he could get away from it and get to God, and he was willing to wait, and such an attitude assures of God's answer.
It's a simple as that, friend - it assures of God's answer, it is a guarantee that God will answer you. Now, can I ask all of us here: have you ever - and it pains me to even ask this question - but have you ever, in some remote way, waited upon God like this? Have you? Now be honest, I'm not talking to the person beside you, I'm talking to you: have you ever waited upon God in an attitude that says, 'I don't care whether I die on my knees here, I will stay until God answers me, until I have the assurance in my heart that God has answered me' - have you ever done that? For that's the only attitude whereby God gives the assurance of answered prayer, and He said to Habakkuk: 'Yes, this promise, it's for an appointed time'. And God was speaking to him of a definite time when - yes, as He had promised and prophesied and as we'll see in the weeks to come from verse 5 of chapter 2 on - that the Chaldeans themselves were going to be judged by God and by another nation. You can read about it in Daniel chapter 5, verses 25 on. What happened was: the Medo-Persians, another empire, was to rise up and what actually happen was this: they diverted the river Euphrates that ran underneath the walls of the city of Babylon, and when it had dried up they came down it in the middle of the night, and they ransacked and entered the land and into the city and destroyed it. The date was October the 13th 539BC, and praise God - Habakkuk didn't know about it, but all Habakkuk could see was the promise of God - but in the future, in 539BC, God was going to do it. God had promised and, because God promised, it was going to come to pass for an appointed time.
God was giving the promise: 'Write it down, Habakkuk, the promise - here it is, show it to everybody around for I'm going to do it in the future'. Can I show you, this evening, how the writer to the Hebrews applied this? Look to Hebrews chapter 10 for a moment, and I think this is beautiful. You've heard it said - and I think it was Augustine that said it - that the Lord Jesus Christ is concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament. And we see here how the writer to the Hebrews, how he applies this word of Habakkuk's in chapter 10 and verse 37: 'For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry'. Look back to Habakkuk, quickly, Habakkuk chapter 2 and verse 3: 'For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it' - look at the change in word. Habakkuk says 'it', the writer to the Hebrews says 'he shall come' - isn't that beautiful? Who is it speaking of? The writer to the Hebrews takes and plucks this sacred verse of Scripture from Habakkuk chapter 2 and verse 3 and what does he do? He applies it to the Lord Jesus Christ! He applies it to Jews that didn't know whether to go back into their Judaism or whether to go forward into Christianity and trust the promises of God and Christ - they were standing in a stalemate betwixt two. God was saying through His word: 'Choose you this day whom you will serve' and He takes an Old Testament promise to the Jews and says: 'He will come'. Christ is coming again, He will not tarry - and though He tarries, He won't tarry because He will come - and just you wait for it! Be patient because He's coming - praise God! He's coming again!
Jesus will return and just as the Medo-Persian empire came and destroyed Babylon, we read in the book of Revelation from chapter 17 on to chapter 20 that Babylon will arise again, and Babylon will be a power in the world - and you remember how we saw that Babylon was a prideful power that looked to themselves, their own achievements politically and religiously, and worshiped themselves just like our world today. That world system Babylon will rise again, will begin to conquer the world as it has done before and the church of Jesus Christ will be taken, for they are not appointed unto wrath - they'll be raptured to glory to be with Christ - but Christ will return again to this earth, and when He comes He will be the rock that will destroy Babylon. He will be the one that it will be testified of Him: 'Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen!' - and it's been Christ that'll do it! Isn't that wonderful?
'And though it tarry' - do you hear the message here? We're sitting in this awful world, full of sin and sickness and disease and debauchery and all abominations imaginable - and God is saying: 'Look, look up, though it tarry, it will not tarry, He will come - wait for it!'. That's how the writer to the Hebrews applied it. And therefore, what do we say to ourselves today? We say, 'Don't be discouraged. Don't be discouraged at the delay of the Lord Jesus Christ'. Look at verse 3, he says: 'it will speak', and the word there in Hebrew is 'breathe', 'it will pant, it will hasten' - it's the idea of an animal, the idea of a greyhound panting around the stadium, panting to get to the finishing line. And what the Bible is saying here is that it will come, the promise of Christ's coming, the promise of deliverance, it will come - He is panting, He is hastening, He is chomping at the bit to come and take us to be with Himself.
