The righteous will live by his faith.(Habakkuk 2:4b) This statement is composed of only three words in the Hebrew, yet they say so much. They make a bold declaration, highlighting the difference between a human orchestrated religious system with that taught in the Scriptures.

What is the difference? A system of works verses a system of faith. There is one common denominator found in the various religions of man: it is to work for salvation. The mandate is do and do and do in order to gain heaven.  But the Bible assures us that it is faith and nothing of ourselves, lest anyone should boast. This may be the greatest part of the answer given to Habakkuk concerning the existence of evil. The prophet asked the Lord why evil persists and why for so long? The Lord answers: Have faith!

In Galatians 3:11 Paul discloses that faith is the key element covering the whole law, confirming that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God, for “the just shall live by faith”.

Even the rabbis who were responsible for adding so many additional laws into the daily routine of the Jewish community, recognized the weight of this verse. Many rabbis from the Talmudic period agreed with Habakkuk that faith was the underlying foundation of the Law itself.

In the Talmud it is written, that while Moses gave 613 commandments, Habakkuk reduced it to just one, that the just shall live by his faith.

This is a shortened list of how the number of laws got reduced. This is what they wrote:

613 commandments were related to Moses

David reduced it to 11 citing Psalm 15

Isaiah reduced it to 6 citing Isaiah 33:15-16

Micah reduced it to 3 citing Micah 6:8

Habakkuk reduced it to only one: By faith.

(BTalmud, Makkos 23B, Artscroll)

Again, this is quite a revolutionary way of looking at that verse when we know how many additional laws were at one point added on. These works certainly made it look like the just shall live by the merits of the law. But justification by faith is nothing new.

Let me ask you a question: How were the people of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament saved? Was it by sacrifices or by observing the Law? The answer is no! It was always by faith.

From Adam to Moses, there were no sets of laws given by God. It was a relationship based on faith. The from Moses to Yeshua, works were now more clearly defined and catalogued yet salvation was, as Habakkuk tells us, by faith.  And in the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews, the Spirit of God went a long way to list the names of many of these people from the Old Testament who lived by such a true faith. Just in this chapter alone the word faith is mentioned 28 times (NIV).

Here we find the names of 16 people. In addition we also have three groups of people who stand out for their exceptional faith. One group is the Israelites as a nation. Yes, Israel stands out in her faith! We read so much about their sins, but there was always a remnant within the nation, the one Paul calls the Israel of God. These exceeded in their faith.

Another group is mentioned, a family of a father and a mother – Moses’ parents – who listened and obeyed God regardless of the death threats.  The third group is the mighty prophets of God who stood up despite great persecution, even leading to death. All these never gave up, for by faith they knew that God lives. All these lived by faith and were deemed righteous.

Here is something beautiful that the Hebrew word for faith, emunah reveals to us. This word stems from the root word aman, meaning to confirm or to uphold. It is from this word where we get our word amen. When the word emunah is ascribed to an individual, it speaks of one who is stable, steadfast, reliable and honest. One who is worthy of other’s trust. The idea of stability is brought out even more in that this word, emunah is used to describe the doorpost of the Temple door in II Kgs 18:16.

This word also describes how the arms of Moses were steady while Israel was winning the war.

At some point in the wilderness, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites by surprise. This is when the Lord told Moses to go to a high mountain to observe the battle and there, He told him that so long as his arms would be raised, Israel would win the war. The rabbis imagined Moses with his hands up and his fingers in the form of a Shin, like when the High Priest blessed Israel.  Shin (ש) is the first Hebrew letter of the name Shaddai. In rabbinical theology, this letter also stands for the name of God.  The Shin looks like a crown or three flames of fire, showing the sovereignty and might of God.

And so, Moses could not keep his arms raised, so he asked Aaron and Hur, to help them keep them up; so we read that Thus his hands were FAITH.. that is steady/emunah  until the sun set. (Exodus 17:12) . The battle was won by faith, a powerful illustration of how faith can be used in our own lives. Let us raise our hands as well in prayer and participate in the soon coming of the Lord and in His victory.

It is in this passage where Moses built an altar and named it the LORD is my Banner (vs.15).

The Hebrew for banner is nes, like a flag lifted up, indicating our allegiance, and our spiritual citizenship. But this is what faith is to an individual, when we speak of our conviction and our persuasions. We lift up His name so that the world can see that the LORD is our banner.

Faith then, being supernatural, is a gift from God, it is a present, however, we need to unwrap this gift. We have received a present, but we need to open the box to acquire it. So how do we unwrap its powers? Let me bring you to one other powerful verse of the Bible found in Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

This is how faith is discovered and given and cultivated; through the Word of God. It is here  especially, where God reveals His will to us. And why does it say hearing and not reading? At that time, they did not have the privilege of having Bibles as we have today. The Word of God was recited every Sabbath at the synagogue or at the end of the Sabbath in the churches, where everyone was gathered to listen to the Word. Today, we are so gifted to be able to bring the Word home and read it ourselves. Faith then is linked with the knowledge of God. Knowledge of His Word. The two cannot be separated.


Click here for the complete teaching: The Prophet Habakkuk Sermon 4 : “The Power of Faith”