By George H. Warnock
The Vision and the Appointment: Chapter 1 - The Just Shall Live by Faith
Standing on My Watch
"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith" (Hab 2:1-4).
Let us just look at the setting of this statement. Habakkuk was a true prophet, who carried a burden for His people. God had laid this burden upon him, so clearly that he could 'see' it: "The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see" (Hab 1:1). But he carried the burden with a lot of distress because nothing was happening in the land, to relieve that burden. Israel's enemies were treacherous, and yet God was silent. The prophet grew bolder. He had to know why God had not come on the scene and changed things. So he went to his watch-tower, and waited for an answer from God. And God made this clear to him: the Vision is true, and it will come to pass, but only in God's appointed time. In the meantime, while the Vision seems to tarry, your responsibility is this: "though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come - but the just shall live by his faith."
Though the Vision Tarry, Wait for it!
God's appointments for us are generally not as we anticipated, because we just know that God is over-extending His time! He is always too late. What are You waiting for? You must know that Your people are in great distress now, and still You wait! If You would just come now, You could change things. This has been the cry of God's people in all generations.
But God does not spend time reasoning with us, because He knows we are not capable of understanding what He is doing. Generally He does not answer the questions we ask, but He answers the questions we should have asked. And this is the answer He has given to all generations of time, who have come to Him and unloaded their many concerns as to His ways. "The just shall live by his faith." I recall many years ago in my studies, that these words were quoted by the apostle Paul in three of his epistles. As I meditated on the passage in its three different settings, it became evident that in each of these epistles, the apostle was using this clear statement of faith, and setting it forth in a threefold dimension. So in these 3 epistles we have a beautiful trilogy in this one statement: The Just .... Shall Live .... By Faith.
To the Romans: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith" (Rom 1:17).
The emphasis is, How to become righteous before God. And so in Romans the apostle declares that we are accounted to be righteous before God, not by any works of righteousness of our own, but our faith alone is counted unto us for righteousness. When God declared to Abraham that his seed would become as the sand on the seashore, and as the stars of heaven, we are told that Abraham "believed in the LORD and He counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen 15:6). That is the simple meaning of "justification." It is a judicial word: the Judge declares to the man who stands before him: "I declare you righteous," or "I declare you guilty." Abraham had yet to be tried and tested a lot more, but because he believed in the LORD's promise, right there God declared him to be righteous, only because of his faith in what God said. This shows us how greatly God honours those who believe what He has said. Abraham's faith was counted to him as righteousness, simply because He believed God's promise to him.
To the Galatians: "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" (Gal 3:11). Paul had preached the same gospel to the Galatians as he had to the Romans, but somehow there came into the Galatian Church some teachings of Judaism that were 'bewitching' the people (see Gal 3:1). They had to admit, O yes, we are justified by faith, but we must also keep the Law, obey the ordinances as required by the Law, if we are to remain righteous in the sight of God. So the emphasis Paul makes here to the Galatians is simply this: The rule by which we are justified, is the same rule by which we are to live before God. We are justified by faith, and so we shall live by faith. Those old rituals of the Law are not for us. We do not need to "observe days, and months, and seasons and years," as many were teaching in that day. Daily we are to walk in the Spirit, and live in the Spirit, by faith. One day in seven is not enough; it must be every day. This is God's rule for His people. A rule? The very word sounds like another law. And indeed it is another law, if we understand the difference between laws that pertain to human behaviour, and "the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:2). Why do we not consider the Law of the Spirit of Life to be higher, much higher, much more glorious than the Law of Moses? It can only be because the Church of Jesus Christ who profess to be a people who are born of the Spirit, are not manifesting in their lives the beauty of the "fruit of the Spirit." May God shut our mouths when we boast and argue about "justification by faith" if in this so-called state of faith we are manifesting the "works of the flesh" instead of the "fruit of the Spirit."
This is Paul's emphasis to the Galatians: you are to live by the same rule by which you were justified. If we have truly found new life by the Spirit, then he says, "let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal 5:25). This is the rule, and the only rule that can replace the Law of Moses. A "new creation" in Christ Jesus is the only rule we need, and the only rule that will produce a life that is pleasing to God. And so the apostle adds, in his closing remarks to the Galatians: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature (or, a new creation). And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16). It is the Rule of New Creation, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, by which we are to live.
To the Hebrews: "Now the just shall live by faith" (Heb 10:38). In writing to the Hebrews, the apostle must emphasize the quality and character of true faith. We are justified by faith, and we live by faith. But true Bible faith is also an enduring faith -- it is not just a mental assent to the truth.
Dare I say that in many cases, this kind of faith may be less than the faith of devils? For often there is no fear of God, while "the devils also believe, and tremble (Jas 2:19).
On the Day of Pentecost, after Peter preached to the crowds assembled for that great festival, great conviction gripped the people, and they cried out: "Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:37,38).
Then on one of Paul's missionary trips he had come to Miletus, which was close to Ephesus where he had spent much time in the past; and he sent for the elders of the Church to come and meet with him before he went on his way. He reminded these elders of what he had taught them, "testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).
Bible faith is 'the faith of God,' the faith that He imparts when that man or woman or boy or girl is convicted of their sin and rebellion, and confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead (see Rom 10:9,10). And then if we truly believe from the heart, God imparts the witness of the Spirit, the assurance that God has received us into His family (see 1 Jn 5:6).
If we are truly born of God, the Father is faithful to correct us along the way. He will not spare the rod. He loves us too much to let us go our own way. The 'mother churches' are inclined to excuse their children. But Father God is jealous over His sons and daughters, for they are born of royal blood. When they err in their ways, He is faithful to take notice and chastise them, yet with much love and mercy. His desire and purpose is to bring forth in their lives the character of the Son of God, who is known as "the Firstborn among many brethren."
"For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons" (Heb 12:6-8). Mother Church may insist, These are my sons and daughters. But Father God may say, I am not their Father. But we have this confidence, the Lord knoweth them that are His.
The clear message to the Hebrews is that faith is a pure faith from God, and that it is an enduring faith..."For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could sweariby no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee" (Heb 6:13,14). He sware by Himself, because there was none greater to swear by. He spoke "two immutable things." He gave His Word - and confirmed it with an Oath. Very certain, is it not? Now let us hear the next verse:
"And so, after he (Abraham) had patiently endured, he obtained the promise" (vs 15). The promise was as sure and certain as God's Word and His Oath. But God subjected Abraham to much trial and testing, and his faith was strengthened by the trial, causing him to endure to the very end.