If you turn to 2 Peter we see what the world says about this matter - and you know, we're not particularly interested in the world in some respects, but we ought to know what the world thinks. In 2 Peter and chapter 3, 2 Peter and chapter 3 and verse 4, we have here what the world in the apostle Peter's day said and what the world in our day says - as the word of God says there's nothing new under the sun: 'Where', verse 4, 'Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation'. That's what men say today: 'Where's Jesus Christ? It's 2000 years since He was born, almost 2000 years since He died and you Christians are shouting on about the coming of the Lord Jesus - where is He? Everything is going on as normal, nothing's changed in history'. 'For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. But', verse 8, 'beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness'. He is coming, and it doesn't matter what the world says, it doesn't matter what the church says, it doesn't matter what an angel from heaven might say - for Christ has said: 'I will come again'.
Now there are two things why God said this to Habakkuk and why God says it to us, to patiently wait for Him, two reasons why. The first is this: for we are to rest upon God's word. Look at Habakkuk 2 again, verse 3: 'For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie' - this promise is not a lie. God's word is sure, it standeth as the ages roll, and when this earth is gone and burnt in the smoke it will still remain! Psalm 138 bears that out, look at it, Psalm 138 verse 2 - I think this is remarkable, think about this, Psalm 138 and verse 2, the second half of the verse says this: 'For thy truth', speaking to God, 'thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name'. You think of that for a moment. You know what God's name is: Jehovah. You know it means: He has been, He is and He ever shall be. We thought about all sorts of attributes of God last week: that He is eternal, from eternity past to eternity future, He's always been here; He is holy, He cannot look upon iniquity - so many attributes of God, He is everywhere, He knows, He sees our mind, He knows all things - yet God Himself has placed His word above His name! Isn't that remarkable? That is how holy, how powerful, how magnificent His word is - and the Lord Jesus Christ said it's greater than His very works, His very creation, everything around us and even ourselves, His word is greater than that! What did He say? 'Till heaven and earth has passed away, not one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the word of God, from the law, till all be fulfilled'.
Do we take encouragement from God's word? That's why it's there! It's our food, Job said I'd rather have it than my very food, my meat and drink, I'd rather have it than my breakfast - because I need it in this world, I need it even more than food. It's above God's name but so many of us, as that old song said, have dust on our Bible! Do you know what I read this week, and it grieved me? It was a Christian tract for believers and it was encouraging - at least it was trying to encourage - believers to read their Bible. Do you know what it said? 'Believer, read the word of God at least once in your lifetime. Read it right through at least once in your lifetime'. Do you know something? We should be reading it through once in a year - at the least. Brethren, this is our meat and drink - how often do you eat in a day? For this is more necessary, this is more necessary.
We need to rest on God's word, that's the first reason He told him to tarry and wait, and patiently wait for it. Secondly, we need to wait on God's time. The word of God bears it out that all life has an appointed time - Ecclesiastes 3 verse 1: 'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven'. Reading today, in my reading - Genesis 18:14 - that it was appointed, an appointed day for Sarah to bear Isaac, the promised child. Also, in Genesis 24:14, there was an appointed day for Isaac to see his wife, and to get his wife Rebekah. There was appointed time in Job's life, and he even said in his trial, with his sores from the tip of his head to the tip of his toe, lying with everything lost that he had in his life, he said: 'For He', God, 'performeth the thing that is appointed for me'. Again Job, in chapter 7 and verse 1, says this: 'Is there not an appointed time to man upon the earth?'. Ecclesiastes 3 and 2 says again: 'There's a time to be born, there's a time to die' - and if you're not saved here this evening, or if you saved and you're carnal, listen to this: that there's appointed onto man once to die! We'll all die if Christ doesn't come, and after that there's a judgement for you and for me. There is an appointed time for everything but we creatures of clay are so impatient, aren't we? And we never want to wait for God's time. Do you know something? Abraham, he had to wait 25 years for the promise of a son - could you wait 25 years? That's the man of God, Abraham, the friend of God - yet He made His own friend wait 25 years for his son! Joseph was sold into slavery and it wasn't until near the end of his life that he knew why God had done it, why it had happened. Moses was 40 years in the Midian desert being prepared for God - God made him wait 40 years, yet we can't wait a week! Christ waited 30 years in that carpentry room in Nazareth, unknown, He waited for God's time.
Friends, God's disappointments - someone said this - are God's appointments. God's delays are not God's denials. Dr Edmund put it like this: 'Delay never thwarts God's purpose, it polishes His instrument. Delay does not forget God's servant, nor cause His faithfulness to fall, rather it fortifies their soul and vindicates His name. Delay instructs, it prepares - it saves time, it never loses it'. Here's my message to you, and I believe it's to some people here tonight - listen: you've been praying for something, you've been asking God for something - listen! - wait for it! Tarry and wait for it! For it will come! It will come.
