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Habakkuk 2:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Behold, his soul which is lifted up - He that presumes on his safety without any special warrant from God, is a proud man; and whatever he may profess, or think of himself, his mind is not upright in him. But he that is just by faith shall live - he that believes what God hath said relative to the Chaldeans besieging Jerusalem, shall make his escape from the place, and consequently shall save his life. The words in the New Testament are accommodated to the salvation which believers in Christ shall possess. Indeed, the just - the true Christians, who believed in Jesus Christ's words relative to the destruction of Jerusalem, when they found the Romans coming against it, left the city, and escaped to Pella in Coelesyria, and did live - their lives were saved: while the unbelieving Jews, to a man, either perished or were made slaves. One good sense is, He that believes the promises of God, and has found life through believing, shall live by his faith.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold, his soul which is lifted up - literally, swollen

Is not upright in him - The construction is probably that of a condition expressed absolutely. Lo, swollen is it, not upright is his soul in him. We should say, “His soul, if it be swollen, puffed up, is not upright in him.” The source of all sin was and is pride. It is especially the sin of all oppressors, of the Chaldee, of antichrists, and shall be of the antichrist. It is the parent of all heresy, and of all corruption and rejection of the gospel. It stands therefore as the type of all opposed to it. Of it he says, it is in its very inmost core (“in him”) lacking in uprightness. It can have no good in it, because it denies God, and God denies it His grace. And having nothing upright in it, being corrupt in its very inmost being, it cannot stand or abide. God gives it no power to stand. The words stand in contrast with the following, the one speaking of the cause of death, the other of life. The soul, being swollen with pride, shuts out faith, and with it the Presence of God. It is all crooked in its very inner self or being. Paul gives the result, Hebrews 10:39, “if any man draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.” The prophet‘s words describe the proud man who stunts aloof from God, in himself; Paul, as he is in the Eyes of God. As that which is swollen in nature cannot be straight, it is clean contrary that the soul should be swollen with pride and yet upright. Its moral life being destroyed in its very inmost heart, it must perish.

Alb.: “Plato saith, that properly is straight, which being applied to what is straight, touches and is touched everywhere. But God is upright, whom the upright soul touches and is touched everywhere; but what is not upright is bent away from God, Psalm 73:1. “God is good unto Israel, the upright in heart;” Isaiah 26:7, “The way of the just is uprightness, Thou, most Upright, doth weigh the path of the just.”

But the just shall live by his faith - The accents emphasize the words, “The just, by his faith he shall live.” They do not point to an union of the words, “the just by his faith.” Isaiah says that Christ should “justify” many by the knowledge of Himself,” but the expression, “just by his faith,” does not occur either in the Old or New Testament. In fact, to speak of one really righteous as being “righteous by his faith” would imply that people could be righteous in some other way. “Without faith,” Paul says at the commencement of his Old Testament pictures of giant faith, Hebrews 11:6, “it is impossible to please God.” Faith, in the creature which does not yet see God, has one and the same principle, a trustful relying belief in its Creator. This was the characteristic of Abraham their father, unshaken, unswerving, belief in God who called him, whether in leaving his own land and going whither he knew not, for an end which he was never to see; or in believing the promise of the son through whom theft Seed was to be, in whom all the nations of the world should be blessed; or in the crowning act of offering that son to God, knowing that he should receive him back, even from the dead.

In all, it was one and the same principle. According to Genesis 15:6, “His belief was counted to him for righteousness,” though the immediate instance of that faith was not directly spiritual. In this was the good and bad of Israel. Exodus 4:31: “the people believed.” Exodus 14:31: “they believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” Psalm 106:12: “then believed they His word, they sang His praise.” This contrariwise was their blame Deuteronomy 1:32: “In this ye did not believe the Lord.” Deuteronomy 9:23: “ye rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and believed Him not, nor hearkened to His voice.” Psalm 106:21, Psalm 106:24: “they forgat God their Saviour; they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word.” And God asks, Numbers 14:11, “How long will it be, ere this people belove Me, for all the signs which I have shown among them?” Psalm 78:21-22: “anger came upon Israel, because they believed not in God, and in His salvation trusted not.”

