5: Fuel for the Fire

Or, The Just Shall Learn to Taunt

May 5, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 2:6–20

It never works out to work without God, let alone to work against God and against His ways. It would not work out for Judah, and Habakkuk wondered in prayerful complaint to God why it seemed like corruption and violence were going unchecked (Habakkuk 1:1-4). God answered that the Chaldeans were coming, give it time, and they would make captives out of the covenant people who had become so corrupt (Habakkuk 1:5-11).

This provoked a deeper complaint from Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1). How could the brutal Babylonians be one of God's instruments to judge those who were, by comparison, at least some more righteous? The Lord's answer takes up Habakkuk 2:2-20.

In verses 2-5 the contrast is between the “puffed up” (mostly a reference to the Chaldeans) and the believers (which must have been only a small remnant in Judah). The arrogant were bent against what is right, the righteous keep living faithfully to God by faith. In verses 6-20 the Lord reveals what's coming to the Chaldeans. It will be the Lord's doing--so He is not letting them slide. And also, the Lord gives lines to the survivors.

> Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, (6a)

The **these** are "all nations" and "all peoples" from verse 5, those that Babylon swallows up. The **him** is the singular reference, not just to Nebuchadnezzar or one of his future heirs, but to the Chaldeans collectively.

There will be **taunt** or “taunt-song” (NASB), **scoffing**, and **riddles for him**, or these last two combined as a “taunting proverb” (KJV). The Chaldeans will become an international proverbial punchline. In Hebrew it’s easy to see multiple double-entendres, rhymes, and word plays. In a day that "will surely come" (2:2), the impossible will be possible, and the superpower will be the super-loser.

There will be taglines, ditties, jokes, one-liners. There will be memes, memes that are both clever and condemning, sober but with real *faith-driven taunting*.

While the “all these (who) take up their taunts” are those who are hurt by the Chaldeans, these taunts are *by faith*. The taunts are pre-captivity. They are announcing the woes *before*, because they ask “for how long?” They ask, “will not” these things happen, and talk about future tense, “the stone will cry out” and “the earth will be filled.” The just shall live in tension, and *the just shall learn to taunt*.

The Lord gives five smooth taunts (so to speak) for us to pick up and put in our verbal arsenal. While this is a big chunk, it's obvious that the woes address the same general group of people, and it's easy to outline, woe by woe. We won't cover every phrase, but we'll get the point. The puffed up will be poked at and put down.

There are also two key contrasts, one in verse 14 and another in verse 20. If living by faith is the key to Habakkuk, knowing what we're having faith *for* is what the key gets us into.

# Woe to those who take what isn't theirs. (verses 6b-8)

The first three woes have some similarity in taking someone else's stuff for opportunistic benefit, future security, and building a public name for oneself. Here is the first: **Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own**. In verse 8 the description is: **you have plundered many nations**, with plundering as violent acquisition of others goods and property, often during a time of disorder.

They would also make loans to survivors in defeated cities, to make even more from interest and exert their own power. But those **debtors** would come calling, and **all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you.** What goes around comes around isn't a Bible verse, and yet it is a pattern of Providence.

# Woe to those who seek selfish security. (verses 9-11)

The second woe is looking not just to one's current bank account but to one's financial security, even legacy. **Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house**, and while that has application to his today, it probably means more about his future, with **his house** doing double duty as a reference to his property and posterity.

They were making piles of their riches, and trying to set themselves up to be unreachable, **safe from the reach of harm!** This is likely metaphorical, not topological; **his nest** is a reference to a secure place he puts valuable things (like we refer to our nest egg), not to a tall tree-house.

But **cutting off many peoples** to take his cut will result in cutting off his own life. And even the lifeless materials used for the walls will be a witness; the **stone** and the **beam from the woodwork** will cry out. When the sheetrock and two-by-fours mock you there will be no dynasty.

# Woe to those who build by blood. (verses 12-14)

The third woe looks to those who want to extend the party to the city. These are a different sort of city planners, violent visionaries. **Woe to him who builds a town with blood, and founds a city on iniquity.**

This is the center woe, and verses 13 and 14 need some extra attention.

> Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts

> that people labor merely for fire,

> and nations weary themselves for nothing? (verse 13)

Riddles and taunts have proverbial power, and this smells of Solomonic wisdom-cynicism. Only those with the perspective of faith, so those who can see beyond the sun by the Lord's Word, know that everything is vanity and striving after staying warm. They need fire so they don't have to eat raw meat, and they need fire so they don't have to freeze at night. Wow. Much impressing. Is that all you can do?

Whole **nations weary themselves** to get a big ZERO for what matters and what will last. This is the LORD's doing. He made it that way for the puffed up people. They *think* that they are glorious, that their progress is inevitable, and all their efforts are merely fuel for the fire.

By contrast,

> For the earth will be filled

> with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD

> as the waters cover the sea. (verse 14)

This is where I want to be, don't you? This is what we long for. This is the truest target for our "How long?"s.

See Numbers 14:21 for glory all over, along with Isaiah 11:9 with knowledge all over (as an explicit reference to the Messiah’s millennial kingdom), but Habakkuk makes clear: ***knowledge* of the *glory* of the LORD**.

Every thumb's-width. The rocks and the hills cry out. Deep and wide; deep calls to deep. Wherever there is sea there is water, it's a tautology, true by definition. Without waters there is no sea, and at the appointed time, there will be no spot on the planet that does not *know* the glory. Every measurement--height, depth, breadth, length, through and through. Everything not attached to this vision is vanity.

This hasn't happened yet. We don't even have cell signal covering everywhere yet, and while many of the taunts against Babylon are in syndication re-runs. This faith-stretching and faith-strengthening vision from the Lord to Habakkuk goes *hard*.

# Woe to those who degrade others for pleasure. (verses 15-17)

This woe is about gross levels of entertainment; it’s the back rooms in Hollywood and politician’s offices. **Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink...in order to gaze at their nakedness.**

Turns out, they will be made drunk and show off their own uncircumcision. They forced shame on others, **you will have your fill of shame**. The perversion they poured out will come back to them from the Lord.

**Lebanon** is mentioned in verse 17, a place of great trees, used for buildings and ships. Foreign rulers knew about this lush and productive forrest, and the Chaldeans must have wrecked it for sake of their aesthetic selfishness. Such violence would be done back on them.

# Woe to those who listen to silent gods. (verses 18-20)

Here is the last woe, which could be the first in terms of a motivation for their violence and greed and debauchery and shamelessness. They were following the counsel of silent idols.

We become like who or what we worship. And the Chaldeans became profitless, the product of lies and fake news. **Speechless idols** is the phrase * ʾilləmîm ʾeălîlîm*, or “dumb nothingness,” a mute nonentity. Their gods are laughably silent.

**Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise. **

It's all show, all smoke, all veneer of **gold and silver** but **there is no breath in it.** This is insult to idolatry.

> But the LORD is in his holy temple;

> let all the earth keep silence before him. (verse 20)

We sing it, ironically then not being silent. And, it's ironic that this verse leads to Habakkuk's response of a *song* in all of chapter 3. But the puffed up really should shut their mouths and reckon with the LORD.

# Conclusion

Faith is trust in tension, and these lines given by the Lord are so the just will learn to taunt by faith. They are not taunts *down* as a power play, they are taunts up to those in unrighteous power. These are not taunts to the broken and humbled, but to those who are puffed up. These are not even taunts after the fact, but in faith trusting that the Lord is *now* in His holy temple.

Not everyone needs to put a taunt in their Twitter bio. And, not everyone who taunts does it by faith for the glory of the Lord. But the just know that Habakkuk 2:14 is the great telos of our faith, the end for which God created the world. *Woe* to all who work against it.


## Charge

The righteous shall see and fear and laugh at those who will not make God their refuge, who trust in the abundance of their riches. The righteous seek refuge in the anointed Son, and “blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Remember all that is yours as those who are Christ's.

