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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Hab 2; How Do We Live in the End Days?

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Portraits of Christ
“How Do We Live in the End Days?” (Habakkuk 2:1-4)

Like a faithful watchman stationed on a high fortress tower overlooking the valley below, Habakkuk waited to see the answer to his prayers.

  • Here was a prophet, embraced and called by God to bear the burden of watching Judah sink into the morass of moral quicksand.
  • Violence, injustice and idolatry characterized this once peaceful, just and faithful people.
  • Burdened by this sad turn of affairs, this prophet-priest shouted and screamed unto God for answers to his troubled heart.
  • He wondered why God appeared not to hear his passionate plea for Judah.
  • He was perplexed as to why the Lord had burdened him to watch the moral and political decline of his nation, while it appeared God didn’t share his heavy heart.
  • The Lord replied to the prophet’s cry in Habakkuk 1:5-11.
  • He urged the troubled prophet to “Look among the nations and watch…be utterly astounded, for I will work a work in your days which you would not believe if it were told to you.”
  • Like the nation’s watchman, Habakkuk would see God’s sovereign hand raise up the Chaldeans to be His rod of chastisement.
  • They would invade Judah like a mighty east wind gathers up the sand and takes it into captivity.
  • This fierce, violent and unjust nation would crush everything in its path, including Judah.
  • When the Lord completed His message, the prophet in Habakkuk 1:12-13 praised God.
  • He called Him, my Holy Everlasting Lord and Covenant-Keeping God.
  • He acknowledged the Lord had appointed the Chaldeans to bring judgment on Judah.
  • But he also believed the Lord’s eyes were too pure to watch Judah, the Tribe of Promise, be utterly destroyed.
  • Because God is a Covenant-Keeping God, Habakkuk affirmed, “We shall not die!”
  • The prophet, however, was still perplexed by God’s mysterious, holy ways.
  • He wondered in Habakkuk 1:14-17 why God would use these self-glorifying and self-deifying idolaters to judge those more righteous than they?

Having aired his complaints to God in prayer, Habakkuk obediently waited for God to answer him once again.

  • We must ask ourselves, “How then shall we live in the end of days?”

We learn from Habakkuk 2:1 that the just shall pray by faith in the end days believing God answers their prayers.

  1. Like Habakkuk, we are to patiently “stand” our watch in prayer. (2 Timothy 4:5)
    • He not only struggled with his own faith in those difficult days, but he also contended for the faith of a people in an age of misbelieve and unbelief.
    • As he preached of a present and coming danger the people disregarded his warnings.
    • Instead, they sought other prophets who tickled their ears with a prosperity gospel.
    • They awaited the coming of the Redeemer promised by God from their seed.
    • But if Jerusalem were destroyed and its citizens taken into captivity they saw no hope for the future Kingdom of the Christ.
    • However, after fervently praying to the Lord, Habakkuk awaited God’s answer. (Habakkuk 1:3, 5)
    • He likened himself to a watchman on duty looking out of a tower for a sentinel or courier to come with a message from the battlefront.
    • He was determined to take his stand on his assigned watch and wait for God’s response to his complaints and concerns.
    • Here was a man living with expectancy, believing God answers prayer.
    • Our faith too is tested and proven by watching and waiting for the Lord to answer our prayers, especially when they come from an urgent, desperately broken heart.
    • However, Psalm 37:7-8 reassures us in times like this, “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.”
    • Waiting is tough.
    • It is learning to rest our lives in God’s hands while not becoming impatient, fretful or angry with His ways and timing. (Isaiah 40:31)
    • Those who wait on the Lord shall find His grace sufficient in their weakness and weariness.
    • The apostle Paul also urged churches to be equipped for such times by preaching, reading and studying the Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:16; 4:5)
    • They were not to turn their ears away from the truth as Judah did in Habakkuk’s day.
    • We too are called to be “watchful in all things, enduring affliction, doing the work of an evangelist and completing our ministries,” until the end of times. (2 Timothy 4:5)
    • Those who eagerly wait for Christ shall see Him coming for their salvation. (Hebrews 9:27-28)
    • Until Christ returns or we go to meet Him in death, we are to keep praying and watching for Him to answer our prayers.
  2. Like Habakkuk, we are to “set ourselves apart” for the work of prayer. (Proverbs 18:10)
    • The prophet set himself aside on the “rampart” or “watch tower” for the purpose of prayer.
    • He watched and agonized with God at the condition of his culture surrounding him.
    • His burden for the lost compelled him to pray.
    • Where there is no burden, prayerlessness prevails.
    • Where there is a burdened heart, prayer finds wings.
    • It is important to note that watching and waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing.
    • The “rampart” or “tower” to which he set himself apart meant several things.
    • It meant he set himself apart to “the Lord, who was His strong tower.”
    • He ran to Him like a soldier runs to the fortress in battle for strength and safety.
    • The “watch tower” also stood for taking refuge in God’s Word.
    • While praying by faith to His “Tower of Strength,” he relied on the “Tower of God’s Word” to strengthen him for the days ahead.
    • Prayer and Scriptures complement each other.
    • The Scriptures give us eyes to see Christ and the world around us.
    • We are to look unto Christ and ask for what we believe He has burdened us to pray for.
  3. Like Habakkuk, we too are to quietly wait for God to answer our prayers.
    • While standing his watch and setting himself on the “tower of God’s strength and Word,” he waited to see what God would say “in” him. (2 Samuel 18:24; Daniel 9:2, 11-13; 1 Peter 1:10-12)
    • He may have thought the vision would come through reading the Scriptures.
    • Other prophets like Daniel also thought of themselves as watchmen.
    • Daniel read the Scriptures and understood the years of Israel’s captivity.
    • Then he set his face toward the Lord and fasted and prayed for his people.
    • In Daniel 9:13 he prayed, “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.”
    • Then he pleaded, “O Lord hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name!”
    • Daniel’s confident prayer was based upon the truth revealed in God’s Word.
    • He believed the prophetic word was true, therefore it was time to pray to accomplish what God had foretold hundreds of years before.
    • Prayer becomes real and powerful in our lives, when we see the relevance of God’s Word to what burdens us.
    • If we are not in God’s Word we will likely not be burdened to pray.
    • If we pray without being in God’s Word we forfeit the power of knowing God’s will.