Psalm 78:32: “for all this they sinned still, and believed not His wondrous works.” Even of Moses and Aaron God assigns this as the ground, why they should not bring His people into the land which He gave them, Numbers 20:20, “Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel” (at Meribah). This was the watchword of Jehoshaphat‘s victory, 2 Chronicles 20:20, “Believe in the Lord your God and ye shall be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” This continued to be one central saying of Isaiah. It was his own commission to his people; Isaiah 6:9, “Go and say to this people; hear ye on, and understand not; see ye on and perceive not.” In sight of the rejection of faith, he spake prominently of the loss upon unbelief; Isaiah 7:9, “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established;” and, Isaiah 53:1, “Who hath believed our report?” he premises as the attitude of his people toward him, the Center of all faith - Jesus. Yet still, as to the blessings of faith, having spoken of Him, Isaiah 28:16, “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone,” he subjoins, “he that believeth in Him shall not make haste.”

So it had been the keynote of Habakkuk to his people, “Ye will not believe when it is declared unto you.” Here he is told to declare contrariwise the blessing on belief. “The just shall live by his faith.” The faith, then, of which Habakkuk speaks, is faith, in itself, but a real, true confiding faith. It is the one relation of the creature to the Creator, unshaken trust. The faith may vary in character, according as God reveals more or less of Himself, but itself is one, a loving trust in Him, just as He reveals Himself. Lap. (in Romans 1:17): “By this faith in God, each righteous person begins to live piously, righteously, holily, peacefully and divinely, and advanceth therein, since in every tribulation and misery, by this faith and hope in God he sustains, strengthens, and increases this life of the soul. He says then, “the just lives by faith,” i. e., the unbelieving and unrighteous displeases God, and consequently will not live by the true, right, peaceful and happy life of grace, present righteousness, and future glory because God is displeased with him, and He places his hopes and fears, not in God, but in human beings and man‘s help and in created things. But the righteous who believeth in God shall live a right, sweet, quiet, happy, holy, untroubled life, because, fixed by faith and hope in God who is the true Life, and in God‘s promises, he is dear to God, and the object of His care.

“This sentence, ‹the just shall live by faith,‘ is universal, belonging at once to Jews and Christians, to sinners who are first being justified, as also to those who are already justified. For the spiritual life of each of these begins, is maintained and grows through faith. When then it is said, ‹the just shall live by his faith,‘ this word, his, marks the cause, which both begins and preserves life. The just, believing and hoping in God, begins to live spiritually, to have a soul right within him, whereby he pleases God; and again, advancing and making progress in this his faith and hope in God, therewith advances and makes progress in the spiritual life, in rightness and righteousness of soul, in the grace and friendship of God, so as more and more to please God.”

Most even of the Jewish interpreters have seen this to be the literal meaning of the words. It stands in contrast with, illustrates and is illustrated by the first words, “his soul is swollen, is not upright in him.” Pride and independence of God are the center of the want of rightness; a steadfast cleaving to God, whereby “the heart” (as Abraham‘s) “was stayed on God,” is the center and cause of the life of the righteous. But since this stayedness of faith is in everything the source of the life of the righteous, then the pride, which issues in want of rightness of the inmost soul, must be a state of death. Pride estranges the soul from God, makes it self-sufficing, that it should not need God, so that he who is proud cannot come to God, to be by Him made righteous. So contrariwise, since by his faith doth the righteous live, this must be equally true whether he be just made righteous from unrighteous, or whether that righteousness is growing, maturing, being perfected in him.

