“And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry”. Habakkuk 2:2-3
Habakkuk was a concerned man. In the hills of Judah, he roamed. In the land of Palestine, he lived. Burning with a national feeling of patriotism Habakkuk was disturbed. The winds of war were blowing across the land once more. Judah was in trouble. In the north was the land of Babylon, and on the throne of Babylon sat the King Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar. The world knew about this waning monarch and the military genius of his son. It was in the year 605 B.C. that Nebuchadnezzar, at the head of his father’s armies, met and defeated Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt.
The battle that took place at Carchemish, on the Euphrates was one of the greatest in all history if judged simply by its immediate historic results. At the Battle of Carchemish, Pharaoh Necho was utterly and disastrously defeated. His army was routed. That one, mighty, military blow, made Nebuchadnezzar the presumptive holder of all the valuable territory of Syria and Palestine.
The crossroads of the world belonged to him.
The children of Israel, like other nations, had one of two choices. They could submit to the foreign occupancy of their land, or they could resist. If the people of Palestine chose to resist there would be death and destruction as the war machine of the Babylonian Empire moved to suppress an insurrection.
History records what happened. Judah resisted the foreign conquest of Nebuchadnezzar. From a human perspective it was the natural, patriotic thing to do. But there is another perspective, the Divine. The Word of God tells why the military invasion took place. It was a form of Divine Discipline. God was moving to punish His people.
Two years before Nebuchadnezzar came to Judah, the Spirit of God came to the prophet Habakkuk. The prophet was commissioned to announce the Lord’s intention to punish Judah by allowing leading families to be deported. Death and destruction would be unleashed.
As Habakkuk received his message from God, a disturbing question was answered. Habakkuk’s sensitive soul had been asking, “Why did God permit the increasing evil in Judah to go unpunished” (1: 2-4)? Habakkuk looked at the social climate of his day and was appalled, for he witnessed greed (2:6-8). The changing of outrageous interest rates of 19% or more annually is not the invention of modern-day businessmen. Greedy individuals have been plaguing the human race since the Fall of Adam. Greed was manifested in Jacob, as he demanded of his brother Esau a birthright for a bowl of soup. Greed was in the heart of Judas, as he moved through the night to put his hands on 30 pieces of silver.
In 1990, one of the major networks was showing a movie about Rob and Maria Marshall. As the record shows greed moved Rob to take out several life insurances on his wife totaling a million and a half dollars and then he had her executed. The movie, and the book on which it is based, Blind Faith, is a stunning indictment of the emptiness of materialism carried to excess.
As Habakkuk witnessed the exploitation of others, he cried out, “Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! How long?” There are those today who are wondering how long God will allow Western civilization to greedily consume 3/4th of the products made, by only 1/10th of the world’s total population.
Before he died, Francis Shaffer used to tell audiences that each year he made a journey to the junk yard and to the garbage dump, in order to remind himself where all the toys will one day wind up. While it is not wrong to possess and use resources wisely, the principle of greed must be guarded against. The Biblical mandate is still that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Again, Habakkuk looked at the social climate of his day, and witnessed a false sense of security among the rich and powerful (2:9-10). Today American Presidents talk about SDI, and we feel somewhat secure. From time to time the Pentagon parades out fantastic military hardware such as the B1 bomber, or the Stealth plane, or one of the fire powers to destroy all of civilization are christened, and we feel safe.
But then the curtain is drawn back, and it is revealed how vulnerable and insecure we are. For example, in May of 1987, a former Navy officer by the name of James A. Walker Jr. was arrested. Before long the whole world knew. James Walker was a spy. For 20 years he had been selling Top Secret key lists to the Russians. Since 1967 the Russians had read over one million pieces of sensitive documents on U.S. troop movements on land, sea, and in the air. The war in Vietnam was affected by spying.
While it is important and proper to have a strong base of financial and military support, security, for the believer, is in the Lord. With the Psalmist the saints declare, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust, let me never be ashamed. For thou art my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 31:1a, 3a).