It is also impressive that Habakkuk not only waited to hear God answer his concerns, but also to correct him if he was out-of-line. (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 12-17)

  • Here was a man who welcomed God to break into his world and expose his hidden life.
  • When we read God’s Word it cuts deep and exposes the inner motivation and attitudes of the heart we tend to neglect or fail to recognize are in need of change.
  • The heart that desires God trusts and invites Him to examine their secret life, so they can grow in holiness and purity.
  • This was the prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
  • Before we leave Habakkuk’s vow of commitment to stand his watch, it would be appropriate to ask some relevant questions.
  • Are any here today attempting to avoid the Lord’s scrutiny?
  • If so, unidentified and unrepentant sin only creates an unnecessary nagging guilt or bitterness.
  • Are any here burdened for the things that burden the Lord?
  • If so, have you set yourself apart for prayer and reading God’s Word?
  • Are we all convinced prayer is one of God’s means of accomplishing what He ordained?
  • Are we all certain the Lord hears the righteous when they cry out to Him?
  • Are we prepared for a “Yes!” as well as a “No!” or even “Wait!”
  • How then shall we pray in the end of days?
  • We are to set ourselves apart to pray for what God burdens us with.
  • We are to believe God answers the cry of the righteous.
  • We are to pray for the Lord to correct us, so we can be a holy people living in an evil day.
  • These are things we learn from Habakkuk’s prayer to the Lord.
  • Now we will hear the Lord’s response to the prophet’s prayer.
  • The Lord’s answer is exactly what the righteous need to know, while living in end days.

The just shall live by faith in the end days, believing in God’s saving grace. (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

