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Daniel 9:20-23; Prayer Interrupted

08/21_Daniel 09:20-23; Prayer Interrupted; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220821_dan09_20-23.mp3

A Pattern of Prayer

We’ve been listening in to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel chapter 9, learning how he prays.

Daniel 9 is a Jewish prayer from an exile in Babylon asking for the restoration of Jerusalem and God’s holy temple. We are not under the same circumstances, so we can’t pray this prayer directly, but there is much we can pattern our prayers after. Prayer ought to be born out of meditation on God’s word. Our prayers ought to be pursuing God himself, intimacy with him, not just gifts from him. Prayer ought to be directed toward the God who is, as he has revealed himself to be, not God as we imagine him to be. Our posture in prayer ought to be one of humility, acknowledging that we don’t deserve anything from God, but that he is a gracious God and delights to give good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. Daniel spends the bulk of his time confessing his sins and the sins of his nation, and affirming the righteous character of God. Yet he comes boldly, imploring God to act. We can learn to enlarge our prayers by rooting them in a pursuit of the fame of God’s name throughout the nations. When we ask that God do something for the sake of his own name, his reputation, his glory, we can be confident that we are praying according to the will of God.

Prayer Interrupted

In verses 1-3, Daniel gives the background setting of his prayer, and he starts praying in the middle of verse 4 through the end of verse 19. In verses 20-23, his prayer gets interrupted by an angelic messenger sent to give him insight and understanding.

Daniel 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

Speaking in Prayer

Daniel says that it was while he was speaking and praying, while he was speaking in prayer. Do you ever struggle with losing your train of thought in prayer? Your mind wanders, you even forget altogether that you had set out to pray, and you find yourself thinking about something completely different? A simple tool that will help to maintain focus is simply to pray out loud. Or even silently mouth the words if the situation is not one where you can pray out loud. It seems that Daniel prayed aloud. How else could his adversaries prove he was praying, and to whom he was praying, if he was silently praying in his heart to the Lord? Of course the Lord knows our thoughts and can hear the cry of our hearts, but it can be helpful to us to actually verbalize our prayers. It can help immensely to keep our minds from wandering.

We also learn that Daniel wrote out his prayers. At least someone recorded this prayer because we now have it written down in our Bibles. Writing out your prayers can be another way to keep your focus and sort out your thoughts. It can also be a check on what you are asking for in prayer. Some things that I might think in my head I would think twice about if I said them out loud or wrote them down on paper.

The Angelic Interruption:

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

He Answers Before We Ask

Daniel’s prayer gets interrupted. It was while Daniel was speaking in prayer that Gabriel, the angel from the vision in chapter 8 came and interrupted his prayer. The word translated ‘came to me’ in verse 21 could also be translated ‘touched me’ as it is in similar contexts in 8:18 and in chapter 10:10 and 18. Gabriel may have actually had to touch Daniel to get his attention, like the angel struck Peter in the prison cell in Acts 12.

We saw in our study of Daniel 6 that at least two of Daniel’s praying three times a day with his windows open toward Jerusalem probably corresponded with the times of the morning and evening sacrifices that would have been offered to God if the temple would have been functioning. Here we are told that Gabriel came in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

Daniel’s request was that God would turn away his wrath and anger from his city Jerusalem, and that God would make his face shine on his sanctuary. Gabriel was sent to give Daniel insight and understanding, and he was sent out ‘at the beginning of your pleas for mercy’.

We normally think of God responding to our prayers as in ordinary communication, where we ask something of someone, and we give them time to hear the request, think it through, and then respond. But here we see God responding to the request at the beginning of the prayer. Daniel doesn’t even get to his request until verse 16.

Daniel prepared himself for this prayer with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. This could mean that at the beginning of the day or whenever it was that Daniel began his preparation to pray, the angelic messenger was sent. Daniel doesn’t even get to finish his prayer before he gets interrupted.

This should be a great encouragement to us to pray. God’s answer was not contingent on the length or eloquence or passion or power of his prayer. The outcome was not affected by his following through with his intention to fast and pray. God sovereignly answered at the beginning of his prayer, not at the end of it. Isaiah 65:24 says:

Isaiah 65:24 ​Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.

God is sovereign. He does not need us to pray. He isn’t waiting, wondering what we are thinking, waiting for us to communicate what we need. Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

The Lord knows what we are going to say even before we do! He is not waiting in ignorance, wondering what we need. He is expectantly waiting, having everything we need ready to bless us even better than we know how to ask, just waiting for us to come to him to receive. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Invited to Ask

God already knows what we need before we ask, but he invites us to ask. He delights to answer when we seek him, when we ask him.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus said in John 16

John 16:23 …Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

God often works in response to our prayers. James says ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (4:2). But God is not dependent on our prayers, as if his hands were tied until we pray. God is entirely free to do what he wants when he wants. It is for our benefit that he waits to do some things until we ask. We need to know our dependence on him, we need to see his working in answer to our prayers. We need to know that it is him and not just chance or coincidence.

