Habakkuk 2:4. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.
The book of Habakkuk is an intense dialogue between the prophet and God. It involves a lot of yelling. It might even sound like an argument that you and I might be having with God today.
Chapter 1 begins Habbakuk’s complaint. Why God are you silent? Why are you letting evil reign? Why do you ignore my cry for help?
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
In chapter 2 Habakkuk goes up into his watchtower to wait for a response from God.
Habakkuk 2:1. I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
And then, in Habakkuk 2:4, God’s response comes – The righteous shall live by faith.
These three little words in Hebrew will change everything. They will actually launch the Protestant Reformation (but that’s another story). In Habakkuk’s time of distress God is calling him to simple faith. I am doing something, Habakkuk. I’ve got this. A day is coming when all will be made right, not only in Judah, but in the whole world.
Habakkuk 2:14. For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Unfortunately, most of the world reads Habakkuk 2:4, or any other verse about God’s righteousness, and they see a standard that God is holding over our heads. Every religion on earth tells us that we must achieve our own righteousness. Reach the goal. Climb the ladder. Obey the law. Find the way. Ten Commandments. Five Pillars. Eight Fold Path.
But the Apostle Paul understood this phrase from Habakkuk quite differently. In fact, he made it the very center of his theology of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The gospel.
Romans 1:17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Galatians 3:11. Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
For Paul, God wasn’t telling Habakkuk (or anyone) to achieve his own righteousness. God was pointing Habakkuk to the faith of Abraham, who “believed (Habakkuk’s same word for faith) God and it was COUNTED to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).” God was pointing Habakkuk (and us) to his imputed righteousness. The freely given righteousness of Christ. His righteous life credited to us by grace through our faith in his propitiating work on the cross for us.
Romans 3:23-25. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
Romans 4:5. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
What is the object of our faith when we are trapped in the miseries of this world? Where do we look when it seems as though God is doing nothing? Where do we turn our gaze from our watchtowers? Where is our salvation? Where is grace? What is faith?
Habakkuk 3:17-18. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Faith is complete and total reliance on God. It is trusting him even when nothing makes sense about trusting him. Even when there are no figs, or fruit, or flocks. It is betting on God rather than betting on yourself. It’s trusting him no matter what.
And why would we do that? Because God is the God of our salvation. Salvation found in the imputed righteousness of God through our union with Christ.
“To live is Christ” means we are the righteous who are alive by faith in Christ, and are now living out that faithfulness of Christ. No matter what. No matter how dark it gets. No matter how hard. We who have been freely given righteousness now able to live each moment by faith in the God of our salvation.
Are you living by faith?
You in Christ
You are righteous in Christ. How does this bring rest to your soul today?
Christ in you
Christ’s righteousness is in you. How does this motivate you to love and serve today?
Playlist: Songs of Imputed Righteousness