The book of Habakkuk was written in response to Judah’s rebellion against God. The prophet has two complaints. The first complaint from the prophet’s perspective was God's seeming inaction against Judah for its injustice against its own people. God responded with a promise to send the Chaldeans with its mighty army to chastise Israel (Habakkuk 1:2–11). The second complaint issued by the prophet was similar to the first one. He complained that God should not send an ungodly nation to chastise His people (Habakkuk 1:2–17). In essence, the prophet is questioning God’s rule and plan of action. Israel’s punishment and the ones He will use to implement it are both unacceptable to the prophet, and he calls for God to answer him. As the prophet awaits the holy response to his complaint, he is answered by the Lord (v. 18).
In vv. 2–3, God replied by promising to give a vision to the people of His just rule. The vision that God will send will be so clear that either someone running by could read it clearly or be able to live the “abundant life” in light of the divine promises contained in the vision. Habakkuk, as the messenger commissioned by God, is to record the vision in order to carry and disperse it to the people. The vision is summed up in verse 4, “the just shall live by his faith” (KJV). God reveals to the prophet that faith and trust in His rule and plan will enable them to live the abundant life. This is divine assurance that although we may not fully comprehend God's message, trust in Him and His ways will always result in our eternal benefit.
Paul echoed Habakkuk’s words in Romans 1:17 and used them to develop the theme of His letter to the church at Rome. That is to say, faith in God is a requirement. It is a prerequisite to understanding our relationship with God and the salvation that He offers us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Hebrews 11:1–6 defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). The text also reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please Him. Jesus also accentuated the importance of faith. He told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1, KJV). The Apostle Paul adds in 2 Corinthians 5:7, "(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)" (KJV). His implication here is that through faith we receive a vision of God’s plan and purpose for our lives. We trust in that purpose and it orders our steps as we move forward in life. Habakkuk 2:2–4, coupled with these Scriptures and others from the New Testament, form the foundation of our 2020 VBS theme, 2020 Vision: Seeing Clearly Through Christ. God has revealed Himself through Jesus and has promised that all who believe in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life (John 3:16).
Our 5 Tenets:
This VBS theme has five points of emphasis that lead to daily lesson topics and study sessions.
Topic: Learn to Trust God
Scriptures: Habakkuk 2:2–4; Matthew 11:28–30; 2 Timothy 2:15
Background Scripture: Romans 1:1–17
Key Verse: Habakkuk 2:2–4
Key Words: Write, Faith, Just, Live, Study, Learn
Emphasis: By faith we experience and witness God’s vision for us to learn and trust in His rule and plan (Habakkuk 2:4). Habakkuk was to record, carry, and declare the promised vision to God’s people. His purpose was to educate the people of God about God’s new vision and promise for them. It is evident from the complaints that Habakkuk outlined in our text that he misunderstood what God was doing. He questioned the injustices Judah practiced and forced upon its own people. Then he questioned God using a heathen nation that was guilty of practicing its own injustices to discipline Judah. The prophet was baffled and did not understand the way of God. God responded to the prophet’s frustration with a vision that would clear up any misunderstandings. “The just shall live by faith” was the focus of the vision that Habakkuk was to teach to the people. Despite all that was taking place around them, the people were directed to learn the way of God. This required faith and trust in God. In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus confirmed the validity of learning what it means to have faith in God’s rule and plan when He said, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burdens are light” (Matthew 11:28–30, KJV). Similarly, Paul affirmed the need for Christian education and learning about God when he directed his young understudy, Timothy, to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). Learning is an essential component of the Christian faith. God wants us to learn His word so that we might share our faith with others. The fact that the Bible is a book implies the need for it to be studied and for its principles to be incorporated into our daily living. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15, KJV). Studying the Word of God builds our faith, which enables us to see God’s purpose in Jesus more clearly. We are challenged to learn to trust God and to have faith in His sovereign will for our lives, even if we cannot initially perceive or understand it.
Topic: See the Light!
