Date: May 12, 2019
Speaker: Erik Raymond
Scripture: Habakkuk 2:1–2:4
Will you trust me? This is the question of the Bible.
In the book of Habakkuk, we are introduced to a point of tension. There is a disconnect between the prophet’s expectations and his experiences. His concern causes him to cry out to God. When God answers him things first appear even worse than he had previously expected. The answer brought more concern than what prompted the question. The back and forth between Habakkuk and God continues. The prophet is waiting to hear God’s response to him. How will God respond to this man who is in such agony? He responds by giving him information. We’ll see it’s called a vision. But what we are talking about is revelation. God is going to communicate something that has previously not been revealed.
Why does God do this? Why does God reveal his will? Is it just to quiet curiosity? Is it out of obligation? What’s the primary reason? God reveals his will so that you’d endure in faith—especially when life is hard. He reveals truth to strengthen your faithful endurance in him.
This morning we’ll be looking at three responses to this vision. And these responses each serve to promote your endurance. In verse 2, share it; in verse 3, wait for it; and finally in verse 4, believe it.
God responds to Habakkuk’s questions with a vision. Often times the prophets are called “seers” and vision is connected to seeing something in the future that will take place. Another word for this vision is revelation. God is going to make clear something that was previously unclear. And it’s at the heart of Habakkuk’s questions.
You’ll notice that it is this vision that takes center stage here. In verse 2 he says that Habakkuk is to write the vision and make it plain on tablets. When you think about a tablet here, don’t think of iPads or a Samsung tablet, but instead a tablet of stone. We are talking about carving in the words into stone. This is reminiscent of the stone tablets containing the ten commandments given to Moses.
First, God wants his word to be preserved.
Second, God wants clarity with his word.
Third, God wants his word to be accessible.
Then we read the phrase in the latter half of verse 2, “so he may run who reads it.” This could be taken a couple of ways. First, it may mean that God wanted it to be written in a concise, clear, memorable way. So that if even someone was just running by they could get the gist of it. We might think of a billboard message. You drive down the Mass Pike and see a sign and you are able to quickly get the message that the author intended. Another way you could take this is he wanted Habakkuk the prophet - and all others who read it — to run and share the message with others. That is, this is an important message that needs to be communicated with many people.
When you consider God’s instructions you see that God has an interest in getting his message out. He wants his word to be shared with others. Why? Because it is a message of hope and objective truth.
I remember years ago we went tubing down a river in the Midwest. On occasion, you would pick up some speed and with younger kids you’d have occasion to try and slow down. As the Dad and Captain of my tube, I’d reach out along the side for something to grab onto. Many times the branch would just come out of the ground. It wasn’t attached. It was useless. But there were times when I’d lay hold of something that was anchored. It had roots. It could bear my weight. This is a picture of the philosophies and wisdom of the world. It has the appearance of something helpful and hopeful but with few tugs through the trials of life, you find that it’s unhitched. God’s word, on the other hand, is deeply rooted and unable to be moved. If you grab onto this, then you are secure.
God wants his word to be shared with others.
This is one of the reasons why we devote such a large portion of our time together on Sunday mornings to the reading, consideration of, and preaching of the Bible. We believe that God’s Word has been preserved, is clear, and understandable. What’s more, we believe it’s valuable and God wants it to be shared with you.
Are you clinging to this branch of life?
What are you giving the people around you? People are hungry and hurting. They are flying down the river of life. What do you give them?
God means to have you give them the Word of God.
Speak the truth of the Bible to people. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen? They may actually be grateful to hear it. It’s what they need after all.
Still yet to get into the specifics of the vision, God provides Habakkuk with some instructions about the timing of the vision coming to pass. In short, he tells him to wait for it.
Here we see God’s kindness. He anticipates Habakkuk’s struggles and tells him to be patient and wait for the Word. Let’s not forget the situation that he facing. Judah has just recently lost King Josiah. He was the one holding the line; he was the religious backstop in the country. The northern ten tribes are in captivity. Babylon is mowing down opponents like they are paper cutouts of real armies. And when he cries out to God for answers, God says he is going to use the Babylonians to discipline Judah. This is serious, sobering, life-changing stuff. No wonder God reminds him of the need for patience.
