Context Matters!

“THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH!” (Habakkuk 2.4) Watchword of the Reformation and favorite theme of Apostle Paul (check out Romans 1.17; Galatians 3.11; and also Hebrews 11.38).  The phrase was used in those passages to describe how a person is “justified” (becomes “right with God”).  An important, essential, God-inspired truth to be sure!

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ORIGINAL CONTEXT?  What was the significance to the first audience?

I’d like to suggest that the message delivered to Habakkuk was a very practical one for a righteous person who had a lot of questions… The force of the message to Habakkuk?  “Hang in there!  Trust God when you don’t understand!  Live every day of your live by faith!  God will work everything out in the end!”

Here’s how the train of thought develops in Habakkuk…

Habakkuk, the prophet, cries out… “How long, Lord must I call for help but You do not listen?  I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ but You do not save!  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? …“Lord are you not from everlasting?  My God, my Holy One, You will never die! … Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.  Why then do You tolerate the treacherous?  Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?! …

“Then the Lord replied:  ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay!  See the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – BUT the righteous person will live by his faith!’” (Habakkuk 1.2-3, 12-13; 2.1-4)

It’s the message of Hebrews 11 all over again!  Faith sustains!  Faith in God has the power to support you and help you through when you don’t understand (and even when things seem unfair).  There are a lot of things today I don’t understand… Things that don’t seem fair… Think I’m going to continue to trust God!!

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