In his book, we find Habakkuk watching over the invasion and soon defeat of the nation of Judah by the Babylonian Empire. In the context of Hab 2:2, Habakkuk is eagerly awaiting the receipt of a vision from the Lord which will reveal the spiritual needs of his nation, the purpose behind the Babylonian invasion, and the eventual judgment that will fall upon Babylon.
Before He gives the main part of the vision, the Lord explicitly tells Habakkuk to write down the vision in such a way that it is “made clear” to those who are willing to act upon the Divine message.
Folks, not only did Habakkuk have the responsibility to “make clear” the teachings of the Lord, but each one of us have the same grave responsibility as well. For anyone who preaches from a pulpit, teaches in a Sunday School class, writes in a blogging ministry or simply speaks to a neighbor about Christ…. we all should, from a heart of love and concern for our hearers, present the teachings of the Lord in a very clear, understandable way.
But sadly, in some cases, this is not being done today….
1. We find “teachers” of the Word not taking the time to study the subject they are teaching and not coming to an understanding of the subject, they simply parrot what others say as they attempt to “teach” on the subject.
2. We have those who are standing up and using vocabulary that is well above the level of most of their hearers motivated simply out of pride and arrogance, as they attempt to show others how much they know. By doing this they are leaving their hearers scratching their head and thinking themselves “stupid” and the Bible too difficult to understand.
3. And then there are those who proclaim what “they believe” without giving references from Scriptures to explain the basis of their beliefs. In these cases, they are expecting people to follow their teachings like dumb sheep, instead of coming to their own beliefs based upon the declaration of Scripture.
4. One of the most common failures taking place in Baptist church ministries is giving Bible verse references without taking the time to look at the verses. During the course of one 30 minute message, they may give out as many as FIFTY TO ONE HUNDRED scripture references without taking the time to look at, much less explain the meaning of even one of those verses.
Folks these things should not be so.
Let’s take a few moments to look at the Biblical mandate to teach others in an understandable way while relying on the Lord to open the hearts and minds of the people applying it to their lives.
4) And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, [and] Meshullam.
5) And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
6) And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with [their] faces to the ground.
7) Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people [stood] in their place.
8) So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading.
2) And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
9) And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10) And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
23) And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into [his] lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and [out of] the prophets, from morning till evening.
Not only does the Lord address the need to plainly teach His Word throughout the Holy Scriptures, but He personally addressed the subject during His ministry on the earth….
And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. (Luke 8:9-10)
In the context, our Lord is explaining to His disciples why He taught in parables. In this explanation, He shows us the two great necessities for the receipt of truth into the heart of any hearer…. a human necessity and a divine necessity.
In His response, the Lord says “Unto you it is given”. In other words, the receipt of truth is under the control of the Sovereign hand of God. He is the One that grants the ability for one “to know”, while yet another “Seeing they might not see and hearing they should not hear”.
NO MATTER HOW CLEARLY WE MAY PRESENT HIS WORD TO OTHERS… it will only be an act of divine grace for our hearers to come to an understanding and application of the truths we teach.
But to fully understand the teachings of Christ on this subject we need to continue looking at this text. Please remember, in the context the Lord is explaining His usage of “parables”. What is a “parable”? It is a common, every day, earthly event that is used to illustrate a divine truth.
In the context of Luke 8:, the parable was that of a sower sowing seed. Why would He use this common everyday picture during His time of teaching? We are told that one purpose was so that His hearers would “know the mysteries of the kingdom of God”. Through this common, every day, easily understandable example, Christ was able to make plain to His hearers some of the more difficult to understand truths (mysteries) concerning His kingdom. He was making these teachings clear to those who were graced to receive them, while making more responsible those who would not come to the truths of His teaching.
In this text, we have seen the necessities of GOD’S INTERVENTION AND A CLEARLY PRESENTED MESSAGE as the means by which truth is heard, understood and applied to the heart of man.
Now that we have seen one example of the teachings of Christ on this subject, let’s see more specific instructions and examples the Lord has given to His messengers …
In Nehemiah 8:5-8 we can see several elements to a Godly presentation of His Word…..
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) – Ezra CLEARLY showed the people he was about to present God’s Word, not his own thoughts to them.
and when he opened it, all the people stood up: - Ezra’s hearers had come to the meeting with in a spirit of humility and respect for the Word. They stood up as a show of unified reverence for the Word and for God, the One who authored it.
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. - Ezra “blessed” the Lord. The Hebrew word “blessed” is commonly translated “kneel” (a symbol of submission), “to thank” and “to praise” in the Old Testament. Ezra, before he began his message reminded the congregation that the spirit of:
1. submission to the Lord and His Word
2. thankful for the Lord’s blessings (especially His Word)
3. the need to glorify/praise Him by learning and applying His Word
By having this spirit, they would be “blessing” their God.
