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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Psalm 119:105-112: Take the next step

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
    and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
    I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
    but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees

If it seems a bit random to drop into Psalm 119 at this point, I need to explain that, basically, since beginning to look at Habakkuk, I have been following the pattern in my ‘Bible in a Year.’ So, going forward there will be a mixture of Old Testament and New Testament readings (including Psalms and Proverbs from time to time).

In Psalm 119 the psalmist has made a commitment to obey God’s Word (see especially verses 106 and 112). It is clear that he is in danger, but the ”set” of his life is in the direction of faithfulness to God and His Word. The world around us is all pervasive in its influence. It is so easy to get ‘squeezed’ into its mould. There must be a determination on our part that, with God’s help, we will go His way. The Bible shines a clear light on our path amid the encircling darkness

Verse 105 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. David Pawson said it refers the the shepherd’s lantern in Israel which gave just enough light for the next step. Then when you took it you would have light for the next, and so on.

It reads like this in ‘The Message’:

By your words I can see where I’m going;
    they throw a beam of light on my dark path.

Warren Wiersbe comments: ‘God gives you the light you need a step at a time. If you want more light, you must obey what He says; then more light will come (John 7:17).’

Elizabeth Elliot asks:

”Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person’s seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next.”

Titus 1:10-16: Living Evidence

 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”]13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

They say they know God, but their actions speak louder than their words. (The Message)

There is a repeated emphasis on good works in this short letter. It’s not that we are saved by works, but we are saved for them. The new birth creates a new person with a new heart and character (3:3-8). Good deeds are the outward expression of the Spirit’s inner work.

At the beginning of the chapter we saw that knowledge of the truth leads to godliness. At its conclusion we find that it is possible to claim to know God but fail to back it up in the way you live. It is by our fruit that we are known.

These words remind me of a story I heard about the famous author Edgar Wallace. Wallace lived in the same street as a sincere elderly Christian man. (In fact, I think he may have been a clergyman). Apparently, the writer said, ‘As long as I live in the same street as that old man I cannot doubt that there is a God.’

PRAYER: Lord I ask that my life may be living evidence for your reality

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
complaint…

“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.

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