There is a verse in Habakkuk that would probably rate in the top ten verses in the Old Testament only because it was quoted three times in the New Testament and twice by Paul.
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.” – Habakkuk 2:4 ESV
It is our faith that enables us to live in the tension between what we believe and know about God and what we see day in and day out. I think I see the church generally getting the idea of faith being involved in connecting with becoming a disciple of Jesus. I get the sense that most of the church agrees that we do not become right with God by works – by doing certain things. There is nothing in our hands when we come to the cross – there is nothing we have to exchange for our soul. I come to the cross because I believe I am separated from God and that I am called to repent of my sin – those acknowledgments reveal my belief that what Jesus did on the cross is sufficient to pay the penalty for my sins. I become right with God not because of what I have done, but because of my faith.
My Bible has a footnote on this verse. Another word that could be used in this verse instead of faith is faithfulness. It would seem that the Hebrew word used means both. My relationship starts with Jesus by faith. Then by living every single day being faithful to Him I find faith permeating my life day in and day out even through the messy stuff of this life, that I may not even understand, I continue to be faithful to God. That makes sense when the verse is quoted in Hebrews for the book was written with a concern regarding apostasy – with people leaving the Christian faith and that because of persecution. The practical theology is trying to make sure I persevere, endure and continue to live a faithful life.
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. – Hebrews 10:36-39 ESV
The Hebrew author quoting Habakkuk indicates that there is more here than the initial issue of faith. I am to let it permeate my life day in and day out, to persevere, to hang in there, to keep believing God, to keep the faith and to not give up on it. Is this what Habakkuk was getting to later on.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. – Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV
I love what Habakkuk is relating to here – he is a man of faith, has honest questions and wants to understand the connection with life in the midst of evil people doing evil things. So he waits because God is going to do something and he believes what God has said He will do – he responds in faith.