Lighter posting this week, as I am devoting my mornings to preparation for a sermon this Sunday on Habakkuk 2:4, “the righteous shall live by faith.” I am going to examine the meaning of of “faith” (Hebrew emunah, steadfastness, fidelity), which I refer to as “steadfast trust,” in light of the rest of the book, and in light of the New Testament’s usage of this verse (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38-39). I have three points:
1) Faith trusts in God even when the unthinkable happens (chapter 1-2, especially 1:5-11).
2) Faith finds joy in God, not circumstances (3:16b-19).
3) Faith looks to God, not achievement, for justification (2:4; cf. Romans 1:17).
In other words, biblical faith, defined as steadfast trust and reliance in God, is the means by which the righteous seek understanding amidst confusion, joy amidst suffering, and a righteous status before God. Its a new, counter-intuitive orientation to the fundamental things which all humans seek: knowledge, happiness, righteousness.
Something interesting I learned this past week during my study is that Jewish rabbis, as well as the writers of the New Testament, regarded Habakkuk 2:4 as a particularly important verse within the Old Testament. A Palestinian Rabbi in the 3rd century A.D. once addressed the question of how many rules the Hebrew Bible required:
“Moses received 613 precepts; David reduced them to eleven (Psalm 15) but Isaiah reduced them to six (Isaiah 33:15-16) but Micah reduced them to three (Micah 6:8) … but Amos reduced them to two (Amos 5:5)….”
Then Habakkuk 2:4 is cited as reducing all of Old Testament to religion to one commandment (Cf. Francis I. Anderson, Habakkuk [Doubleday, 2001], 216). So not only for the authors of the New Testament, but among Jewish rabbis, Habakkuk 2:4 was taken as a kind of summary statement of the essence of true religion. More posts to come on this, hopefully on issues surrounding Paul’s usage of the verse and the meaning of emunah…
Will be praying for you friend. I look forward to hearing it (if I can).