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Monday, August 15, 2011

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Chapter 2 of Habakkuk makes a somewhat strange claim.  Verse 4 says that the just shall live by his faith.  We must deal with a little human wisdom here to try to sort out this verse.  Don't people who are just live by righteousness?  If a person is just, should not that righteousness be the ground on which he or she stands before God?  Human reason may want to read the verse again.

That's not the way Habakkuk records it.  God measured the earth and found it's people and standards lacking.  Chapter 1 lists the sins and Chapter 2 goes on to list the woes to those who commit sin.  Almost hidden in the middle of this tirade of accusations, Habakkuk has this epiphany:  The just shall live by his faith.  Even when we have behaved righteously, our access to God is by faith.

Read in the light of the New Testament, this makes sense.  We are not saved by righteousness--obedience to the Law--because the Law has no power to save.  The Law can only condemn.  The blood brings the healing, the restoration, the new life.  Faith in the blood saves.  Even the just live by faith. 

Chapter 3 tells of Habakkuk's prayer of faith.  He records the vision of the nation that will attack and demolish his country, but he holds fast to the vision of God.  Habakkuk heard with fear and trembling, and he felt as if his bones would crumble as he waited for God to destroy the invader.  Even if there were no crops in the field, even if the olive trees did not produce, even if the cattle and lambs died, Habakkuk would wait upon the Lord.  His testimony depended on God: 
18. ...yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength...

God calls us to be righteous people.  We have that obligation, but our standing with God and our salvation do not depend on our righteousness.  Salvation is always a matter of faith in him.


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