Having poured out his complaints to the Lord by way of prayer, Habakkuk now resolves to wait patiently for the Lord’s answer; for he was assured that he would indeed receive one. “I will stand upon my watch,” says he, “and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me.” When our minds are agitated with unbelief, when doubts respecting God’s Providence creep in, and when things are so confused in this world as to envelope us in darkness; then we must bid farewell to our own reason, for all our thoughts are worth nothing when we seek to form a proper judgment thereby. As long as we judge according to our own perceptions, Satan scatters ashes in our eyes and totally darkens our judgment. Hence it is wholly necessary that we should tread our own fallible reasoning under foot, and come near to the Lord Himself. It is by the words of Scripture that we are raised up to the top of the citadel – that is, to the safeguard of hope, where we may remain safe and secure while looking down upon those things which disturb us and darken all our senses when we lie upon the earth! It is in the Scriptures that we hear the answers that the Lord gives to our complaints. In His written Word, we may always find words that are appropriate and applicable to whatever our situation may be.
And now behold! The Lord answered the prophet in verse 2, just as he knew that He would! He tells Habakkuk to write down the message that he was about to receive, and to etch it in stone with letters so large that even a person who was hastily running by would be able to read them without difficulty. “The vision,” the Lord said, “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!” (verse 3) Although God’s promised favor may be deferred for a long time, it will surely come at last; and it will abundantly recompense us for waiting. And then, in verse 4, we have the keystone of this whole Book: “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith!” Only the humble, broken-hearted, repenting sinner seeks to obtain an interest in this salvation. He will rest his soul upon the promise – and more importantly, upon Christ, in and through Whom the promise is given. Thus he lives by faith, perseveres to the end, and is exalted to glory; while those who distrust or despise God’s all-sufficiency will not walk uprightly with Him. The just shall live by faith in God’s precious Gospel-promises, even when the performance of them seems to be deferred; and through those promises, they are also assured of everlasting life and happiness in heaven!
“The just shall live by his faith.” These words were spoken to Habakkuk so that he would not become impatient under God’s hand. And over 2,000 years later, those same words were discovered by Martin Luther as he was desperately searching for the answer to his burning question of how to be reconciled with a just and holy God. And those words are still just as true for every man, woman, and child who walks the face of the earth today as they were for the ancient prophet and the medieval Reformer!
Having received Divine orders to write down the vision that he was to receive, the prophet’s account of the vision now follows (verses 5-20). It pronounced doom upon the kingdom of the Babylonians in Habakkuk’s day, and especially upon their king; but it may also be extended to have a reference to all other proud and oppressive powers in all ages who tyrannize any people – especially the Lord’s children. By the ruin of the Babylonian monarchy (which all the world could not help taking notice of), the earth was filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah (verse 14). When He is pleased to look upon proud persons and abase them, He thereby proves Himself to be God alone (Job 40:11-12). By the staining and sinking of earthly glory, He thereby manifests and magnifies His own glory; He fills the earth with the knowledge of it, as plentifully as the waters cover the sea.
But as we come to the end of this chapter (verse 20), we see how the people of God triumph in Him, while foolish idolaters shame themselves. “The Lord,” says the prophet, “is in his holy temple!” Our Rock is not like their rock (Deut. 32:31); for their gods are worthless idols, but our God is the living Jehovah. He is in His holy temple in heaven, which is the residence of His glory; and there we have access to Him in the way which He Himself has instituted. But not only is He present in His heavenly temple; He is also in the midst of the congregation of His saints, wherever they meet together. And the heart of every true believer is a temple of the living God. Therefore, “let all the earth keep silence before him!” He will strike all idolaters as speechless as their idols – convincing them of their folly and covering them with shame. He will also silence the fury of all tyrannical oppressors and stop their rage against His people. But it is the precious privilege of His people to worship Him with silent adorings (Ps. 65:1), and to patiently wait for His appearing to save them in His own way and time! What a mercy it is that we are blessed with the privilege of even being in His presence! What amazing love! The King of kings invites rebellious subjects to meet Him and receive a full and free pardon, and an incorruptible heavenly inheritance, which are secured through the merits of His own beloved Son!
Lord, thank You for teaching us the blessed truth that “the just shall live by his faith”; for in that declaration, we are taught the means whereby Christ’s saving grace is conveyed to our lost souls, so that we may be reconciled to You! Amen.
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