“The Lord answered.” What beautiful words! Now, God’s message had finally come and Habakkuk was ready to receive it.
God’s first instruction to the prophet was to write down the vision. Habakkuk was to record the Word of God. This was a critical message; therefore, it had to be recorded for all people to read.
God’s message to Habakkuk spoke of “the end” (NIV) (v. 3). This refers to the end of Babylon’s dominance AND to the end times when Christ returns. (He. 10:37-38; 2 Pe. 3:3-13). This verse suggests that God’s revelation—His ultimate plans for Babylon and the last days—is moving toward its end. God commanded Habakkuk and the people to wait. The command was meant for us also. God has promised to execute perfect justice on earth, to bring all things to a perfect end. He has revealed His plans to us through His Word. We cannot wait passively; we must stand watch, be alert, be ready to act. We must do everything possible to share God’s revelation—His Word—with the whole world (Mt 24:44; Mk 13:35; Jam 5:8; Rev 3:11; 22:7, 20).
TWO PATHS (2: 4-5)
The life of faith mentioned in this key verse is only one of two distinct paths. One is the way of faith. The other is the way of “un-faith” or unbelief.
A. The Righteous Path (2:4; Rom 1:16-17; Gal 3:10-11; Heb. 10:37-39
What does it mean to be Righteous or Just? The revelation to Habakkuk shows us that a person can be righteous (or justified) before God. In ourselves we are not righteous, instead being righteous we are sinners and therefore under God’s just wrath and condemnation. How can a person who is a sinner and under God’s condemnation attain righteousness? How can one become perfect? The answer is that nobody can attain to righteousness. No one is capable of perfect goodness.
How do we get it then? It is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ. How do we receive God’s gift? The answer is found in Habakkuk 2:4: “by faith.” What is faith? According to Hebrews, particularly Hebrews 11, faith is believing God and acting upon that belief.
How Do We Live? The word ‘live’ does not say that the righteous shall begin by faith and then proceed on some other principle. It does not say that the righteous shall draw on faith from time to time as faith is needed. It says “the righteous will live [continuously] by his faith.” That is, the righteous will operate on this principle twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year—so long as life lasts.
This world may crumble about our ears. All that we know and love may vanish. “But the righteous will live by his faith.” He will live by faith in the one who keeps us, not only in the moment of our initial belief in Jesus Christ as Saviour, but in every later moment of life as well.
B. The Unbeliever’s Path (2:4-5)
God described the sins and lifestyles of the unrighteous, the self-sufficient:
greed and dissatisfaction
war and slavery
FIVE WOES (2:6-20)
In 2:6-20 we find what scholars call a “taunt song.” It is the kind of song that a once-oppressed people might direct against its former oppressor. Often taunt songs begin with the word “woe” or “alas.” In this case, there are five occurrences of the word “woe,” each of which marks a stanza within the song.
1. Greed – verses 6-8.
2. Injustice – verses 9-11.
3. Violence – verses 12-14.
4. Seduction – verses 15-17.
5. Idolatry – verses 18-20.
OUR ONE HOPE (v. 20)
There was only one hope for the Babylonians, the same hope that lies before the whole human race: the Lord (v. 20). In absolute contrast to worthless idols and lies, stands the only living and true God, the Lord Himself. He is the Eternal God, the Creator of everything that is or ever has been. Note both the simplicity and the strength of this brief verse:
In comparison to the eternal existence and reality of God, everything else is small and insignificant. This is the awesome sense we feel when we read this verse.
The Lord delights in having fellowship with His creation. He invites all people to come to Him for the free gift of salvation and eternal life. He invites all to come for mercy and the forgiveness of sins: Mat 11:28; Mt 22:4; Jn 7:37; Rev 22:17; Is. 1:18, 55:1).