Thirdly and finally, he published it, he was told to patiently wait for it and thirdly he was to positively live by it. This is dynamite, brethren. Verse 4: 'Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith'. This was part of the answer - if you like, this was the blueprint to the answer that God would give in the future. Now there are two types of people, look at the verse, two types of people that the verse speaks of. The first section: Behold, his soul, him which his soul within him is lifted up is not upright in him - and then there's a second person: the just who live by their faith. Two types of people - interesting, thousands of years ago there were still only two types of people: there were the saved and there were the lost. Nothing has changed - fashions change, Christians may have changed, opinions may change but God's word never changes.
Sinners, how are they described in verse 4 - look at it - they are described as being lifted up within themselves, puffed up, yet they're not upright. In other words, they are people that are proud, they're people who are rebellious - in fact, they are people that are rejecters of Christ and of God, and of everything that is of God, His word, His wisdom, His witness, absolutely everything. Who does that describe? It describes the Chaldeans. They were puffed up within themselves, weren't they? They worshipped their own net, the achievement of their own hands, they worshipped everything they did - and God was saying to Habakkuk: 'Well here's your answer. Here's what I'm going to do: you see these sinners that are puffed up, they're not upright within themselves'. Who was the epitome of puffed up? Was it not Nebuchadnezzar? Didn't we read about him a few weeks ago, that he had puffed himself up so much, he had put himself in heaven and upon the throne of God as the ruler of the nations and the universe - and what had to happen was God had to bring down a peg, God had to humble him, God had to take his kingdom off him, God had to drive him into a wilderness, God had to treat him and make him like a wild beast and for seven years he ate of the grass of the field. Let me say - saint or sinner - God might need to do that with you! That's how bad we can get sometimes as Christians, we can get so proud that God needs to humble us. Now look at this, God brought him so low, so low, that king Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge, all throughout the book what God had said - the book of Daniel - God reigns and rules in the kingdoms of men! Finally, Nebuchadnezzar said: 'Those that walk in pride' - Nebuchadnezzar, from his own lips - 'Those that walk in pride, God is able to abase'!
Those were the sinners. God was saying to Habakkuk: 'Don't you worry about it Habakkuk, the fact that they are reigning now, that they are ruling now, that they seem to be succeeding and plunging in the dust the people of God, and casting them out and abusing them and destroying them and killing them - don't worry about that now, because in the end they will have their just dessert!'. And then there are the saved, what does it say about the saved? Verse 4: 'The just shall live by his faith' - that word 'just' is the word 'righteous'. What is a righteous person? The word of God testifies that there is none righteous, no not one - therefore the righteousness that a righteous person has to have must be given to him, if there is no one righteous, no not one. What is it? It's a person that acknowledges their sin, it's a person that sees themselves as they are, a person that repents from their sin, turns to God and trusts Him, trusts the blood of Christ and the sacrifice of the cross, and turns to God in Christ for eternal life! Now I want you to see in this verse that Habakkuk was not emphasising the fact of faith itself. He was saying this - because he mentions the word just, righteous people, first - so he's saying this: that we're not made righteous by faith, although that's true, that's not what he's saying here - he is saying the people that are made righteous live by faith. That's what he's saying: people who live by faith are people that have been declared righteous before God. You see, there is no Hebrew word for faith in the Old Testament, but the word really means this: faithfulness, firmness. Of course, for any Old Testament saint to be saved they have to be justified by faith - we read in Genesis 15 verse 6 that Abraham believed and God counted it for his righteousness - but the word here really is 'faithfulness'. It means the same thing but it's describing that when you get saved you ought to live after it by faith - who was He speaking to? The Judeans. What's He saying? 'Listen Habakkuk, you're crying to Me for this people - but look at the way this people is living. And if you want them to live, if you want them to live they must live by faithfulness to Me, by firmness to My covenant. They have to be faithful to My word'.
Here's Habakkuk's question answered - and it's the greatest question of all time, and it's the greatest answer all time - pride is sinful! Pride will lead to death and, ultimately, to hell and judgement of God - but faith leads to righteousness, it leads to life, it leads to peace! I want to quickly, in our closing moments, take you to three verses, because the New Testament writers quote this verse three times within the New Testament. Turn first of all to Romans 1 verse 17, Romans 1 and verse 17 - and each time, there are three times that New Testament writers mention this little verse from Habakkuk, but each time the emphasis on the verse is different - look at Romans 1 verse 17: 'For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith'. Now Paul, in the context of chapter one of Romans, is emphasising the 'just'. What's he saying? He's saying what the whole book of Romans is saying, that it's only people that are just and righteous that are being enabled to live by faith, that's what Paul is saying in Romans. It's only someone who has been justified by God, only someone - that means simply - who has been declared righteous. You go to the bank, don't you? I hope you do! And you take a cheque with you, and there's an amount written on the cheque, and you take it to the banker, and the banker takes it and he credits it to you, into your account, and he puts it into the bank. When we come to Christ by faith, repenting of our sin, we bring to Him faith, we bring to Him ourselves and our sin - but we come to Him and, like Abraham, we bring our faith and God takes it and He credits it to our account and He puts it into our lives, the very righteousness of Christ. Isn't that remarkable? He puts the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ into your account, into your life. The just - that's what Paul is trying to get across - that it is the just people, the only people in the world who are declared righteous, that are able to live by faith!