Greatly Loved

Gabriel addresses Daniel as one who is greatly loved. In the whole Bible, only Daniel is called this, and he is addressed this way three times (9:23; 10:11, 19). We might think ‘well, of course; he refused to defile himself with the king’s food, no fault could be found in him even by his enemies, he would rather end up fed to the lions than to give up his time in prayer. Of course he was greatly loved; he was worthy.’ But that is not how love works. Real love is not a response to performance; the one who loves takes the initiative. The one who loves chooses an object of his affection to set his love upon. To be beloved is not a title earned, but a foundational identity. Jesus was the beloved Son of the Father. That was his intrinsic identity, not a title he earned by performance. In his parable in Luke 20, the Son is beloved before he is sent. In John 17 Jesus affirms that the Father loved him before the foundation of the world. Jesus’ obedience was rooted in his being beloved by the Father and in his love for the Father; his obedience was not the reason the Father loved him. Jesus was not loved because he obeyed; he obeyed because he was already loved.

Here’s the amazing thing; Jesus is the beloved Son. But he includes us in that love. It says in John 13:

John 13:1 …when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem, where he would lay down his life for his sheep. He is resolutely marching toward the cross, where he will give his life to rescue hiss own.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

He doesn’t say ‘here is how to earn my love; if you love one another, then I will love you’. No, he says ‘I have loved you. Therefore, love one another.’ Your love for others flows out of my love for you. Love for others flows out of yor identity as beloved.

First John says this:

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins….19 We love because he first loved us.

How much? Daniel was told he was greatly loved. Just how much are we loved? Jesus said:

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

I don’t think it’s even possible to imagine a greater love than the love the Father has for his only Son. Just soak that in for a moment. You are loved as much as the Father loves Jesus.

In Romans we are addressed as those who are ‘loved by God and called to be saints’ (1:7). In Romans 5:

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And in Romans 8, speaking of the unquenchable love of God toward us:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

You are loved that much. You are greatly loved by God.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

August 23, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 9:3; The Pursuit of Prayer

06/26_Daniel 09:3; Pursuit of Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220626_dan09_3.mp3

Daniel a Man of Prayer

Daniel was a man of prayer. He was a man who knew his God. His prayers shaped his character. He feared his God more than he feared kings or lions. In fact, when he knew he would be thrown to the lions, he still was able to find things to be thankful for. He prayed three times a day, not because he had to, but because he had to.

Daniel can teach us much about prayer. In chapter 2 we see Daniel encouraging his friends to join him in prayer, seeking mercy from the God of heaven (2:18), and in chapter 6, we see him devoted to prayer, praying three times a day so faithfully and consistently that his enemies could set their clocks by it. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually hear him pray? It is one thing to have someone tell you how important it is to pray; it is another thing altogether to listen to them pray. In Daniel chapter 9, we get in on Daniel’ private prayer life. We get to hear him pray. We get a taste of his emotion, his intensity, his passion, his very heart. We get a glimpse of his theology in action; not just what he said he believed, but his worldview, the truths that shaped how he thought and walked and talked and responded. We sense his tenderness, his sensitivity, his vulnerability. His dependency, his neediness, his desperation, his longings.

I want to learn how to pray from Daniel. So I’d like to camp out here in Daniel 9 for a bit, to soak in whatever we can, and as we listen in, to be shaped in our thinking and feeling, to grow in our intimacy with the Father.

I would encourage you as we work through this prayer together over the coming weeks, to take it home and use it as a template for your prayers. There are of course some things that are specific to Daniel’s time and circumstances, but our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Why Pray?

Today I want to look at the purpose of prayer, or the pursuit of prayer. What are we after in prayer? What do we desire? Why do we pray? Or, to turn the question around, why don’t we pray? Why am I so often prayerless? I think that often I don’t pray because I misunderstand or forget what prayer is pursuing.

Needs

I pray when I have a need. I pray when the problem is bigger than me and I can’t fix the situation. I pray because God is able, and God is good, and he invites us to ask him for help in time of need. Those things are all true, and that is a motive for prayer, but if that is my main pursuit in prayer, then when I’m not aware of any need bigger than me, I won’t pray.

Circumstances do drive us to pray. Daniel’s circumstances drove him to pray. He was an Israelite in captivity in a foreign land. His people were displaced from their homeland. His city and the temple of his God lay in ruins. He was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah, that God had decreed 70 years of desolations for Jerusalem, and Daniel became aware of the fact that those 70 years would soon draw to a close.

