“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Heb. 10:35-39
Our next Old Testament quote in the text taken today from the Book of Hebrews is yet another passage we get to revisit. The citation by the writer of Hebrews is from the prophet Habakkuk and the latter part of the passage has earlier been cited by the apostle Paul in his inspired letters to the Romans and the churches of Galatia. The full quote is found in Habakkuk 2:3-4 and reads as follows: “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.” (NAS)
Habakkuk’s faith is tested
Habakkuk served as a prophet of God as the Assyrians’ power was waning and as the Babylonians’ was rising after they broke away from Assyria around 625 BC. Based on the best available information, most place Habakkuk’s ministry from about 615-597BC. God’s purpose for Habakkuk was to prophesy the protracted power of Babylon, the punishment of idolatrous Judah and Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, pronounce Babylon’s ultimate fall engineered by their own pride, proclaim the principle that the righteous shall live by faith and the promise that the profligate in all the nations shall be judged, including the head of the house of evil, Satan himself.
Let’s consider the context that precedes and follows the quote from chapter two cited by the writer of the Hebrew letter and see how it fits with the topic of faithfulness as covered in the Hebrew letter.
In chapter one of Habakkuk, the prophet cries out to the LORD concerning the iniquity, wickedness, destruction, violence, strife and contention he sees that is seemingly ignored by the LORD. The wicked surround the righteous and the law is perverted to advance the agenda of the unrighteous against the righteous. How long will this go on? (Vss 2-4)
The LORD directs Habakkuk to look among the nations (Gentiles) and be astonished that He is “working a work” (ASV) in Habakkuk’s days that even if told he would have difficulty believing. What is this work? The LORD is raising up the Chaldeans; a fierce, swift, violent horde that will be His means of rendering judgment upon the earth, including Judah/Jerusalem (Vss 5-11)
Habakkuk is truly stunned, complaining that the holy God would look with favor upon the wicked Babylonians and approvingly use them to swallow up those more righteous than they. He reasons that once they gobble up the nation of Israel, the Babylonians will rejoice and offer a sacrifice to their gods as an acknowledgment of their military might, not understanding the LORD had allowed it to happen (Vss 12-17).
The LORD then tells Habakkuk to stand his post on the rampart; to watch and listen to how the LORD would reprove Habakkuk’s finite view of His eternal plan. Habakkuk is told to “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.” (Hab. 2:2b) Following this statement is the quote found in our text today.
Habakkuk in the Spirit then goes on to describe God’s judgment in a vision upon all the wicked, those within the land of Judah, to the head of the house of evil (Satan), for the sake of His anointed. Habakkuk now knew that before the day of deliverance would come, the days of distress must first come (Hab. 2:4-3:16). Yet in spite of all the expected desolation and depravation associated with the day of distress (it will certainly come), Habakkuk would “exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength..” (Hab. 3:18-19a) Habakkuk, the righteous one, would live by faith confident in the coming reward.
Christian faith is tested
In the latter part of chapter ten (Vss 26-39) in the book of Hebrews, the Holy Spirit has been moving the writer to work on the issue of faithfulness to the LORD in the face of distress. The religious system of the Jews and the Law had been twisted and perverted to the advantage of the wicked leadership, even to violence and robbery perpetrated upon God’s righteous people, Christians. Not far off is the coming of the Roman armies in judgment upon apostate Israel. The head of the house of evil wanted them to falter in their faithfulness in light of these circumstances. In all this, what was to be the proper perspective of the righteous one? God is working a work in your days! You can endure this, just keep executing God’s purpose and you’ll receive the promise. At the appointed time according to God’s plan, Jesus Christ, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME. The righteous one of that era would live by faith confident in the coming reward. Do you see now why the Spirit moved the writer to quote from the book of Habakkuk?
Is anything really that different for us today? No. Justice is perverted, wickedness is everywhere and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the head of the house of evil is moving his pawns to once more perpetrate violence upon God’s righteous seed. What’s our hope? HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME. God will handle it. The question for us is, Are we a shirker and shrinker, or the righteous one who lives by faith confident in the coming reward? Amen.