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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


November 2022

Titus 1:5-9: Walking the walk

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

As I indicated yesterday, elders are to embody the principle that knowing the truth leads to godliness. They do have to be able to ‘talk the talk’ (9), but even more they have to ‘walk the walk’ (6-8). It is surely worthy of note that whenever the New Testament describes the qualifications required for eldership, it emphasises good character rather than giftedness or ability.

This is how today’s passage reads in ‘The Message’:

I left you in charge in Crete so you could complete what I left half-done. Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, “Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?” It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.

It’s interesting that verse 10 goes on to say:

”For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers…”

It seems a contrast is deliberately drawn between the elders who live truth, and others who talk about it, who have the vocabulary, but not the lifestyle of godliness.

(By the way, Warren Wiersbe points out that ”sound doctrine” in verse 9 means ‘healthy doctrine’ – that which leads to the health of the church.

PRAYER: Lord God, we pray for your special grace on all those who lead your church. May they always teach by life and by lip.

Titus 1:1-4: Character

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

It seems to me that character is a unifying theme in this first chapter of Titus.

Paul knows nothing of a Christianity that does not show itself in life change. If we know the truth it (He!) sets us free from sin. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But the more we know the truth the more we are progressively freed from sin. The ”knowledge of the truth”…”leads to godliness.” (As we will see tomorrow, elders are meant to be an example of this).

Just over a week ago we said farewell to John Lancaster in a wonderful thanksgiving service held at ‘Bridge Community Church’, Leeds. John was one of the greatest preachers I ever heard; but his life was an even greater sermon. More than anything else I will remember John the godly man, and who can estimate the power of a truly godly life?

Funnily enough, after writing the above paragraph, I saw an advert for a book by Steve Norman entitled ‘The preacher as sermon: How who you are shapes what they hear.’

Habakkuk 2:1: A final thought from Habakkuk

I will stand at my watch
    and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
    and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

As we take our leave of this wonderful book, I want to share one more thought from F.B.Meyer:

‘He looks forth for God’s answer. This, to say the least, is respectful in our dealings with the Almighty. Too often we ask questions, and do not wait for replies; shoot prayer-arrows into the air, without stopping to see where they alight, or what quarry they strike. We are in too great a hurry to take time and trouble for climbing the watch-tower and awaiting the divine reply…

…How often God’s answers come, and find us gone! We have waited for a while, and, thinking there was no answer, we have gone our way but as we have turned the first corner the post has come in. God’s ships touch at our wharves; but there is no one to unload them. His letters lie at the office; but no one calls for them. It is not enough to direct your prayer unto God; look up, and look out, until the blessing alights on your head. When we ask according to his will, we receive while we pray.’ (‘Great Verses through the Bible’, p.355)

PRAYER: Teach me Lord to expect your answers, and give me patience to await them.

Habakkuk 3:16-19: The ‘inner-stances’

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments

Throughout this book we have watched Habakkuk travel from a questioning faith (his issues are those of a believer) to a confident faith. He is certain that God is going to deal with the Babylonians, but it hasn’t yet happened (16b). So even though the days of waiting may prove difficult, he will choose the stance of a worshipper (17,18). I am reminded of Selwyn Hughes writing that in all our lives, it is not the circumstances that matter so much as the inner-stances.

It is also possible for you and I to choose an attitude of praise, even in lean times, because of God’s strength. It is not just that He imparts strength to the believer; He ”is” our strength.

Someone said of Habakkuk that although he lacked the gifts, he knew he had the Giver and he rejoiced in Him.

Habakkuk 3:11-15: Victory!

Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
    at the glint of your flying arrows,
    at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
    and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people,
    to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
    you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
    when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
    the wretched who were in hiding.

15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
    churning the great waters

When Habakkuk wrote these words he probably wasn’t thinking about the Cross. I don’t imagine he was. I’m pretty sure he had the Exodus in mind, or a similar historical event. But for a Christian, taking into account the full revelation of Scripture, Calvary inevitably comes to mind.

Consider these two key New Testament verses:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14,15);

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15).

Just as David used Goliath’s sword to behead him, Jesus used the devil’s own weapon to defeat him. It was a complete and total victory, and it will lead ultimately to a new universe from which all evil will be banished. Because of ‘D Day’ at the Cross, ‘V’ Day is assured – the day of ultimate triumph.

You were out to save your people,
    to save your specially chosen people.
You beat the stuffing
    out of King Wicked,
Stripped him naked
    from head to toe,
Set his severed head on his own spear
    and blew away his army.
Scattered they were to the four winds—
    and ended up food for the sharks!
(The Message).

I think of Warren Wiersbe’s words that, as Christians, we are in a fight; but we not fighting for victory; we are fighting from victory.

Habakkuk 3:2-10: God can do it again

God came from Teman,
    the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
    and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
    rays flashed from his hand,
    where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
    pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
    he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
    and the age-old hills collapsed—
    but he marches on forever.

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
    the dwellings of Midian in anguish

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
    Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
    when you rode your horses
    and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
    you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10     the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
    the deep roared
    and lifted its waves on high

C.H. Spurgeon observed that, whether we like it or not, asking is the law of the Kingdom.

