The Lord Answers Habakkuk

The LORD answered me: … ‘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’” (vv. 2–4).

- Habakkuk 2:2–5

Habakkuk questioned the Lord when he saw that the vicious Babylonians would be the instrument God would use to bring about His just judgment on wicked seventh-century BC Judah (Hab. 1:12–17). We have seen that the prophet questioned God in faith, as he acknowledged that Babylon was indeed the Lord’s chosen rod of discipline (1:12). Moreover, it is evident that Habakkuk asked his questions only because he knew and trusted the Lord’s righteous character. John Calvin paraphrases Habakkuk 1:13, explaining that when the prophet spoke to his Creator, he meant this: “It is not consistent with thy nature to pass by the vices of men, for every iniquity is hateful to thee.” Habakkuk’s knowledge of God’s purity and majestic holiness made it inconceivable to him that the Lord would use a wicked empire to punish His sinful people.

Nevertheless, Habakkuk knew there had to be an explanation, and so he resolved to wait as long as it would take for God to make it known. Thus, he pictured himself as a watchman, a lookout on a tower who waits expectantly for news or a message. In this case, however, the news would come from God Himself (2:1). The prophet’s faith was vindicated, for the Lord answered with a promise that He would explain all in a vision that He would give in its appointed time. But this vision was yet to come, so Habakkuk, along with the other righteous people in Judah, was to wait patiently and know that what might seem to be slow in coming was not delayed at all (vv. 2–3).

Such waiting, such perseverance until the Lord shows Himself, is the very essence of faith, and it is by this faith that the righteous find life (v. 4). Those whom God regards as righteous do not find life by doing the right things, although doing the right things is important. Instead, they find life by trusting wholly in the Lord to act according to His character and keep His promises to His people. The Apostle Paul fleshes this out in his epistles, telling us that fallen human beings are not regarded as righteous in God’s courtroom except by faith alone, and that it is this faith that leads to the imputation of a righteousness that is not our own, which in turn leads to eternal life (Rom. 1:16–17; Gal. 3:11). We will look at this idea more closely over the next two days. At this point, however, we will note that as Habakkuk tells us, the mark of the one who is truly righteous is a faith that rests completely in our Lord and His holy Word.

Coram Deo

Just as God’s vision to Habakkuk appeared from his perspective to be delayed, the Lord’s consummation of history may from our vantage point seem to be delayed. However, as we have seen, our Creator always brings His plan to pass at His appointed time, not before. It takes persevering faith, which is ultimately the gift of God (Eph. 2:8–9), to believe this. This kind of faith characterizes the person whom the Lord regards as righteous in His sight (Rom. 4:13–25).

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 50:10
Matthew 10:16–22
Mark 13:9–13
2 Peter 3:8–10

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