## Benediction:

> [May you] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18–19 ESV)

More from Habakkuk

7: Dissident Joy

May 19, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 3:16–19

This final paragraph is what living by faith looks like. This is what living by faith *sings* like. This is how trust in tension responds when it's about to get worse before the glory of the Lord covers the earth. This is living with *dissident joy* (dissident comes from *dis*=apart and *sedere*=to sit, so to sit apart), when we oppose the world’s official narrative in the peace of God which surprises their understanding. These final verses of Habakkuk are often referenced at weddings; they have a "in sickness…in want…in sorrow” vibe. That said, the original context belongs to the economic devastation due to war. Some marriages are a battleground, but this has a bigger application. The covenant people of Judah were corrupt, Habakkuk asked why the LORD seemed to be allowing it. The LORD said He was raising up a foreign nation to judge Judah, Habakkuk asked how it was right for the LORD to use such a wicked people. The LORD said He would judge them too, He purposed judgment for everyone who was puffed up. Habakkuk wrote a psalm as his reply. The song started with Prophetic Requests in verse 2; Lord, *work*! Remember mercy! Verses 3-15 were Prophetic Remembrances, celebrating times when God showed up, through natural means and among the nations to do His work. Now the Prophetic Resolution comes in verses 16-19. It is the end of the song, and a fitting final paragraph to the book. Habakkuk's resolution is a declaration of faith to rejoice amidst ruin. # Reaction (verse 16) The revelation of ruin *on Babylon* caused visceral reaction. > I hear, and my body trembles; > my lips quiver at the sound; > rottenness enters into my bones; > my legs tremble beneath me. > Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble > to come upon people who invade us. > (Habakkuk 3:16 ESV) This is full-body feedback, from head to feet, into the guts and skeleton. The **body** is more like the “belly” (KJV) or one’s insides; his “stomach churned” (NET), and **trembles** could be like "pounded." The **lips quiver** like a mouth-seizure making it hard to speak intelligibly. The **bones** are supposed to be the structure and support system, but they are being eaten away. **Legs** could be translated "feet" and they are wobbly, unsteady; he’s gone limp. **I hear** follows up with “I have heard” in verse 2; Habakkuk got the message. And so he will **quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon the people who invade us**. This isn't the catastrophe and captivity of Judah, this is the calamity on the Chaldeans. *That* trouble won't be the end of Judah's troubles, at least not immediately, it will be worse for everyone. The body keeps the prophecy, so to speak, and who knows how long it will be while God’s judgment runs the course. When we see and fear and laugh (as in Psalm 52:8)—taunts included, we can’t skip the fear (where Habakkuk’s song started too in verse 2). # Resolution (verses 17-18) It's a resolution with concession: “Even though, still.” It’s all a piece, one sentence. > Though the fig tree should not blossom, > nor fruit be on the vines, > the produce of the olive fail > and the fields yield no food, > the flock be cut off from the fold > and there be no herd in the stalls, > yet I will rejoice in the LORD; > I will take joy in the God of my salvation. > (Habakkuk 3:17–18 ESV) Six lines of progressive collapse, disruption, and scarcity provide the context. There’s loss of options, luxuries, and essentials. Figs/dates were more sweet and like treats, fruit on the vine was grapes for wine. No olive oil and no wheat, then no baking and no bread. Now we're talking food basics not on the table. Without a flock there'd be no milk and little for sake of clothes, and no herd in the stalls meant no help for the work, and together no meat. The land has been gutted, the supply chain broken. They didn't even have the Fed print worthless money to get these levels of inflation. The Chaldeans consumed the land and