Scripture: Acts 9:1–22
Background Scriptures: Habakkuk 2:2–4; Acts 7:58–8:4
Key Verses: Acts 9:10, 15, 27
Key Words: Vision, Light, Gentiles, Ananias, Barnabas
Emphasis: Before Saul (later called Paul) became an apostle, he persecuted Christians and charged them with blasphemy. He had them persecuted and tried as criminals for their faith in Jesus. But one day while on the road to Damascus, Paul was blinded by a great light that shone from heaven. A voice spoke to him from heaven. It was the voice of the Lord Jesus that asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?" Jesus identified Himself with His church and responded to Saul’s inquest of who He was. “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:5, KJV). Saul responded by asking Him, "what would you have me to do?” "And the Lord said unto him, Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6, KJV). At the same time, the Lord directed (in a vision) a disciple named Ananias to go and mentor the former persecutor of Christians. Ananias was afraid because he knew of Saul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians, but at the Lord’s insistence he went anyway. Under Ananias’ tutelage, Saul learned the rudiments of the Christian faith and now saw clearly that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who had been prophesied to come according to the Hebrew Scriptures. From that point on, Saul went about the Mediterranean world preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of the Damascus Road experience, he had seen the light, and Ananias mentored him so that Saul, later known as Paul, could become the useful vessel (God had called him to be) to help the Gentiles envision and experience the salvation of Jesus Christ. One of our many responsibilities as Christians is to follow Ananias’ example of mentoring others so they can take their rightful place in the Christian ministry. It is not an accident that Barnabas continued to mentor Paul and helped him to develop his great ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 9:26–31). Paul, in turn, mentored the young Timothy and Titus, who continued to help others see more clearly through their faith in Jesus.
Topic: Practice Stewardship
Scriptures: Psalm 24:1–2; James 1:17
Background Scripture: Habakkuk 2:2–4
Key Verse: James 1:17
Key Words: Stewardship, Manage, Sharing, Liberate
Emphasis: The Christian faith operates from the perspective that God is the owner of everything. It is His plan of creation and salvation that provides to us abundant life. Psalm 24:1 reminds us that "the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (KJV). It reflects in miniature what is laid out in detail in the creation story and in John 1. It affirms God has placed human beings over His creation. We are His stewards, caretakers of what God has placed in our domain. That is to say, we are accountable to Him in everything. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” God is the owner of our time as well as our treasures. He is the basis and end of our joy. It is all His. James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." Sin has perverted our sense and understanding of stewardship and what it means to fulfill our God-given responsibilities to manage our collective and individual gifts appropriately and fairly. Romans 1:18–25 says that a big part of what’s wrong with the world is that instead of honoring God we worship and serve the creation. Although the prophet Habakkuk did not agree with the way God disciplined Israel, he knew Israel deserved being chastised by God for her willingness to hoard and abuse God’s gifts by oppressing her own people. This is the ultimate perversion of a gift. It is to take a gift that we are to be stewards over and make ourselves the owners of it instead, to use it for selfish purposes. Who gets slighted in this scenario? God and others. It’s His glory that is robbed when we make too much of ourselves, instead of reflecting His glory, love, and honor to the world. At this point, we emphasize the power of God through Jesus Christ as the One true resource that can help to overcome the sin problem and our failure to operate and live in partnership with God (Romans 7:14–25). Paul cried, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24–25, KJV). The Bible’s affirmation of the divine-human partnership as noted in the creation story and in Jesus’ point of emphasis in the Parable of the Talents converge to help us underscore the need for us to manage our gifts appropriately. God empowers us to live purposefully and to empower others to do so as well. Furthermore, the Gospel of Jesus Christ liberates us from the bondage of sin. It rescues us from squandering God’s good gifts by empowering us to fulfill our responsibility as stewards of His creation. We can see this happening in the life of one of His disciples, named Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector. In that day, tax collectors would levy additional fines and fees on the taxpayer to use for their own self-purpose. In Luke 5:27–32, we read that this tax collector was converted and followed Jesus. He made restitution for his robbery against God and his fellow persons and threw a party for Jesus and His friends. The one who was all about himself (greedy) became concerned about others (generous). That’s exactly what the Gospel does; it frees us from squandering God’s gifts by making us stewards of them. The Gospel simultaneously loosens our grip on this world by giving us eyes to see the world to come, the realization of the plan Habakkuk envisioned as coming to pass. The result is a Gospel stewardship that reflects grace and gratitude, the image of a loving God who desires to save those who trust in Him and His plan for human salvation. As Christians living in contemporary times we must display the image of God proudly and share with others what it means to have a relationship with Him.