Besides greed and a false sense of financial and physical security, Habakkuk also witnessed social injustice. There were the rich and there were the poor. Rulers built cities with the blood and sweat of others less fortunate (2:12-14). The working class was exploited.
Alcoholism became an acute problem as individuals sought a way to escape the drudgery of daily existence. Alcohol had another purpose, and that was to break down the inhibitions of people leading to promiscuity (2:15).
This same practice is in effect today. Every major city has its Red-Light District filled with bars and the liquor that flows, encouraging lascivious people to use alcohol as a prelude to perversion. New Orleans is world famous for its Bourbon Street. New York City has its 42nd Street.
As Habakkuk visited the people and places of Judah, his soul was grieved. Here were the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living inconsistently with their high calling as the chosen people of God. Here were the Children of the Covenant violating the holy moral Law of God, including the very first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
In the 6th century BC the Jews were idolaters as they worshipped inanimate objects (2:18-20). Today, we worship at the altar of sex, power, and pleasure. No wonder Habakkuk kept asking why God permitted the increasing evil in Judah to go unpunished. Habakkuk knew that sin has a saturation point. There is a limit to the evil that God will allow in individuals, and in a nation. Then comes the judgment.
As Habakkuk meditated and prayed over what grieved the heart of God, the Lord answered his initial inquiry (2:2-4). The Lord answered Habakkuk when the prophet of God gave himself to searching out the mind of Christ (2:1). Matthew Henry reminds us: “Those that expect to hear from God must withdraw from the world, and get above it, must raise their attention; fix their thought, study the Scriptures, consult experiences and the experienced, continue persistent in prayer, and thus set themselves upon the tower.”
There is a price to pay for a vision from God. “Wait for it” is still the Divine counsel, and in the waiting learn, “The just shall live by his faith”. These words are quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38) and set forth the great doctrine of justification by faith alone. I hope you are familiar with and understand the doctrine of justification. If not, listen carefully.
By definition, justification is a Divine act whereby an infinitely Holy God judicially declares a believing sinner to be righteous and acceptable before Him. Imagine a courtroom scene. There is a bench high and lifted up, and behind the bench sits the Just Judge of the Universe. As a guilty accused sinner you must appear before Him. “How do you plead in light of the perfect moral Law of God?” Why you must plead guilty, for there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The Just Judge of the Universe consults His own counsel and finds the proper discipline. In the eternal decree it has been written, “The soul that sinneth must die.” Holy angels rustle their wings as they step forward to take the accused to the appropriate place of judgment. But wait. There is another dimension to this obvious case of guilt and judgment, for before the Bar of Justice steps Jesus Christ the Advocate.
The Lord Jesus tells the court that while it is true that the accused is indeed guilty, his penalty has already been paid by Another. Two thousand years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem at a place called Calvary, a Substitution was made. Jesus Christ stood in place of His own. He took the sins of His sheep and bore them in His own body thus satisfying the demands of the Law. Now God the Father, as the Just Judge of the Universe is free to judicially declare a believing sinner to be righteous and acceptable before Him because Christ has borne the sinner’s sin on the cross, and “has been made unto Him righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30, Rom. 3:24).
Now, the justified sinner is free to live by faith, and here in is the vision. Can you not see individuals free from the tyranny of greed, but rather giving as the Lord has prospered? Can you not see souls unafraid because they know Who holds tomorrow? Look again. Can you not find those who find pleasure in the house of the Lord? Souls that have tasted of new wine and are satisfied. Personal perversion is replaced by a passionate love for the Person of Christ.
Finally, can you not see souls seeking to worship as often as possible in Spirit and in truth in the Lord? The idol of TV is replaced with a heart for God. The idol of leisure is replaced with a holy labor to see souls saved and the saints edified. When you look at the Christian community, when you look at the professing church what do you see? Can you see the vision of the just living by faith, which is pleasing to God?