Memo 994: The Just Shall Live by Faith
As we continue on our journey to learn how to unlock the power of our faith, let's examine one of the best-known and oft-quoted verses that speak to the issue of faith. This verse was the focus of the Reformation and was mentioned by Paul in Romans 1:17: "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: 'but the righteous one shall live by faith'" (NASB). While we associate a life of faith with the New Testament, the verse Paul quoted about faith is actually found in the Old Testament and was not uttered by one of the prophets. No, it was God who actually uttered those words, so that makes them pretty important! let's go back and see what He said, and why and when He said it.
The verse is found in a three-chapter book of the minor prophet Habakkuk after he raised questions with God as to why the violent and wicked seemed to have the upper hand while God was silent. We know nothing of who Habakkuk was except that he was a prophet who had a history of hearing from the Lord. After his lament in chapter one, he positioned himself to hear: "I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the watchtower; and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and how I may reply when I am reprimanded."
The prophet asked questions and fully expected God to respond, even if it was to reprimand him for a flawed perspective. Habakkuk was not disappointed for the Lord did indeed speak and introduced the concept we are examining: "“Behold, as for the impudent one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous one will live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). The NIV renders "impudent one" as "one who is puffed up." That tells us the opposite of living in faith is to be puffed up, inflated with one's own desires and importance. The person of faith faces problems of life, justice, and service and goes right to the source of all wisdom for answers. God is at the center of their world while the puffed up ones are at the center of their own worlds. But there's more to this and the prophet finishes his faith search with more insight in chapter three.
THOUGH THE FIG TREE . . .
The prophet saw that God was sending judgment against His people through invaders from afar. To this insight, the prophet wrote,
"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights" (Habakkuk 3:16-19).
The prophet went to the Lord and fully expected God to speak to him. That's faith. Faith isn't getting away from problems, it's facing them and then coming away armed with God's perspective, which is commonly called wisdom. What's more, that commitment to wisdom transcends circumstances, for the prophet in essence said, "If I have nothing to eat; if the economy fails, if what usually happens [the harvest] doesn't happen, I still decide to rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in Him."
Is your faith tied to circumstances so that when they benefit you, you are up but when they don't you are down? If you are going to unlock your faith, you are going to have to learn to disengage from your environment and seek the Lord. That may sound strange that you have to learn how to seek Him, but that is another way to say you must learn how to hear from Him. Next week, we will look at a faith lesson from the life of Abraham, but in the meantime, read Habakkuk, the primary source for the knowledge we have that "the just shall live by faith." Have a blessed week.