Just as your body needs food, your soul needs Scripture. Without nourishment, both begin to grow weak and ill. Our Bible study time can easily fall into the rut of a rote routine that does not build relationship with God. In Habakkuk 3:2–16, we see the example of someone who has moved into a real relationship with God through Bible study. He is reflecting back on the book of Exodus and how God delivered His people from slavery and bondage in Egypt. Even though they were freed to grow in a living relationship with God by following in His presence by faith as He led them through the wilderness, they longed to go back to their dead routine. Habakkuk summarizes all of this in his own poetic words as he journals out his Bible study as a prayer to God.
In one of the key lines of his prayerful Bible study, Habakkuk asks God, “In wrath remember mercy” (v. 2, ESV). The wrath of God is not popular today. If you talk much about the wrath of God, you will quickly experience the wrath of people who do not like the wrath of God. The Bible has a lot to say about the wrath of God. In the Old Testament alone, roughly 20 different words are used to speak of God’s wrath roughly 600 times.
The wrath of God is closely tied to the holiness and justice of God. Though the Bible does tell us that God is love, the most common attribute of God mentioned in the Bible is God’s holiness. The opposite of God’s holiness is our sinfulness.
Just as we want criminals to be picked up by the police, terrorists to be stopped by soldiers, and things stolen from us to be returned, so too does God deserve justice. God’s justice culminates in a final judgment and eternal sentencing to hell where the punishment fits the crime perfectly. Jesus Himself speaks of hell more than anyone else in the Bible as the place where God’s wrath is poured out in justice against sinners.
Because we are the guilty facing a terrible fate, we might feel a bit like Habakkuk did when he said, “I fear” and “my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.”
Thankfully, in wrath God did remember mercy. Habakkuk’s prayer was answered at the cross of Jesus Christ. There, Jesus took our place and endured the wrath we deserve. Jesus put us in His place to receive the mercy we do not deserve.
The question is not whether or not we are sinners, or whether God has a right to judge us. Instead, the only question is whether or not we have placed our faith in Jesus, as Habakkuk did, and live as he said in 2:4, “by faith” in the God of wrath and mercy. This is why John can categorize everyone who has ever lived into two groups, saying in John 3:36 (ESV), “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
In all of this, we learn that the key to understanding the entire Bible is connecting it all to the person and work of Jesus. Furthermore, the point of all Bible study is to help us grow into a deeper relationship with God, which is Habakkuk’s example.
What is your Bible study routine? Is your Bible study routine building your relationship with God? If not, what changes can be made?