their own loans defaulted, now no one had the goods. This isn’t just a downturn or decline, it’s distress and devastation. Verse 18 is the *single* resolution of the whole psalm (verses 1-19), said in two parallel ways to emphasize Habakkuk's faith. It’s a contrast, a “counterexpectation” (Kenneth Barker). When society crashes is when faith won’t crash. He will **rejoice**. The reason will not be sight, it will be salvation. His hope is not in earthly goods but in God. **I will take joy**, “I will joy in” (KJV). “I will exult/triumph and I will shout in exultation.” The integrated and comparative categories do work here. When we live by faith we do *not* ignore bread and wine, clothes and work. When we live by faith and God blesses us, our faith is integrated. We trust God for, and with, the stuff. If the stuff was bad, then Habakkuk’s rejoicing would be *because* of the losses not in spit of them. And yet comparatively, if we do not get the stuff, we are no less glad with God. Both hunger and plenty, abundance and need are tests, but rejoicing in God belongs with both. The song helps the rejoicing, the corporate nature of the singing helps the rejoicing. Also, declaring the resolution to rejoice helps the resolve and the rejoicing. When the trouble burdens us, so much so that the body is wasting away, the inward man is renewed in his resolve to rejoice day by day. # Recognition (verse 19) Here is strength not just in potential but in practice. > GOD, the Lord, is my strength; > he makes my feet like the deer’s; > he makes me tread on my high places. > > To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. > (Habakkuk 3:19 ESV) Note that **GOD** is all caps in the ESV, and **the Lord** is lowercase "ord" unlike verse 18. It's *Yahweh Adonai* in Hebrew, which the NASB turns into "Lord GOD" and the NIV makes "The Sovereign LORD." Names for God are many, and all of them good for us to know. This pulls us into remembrance of His covenant/promise=Yahweh, His office/position=Lord, and His work/power=strength. He is “my salvation” (verse 18) and **my strength**. The final two lines of the song make the same point and show one way the strength works (an analogy found also in Psalm 18:32). **Feet of a deer** is the last image, why? Deer bound around, but with agility and stability. They are known for their ability to navigate difficult terrain without fear or failure and falling. They are sure-footed in places where it's hard to hold on. Being made to **tread on high places** means we can navigate uncertain and even dangerous ground. # Conclusion A few final things as we finish Habakkuk's burden. The whole book is a framework of faith: See. Complain. Hear. Submit. Sing. Or the fuller version: - see (the corruption and sin) - complain (in prayer to the Lord) - hear (His Word) - submit (to His purposes for judgment and glory) - sing (Psalms) - together (under the direction of the choir director) - all by faith *This is living.* By way of application, it doesn't hurt to see the LORD's instructions for the captives in Babylon. > But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7) We’re not burying our heads in the sand, the Ostrich Option. We’re not digging deeper bunkers to hide. When it’s bad, we do what we can, knowing that it could be better, and one day *will* be better when God’s glory is known on earth, and in that tension we trust Him to work. In a world that is negative toward Christianity, we are guerrilla rejoicers, those who rejoice in our salvation as part of our resistance. "Take my stuff? Okay, you can't take my *joy*” (see Hebrews 10:34). A dissident opposes the official policy of anger and anxiety. In order to take joy in God we've got to have faith to "see" better from up where the deer run. ---------- ## Charge Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. To exhort you to this again is no trouble to me and is safe to you. The LORD is your strength and your song. May the Lord renew your strength, and may He bless you with deer’s feet, ready to run and rejoice and not hold back. ## Benediction: > [May you be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11–12 ESV)

