Habakkuk 2:2-20: Living by Faith
Habakkuk has been struggling with certain questions. Why doesn’t God do anything about the sin in Judah; if God is both good and powerful, how can a holy God order sin without being the author of sin; how can God use a sinful instrument to accomplish His will; how can God use such a strong punishment like Babylon invading and carrying people away in exile without breaking those promises of land, people and blessing spoken to Abraham? Shall we add some of our own questions to these: Why is God allowing Islam; political liberalism; New Age spirituality, and various other worldviews to supplant the influence of Christianity; Where is God in the legalization of homosexual marriage, abortion, euthanasia and recreational marijuana; Where is the sovereignty of God in earthquakes, volcano eruptions, outbreaks of disease, and other natural disasters; how can God sit by while all the brutality in war, crime, religious violence, abuse and suicide continues? Doubting questions are a steady stream in our minds aren’t they? This was Habakkuk’s struggle and ours as well. God has already answered Habakkuk once, explaining that God is doing something about Judah’s sin, He is sending Babylon. But this only led to more questions and a deeper confusion. God now makes His second response in Habakkuk 2:2-20.
This will be God’s final word to Habakkuk, it is a word which will turn the prophet from doubt to faith. What sort of answers do you think Habakkuk needs to find peace? What sort of answers do we need in order to rest in worship rather than rage in doubt? We need to come to grips with a couple of facts before we even begin. Firstly, God does not owe us answers to all our questions. He is God and is worthy of our worship and faith because He is God, not because we approve that He is God or allow Him to be God or can prove by evidence or logic that He is worth it. If He answers anything at all that is a kindness not a right. Remember your place! Secondly, God answers the questions that He thinks we need to know which will prove sufficient for a resting and worshipful trust. This means that we might need to learn what the important questions are by the answers that He gives. What He thinks you need to know and what you think you need to know are two different things. Thirdly, the things about to be revealed had their intended effect. We see Habakkuk unsettled and anxious, but at the end he is worshipping. In other words, the things about to be spoken of are enough not to satisfy every intellectual curiosity but to give a certain foundation for faith and worship.
2:2 begins with those wonderful words, ‘And the LORD answered me.’ There are several famous instances when the answers given by God don’t match the questions. I am thinking of Job. He demanded that God explain His actions against Job, so that Job could argue and demonstrate that he was righteous and did not deserve what was happening to him. When God answered He did not give an accounting for all His actions, rather He reminded Job of His power and wisdom, of His Godness. This was sufficient for Job that he repented in dust and ashes. I am thinking of Asaph who was grappling with the problem of why good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. He was given some theological perspective as he was reminded of God’s final judgement, but more than that He was reminded by a gracious God who ministered in His grace to an angry and stupid servant, a God who would not let go of his hand when he was ready to let go of God. God’s response brought more than his questions demanded, he wanted answers but found a contentment able to face any amount of suffering. I am thinking of that difficult theological problem of election in Romans 9 where God hardening sinners and having mercy on some and not all raises a number of questions about God being just. And Paul gives the best answer which answers every sort of question like these, Romans 9:20, ‘But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
The heart of God’s answer to Habakkuk is a call to live by faith, v4, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.’ This does not mean that God does not give some answers He does, but they are answers which enable a surefooted faith, not an encyclopedic knowledge of the mysteries of God. 3 things stand out as part of God’s answer in His challenge for Habakkuk to live by faith. Firstly, God revealed the certainty of His plan, v2-3; secondly, God reminds Habakkuk that the believer is someone who lives by faith, v4-5; and thirdly, God reveals the judgement upon Babylon and the glory of the Judge as a final answer to questions of justice and holiness.