  1. The Lord’s instruction for Habakkuk to “write” or “inscribe” the vision on tablets was to be for a lasting testimony to the historical accuracy and authority of God’s Word.
    • The vision given to Habakkuk continues to be read with hope throughout the ages.
    • The Lord also commanded that the vision be “made plain or clear” on tablets.
    • By saying this, He was demonstrating once again that men were not deciding which books were authentic or not.
    • Instead, from the days of Moses, Joshua, David and the prophets, the tablets and parchments of God’s Word were authenticated by God Himself and placed in the Ark of the Covenant or the Temple.
    • When we read passages of Scripture like this, it should reassure us that the Bible we hold in our hands is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, divinely preserved by God Himself.
  2. He also intended for His Word to be obeyed and heralded until the end of days.
    • That is what He meant by saying “so that he may run who reads it.” (Romans 1:16; 10:14-15)
    • The Scriptures were to be clearly understood so that the messenger may take it and proclaim it with authority to others.
    • With this sense of urgency and authority Paul claimed in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
    • God has chosen to bring about the salvation of sinners through the preaching of God’s Word and the regenerating power of His Holy Spirit.
    • Salvation can only be accomplished by God’s power—not man’s.
    • In Romans 10:14-15, Paul further affirms the power of the preached Word.
    • He asks, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
    • Before reformation and revival come, there must be a clear and unashamed proclamation of God’s Word heralding Christ and explaining the necessity and glory of the cross.
    • That is why the Lord commanded Habakkuk to make the vision clear on tablets alongside all the other Old Testament Scriptures preserved in the temple until the day of Christ.
  3. The Lord also commanded the vision be preserved because it was appointed for a time at the end of days. (Habakkuk 2:3)
    • The vision specifically recorded begins in Habakkuk 2:4.
    • This verse has been one of the most powerful and persuasive verses in all the Bible.
    • More reformations and revivals have drawn from its truth.
    • It is a vision that found partial fulfillment in Judah’s destruction and return from captivity.
    • It finds fulfillment in Christ and awaits final fulfillment when He returns in glory to judge the world.
    • In essence, the Lord is saying His prophetic Word “gasps and pants” towards fulfillment of this promise until the end of days. (Hebrews 10:37)
    • This means God’s promises are not only true and reliable, but God Himself longs for the day these things shall be complete.
    • Habakkuk 2:3 is quoted in Hebrews 10:35-37 in the context of exhorting God’s people to cling to their faith until the end of days.
    • It says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise [given by the Lord in Habakkuk 2:3], “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.”
    • The fulfillment the author of Hebrews saw was Christ.
    • He is the fulfillment of God’s promises of justification, sanctification and glorification.
    • The Scriptures then are completely reliable and trustworthy because God cannot lie therefore His Word can never lie. (Numbers 23:19)
    • His prophetic Word is sure to be fulfilled. (2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9)
    • That’s the confidence Habakkuk needed, as well as all preachers and their congregations need to have living in the “terminal generation.”
    • When all else fails, the Word of God prevails.
    • The apostle Peter warned that in the end of days, scoffers will come walking in their own sinful passions questioning Christ’s promise to return for His Church. (2 Peter 3:2-5)
    • They will argue that since Christ hasn’t come during this time, He isn’t coming.
    • However, in 2 Peter 3:8-9 he gives us the reason for God’s delay.
    • “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
    • Every day before Christ’s return is a day of grace.
    • It is a time to proclaim the Gospel without compromise.
    • When the last of God’s chosen people have repented and have been saved, the end shall certainly come.
    • We don’t know who that last person will be nor the last hour when He comes but He is surely coming.
  4. The Lord then clearly contrasted in the beginning of the vision, recorded in verse 4, with those who shall be saved and those who shall perish. (Habakkuk 2:4)
    • He warns that the desires of the proud, self-reliant sinner are not right with God.
    • The unrighteous are condemned not only because they do evil, but because they do not even desire God.
    • It is a heart problem that is desperately wicked and filled with insanity.
    • They shall perish because they reject the truth revealed to them in nature, in their conscience and in God’s Word.
    • So then the big question is: “How can someone become just or made right in the sight of a holy God.
    • There is only one way, it is a way that was revealed long before Habakkuk and still revealed today.
    • The Lord says, “The just shall live by his faith.”
    • By this the Lord was proclaiming salvation comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.
    • There is no other name among men by which one can be saved than “Christ.”
    • Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17 and then explained what it meant throughout the rest of Romans.
    • “For in it [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
    • Hebrews 10:35-39 also quoted Habakkuk 2:4, to help Christians live confidently in the end days. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
    • The contrast couldn’t be any clearer: the unjust live under the dictates of their evil desires, while the just are saved by faith alone in Christ’s finished work on the cross.

Martin Luther’s life was transformed by believing Habakkuk 2:4.

  • The ripple effect of this verse which began in Habakkuk’s day, Paul’s day and to Luther’s day, still spreads out today throughout the world.
  • Listen to Luther’s admonition based on the Truth: “The righteous lives by his faith’ that is, ‘if anyone is to be righteous and live, he must believe God’s promise.’ There is no other way. On the other hand, the ungodly dies of his unbelief. Thus this applies also here. If you wish to abide and be preserved, you must believe this inscription on the tablet, which says that the Christ will come with His kingdom. You dare not be confused by the fact that matters appear far differently externally, since you are being troubled. For such is the way of God’s word, that it projects matters that are absurd and profounder than all the senses and reason can comprehend and experience can perceive. You behold and perceive the ruin of our kingdom; therefore you must soar above your perception by means of your faith and be persuaded even in the midst of ruin that your kingdom will come and will be gloriously established. Here we see the prophets preached and stressed faith in the Christ as much as we do in the New Testament; here we see that Habakkuk is so bold as to condemn all other works an attribute life exclusively to faith. For he states plainly enough that the unbeliever will succeed in nothing. Let the unrighteous pray and wear himself and work himself to death. His works already stand condemned as counting for nothing at all; nor will they help him. And the believer shall live by faith without works.”

We live in days not unlike Habakkuk.

  • How then shall we live?
  • We are to set ourselves apart to pray by faith believing God answers our prayers.
  • We are to pray for the burdens He lays on our hearts.
  • We must be convinced of the reliability and authority of God’s Word if we are to boldly proclaim Christ in our day.
  • We are to reject the works of the flesh as a means of justification and live by faith in the power of Christ and His Spirit.
  • We are to live each day as if Christ were coming to judge the earth.
  • Like Habakkuk, we must become the watchmen of our day reading the Scriptures to discern God’s will, praying for the things that burden His heart, and boldly proclaiming the Gospel with love and a burning passion.
Hab; The Mercy and Severity of God ← Prior Section
Hab 3:14-16; Rest in the Day of Trouble Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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