But we also know from chapter 6 that Daniel was in a habit of prayer. ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’ (6:10). No doubt Daniel had bad days, when all seemed to be against him, when he was acutely aware of his need, when he felt he might be thrown to the lions, so to speak. But Daniel also had good days, when he sensed the smile of God, he was being who he was created to be, when all seemed right with the world, and even on those good days, ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’. What was Daniel pursuing in prayer, that caused such consistency in prayer?

Lists

Maybe you’re more disciplined than I am, and you keep a list of people and things to pray for. Family, friends, finances, missionaries, the lost, our country, our leaders, our church. Again, these are all good things to pray for, and lists can be helpful. Lists can also be things just to check off, making us feel like we have done our duty; we have passed on our list and reminded God of what he needs to do today. Is this the primary pursuit of prayer?

Meals and Mountains

What about meals? Do you all pray before you eat? I was raised to think that if you ate unblessed unsanctified food, you’d end up with a stomach ache or worse. Meals are a good three times a day reminder to be thankful for all the good things God gives us. And there are spontaneous times of thankfulness too, when I’m hiking in the mountains and see a spectacular view, my heart just overflows with thankfulness to the one who spoke it all into existence. When we receive good things from God we ought to thank him. But again, is that the primary pursuit of prayer?

Solomon’s Prayer

When King Solomon built the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem, he acknowledged in his prayer of dedication in 2 Chronicles 6

2 Chronicles 6:18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

Solomon was the wisest man on earth. He understood that God can’t be contained by a building. He also understood our wayward hearts, and he anticipated that God’s people would not remain faithful to their God. So in verse 36 he prayed:

2 Chronicles 6:36 “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, 37 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 38 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you

In 2 Chronicles 7 YHWH answered his prayer:

2 Chronicles 7:12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

But the Lord goes on to warn:

2 Chronicles 7:19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

God warns against unfaithfulness to him. He warns us not to abandon YHWH our God. He warns us not to lay hold on other gods and worship and serve them. Our God is a jealous God. Do not turn aside from his commandments, the first of which is ‘I am YHWH your God …you shall have no other Gods before me’ (Ex.20:2-3). God’s invitation is ‘if my people …humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land’. In humility turn from other gods to seek my face.

Give Him Your Face

Look with me at Daniel’s pursuit in his prayer.

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying…

Daniel turned his face to the Lord God. Other translations read ‘I set my face unto’ [(KJV) or ‘I gave my attention to’ (NASB). Daniel gave God his face, his undivided attention. He wasn’t looking at his phone, messaging Azariah, scrolling his social media feed. He didn’t have one earbud in. He set all his notifications to ‘do not disturb’ He gave God his face.

We live distracted lives. How often do we ever give anyone our undistracted undivided attention for any period of time? I was taught that it was rude to interrupt another person who was talking, or to barge into a conversation uninvited. But we allow the buzzing in our pocket to interrupt the person in the room. What we are saying is that the notification I received is more important and more urgent and I will allow it to interrupt my conversation with you. There may be times when that is true. But is there anyone more important than the Lord God? Our God is a jealous God. He wants our undivided undistracted attention. Myriad other gods are competing for our attention. He wants our face.

Seeking Him

Daniel says ‘I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him. Daniel wasn’t seeking his gifts, what God could do for him. He wasn’t seeking answers, seeking wisdom, seeking guidance. He was seeking God. He does have requests, but his primary pursuit is not the gift but the Giver. He wants God. Period. He is pursuing the face of God.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. …8 You have said, “Seek my face. ”My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Put down your lists, set aside your needs, and seek him for him. That is the primary pursuit of prayer.

Moses desired to see the face of God.

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Moses desired to see the face of God, and he was denied.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

In Jesus, because of the gospel, we now have the awesome privilege of being in the presence of almighty God, of seeing the face of God.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … 16 and [he] reconcile[d] us …to God in one body through the cross… 18 For through him we …have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Here’s my challenge to you; set aside time this week, maybe just 10 or 15 minutes, eliminate as many distractions as possible, and give God your face. Seek him for him.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 2, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

01/03 Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210103_jesus-while-we-wait.mp3

We have been looking this Advent season at what Jesus said about his coming, and about his coming again. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to seek and to save us, those who were lost, gone astray, sick, sinners. He came to fix and restore and heal what is broken. Being fully and eternally God, equal with his Father, he came. He stooped down. He humbled himself. He became human. He became one of us to die for our sins, to bear our shame, and to give us new life. He came to rescue us, to set us free.

And he is coming back. He will return for us, as the groom for his bride, to take us to be with him forever. He went to prepare a place for us. His prayer to his Father for us was that we would be with him.

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

How To Wait

Jesus is coming back for us! We await his return. But how should we wait? What ought we do as we wait?

