Terrible times, God says, are coming, and the proud will be caught in that time. If we want to be spared, if we want to be saved, if we want to witness these things and live eternally beyond it, then we must live by faith and wait for it. It will require perseverance and endurance.
The word translated as "faith" is not the normal Hebrew word for faith. It has a meaning more akin to "fairness": The just shall live by his fairness. By extension, we could say, he shall live by his stability, certainty, reliability, personal character, or integrity.
A person is faithful to God only because he trusts Him, and therefore, to help us to understand, the translators decided to insert the word "faith" here. Human faithfulness ultimately rests on his trust in God. If a person is going to be faithful, it is because he believes what God says, and he is motivated to have a genuine commitment to righteousness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)
God, in this verse, sets out the two universal sides. The proud are on one side. Their deeds are not upright. On the other side are the just, those who live by faith. In a way, He is asking Habakkuk—and us, "Which side are you on? Can I count you among the proud, who will be destroyed, or the just, the faithful, who will be rewarded? Choose your side."
This verse is quoted three times in the New Testament, all by the apostle Paul. In Romans 1:16-17, he shows that the gospel Christ brought reveals God's righteousness, the way we are to live, which is by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, he writes, "The just shall live by faith." It is a common misconception that the gospel is merely the announcement of the Kingdom of God. But it is much more than that: It is the instruction of God on how we are to live. It is the faith we must live. We are to live the gospel, the way Christ revealed in His life and teaching. We can live confidently according to God's Word because we trust God—we have faith in Him and His revelation.
A second quotation of this verse is Galatians 3:11, a usage slightly different: as a proof that God does not justify us by the law but by faith. To paraphrase, he says that God has granted us eternal life because of our faith in Christ not by our adherence to the law. The apostle makes this verse say, "The just shall have eternal life by faith, or because of faith"—our faith in Christ, and so we will live.
Finally, Paul quotes this verse in Hebrews 10:38-39: "Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [or to destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Paul uses the quotation from Habakkuk much like Habakkuk himself does, showing the two sides of the issue: the just on the one hand, who go forward to reward, and on the other side the proud, those who draw back and are destroyed. If we desire to enter into His Kingdom and live eternally, we must believe God and live our lives accordingly. The proud draw back from God, and they receive destruction. If we live by faith, we go forward to perfection (Hebrews 6:1-2) and thus to salvation, not to destruction. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith, not by sight." The lesson is, whatever the circumstances, we must obey God and let the chips fall where they may. We must always be faithful to be counted among the just.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
If we look at this in reverse, is it not saying that the proud are going to die? But the just will live by faith. Indeed, the just are humble. The contrast goes unstated, but it is nonetheless there, between the just person and the proud person. The just person submits to God by faith.
This is written in a way that indicates that the proud cannot live by faith. A proud person will live by his desires rather than in faith, humbly submitting to God. His desire is not to submit to God. Why? Because the spiritual qualities that the spirit in man can generate are essentially confined to the things of men: sight, sound, touch, hearing, and smelling—and being "tuned in" to demonic influences (Ephesians 2:2). Man's spirit is earthly; it has fleshly conceptions that never quite grasp the right, that is, godly concept. With all of his intelligence, man never quite puts the Word of God together correctly. He always misses it, and the miss may be as good as a mile. His relationship with God never quite has the proper footing. The proud meet with God more or less as equals, which is not a right basis.
Paul writes in Romans 7:18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells." How can godly faith be generated from something in which is nothing good? How can godly righteousness come from something that has no good in it? How can anything that is godly—that leads to salvation and can be taken through the resurrection into the Kingdom of God—come from a spirit that is not holy?
What do we have that we have not received (I Corinthians 4:7)? What, then, do we have to be proud about? In the humble person is a proper recognition and acceptance of the fact that he is totally dependent on God for everything that can be taken through the resurrection. Does not Jesus say in John 15:5, "For without Me you can do nothing"?
The things of the Spirit of God are concerned with unseen things—things the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands cannot sense. They are heavenly things, spiritual things. We look for a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Our faith is in promises that have not yet materialized. Faith in these promises can make great demands on us, ones that we would never submit to or ever meet but for the gifts of God's Spirit. God's Spirit gives direction to our lives, motivating us to live by standards that we would never otherwise live by.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Habakkuk 2:4:
2 Corinthians 13:5