This life begins in grace, lives on in glory. It is begun, in that God freely justifies the ungodly, accounting and making him righteous for and through the blood of Christ; it is continued in faith which worketh by love; it is perfected, when faith and hope are swallowed up in love, beholding God. In the Epistles to the Romans Romans 1:17 and the Galatians Galatians 3:11 Paul applies these words to the first beginning of life, when they who had before been dead in sin, began to live by faith in Christ Jesus who gave them life and made them righteous. And in this sense he is called “just,” although before he comes to the faith he is unjust and unrighteous, being unjustified. For Paul uses the word not of what he was before the faith, but what be is, when he lives by faith. Before, not having faith, he had neither righteousness nor life; having faith, he at once has both; he is at once “just” and “lives by his faith.” These are inseparable. The faith by which he lives, is a living faith, Galatians 5:6, “faith which worketh by love.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 10:38, Paul is speaking of their endurance in the faith, once received, whose faith is not shaken by the trial of their patience. They who look on beyond things present, and fix their minds steadfastly on the Coming of Christ, will not suffer shipwreck of their faith, through any troubles of this time. Faith is the foundation of all good, the beginning of the spiritual building, whereby it rests on The Foundation, Christ. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” and so the proud cannot please Him. Through it, is union with Christ and thereby a divine life in the soul, even a life, Galatians 2:20, “through faith in the Son of God,” holy, peaceful, self-posessed Luke 21:19, enduring to the end, being “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” 1 Peter 1:5.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
When tossed and perplexed with doubts about the methods of Providence, we must watch against temptations to be impatient. When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and providences; what the Lord will say to our case. God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what he will say unto them. All are concerned in the truths of God's word. Though the promised favour be deferred long, it will come at last, and abundantly recompense us for waiting. The humble, broken-hearted, repenting sinner, alone seeks to obtain an interest in this salvation. He will rest his soul on the promise, and on Christ, in and through whom it is given. Thus he walks and works, as well as lives by faith, perseveres to the end, and is exalted to glory; while those who distrust or despise God's all-sufficiency will not walk uprightly with him. The just shall live by faith in these precious promises, while the performance of them is deferred. Only those made just by faith, shall live, shall be happy here and for ever.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 392

Among these prophecies was that of Habakkuk 2:1-4: “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.” GC 392.1

As early as 1842 the direction given in this prophecy to “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” had suggested to Charles Fitch the preparation of a prophetic chart to illustrate the visions of Daniel and the Revelation. The publication of this chart was regarded as a fulfillment of the command given by Habakkuk. No one, however, then noticed that an apparent delay in the accomplishment of the vision—a tarrying time—is presented in the same prophecy. After the disappointment, this scripture appeared very significant: “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.... The just shall live by his faith.” GC 392.2

A portion of Ezekiel's prophecy also was a source of strength and comfort to believers: “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God.... The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision.... I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged.” “They of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; There shall none of My words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done.” Ezekiel 12:21-25, 27, 28. GC 392.3

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 386

Confident that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?” he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future, and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for His trusting children, the prophet added, “We shall not die.” Verse 12. With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God. PK 386.1

This was not Habakkuk's only experience in the exercise of strong faith. On one occasion, when meditating concerning the future, he said, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me.” Graciously the Lord answered him: “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.” Habakkuk 2:1-4. PK 386.2

The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of deep trial was the same faith that sustains God's people today. In the darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian believer may keep his soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. “The just shall live by his faith.” In the service of God there need be no despondency, no wavering, no fear. The Lord will more than fulfill the highest expectations of those who put their trust in Him. He will give them the wisdom their varied necessities demand. PK 386.3

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 388

“O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make known;
In wrath remember mercy.
PK 388.1

“God came from Teman,
And the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens,
And the earth was full of His praise.
And His brightness was as the light;
He had bright beams out of His side:
And there was the hiding of His power.
Before Him went the pestilence,
And burning coals went forth at His feet.
He stood, and measured the earth:
He beheld, and drove asunder the nations;
And the everlasting mountains were scattered,
The perpetual hills did bow:
His ways are everlasting.”
PK 388.2

“Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people,
Even for salvation with Thine anointed.”
PK 388.3

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Ellen G. White
Conflict and Courage, 242.1

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4. CC 242.1

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Ellen G. White
God's Amazing Grace, 207.1

The just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4. AG 207.1

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Ellen G. White
Our High Calling, 67.3

“Like precious faith” ... is a genuine faith. It is not a fruitless faith. True, saving faith is a precious treasure of inestimable value. It is not superficial. The just lives by faith a truly spiritual, Christlike life. It is through faith that the steps are taken one at a time up the ladder of progress. Faith must be cultivated. It unites the human with the divine nature. OHC 67.3

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Ellen G. White
Our High Calling, 119.1

The just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4. OHC 119.1

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 359.2

We are not surprised to find that Satan will work today as he has worked in the past. We must live by faith; for without faith it is impossible to please God.... Boasting claims of righteousness and noisy demonstrations are calculated to lead to a fanatical experience that will confuse many minds. If such things are encouraged, a wave of fanaticism will come into our ranks that will be detrimental to the work of God, and that will sweep away many souls in a dangerous delusion. These things are designed by Satan to deceive, if possible, the very elect. TDG 359.2

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Ellen G. White
The Upward Look, 337.1

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4. UL 337.1

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