Habakkuk asked for revival (1). But whenever God ‘renews’ his deeds in our ‘day’, it is rarely, if ever, an exact replica. It is often similar, but different in certain ways. For example, the return from exile in Babylon was spoken of in parts of the Old Testament as a second exodus. But it was not an exact copy of the first, even though it was also a great deliverance.

The events of the exodus seem to be, to some extent, in Habakkuk’s mind here. It is good for us to know that God still moves mountains, even though we go through times when His power seems ”hidden.”

If you’re in such a season now don’t stop asking God to move.

Remember the words of Matthew Henry: ‘When God intends a great mercy for a people, first He sets them a praying.’

Let’s station ourselves next to Habakkuk, watching, waiting, asking.

 A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, with orchestra:

God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you,
    and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what you did among them.
    Work among us as you worked among them.
And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
    remember mercy.
(The Message).

Habakkuk 2:1/18-20: Waiting for God

I will stand at my watch
    and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
    and what answer I am to give to this

“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
    Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
    he makes idols that cannot speak.
19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’
    Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’
Can it give guidance?
    It is covered with gold and silver;
    there is no breath in it.”

2The Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth be silent before him.

Before moving on further into the third chapter, I want to take a step back into chapter 2. This chapter is, we might say, ‘book-ended’ with the idea of waiting for God to speak. In the first verse the prophet stations himself where he is ready and available to hear the Lord. In the last verse, the whole world is called to be quiet before God; (and the inference seems to be from verses 18,19 that this is because the Lord actually speaks, in contrast to the dead and dumb man-made idols).

So we are back with the call to wait on the Lord and for the Lord.

But this will, more often than not, require patience.

Better a patient person than a warrior,
    one with self-control than one who takes a city.
(Proverbs 16:32).

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Chriatian comes to the house of the Interpreter, and is shown two children, one named Passion and the other Patience. Passion is discontented because his Governor wants him to wait until the next year to have his treasures; Patience waits calmly for his own. Someone brings Passion a pile of treasures, and Passion, laughing at Patience, plays with them. But a little later, Passion dissolves into a pile of rags. The Interpreter explains that Passion symbolizes people of this world, while Patience symbolizes people who look for the world to come. Eventually, Patience will be given everlasting glory.

Patience is willing to wait.

Habakkuk 3:1,2: A prayer for revival

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

In my ‘Bible in one year’ I found that, many years ago, I had noted down some words of F.B.Meyer from his ‘Our Daily Homily’, Volume 3:

”When we are oppressed with the state of the Church and the world, as Habakkuk was, there is no resource but to turn to God. It is of no use to say to our brother, “What shall we do?” Better at once get into the presence of the Almighty. All conferences with flesh and blood are wasted breath, unless there has been a previous one with God…We must not pray “Revive my work,” lest the insidious temptation come in of using the stream of God’s blessing to turn our own tiny water-wheels for our own profit. Let us get beyond the narrow limits of our church or section, and ask for a revival of God’s work everywhere.”

Habakkuk 2:4-20: Two great certainties

‘See, the enemy is puffed up;

    his desires are not upright –

    but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

5 indeed, wine betrays him;

    he is arrogant and never at rest.

Because he is as greedy as the grave

    and like death is never satisfied,

he gathers to himself all the nations

    and takes captive all the peoples.

6 ‘Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying,

‘“Woe to him who piles up stolen goods

    and makes himself wealthy by extortion!

    How long must this go on?”

7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise?

    Will they not wake up and make you tremble?

    Then you will become their prey.

8 Because you have plundered many nations,

    the peoples who are left will plunder you.

For you have shed human blood;

    you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

9 ‘Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,

    setting his nest on high

    to escape the clutches of ruin!

10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,

    shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.

11 The stones of the wall will cry out,

    and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 ‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed

    and establishes a town by injustice!

13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined

    that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire,

    that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?

14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord

    as the waters cover the sea.

15 ‘Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours,

    pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,

    so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!

16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory.

    Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!

The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming round to you,

    and disgrace will cover your glory.

17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,

    and your destruction of animals will terrify you.

For you have shed human blood;

    you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 ‘Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?

    Or an image that teaches lies?

For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;

    he makes idols that cannot speak.

19 Woe to him who says to wood, “Come to life!”

    Or to lifeless stone, “Wake up!”

Can it give guidance?

    It is covered with gold and silver;

    there is no breath in it.’

20 The Lord is in his holy temple;

    let all the earth be silent before him.

God now makes it utterly clear that the Babylonian empire will fall, and why. He outlines the sins that will be their downfall. Their very behaviour contains within it the seeds of their own destruction.

Within this longer section two great certainties stand out. We can still hold on to these in the most uncertain of times:

  1. In the short term God calls people to live by faith (4). The word can also be translated “faithfulness.” Faith and faithfulness are two sides of the same coin. They belong together.This was the text (as quoted in Romans 1:17) that so impressed itself on Martin Luther and fuelled the Reformation;
  2. In the long term all will be well (13,14). However much the Babylonians (and all other world powers) huff and puff and throw their weight around, it’s all “for nothing.” Ultimately it will amount to “nothing.” Nothing can stop the final glorious manifestation of God’s Kingdom. The knowledge of His glory will fill the earth. We can count on it.

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