“The just shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4). The name Habakkuk means “embrace”, or “hug”. The prophet comforts his people and takes them into his arms and hugs them. The verse quoted above has three places in the New Testament, which we will explore shortly, but the message is that the just lives by faith towards God. Apart from the meaning of the name, there is not much background about Habakkuk, but his prophecy is in the form of a vision (chapter 1:1).
The prophecy of Habakkuk is different from other prophecies because it makes no direct appeal to the conscience of the people of Israel or the nations, nor is any specific date given for the prophecy. However, Habakkuk lived in a time when the people of God had totally failed and rejected their God, with the result that God’s hand was upon them in governmental judgment, or discipline, as this word is familiar to us today.
The prophecy is different than the others because it is an intercourse between the prophet and the LORD, in which the prophet, overwhelmed in spirit by all the failure amongst the people of God, casts his burden upon the LORD, to find that he is, not only sustained by the LORD in his sorrow (Ps. 55: 22), but is brought to rejoice in the LORD in high places (Hab. 3: 18, 19). The wonderful proclamation in chapter 3:18, “Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation” applies to all believers in Christ.
As the word “salvation” appears three times in chapter 3:8, 13 and 18 Christ is seen as the Saviour, from which the name of Jesus is derived (Matthew 1:21). Now the word “salvation” is mentioned three times because the three Persons of the Godhead trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are all involved in the salvation of a person. Again, salvation consists of past, present and future salvation. Verse 8 refers to the past salvation, when the Lord delivered Israel from bondage. Verse 13 refers to the present salvation, from the evils of the world. Finally, verse 18 refers to the future salvation, being taken out of the world into the future glory.
If we are to benefit from reading this book, we need to look for Christ in there. Christ is seen when He comes to rule the earth. We read in chapter 2:14, “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.”
The other striking thing is the verse quoted at the start, “the just shall live by faith”, is also mentioned three times in the New Testament, all by the apostle Paul. The apostle must have had a special interest in, and a relation, to Habakkuk, because he also quotes in Acts 13:41 the serious warning of Habakkuk 1:5 at the end of his preaching when he was in Antioch.
Back to the verse quoted, we have three things – the just, live, and by faith. The New Testament references are: Romans 1:17 – this emphasises the just. The first part of Romans is about justification, and so it is the justified people (believers in Christ) who live by faith. The second reference is in Galatians 3:11. In Galatians, the emphasis is faith, because the people there were in danger of trying to abide and live according to the Old Testament law which could never save a person. In fact, Paul tells us that no-one is justified by the law. The third reference is in Hebrews 10:38, where the emphasis is on ‘live’, meaning that the justified believers according to Hebrews will not perish with the rest of the ungodly people, and then in chapter 11 we read the wonderful lives of the believers of the Old Testament who lived by faith.
I will now attempt to divide the book of Habakkuk. As there are three chapters, it is quite simply divided into three sections.
- Chapter 1 describes the warning of the invasion against Judah and God says that it is His judgment on the people for their disobedience.
- Chapter 2 turns the table over against the Chaldeans, or the Babylonians. The “woe” is now pronounced on them because God knows the pride of that evil nation and He will punish it. The “woes” described in chapter 2 are for a future day when the Lord comes to reign.
- Chapter 3 presents the prayer of the prophet, his submission to God and his praise to the glory of God. There is also the vision of the future coming of the Lord when all things will be set right, and Habakkuk really shows his faith by trusting in God.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein’s notes and outlines of the book of Habakkuk. The full outline and notes from the above authors are available on www.biblecentre.org, a website highly recommended and full of rich resources.