6: A Framework of Faith

May 12, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 3:1–15

Habakkuk himself didn’t know it, but we're told that those who are filled with the Spirit and richly indwelt by God's Word speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16). We're told that anyone who is cheerful should sing psalms (James 5:13, the command is *psalleto*). And we're also given a prophetic example that when there is corruption in the land, and when God sends ruin not revival, the right response is to (write and) sing a psalm. Habakkuk 3 is described as a prophet’s “prayer" (3:1), just as chapters 1-2 were introduced as a prophet’s “oracle” or burden. But the final note in chapter 3 is that it was for the "choirmaster," so a *corporate* not just personal prayer-song (which follows the taunt-song in 2:6-20). We also see three uses of the word "Selah," which is some sort of musical notation, and the only books of the Bible that have "Selah" are Psalms and this chapter in Habakkuk. So Habakkuk 3 is a prophet’s prayer-psalm. Of the commentators I read, only one argued that verse 2 is a refrain/chorus which he thought would be sung between three sections as titled before each Selah. Others weren't as certain of that breakdown. But you can see the changes of person. Verse 2, and again in verses 7 and 16-19, have the first person "I." Verses 3-6 talk about God's works in the third person, and verses 8-15 address God directly in the second person, "You." The ESV adds a break with a heading between verses 16-17, and that's...odd. I think we can see the Prophetic Request (verse 2), Prophetic Remembrance in two parts (verses 3-15), and Prophetic Resolution (next time, in verses 16-19). That’s the framework of the song, but the song itself belongs with the *framework of faith* (a phrase used by O. Palmer Robertson in his commentary). The just shall live by faith, requesting help and remembering God’s previous help in history. Go to God with questions and complaints, get perspective from God on what He’s doing, and then worship God with the saints. # Prophetic Requests (verse 2) The only Asks in the entire prayer come in verse 2. > O LORD, I have heard the report of You, > and Your work, O LORD, I do fear. > In the midst of the years, revive it, > in the midst of the years, make it known, > in wrath remember mercy. The initial framework of faith: *hear and fear*. This pairing is found four times in Deuteronomy (13:11, 17:13, 19:20, 21:21). The prophet heard when the LORD said, “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Habakkuk 1:5), and he was awed by it. “I hear You!” The repeated phrase **in the midst of the years** seems to refer to the time between Habakkuk's questions and the fulfillment of the LORD's answers. This would at least be after Josiah’s death in 609 BC, then during Judah’s anticipation of then captivity to the Chaldeans, up until the Chaldeans got what they deserved. Since Cyrus took control of Babylon in 539 BC, the "midst" could have been the 70 or so years. That said, we are still waiting for all Babylon's daughters to shut their mouths in silence, as well as for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth. We are at least in a related "midst" of waiting. The three requests are: 1) **revive it**, meaning revive the work of the LORD. “Bring it!” 2) **make it known**, again the work of the LORD. And 3) **remember mercy** in the midst of the **wrath**, which is a word for wrath that relates to angered agitation. Knowing that the judgment is *deserved*, and knowing that the judgment will be brutal, does not mean we cannot pray that there would be mercy. The just shall live by faith—with trust in tension, and here is faith longing for the Lord to work and depending on the Lord for His mercy. # Prophetic Remembrances (verses 3-15) There are two approaches to the prophet’s remembrances, descriptive (third person) and then direct address (second person). But all of this reminds us about the value of knowing our history, especially the history of the works of the Lord. The just live by faith, not by waiting to gather all possible data. We often don't feel comfortable because we think we don't have enough information. For some decisions that makes sense. But for sake of our *peace*, even when the foundations are crumbling, the inspired psalms demonstrate that we should not lean on our own understanding but trust in the God of deliverance. Habakkuk rehearses the work of the Lord in a way that expects the Lord to show up again and *work*. He starts: **God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran**, which are places near the southern border of Judah, places that recall when God delivered Israel out of Egypt and then near Sinai where He revealed Himself and gave them His law. That was where **His splendor covered the heavens and the earth was full of His praise. Selah.