A Time of Crisis 600 Years Before Jesus
About six hundred years before Christ was born there was a time of great crisis among the Jews. King Josiah, the boy king who had grown to be a godly leader, was killed in battle against the Egyptians. He brought revival to Jerusalem, restored the temple, and held the greatest Passover in four hundred years. (2 Chronicles 34-35)
The army of Egypt was marching north to face the upstart Babylonians who had routed the former rulers of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians. Pharaoh Neco led the Egyptians against Crown Prince Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Egyptians were routed at Carchemish and retreated. Nebuchadnezzar heard that his father had died and returned to Babylon to be crowned king. As he retreated, Neco deposed the eldest son of Josiah and installed a second son as his puppet. Josiah was followed on the throne by three of his sons and one grandson in the last twenty years of the Davidic kingdom. None of them followed God or ruled effectively. (2 Chronicles 35:20-36)
During these times Habakkuk, a Levite, musician and prophet, prayed to God about the spiritual condition of the Jews. He accused God of ignoring evil among his people. There was oppression and violence. The revival under Josiah was over. (Habakkuk 1:1-4)
God responded and said that he was going to do the unbelievable. The Babylonians would come and destroy the Jewish kingdom. As Moses has warned, the rebellion would get to the point where the people would be expelled from the Promised Land. This judgement would happen during Habakkuk’s lifetime. (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Habakkuk 1:5-11)
Habakkuk responded to God’s revelation. He had two complaints. The Babylonians were worse than the Jews. They would not make a distinction between those like Habakkuk who feared God and those who rebelled against the covenant. (Habakkuk 1:12-17)
After he made his complaint, Habakkuk knew that there would be an answer from God. He took his post as a watchman and waited for God’s response. God told him that there were two types of people, the proud and the just. The just would live by faith through the time of judgement and the proud would be judged, whether they were Jews or Babylonians. (Habakkuk 2:1-20)
The Just Shall Live By Faith
The just shall live by faith is quoted three times in the New Testament. It was the battle cry of the Reformation. The principle was first given to a prophet as advice on how to live through a period of crisis for him and his people. (Habakkuk 2:4)
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