Do we have need to be reminded of patience? I think so. When we have something we are looking forward to we instinctively say, “I can’t wait.” I remember driving to the beach one time and apparently 12,000 other people had the same idea. Sitting in traffic that made us feel like we were in a parking lot, I pulled up maps on my phone and found an alternate route that would be three minutes faster. Without a second thought, I jumped in the breakdown lane, zipped ahead, and took a right. After meandering through a small town I found myself closer to the beach but turning onto the same road. And wouldn’t you know it? Right behind the same black Silverado. We hate waiting. Nobody likes it.
But God sees it as important. He encourages Habakkuk and us to wait. I want you to notice a few things here in verse 3.
See there is an appointed time. History is going somewhere. We are not floating along in the midst of a random sequence of events. This verse reminds us of God’s sovereignty. In the midst of a world where we find ourselves surprised and realizing that we are not in control of things going on in our lives, we find great comfort that there is indeed a God who is sovereign and good, over all things. This will of God is hastening on, panting forward or moving toward the end. We are on a divine timeline and ever closer to the end of God’s working in this world. We can look at history about the Babylonians, this vision that will be unpacked next week, it does include their downfall. They will not reign as an eternal kingdom. Where are they today? Within a hundred years they were defeated by the Persians.
See also, it is truthful. God also tells him that it cannot lie. You might take this for granted but you shouldn’t. In a world where we have alternative facts, fake news, and true truth — it is refreshing to hear this from the Lord. Not only can his will not be thwarted but his Word is incorruptible. It’s true. It’s trustworthy. You can take it to the bank. God is methodically building up his servant with the objectivity of his faith.
Finally, there is a perspective. God says in verse 3, “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” This is God’s perspective. He sees things as certainties and fixed. There is no question when this will get done. John Calvin, suggests that from the human perspective the vision may appear to tarry in its fulfillment because of the long period involved in its realization. But from God’s perspective, the certainty of its fulfillment precisely according to the divine plan cannot be questioned.
You’ve experienced a little of this if you’ve ever recorded a sporting event on TV and watched it later. You may be watching game 4, 6 or even 24 hours later. You're watching the events unfold in real time but the truth is the game is over. Your team has already won or lost. It’s happened. This is how history is with God. His will is fixed. It’s as if it’s already happened. We are just watching the delayed recording of his will play out before us. We have no reason to doubt him.
We can wait for God’s Word because we know that God is moving history in a particular order and to a particular place, his word is truthful, and we have seen his perspective.
This is very similar to you and l. While we live in the time after some of these promises to Habakkuk have been fulfilled, we also live in the period of in between. History is still moving ahead toward God’s intended end.
As you and I find ourselves with experiences that don’t match our expectations we need to remember the God who has revealed his will.
As we are tempted toward despair, depression, and deep hopelessness—remember this Word of God. He is completely in control and he cares for you in Christ.
Now we move to the content of the vision. Or perhaps better labeled the table of contents of the vision. The rest of the chapter will provide more details, but for now, it is in its shortened version, in verse 4.
In this verse, we have great contrast. The contrast is between the one who is not upright and the one who is righteous. I want to first define these two sides and then explain to you why I think this is what the Bible is teaching.
The first is the one who is not upright. He is described as the one who has his soul puffed up. This means they are swollen with prideful self-reliance. The second is the righteous. He is described as the one who lives by faith.
As we’ll see next week, the one who is not upright and prideful is first described as the Babylonians. The literal Babylon was one of the originators of idolatry. They are famous for their parades of self-sufficiency and self-worship. They are all about themselves. This reflex did not stop once it was conquered by the Persians in 539 BC. Nor was it put to a halt by the Macedonians nor the Romans. Rome became the heiress and successor of selfishness and pagan pomp and idolatry.
But the Bible also employs a figurative Babylon to capture all of the false worship in the world. The name continues on as a suitable picture for all who likewise are inclined inward towards themselves. Toward self-sufficiency. Members of the people of Babylonian then becomes a useful picture of worldliness that culminates in the end of the age when Christ will come again in judgment and topple the great city of Babylon once and for all (Rev. 17:18).
The result then of living in prideful self-dependence at variance with the Word of God is destruction. Let’s be clear, the pride of rebelling against God’s Word results in feeling the exacting and merciless judgment of that same Word. It should be sobering.
Then there is the other side. The righteous, those who are described as living by faith. Now we need to think about three words here to better understand what God is saying to Habakkuk—and to us.