** Verses 4-5 recall God's works in and through nature. He can raise up nations, like the Chaldeans, but He also uses lightening and what men call "natural" disasters to accomplish His supernatural purposes. That God **measured the earth** shows the scope of His dominion. Even the parts of creation that seem the most dependable, such as the mountains, tremble compared to Him. The **eternal mountains** and **everlasting hills** can't stand or last, though **His were the everlasting ways**. In verse 7 Habakkuk slips back into first person, and though **Cushan** is only mentioned here in Scripture, **Midian** is a place that recalls Gideon’s conflict with the Midianites in Judges 7. His men blew 300 trumpets and the Midianite soldiers killed one another in the confusion. This is what happens when the LORD goes to work. Verses 8 to 15 speak directly to the LORD. The questions about the **wrath against the rivers** and **indignation against the sea** seem to be obviously *no*; God was not mad *at* them. But during the flood and at the Red Sea the waters God shook them out of their normal patterns for His purposes. The imagery of horses and bow and arrows at the end of verse 8 and into verse 9 remind us that God battles with all resources available in His arsenal. More waters in verse 10, then the sun and moon in verse 11, and that they **stood still in their place** recalls the day God made long to enable victory for His people under Joshua (Joshua 10:12-13). Amidst all this wrath there is mercy. > You went out for the salvation of Your people, > for the salvation of your anointed. (verse 13) The LORD does His work in both judgment and **salvation**. The parallelism indicates that **Your people** (a singular collective noun) and **Your anointed** (also singular) refer to the same group (see also Psalm 28:8). Salvation TIMES TWO is emphasized for the saints! Verse 14 is a reference to providential self-destruction, **You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors.** > “Rather than being terrified at the strength of their enemies, God’s people ought to rest confidently in the assurance that the strength of the enemies’ power only displays their capacity to destroy themselves.” (Robertson) More about horses and water and effective judgement in verse 15 to complete the prophetic remembrance. # Conclusion We'll see Habakkuk's resolution in verses 16-19 to finish off the psalm next Lord's Day. Unprecedented times? More precedented praise! > “history…is the master and commander of the good and blessed life, from which all our usages proceed and from which all experience concerning public administration and policy is brought to life.” —Ermolao Barbaro, introduction to his translation of Aristotle’s _Physics_, published in 1480 Recall God’s works in creation, the Exodus, different battles, His power over nature and nations. The song/psalm in the third chapter is distinct from the burden and complaints in the first two chapters. But it is the last response of the prophet to the news of ruin. Here is a test to know whether you're living by faith or not. Do you hear and fear? Can you trust Him enough to request mercy? Can you remember His works and ask Him to work again? Can you sing psalms? Here is the framework of faith, to seek mercy and salvation while singing psalms with the saints. ---------- ## Charge There are many kinds of music, and many of the many can be enjoyed, cranked up, danced to, sung in the shower. All are yours. *And* make sure the Psalms are in your arsenal. Are you suffering? Pray a psalm. Are you cheerful? Praise with a psalm. Encourage one another with psalms! “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand!” ## Benediction: > But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11 ESV)

