“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4 esv
In chapter two, Habakkuk is waiting on the LORD for an answer to his complaint that God would use an unrighteous people to judge God’s chosen people. But as the LORD responds, it is made clear that even the Chaldeans will get their comeuppance.
The only people who will be free from the wrath of God against the unjust, are those who live by faith. Much has been said on WOTG already about faith. It is the essential foundation for all of life. It is clear even in this passage that faith is the only way of escaping God’s wrath. But what is this verse really saying?
The New Living Translation says, “The righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.” I don’t think that accurately describes what God is intending here in this passage. It is even inconsistent with how the NLT translates the same phrase in Romans 1:17. Yet, it raises the question of what ‘faith’ is referring to in this passage. Either it is suggesting commitment God or knowledge of God.
I believe the passage as a whole is best understood in the latter explanation of the word ‘faith.’ Faith is the substance of things hoped for. It is the evidence of things unseen. Therefore it is the confidence we have in trusting in God. So what God is saying here, in contrast to the ensuing doom for Israel, is that those who trust in God have nothing to fear.
After Habakkuk’s second complaint in chapter one, God responds by saying that the judgement of the nation of Israel is going to happen and it is Habakkuk’s duty to tell the nation. “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” This was a warning the whole nation would have heard. God provided plenty of prophets to spread the word of God’s ensuing judgement. Only the righteous would heed it.
Clearly, the faith we are to live by is a belief that motivates action. Faith should result in righteousness. A faith that does not result in righteousness is not actually faith. And a righteousness that is not based on faith is not actually righteousness. A knowledge of God and His Word that does not result in discernment, wisdom, and obedience is not faith. This is why God continually tests our faith to reveal our weaknesses.
Faith is trusting in the promises of God more than the obstacles we see. We can choose to complain about what God is doing in our world, setting up bad politicians and demoralizing our culture, or we can hold to the promises of God that He is not slack concerning His promises and He is not brought under the power of anything to which He does not exercise complete control. To this end, we are seeing in America today who the just and righteous truly are: fearless.