All theology is practical if it affects you thinking, your attitudes, your faith, or your lifestyle. Today’s is very lifestyle orientated.
Older women are not to be timewasters and gossips (as many with time on their hands are tempted to be) but models (in a mentoring sense!) and teachers of the younger women. By the time a Christian woman is forty, she ought to be mature, wise and a mother-figure to the younger women and girls. How many people say: “I want to be like you”? Subtle lessons on self-control, purity, hard work in the home, kindness, obedience to husbands, and love for husbands, can be taught and will be a great advertisement for the word of God, the gospel. Young men can catch the same kinds of lesson from older, more mature men. The word ‘self-control’ appears a lot too! It is important to see how teaching in all its modes plays such a key role in the training of Christian minds to produce Christian lives; let us never devalue the power of consistent, out-worked teaching – and let us give respect to those who devote their time to doing that. (1 Timothy 5:17.)
Notice that Titus himself is commanded to teach the older women, and all the men, but not the younger women. Presumably this is to avoid any accusations of impropriety or to give a foothold to temptation. As previously mentioned, it is the role of the more mature women to teach the younger ones. Slaves are also to be taught to obey their masters completely, to make every effort to please them and to be respectful in speech and trustworthy in action. The role of a slave then was not quite the same humanitarian issue that it is today; slaves had a reasonably comfortable lifestyle – by the standards of the day – and there was no Christian campaign to get them emancipated. The important thing – for both slaves then and employees today – is that they made the gospel teaching attractive by their own lives.
The grace of God features heavily in this letter: “For the grace of God…teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the Blessed Hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:11-14). Grace is not ‘wishy-washy’, but it is a ‘nuclear power’ inside us that steers us into righteous ways of living. Verse 13 states emphatically that Jesus Christ is fully God, a member of the Divine Trinity (as do Romans 9:5 and 2 Peter 1:1); it also points to his glorious return to earth – ‘The Blessed Hope’. The aim of church leaders is to assist Jesus in purifying his people and to make them eager to do what is good; to accomplish this, they will need to teach, encourage, and rebuke with God’s authority.
HABAKKUK 1, 2 and 3
Habakkuk is one of the very few names with nearly three ‘k’s in a row! This prophet lived around the same time as Jeremiah and wrote his prophecy in approx. 605 BC, just before the Egyptian forces suffered a huge defeat at the battle of Carchemish, inflicted by the up-and-coming Babylonian empire. The prophecy contains no message addressed to Israel or Judah but is a kind of dialogue between Habakkuk and God. The argument of the first two chapters goes rather like this: Why is there so much evil in Judah that goes unpunished, with its rich rulers doing what they like? God then responds that he is soon sending a ruthless nation – the Babylonians – to punish the sins and corruption of Judah. Habakkuk then cannot accept or understand why an even less godly nation is sent to punish a so-called righteous one. God explains that the Babylonians will themselves eventually receive an even great punishment at the hands of the Persian empire. Eventually, Habakkuk just has to learn to accept the Lord’s sovereignty and to wait patiently in faith for God’s true kingdom and his true people to be established.
Some key verses that stand out in this book:
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” “Why do you make me look at injustice?” (1:2,3). God responds with: “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told” (1:5) The Apostle Paul quotes this verse at the Jews in Acts 13:41, as evidence that the Gentile would be given the opportunity to hear the gospel too – in the face of Jewish rejection.
“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (1:13). “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits and appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (2:2-3).
Then we have the important quote: “The righteous person will live by his faith (or faithfulness)” (2:4b). This verse is one of the major New Testament proof-texts for the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. It is quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and stated again in Ephesians 2:8. This verse became the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century and is vital in order for us to grasp how our salvation really operations.
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (2:20). This command also includes Habakkuk with his complaining!
Finally, in chapter 3, Habakkuk learns to be patient and to stand in awe of the Lord. We, like the prophet, have to learn that many things in our lives are not what we would have chosen, and some things seem contradictory and incomprehensible; yet the Lord is sovereign, and he is in control of his world. He doesn’t expect us to understand everything, but he does want us to trust him and to acknowledge his rule and reign over our lives. Along with Habakkuk, we can pray:
“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your wonderful deeds, O Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (3:2).
“In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. 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. With his own spear you pierced his head” (3:12-14). Originally, this might have meant Pharaoh, but ultimately, it would represent the Devil.
Finally, we find in Habakkuk, the patience and faith that the Lord requires: “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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (3:17-18). Habakkuk is now patient to wait for the Babylonian invasion and its extended consequences; we should be patient and put our trust in the Lord until he comes finally to deliver justice to the nations and to bring us deliverance to our broken world. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour”. An act of our will is required!