The word of God is alive and powerful. We need that power now more than any other time. Habakkuk 2:4 includes this popular saying, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” This is a word of God that gives power to us as we are going through an unprecedented difficulty during the pandemic. What does this verse mean, and how does it give us power?
This verse is God’s answer to Habakkuk’s appeal in chapter one. Habakkuk was asking God to deliver the righteous from coming afflictions and agonies. He was saying that the situation was too difficult to endure and that it was unfair to the righteous. Even with the prophet’s earnest appeal, God did not change the situation; instead, He answered with this word.
God’s response means at least two things. One, “Even if the situation is tough, the righteous should live by faith.” In this sense, the emphasis of God’s response is on the “shall live by faith” part, and the word is presenting a requirement of God’s people. In this phrase, “shall” can be replaced by “should,” and “by faith” can be understood as “faithfully.” “Faithfully” is what the original Hebrew word means (cf. the ESV footnote). So this verse is God’s way of saying, “If you are my people, live faithfully even if the situation is tough.”
The other thing God is saying is that: “Regardless of the situation, only those who live by faith shall be righteous.” The emphasis here is on the definition of righteousness. The situation does not change the requirement of righteousness, which is necessary for a person to be saved (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9). In other words, regardless of the situation, righteousness is the characteristic that is required of a child of God, and it is to live faithfully to God. So this verse is God’s way of saying: “Even in a difficult situation, you should live faithfully to God and that is your righteousness which lets you into eternal salvation.”
The two meanings of God’s response work together to make a powerful point about hope and the assurance of salvation. Habakkuk’s situation was tough and not easy to endure. However, God said that if one lives faithfully to Him regardless of the difficulties, he or she is righteous, and he or she is, therefore, a child of His to inherit His kingdom (Matt. 5:10).
What does this mean for the child of God? It means that The children of God should not complain about a difficult situation. Instead, they should live faithfully to God’s will, not giving up in such situations. In so doing, they will prove themselves to be righteous, and God will not keep his heavenly kingdom from them. Thus, this verse reminds us of His promise of and hope in eternal salvation, and it should be a source of encouragement, strength, and empowerment.
This pandemic is an unprecedented hardship to the world. We, God’s children, are not exempt from it. Yet, we desire to turn this situation into an opportunity to help more people come to God. For us to accomplish this, the most important thing is for us to live faithfully to God, rejoicing and giving thanks regardless of the situation. God, who knows what we’re going through, gave us His Word, which empowers us to faithfully do the work. People soon will see that we have hope, and ask us what our hope is. That will be a source of joy and gratitude for us as well as a motivational force to continue in our faithfulness.