Many people view the Bible as a mere historical document that may or may not have anything relevant to say to us in the 21st century. At the very least, we might be able to flip through the book of Proverbs and find a couple of nice “fortune cookie” verses that we can share on our Facebook page that make us feel better about the day. Sadly, even though many Christians recognize the Bible as God’s Word, few actually view it as it describes itself, as “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). However, this does not mean that the meaning changes, but that God is actively speaking to our personal experience through the timeless principles we find in His Word.
In the previous post, we spent some time going over some steps that can be taken to understand the original meaning of the text. Now that we have grasped the meaning we can now move forward to discovering what could be referred to as the timeless principle. After all, if we simply remain in the first step with our verse, we can easily fall back into merely seeing Scripture as irrelevant to our lives rather than God’s living and active Word. But, before we move forward, let us examine once again our verse in question and give the summary of the meaning of the verse in its original context. While we are particularly looking at verse five, we will again quote the verse before and after to give some context.
“So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.”
– Habakkuk 1:4-6
Our Summary Statement:
“Habakkuk and the Jewish people are to recognize that God is sovereign and in control, even though they might not understand His purposes. They are also to see that God is just and will not allow sin to go unpunished, even though He may work through means they do not understand.”
Discovering The Principle
Now that we understand what our text means in the original context, we can begin to pull out some principles we can learn from it. What you will often discover at this point is there is usually one or two primary things we are meant to take away from the verse, while at the same time giving secondary truths that often teach us something about God or ourselves. Let us list a few truths we see before we move to the driving principle behind this verse.
- God is sovereign and in control of all things.
- God does not allow sin to go unpunished, though He may delay His punishment.
- God can use a sinful nation as a means to bring judgment, while He Himself remains sinless.
- While He is sovereign, we remain limited in knowledge and understanding of His plans.
- We are to trust that His judgments and plans are good and right.
- As we watch God’s plan unfold it should create in us a spirit of worship toward Him as His people.
Once we have a grasp on the meaning of the text and see the truths the verse conveys, it can be helpful to try and summarize the meaning of the verse in our own words to concentrate upon the driving principle.
The Principle in Our Own Words
“God is sovereign over His entire creation and does not turn a blind eye to sin but often delays punishment for His own purposes, but we should recognize He can work through means we do not understand and as His people we should trust Him at all times even when we feel confused by how He is accomplishing those purposes.”
A Trip Through The Bible
Now that we have our general principle, it is important to take some time to run it through the rest of Scripture to make sure our conclusion aligns with the rest of the Bible. Often, we will fall into the trap of coming to the wrong conclusion about the principle or meaning of a text, because we do not have a good understanding of what the rest of Scripture teaches. It is important that we see that Scripture does not, in fact, contradict itself, and you will find that the apparent contradictions often have very simple explanations once you take the time to investigate. With our own verse we should look for other places in Scripture that speak about God’s sovereignty, His plan throughout human history, and the seriousness of sin; in order to make sure that we are seeing principles that are found throughout the Bible.
But, as Christians, it is also vital to see how our principle is impacted by what the New Testament teaches, particularly how we should understand it as Believers in Christ. The question we always need to be aware of is how does Jesus and the gospel impact our understanding of a verse, particularly one like ours that is in the Old Testament. For instance, for somebody who has not placed their faith in Christ as their Savior, our verse should come as a stark warning that unless they repent and place their faith in Jesus then they will ultimately be punished for their sins. But for the Believer this verse should encourage us that the penalty for our sin has ultimately already been paid on the cross; and that as God’s children we can trust in His plan even when we do not understand how He is working it out, but we trust that we are under His grace because of Jesus.
The Final Step
As you can see from the principle that we have discovered in our verse, it is a powerful truth that every non-believer should heed as a warning, and every Christian should find comfort. The problem is that many of us stop here, and never move to the final step that was discussed, and that is application. We may feel like we have some type of understanding of this verse, but for many it never impacts their daily walk with Christ on a practical level. I would argue that you do not truly know or understand something unless it bears fruit in your life, that is the evidence that the Spirit of God has truly given you understanding.
So, in our final step in understanding how to read the Bible, we will take our timeless principle we have discovered and see how it can directly apply in our day to day lives. The Spirit of God will now move the knowledge we have acquired from His Word, from our minds to our hearts so that it will begin to bear fruit. Once this happens, our timeless principle should change the way you see the world, the way you trust God, and the way you react during difficult circumstances.