And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with [their] faces to the ground. - The people responded by proclaiming their agreement to and possessing the spirit Ezra had just presented to them.
Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people [stood] in their place. - Not only Ezra, but all those who spoke on that day presented the Word that produced an understanding in their hearts.
The word “understand” in Hebrew means to “be able to separate, distinguish or break into small pieces”. In other words, as they received the teachings from the Word, their mind could grasp them in such a way that they could break them down into small pieces and comprehend many of the small details of the teachings. In other words, they gained a thorough knowledge of the Word.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading.
The process by which the Word was proclaimed was:
1. read distinctly – clearly or specifically explained the details
2. gave the sense – they presented it in a way that the people could prosper or gain from it. They gave practical applications to these truths as well as other implications for their lives.
3. caused to understand – By doing the above two, through God’s gracious intervention, the people came to receive the Word, grasp its meaning and seriousness, and apply it to their lives.
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
As we saw in our introduction, this was the instructions given by the Lord Himself to the prophet Habakkuk concerning a vision Habakkuk was about to receive. What did the Lord mean by the phrase “make it plain”?
This phrase is translated from one Hebrew word that is defined as “to dig, or to engrave”. In those days they would engrave writing on a tablet of stone. Then they would rub a dark substance (lead) in the engravings to make them stand out against the light colored tablet. We can easily see the basic idea. The Word of God is to be presented in such a way that it “stands out” in a clear, plain way. Also by doing this, they would ensure that these writings would last for a long period of time….
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! (Job 19:23-24)
It is not presented in a muddled, confused, or uncertain way. By presenting the Word in this way, it sticks with the hearers and they remember and apply it. If it is presented in a confused, muddled way, due to a lack of understanding it is soon forgotten by the congregation.
23) And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into [his] lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and [out of] the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)
Finally, in Acts 28:23 we find the example of Paul’s preaching to the “chief of the Jews”, who were the principle religious or political (or both) leaders of the Jews in Rome. We are told that Paul….
1. “expounded” – Paul exposed (clearly presented) the teachings of the kingdom to them. He revealed the teachings to them.
2. “testified” – He defended and personally witnessed of these truths. He reinforced and strengthened these truths against their questions and attacks.
3. “persuaded” – Through his teaching and defense of the truth he pacified their opposition and convinced them of these things.
How could he adequately teach and defend these truths against their attacks, eventually persuading them of these things? He persuaded them by using the Word, and having a thorough commitment, possessing a undoubting belief, and an understanding of the things that he was proclaiming.
May all of us, who are burdened by God to present His Word, take heed to fulfill His desires. Let us all seek to possess pure motives and exercise Biblical principles as we share His Word with others. This is the desire of my heart and the intent of every aspect of Settled In Heaven Ministries.
I am the first to admit that in my personal ministries, as well as in the SIH ministry, I fail in perfectly keeping and applying the principles we have looked at in this study. However, I can say with a pure heart that these principles are the main goals of my ministry and I seek to fulfill these things each and every time I share the Word with others. By God’s grace, and His grace alone, may the Lord enable me to continue to seek to fulfill these truths and mercifully grant me success in applying these truths in the year ahead..
I would like to close this posting with a thought that was presented to me by my Theology professor at Lexington Baptist College, Bro Jim Jeffries.
He said that…
“The only genuine proof of the thorough understanding of a Bible truth is the ability to teach that truth on a level that can be understood by all. The vocabulary that is used, and the difficulty of the subject that is taught are meaningless indicators of the knowledge and the ability of the speaker.”
I have never forgotten these statements and, over the years, I have seen the truthfulness of these statements proven time after time. May the Lord grant to each one of His messengers the grace to learn, understand and clearly present His Truths so that we all can grow in grace and knowledge.
ANNOUNCING TWO NEW SIH SATURDAY MINISTRIES:
Next Saturday, we will begin a new HALTAL (Here A Little There A Little) and a new TOTT (Think On These Things) series…
1. The new HALTAL series is entitled “Saturday Scripture”…. These postings will be giving us a verse to consider and pointing us back to past SIH postings that further explain the principle found in this verse. These past postings were made in the SIH infancy (first six months to one year), when there were very few followers and have received very few hits. Hopefully, for most of you they will be new material that you have not read.
2. The new TOTT series is an answer to three requests I have received over the past year. “Making It Plain” … will be a series of postings that will be giving simple definitions to theological terms that we may run across in our outside studies. Most of these terms will not be found in the Bible, but are used in Biblical reference works. I trust many of us will find this series helpful as we seek to study what other Godly men have written about the Word.
My prayer is that the Lord might continue to use SIH ministries for His honor and glory as we seek to share the Word in an understandable way with those who possess a desire to hear.
May the Lord bless you as you seek His truth.