The Lord’s Answer
2 Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
5 indeed, wine betrays him;
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied,
he gathers to himself all the nations
and takes captive all the peoples.
In the first verse of this chapter, Habakkuk resigns himself to wait upon God, and because of his faith, God now begins His answer. In John Calvin’s commentaries he writes, “There is no doubt but that the Prophet accommodates here his own example to the common instruction of the whole Church. Hence, by testifying that an answer was given him by God, he intimates that we ought to entertain a cheerful hope, that the Lord, when he finds us stationed in our watch-tower, will in due season convey to us the consolation which he sees we need.” In other words, because of Habakkuk’s patience and faith in waiting upon God, God rewards him with a message. Calvin denotes that we as the church should also have this attitude of waiting on God, ever in our watchtowers (always focused on Him).
God tells Habakkuk to write out the vision (or revelation) He is about to give. The King James version uses the words ‘make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it’. The idea is that it be written in such a way that anyone can see the meaning, and any who pass by may be able to quickly read the prophet’s words and keep going. This would also keep those who belonged to God abreast of the situation, so they might have a word of comfort, just as Habakkuk is now receiving. God wants to ensure that all the people have a chance to know what He has spoken so when it comes to pass He may be given the glory, and those who ignore His words will have no excuse. The Creator of all we can behold and imagine does not keep secrets from us. He has given us all the required information we need to be able to know Him.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20
There is special emphasis from God on the timing of when this revelation will take place. He says it is awaiting an ‘appointed’ time, meaning it has been scheduled, and that ‘it will certainly come’. When God speaks things happen. When He declares a thing must happen then it must happen. God cannot lie because He is holy – perfect in all things and made of truth. The more we study God’s word, the more we come to realize that there is nothing outside of God’s control or possession. He has declared since before the beginning of time what is to take place, when and how. This account is witness to His sovereignty in all things, good and evil. This does not mean that God is evil, but that He uses the evil to arrive at the best outcome for all involved – the best possible good. We see death as bad, but if you are God’s child death should not be feared. In that moment when our eyes close to this present life, they open to the eternal life that awaits us with Christ.
Man is unable to see the how and why of God’s ways, nor should we try to explain them away. What we need to know is that God the Creator has a plan for His creation, and we being such should place our faith in Him. Verse 4 describes the ‘enemy’ as puffed up. This enemy lives inside each of us as sinners. We are all prideful, our natural desires contrary to what was intended. This is not a control over us by Satan, though he is pride incarnate. We have it inside ourselves to want things our way, and we become fixated on knowing the answers, unable to just say yes to God – always seeking but never finding. But the righteous shall live by faith.
What a great wrench has been thrown into the middle of all this evil! Though there is impending doom from all sides, and God has chosen His weapon of justice against the Israelites, He gives a glimpse of hope. The righteous shall live by his (own) faith. What faith is there when all seems lost and the world is crashing in around you? What hope is there when even the people of God have deserted Him and turned to their own gods made of material possessions or men claiming power? God is our hope. Christ is our hope. He has given us His word that we belong to Him – and if He says it, it must be.
Though the Lord protracts time, and though day after day we seem to live on vain promises, yet let God speak, that is, let him have this honor from you, and be ye persuaded that he is true, that he cannot disappoint you; and in the meantime wait for his power; wait, so that ye may yet remain quiet, resting on his word, and let all your thoughts be confined within this stronghold—that it is enough that God has spoken. – John Calvin