Turn to Galatians 3, remember it's the same writer - Paul - Galatians chapter 3 and verse 11, and he says: 'But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith'. Now what is Paul emphasising? In Romans 1 he was emphasising the just, but in Galatians 3 and verse 11 he's emphasising 'shall live'. How do I know that? Well, Paul is writing in the book of Galatians to a church that has been ravaged by false wolves, ravaged by what were called 'Judiasers' - these were men that had come in and that said simply this, like many are saying today: 'Yes, you've got to trust Christ by faith. Yes, that's how you get into the kingdom, that's how you get saved and come into the church of God. It's only by faith in the cross of Christ that you can be saved - but you see after that? You've got to live by the law. You've got to keep the commandments. You've got to be circumcised, men. You've got to follow all the cleansing rituals and ordinances of the Old Testament. You've got to do all that! - and Paul says: 'Rubbish! The just shall live by faith!'. What's he saying? He says: 'You see, the faith that was good enough to save you, it's good enough to keep you'. The same way that you couldn't be saved through the law and through the works, you can't go on, you can't be kept through the law and the works, there's no power in it - but the just shall live by his faith! And don't you pity anybody tonight that has to live by their works? Don't you pity any Christian that believes that they're saved through the blood of Christ, but the blood of Christ can't keep them? That they have to work for their salvation and they can be saved today and damned tomorrow - don't you pity them? But - praise God! - this man, because he continueth forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood wherefore He is able also to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them - praise God!
Let's look at the third verse, Hebrews 10 and it's a direct quotation, Hebrews 10 verse 37: 'For yet a little while and', we read it already, 'he that shall come will come, and will not tarry', and then he quotes verse 4, 'Now the just shall live by faith'. The writer to the Hebrews here is now emphasising not 'the just', not 'shall live' but he's emphasising 'by faith'. These Jews didn't know whether to go back or whether to go forward because they were being tried by their fellow Jews for following Christ, they were being persecuted, but the writer to the Hebrews was saying this: that if you walk on for God, if any man draw back My soul will have no pleasure in him - but if you walk by faith you'll inherit the blessing. Was that not what Martin Luther did? And the Holy Spirit brought to him and opened his eyes to this little verse in Habakkuk. His knees were bleeding, trying to work for his salvation - and the Holy Spirit of God whispered into his ear: 'The just shall live by faith'.
It's great that it's not feelings tonight, isn't it? Because if it was feelings I would be damned today - there's times, today, that I don't feel too great; there's times, tomorrow, that circumstances, like Habakkuk, like the Hebrews, come into my life and they take the feelings away - but as the poet put it, speaking as it were to Luther himself, he says:
'Someone asked Luther, Do you feel that you have been saved, forgiven?
He answered, No, but I'm as sure as there's a God in heaven,
For feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving -
My warrant is the word of God, none else is worth believing!'.
'Though that my heart should feel condemned for want of one sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart whose word cannot be broken.
I'll trust in His unfailing love 'til soul and body sever.
For though all else shall fall away His word shall stand forever'.
Praise God! I've finished - one Jew, Rabbi Samoliah (sp?), said this in the third century: 'Moses gave us 365 prohibitions, 248 positive commandments. David, in Psalm 15, reduced them to 11. Isaiah in chapter 33, verses 14 and 15 made them 6. Micah, in chapter 6 and verse 8, binds them to 3. But Habakkuk, by the Holy Ghost of God, brings them to 1: the just shall live by faith'. My friend, whatever's in your life - whether it's sin, sadness or sorrow - faith in God is the only answer.
Our dear Father, we thank Thee for the faith of the Son of God that has been imputed to our lives, and for His righteousness that is our righteousness, and for that faith that we can live by. Lord, help us to go on, it is hard, there are things in life: illness, sickness, sorrow, grief, temptation, perplexities, trials, problems of all sorts - but Lord, the just are to live by faith. Help us to look to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary and draw from Thee and none else. For Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his Habakkuk series, titled "Doing It God's Way" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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