Topic: Faith and Finances
Scripture: Matthew 25:14–28
Background Scripture: Habakkuk 2:2–4
Key Verse: Matthew 25:28
Key Words: Talents, Resources, Money, Integrity
Emphasis: Our faith must never be blind, nor should it ever lead us to develop a “pie in the sky” mentally. Our faith calls us to act responsibly. When Jesus came preaching, according to Mark 1:14–15, He declared “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe in the gospel” (KJV). The vision of the prophet Habakkuk has actualized in the person of Jesus Christ. The call to repent and believe was for His hearers to turn to God’s plan for their life’s purpose and to believe in God’s new eschatological vision for salvation. Their faith in the Kingdom of God must be allowed to transform every aspect of their lives, including their conduct and financial resources (Romans 12:1–2). The Bible insists on Christians maintaining a responsible faith and therefore representing their Lord with integrity in terms of their finances and obligations. I Timothy 5:8 demands that believers provide for their families. Romans 13:7–8 instructs them to stay out of debt and to pay their taxes and bills. But not only are believers to exercise their faith by fulfilling their financial obligations, they are also encouraged to make the most of their finances through saving, investing, and building affluence with others. For example, in Matthew 25:14–28, Jesus emphasized to His disciples the wise use of financial resources in the Parable of the Talents. The owner went away for an extended period of time, but before he left he gave oversight of his property to several workers. He gave them talents, and one talent was equivalent to roughly 6000 denarii, (a denarii was about one day’s wages). Many scholars believe a talent would be worth several hundred thousand dollars in today’s money. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another he gave one talent. Upon the master’s return, he inquired of each what had been done with the talent. Both servants who received the five and the two talents multiplied the money and were commended by the owner. But the one who received the single talent did nothing with the one talent he was given. He was rebuked by the master and had his talent taken away. Following Jesus requires the wise use of finances and other resources, so we honor God in the process. That is to say, Jesus promoted financial literacy as a part of our faith walk. We must pay our bills, taxes, and exercise integrity in meeting all of our financial obligations, but we are also encouraged to save, invest, and build affluence and wealth. These things are strongly encouraged by the Scriptures as long as one does not allow them to become idols of worship and take the place God should have in one’s life. The leaders of Habakkuk’s day were so obsessed with greed that they abused their own people and welcomed by default God’s judgment upon Judah. Which is to say, we must always develop and use our finances under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Topic: Heed the Call for Help
Scripture: Acts 16:9–10
Background Scriptures: Habakkuk 2:2–4, Luke 10:1–9; Matthew 25:31–46
Key Verse: Acts 16:9
Key Words: Help, Serve, Service
Emphasis: God has given to us His plan of salvation for a purpose, to save ourselves and to save others. The purpose of His divine response to Habakkuk was for the prophet to disseminate God’s new plan of action to His people. After confessing a call to the Christian ministry and being commissioned by the church at Jerusalem, Paul and Silas set out to share God’s salvation with the world. When they came to Troas, Paul received a vision. He saw a man of Macedonia saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9, KJV). His cry and plea for help did not fall on deaf ears. Immediately, Paul went to assist that community. Service to others is a hallmark of the Christian faith. In Matthew 25:31–46, commonly known as the Parable to the Nations, Jesus identified himself as the Judge who would separate the sheep from the goats and forbade the goats from entering the Kingdom. The goats represented those who did not feed Him when He was hungry, did not give Him drink when He was thirsty, nor took Him in as a stranger, nor clothed Him when He was naked, and visited Him not when He was incarcerated. His disciples inquired when they would have seen Him in such distress. Then came the reply in verse 45 (KJV), “when you did not do it to the least of these you did it not to me.” The Lord’s identification of Himself with the disenfranchised of the community speaks volumes in support of service to the community. In fact, His initial entrance into the human frame of reference to rescue us from sin and evil is a testimony of Jesus humbling Himself and investing in human capital. Both Jesus and Paul became examples of how we carry out our faith. We see clearly when our commitment to Jesus reveals itself by serving others and becomes a part of our worship and practice.
Note: All of the scriptures mentioned above are from the King James Version (KJV) Bible.