“Now that no one is justified by the Law before god is evident; for ‘The righteous man shall live by faith’” Galatians 3:11
The apostle Paul, while working through the life and death issue of faith versus law in his letter to the Galatian churches, cites a portion of an Old Testament passage from the prophet Habakkuk.
The original context from which Paul was moved to quote is found in the second chapter, verses 3 & 4. “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) A larger portion of this utterance by Habakkuk was quoted by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews in chapter ten, verses thirty-seven and Thirty-eight. ” 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.”
In this installment, we’ll consider both New Testament citations that we may glean the instruction and example intended by the “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”(2 Pet. 1:21b)
First, let’s consider the context that precedes the verses from which Paul and the writer of the Hebrew letter quoted. Habakkuk has seen evil, strife and oppression abounding in Judah while in his estimation, God is doing nothing about it. The Lord then lets Habakkuk know He is going to send the fierce Chaldeans as His corrective action. The prophet is perplexed that the LORD would use them, seeming to approve evil in His judgment of those the prophet deems “more righteous than they”. The prophet ultimately waits and watches for God to “see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved.” (Hab. 2:1b) God then gives him the vision to record on a tablet, while assuring him that the vision is for the appointed time and it will certainly come, in God’s time, according to His plans. What is in view is the judgment of the Chaldeans. As the LORD had previously said, “They will be held guilty, they whose strength is their God.” (Hab. 1:11b)
God in this statement had revealed really the core difference between those He would call righteous, those who live by their faith in the LORD, and those who live based upon their own strength, (the proud one) however that strength is manifested. In the meantime, Habakkuk, a righteous man of faith, would have to ride out the events associated with the Babylonian conquest, trusting and relying completely upon the strength of God’s plan being executed. That is why we have the written Scriptural record. It’s replete with examples of the LORD declaring His plans in advance, then executing them. They are there so that faith can be developed in those seeking the True God, and reveal the folly of the proud one, whose soul is not right within him, by not heeding God’s proven record.
Habakkuk had his wicked brethren and the Chaldeans that brought strife, persecution and oppression. Both were judged; God’s plan was worked. The Galatians had the Judaizers, who brought strife and persecution by attempting to put the brethren back under law so that “they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”(Gal. 6:12b) These proud souls were shrinking back, trusting in their own outward personal performance, their own strength so to speak, instead of trusting and relying upon the strength of God’s plan executed by faith in Jesus the Christ. Paul stated that “the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.” For the recipients of the epistle to the Hebrews, the temptation was the pull to revert back to the Jewish sacrificial system, thereby avoiding persecution, becoming public spectacles, and enduring a great conflict of sufferings and seizures of property. The inspired writer exhorted them to “not throw away their confidence which has a great reward.” (Heb. 10:35) If they endured and carried out God’s will, they would receive the promise, upon which the writer is then moved to quote Habakkuk. Brethren, the Hebrew writer lets us know it is “He who is coming and will come” -Jesus Christ. Those who fear shrink back to the law and the things seen to avoid persecution, seeking justification by their performance before men. Those who trust and know God delivers on His promises, the righteous, live by their faith certain they are justified in Christ Jesus looking eagerly to His promised coming. Amen.