4: Faith Enfleshed

April 28, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 2:2–5

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who break down everything into twos and those who don't. We can get ourselves confused by trying to make some things too simple, but we can also confuse ourselves making the simple complex. In the world that God made, we can either love Him or not, either be in fellowship with Him or out. We can be righteous or in some level of rebellion. We can trust Him, or trust something or someone less wise and strong as Him. Some are of the seed of the serpent, some are of the seed of the woman, and the difference is where they put their faith. God tells us what to want and how to get it. He tells us the dangers of wanting other things as well as the consequences of wanting the right things but pursuing them the wrong way. What is before us is one or the other: life or vanity. We are about to hear the Lord's response to Habakkuk's second complaint. Habakkuk lamented the violence in Judah (and for interesting/ironic connection, in Hebrew the word for violence is pronounced *(c)hamas*), and the Lord replied that He was raising up the Babylonians to take the covenant people captive. Habakkuk questioned this, because how could it be right to punish the wicked by the hands of even more wicked? We're about to see; the Lord's answer takes up the rest of Habakkuk 2. There are two parts to the reply, and the second part comes in five WOES in verses 6-20. But in verses 2-5 we get what is arguably the key to Habakkuk’s book and burden. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the key to life. # Time Announced (verses 2-3) Here is not merely a reply, but dependable revelation for Habakkuk and all who would hear him. > 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. > (Habakkuk 2:2–3 ESV) The *content* of the **vision** will come in verse 4, with clarification in verse 5. The *capture* of the vision should be written **on tablets**, which is unique (an article and plural), and even echoes the writing of the 10 Commandments on two tablets. There is a permanence to this vision: etched in stone. There will be relevance beyond Habakkuk’s day. This will also make it **so he may run who reads it**, which either means simple like a sign/billboard that's legible for someone running by it or simple for sake of a herald rushing around to give the announcement. The *context* of the vision is that it will take place soon but not immediately. As the Babylonians were appointed, so the vision is **appointed**, and certain, **it will surely come**. From Habakkuk's standpoint it might seem slow, but getting all the pieces in place in the Middle East is always a work of God. We don’t even know what the announcement is yet, but here is a call for faith in tension. Knowing that it *will* be, but not knowing when. # Trust Alternatives (verse 4) The vision narrows the options to the binary. > “Behold, his soul is puffed up; > it is not upright within him, > but the righteous shall live > by his faith. > (Habakkuk 2:4 ESV) "Look at this," says the Lord, **Behold**. The **his** is a collective reference to the Babylonians, and the Lord gets right to the heart: **his soul** and **within him**. Two problems: **puffed up** and **not upright**. The second half of the verse shows the contrast, and it is critical. The puffed up man is bloated, swollen with the hot air of autonomy. Hw worships his own strength (see Habakkuk 1:11). They've made a massive miscalculation at the very core of decision making—trusting themselves, and so all the other decisions/judgments of right will be skewed. **But the righteous shall live by his faith**. We know that Paul quoted this in his letter to the Romans (1:17) and Galatians (3:11) contrasting justification by works with justification by faith. And we see how this word to Habakkuk belongs in that discussion. But Habakkuk's concern and context was different, and this revelation has to do with how you'd get into Hebrews 11 (as evidenced by the quote of Habakkuk 2:4 at the end of Hebrews 10:38) not how you'd get into heaven. The **righteous** are the “just” (KJV). The Lord does not tell Habakkuk that those with faith will be counted righteous (which is true), but that those who are righteous will live (in ongoing righteous conduct) by faith, in systemic trust. Trusting God is how they live their lives, trust in the Lord touches everything. It turns out that the righteous here start by faith as well, humble before the Lord rather than puffed up in self. But they live from faith to faith, by their “faithfulness.” By faith, Habakkuk and those who listened to him accepted God’s judgment and were taken into captivity. By faith they sought the good of the foreign city (per Jeremiah 29:7). By faith they returned to the land (Ezra and Nehemiah). By faith they fought and built, Jerusalem’s walls and temple. What living by faith did not allow was pietistic passivity. The faith of the righteous was enfleshed. # Traitorous Arrogance (verse 5) Before the five woes of the Lord’s judgment there is a bit about the drunken deceit brought by the Babylonians on themselves. > “Moreover, wine is a traitor, > an arrogant man who is never > at rest. > His greed is as wide as Sheol; > like death he has never enough. > He gathers for himself all nations > and collects as his own > all peoples.” > (Habakkuk 2:5 ESV) It’s an interesting personification of **wine**. Later copies changed it the word to "wealth," and that would work, but wine does even deeper work by analogy. Their self-trust, like wine, went to their head (Baker). God says that wine gladdens a man's heart, but if not received as a gift, it can turn a man into its slave, and so an addict, always needing more. The Babylonians would be drunk on their power and luxuries, and like **Sheol** or the grave, never satisfied. This vision from the Lord shows that they will get what they want, and be consumed by their consuming. As a comment about Babylon’s coming judgement, we know that Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, was in the middle of a feast where he called for the gold and silver cups from Jerusalem’s temple to be brought for drinking (Daniel 5:1-4). That was his last night in power, his last night *alive* (Daniel 5:30-31), and the last night of Babylon’s reign. # Conclusion We hate tension, so we seek fun/distraction rather than live by faith. We hate tension, so we use force/power to get to the expectation our way, and faster, no waiting required. Faith is *trust in tension*. Faith is the assurance of better but later. Faith fights doubting and double-mindedness (see these opposites of faith in James 1:6-8). Faith is life*style*. Enfleshed faith, put flesh to faith, not flesh rather than faith. Sell, spank, read, write, vote, run, lift, mow, build, brew, study, teach, play, sleep, laugh, love, and do it all because of humble dependence on the Lord. Faith knows that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Faith also knows that when the Lord builds the house He’ll call us to get off the couch. You must not be puffed up, and you have no excuse to be passive. You must not be puffed up, and so you had better pray before and during and after whatever work you offer to the Lord. You must not be puffed up, nor puff up any other man, any politician or political scheme, as if we could even make a seed grow let alone make a soul repent, or a nation. The contrast is not between quiet-internal-right-thoughts (faith) and doing things (works); Hebrews 11 is filled with active/living faith-ers. But, what/who are we trusting in while in tension? Faith is the key to Habakkuk’s burden, and the only way for the righteous to live. ---------- ## Charge Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. May your hands be ever faithful and never manipulative. ## Benediction: > [M]ay our God make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 ESV)