Habakkuk was deeply disturbed. There was so much evil in his land of Judah, and God didn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Do you know the feeling? “Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you look idly at wrong?” (1:3 ESV). God’s answer is that he is preparing to do something. He will soon send the Babylonians to punish Judah. “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation” (v. 6 ESV).
“Wait a minute,” says Habakkuk, “they are even worse than us. How can you do such a thing, Lord?” So now Habakkuk waits to see how God will answer that question. “I will take my stand . . . and look forth to see what he will say to me” (2:1). God’s answer is, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (v. 4). We do not always see what God is doing, but we need to trust God, that he will surely do the right thing.
Habakkuk 4:4 is quoted by Paul in both Romans and Galatians to buttress his argument that we are saved, not by our works, but by trusting in Christ alone. In the Middle Ages, the church had obscured this fundamental teaching of Scripture. Many believed they would be saved by doing the good things the church told them to do. Martin Luther tried that but found that it gave him no assurance of salvation. Then he began studying Paul, and eventually realized that we are saved by faith in Christ alone. Thus began the great Reformation.