“And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For 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.’” (Habakkuk 2:1-4)
The words of Habakkuk 2:4 are repeated by Saint Paul in Romans 1 and Galatians 3:11. It was these verses that Martin Luther was studying when the Lord revealed to him the truth that changed the world, the truth that has set millions free from sin and the fear of death. The righteous shall live by faith. Those who are righteous are righteous not because of their deeds or actions. They are righteous because of the blood of Christ shed for the remission of sins. Faith in Christ, the gift of God, alone makes a person righteous.
The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time similar to our days, a time of violent political and social upheaval. The temple had been pillaged. God’s sanctuary had been violated. The Jews had fallen into idolatry. The King of Judah, Zedekiah, was unjust, unmerciful, corrupt and indecisive. He allowed immorality, bribery and injustice to pervade the government and the religious system so that the righteous were oppressed while the wicked prospered. The violent and brutal kingdom of Babylon was about to devastate Jerusalem and Judah and send her people into exile. How could the Lord allow such things to happen?
Many are probably asking the same question these days as well, especially In light of gross political dishonesty. Add to that the violent acts of domestic and foreign terrorism, crime, continued government sanctioning of abortion and social acceptance of gross immorality that has resulted in persecution of Christians who desire to honor God. Why doesn’t the Lord act to put an end to all the violence? Why doesn’t He do away with all the corruption, immorality, dishonesty and cheating that characterizes our political leaders and our social and educational systems? Why does the Lord allow evil-doers to profit from their irresponsible and sinful actions? Why does the Lord allow the righteous to suffer because of the sins of the wicked?
Habakkuk does not get answers as to why, but what he does learn, he tells us: the righteous live by faith. By faith we trust the Lord and do not worry about what will happen to the wicked. Those who do not trust will fall into sin. They will continue to reject Jesus and His gift of salvation. They will give in to greed and fear and look out only for self. They will grab all the riches and pleasure they can while they can. They will forget the effects their actions have on their relationship with God or their eternal state.
But the righteous will live by faith. These words of the prophet thus bring us great comfort in our day when we are experiencing such great social chaos. Faith will enable us to know that God has not forgotten us even in our darkest hours. Faith confirms that He will ultimately deliver, bless and reward us for faith enables us to persevere. We will do so by trusting in His promises. The righteous will know for a certainty that God will grant us peace, salvation and justice.