Righteous- What does it righteous mean? It is a legal term that has to do with a relationship to God’s law. How does someone relate to God’s Law? When considered in light of it do they find themselves righteous or unrighteous? Guilty or acquitted?
Turn over to Psalm 32, keeping your finger in here in Habakkuk 2.
At the end of the Psalm we read these words, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11)
Here the righteous, also called the upright in heart, are told to rejoice in God with gladness.
Why is this? Is it because they have perfectly obeyed God’s Law?
No. Actually, quite the opposite. They are singing, rejoicing, and shouting because they have broken God’s Law and they know it. And they know that God knows it too.
So how can they rejoice? Look back at the beginning of the Psalm.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Psalm 32:1–5
The righteous are those who know they are unrighteous. And instead of looking to themselves, turn to look to God for their pardon and forgiveness.
How do you get that righteousness? That brings us to our next word, faith.
Faith- Faith is trusting. It is believing. And, it’s as good as its object. Biblical faith is in God. We trust in what God’s word has said.
We see this verse quoted in the New Testament in Romans chapter 1. Turn there if you would.
16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16–17
We believe God’s word concerning what he has said. We trust in God’s Son for what he has done.
This passage includes the Babylonians and the righteous. But really, it’s all of humanity. Those who trust in God and those who don’t. And that’s why it’s as simple as saying the righteous and the unrighteous.
Where are you here on this spectrum?
Live- Let’s consider this final word, live. This is the disposition and direction of life. It’s a verse that has footsteps. Commentators will note this phrase in Habakkuk 2 is a living faith or a faith that reflects a durative sense. That is, it continues. In other words, it’s not just about conversion to Christianity but a life that continues in faith.
There are a few implications that press upon this verse to show it’s talking about our endurance.
First, this enduring faith is lonely. Notice here in verse four the few words associated with faith. “But the righteous shall live by faith.” Notice the words around it (verse 4 and verse 5). Then everything said after in chapter 2. It’s loaded with descriptions of the unrighteous. This handful of words are sprinkled in here amid a sea of opposition. Faith is lonely, isn’t it? Some of you feel lonely in the office, at school, in your family, amongst your friends. This the way it is.
Second, it’s anchored. This faith is anchored on and in God. It’s not a balloon drifting about in mid-air. No, faith is anchored in God himself. Your faith is as good as its object. You can endure because your faith is in a God who will never die.
Robert Bruce was a 17th Century Scottish preacher. And at the age of seventy-five, while having breakfast, his daughter, Martha, was about to prepare him another egg when he said, “Hold, daughter, hold; my Master calleth me.” He then asked that the house Bible, the Geneva Version, be brought. Unable himself to read it, he said, “Cast me up the 8th of Romans,” and he began to recite much of the second half of the chapter until he came to the last two verses: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Set my finger on these words,” he asked. “God be with you my children. I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night. I die believing these words.”
Our hope is anchored in a God who has spoken and made great promises! We live by this faith.
Third, it’s eternal. You’ll notice when you consider this chapter that the Babylonians are no more. They are done. These dead kings and their pomp now line historical museums. But where are all of those who have faith like Habakkuk? They are living eternally before the God of heaven. They will live forever!
Fourth, it’s relentless. It continues. Oh, brothers and sisters we need to hear this. There is a relentlessness to biblical faith. While it may flicker and grow dim it never goes out. It continues to burn because the believer continues to trust, even amid the fog of doubt.
When life doesn’t make sense there is an abiding trust in God. This is the lesson that God is showing Habakkuk. He is wrestling with question marks but God is pointing to exclamation points. It’s not the “why” questions so much as the “who” statements! Who is God? And what has he promised you?
And this is the sense that Hebrews uses this verse. And I think it’s the sense in which Habakkuk is written. Turn to Hebrews 10 if you would.
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:32–39
Then we read chapter 11 of Hebrews. The Hall of Faith. All of those who went before us had their hope fixed upon God even amid adversity. Their faith endured. It was relentless. There’s a resoluteness to their faith.
7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7
13 These all (Abraham and Sarah) died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:23–26
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Hebrews 11:32–38
And how does this culminate?
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1–2
Our faith endures because we look to God’s Word (written and incarnate). God has revealed his will so that you would endure in faith. Especially when life is hard.
God asks, “Will you trust me?”
What is your answer?