Last time we saw from Matthew 24 and 25 that we are to be on guard so as not to be led astray (Mt.24:4). We are not to be alarmed, even though the world seems to be falling apart (Mt.24:6). Even if we are persecuted, hated, put to death, we are to persevere, to remain faithful to Jesus, to endure to the end (Mt.24:13). We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere (Mt.24:14). We are to to stay awake, to be ready, to be faithful with what Jesus has entrusted us with and to discharge our task (Mt.24:42, 44-46; 25:10, 21). We are to show our love for the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters, caring practically for their needs (Mt.25:31-40).

This is a tall order. Be on guard, be watchful, stay awake, be ready. Proclaim the good news to everyone everywhere. Be faithful to use the gifts he has given you and do what he has called you to do. Through love serve one another. Be faithful, endure even to death. How? How can I do all that? I don’t think I’m alert enough, smart enough, strong enough, determined enough. I don’t know, if it comes to it, if I would be willing to lay down my life for him. Is this even possible, what he expects of us?

John 14; Jesus is the Way

We started in John 14, where Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us to be with him, and promised that he would come again to take us to be with him forever. Let’s go back to John 14 for help.

At the end of John 13 is where Peter brashly says that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he’s going to fail, he’s going to deny him three times before morning.

And then Jesus says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. You’re going to fail, but don’t let that agitate your heart. Instead believe, trust, depend, rely on God, rely also on me. You can’t do this. You don’t have the strength. You must depend on God, lean in to God, allow God to work these things in you.

Jesus desires us to be with him. He goes to prepare a place for us. And he is coming back to take us to himself. And we know the way.

Thomas was confused at this point. Not knowing where Jesus is going, how could he possibly know the way? Jesus responds:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the goal, and Jesus is the way. Our end goal is to be with Jesus, and we get there only through Jesus. We must believe in Jesus, trust him, rely on him, depend on him, let him carry us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Jesus is our life. We live this life by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We live and walk in utter dependence on him. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in me.

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This time it is Philip who doesn’t understand. He wants to see the Father.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus is to be trusted in as well as the Father, because Jesus is inextricably related to his Father. He is one with his Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He shares the same nature, the same essence or being as his Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. At the beginning of his gospel, John said:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus made his Father known. Jesus made his Father knowable. Jesus is the only way to his Father. Through Jesus, we can enter into relationship with God. As Jesus prayed in John 17,

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing God. Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and the Son. We were made for intimacy with God, but ‘our sins made a separation between us and God’ (Is.59:2). Jesus came to take away our sins and reconcile us to God (Rom.5:10).

One day when we see him, ‘we will know him fully, we will see face to face. Now we see dimly. Now we know in part’ (1Cor.13:12). But we do now see, albeit dimly. We do now know, albeit in part. We get a glimpse, a taste now of the eternal reality we are meant to enjoy.

Abide and Bear Fruit

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of branches on a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. Jesus is the vine, we branches. We are meant to bear fruit.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide. Jesus says ‘Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Nothing. No fruit apart from abiding in Jesus. We must abide; remain in Jesus, stay connected to Jesus, draw life and strength and sustenance from Jesus. If we disconnect from Jesus, we wither. Abide in Jesus and Jesus promises to abide in you, and you will bear much fruit. Abide.

Abide in his love. He loves you. If you ever doubt that, just look to the cross, where he demonstrated decisively his love for you. What does it mean to abide in his love? The waterfall of his love is ever overflowing, pouring down, never ceasing. Many people work hard to put up an umbrella, to build themselves a shelter to block the flow of his love. Many step out of the flow and walk away from his love. Abide. Remain under the waterfall of his love, immerse yourself in his love for you.

The Word

How do we abide in his love? He tells us in verse 10.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

We abide by obedience. We do what he says. We keep his commandments. We listen to him. We listen. And our listening is rooted in relationship. We want to hear him. We want to know what he wants because we want to do what pleases him.

This is not earning by obedience. Notice his love comes first. ‘I have loved you.’ Now abide in my love. The love is already there. The love is not produced by the obedience; rather obedience is produced by his love.

Jesus draws the comparison with the Father’s love for his only Son. Jesus didn’t earn the Father’s love; he was already eternally loved. He obeyed his Father because he was loved. Obedience is a by-product of being loved. Because we are loved, we want to do what pleases him, so we listen to his words. This is abiding in loving relationship.

Jesus said back in verse 3:

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We have been washed clean by his word. So we abide in him, and he in us. He says in verse 7:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We abide in him and his words abide in us. We want to know what he says, so we listen. We cling to his words. We rehearse, we re-read, we memorize. We let his words abide in us.

We tend to be unjustly jealous. The grass is always greener. We say that we only have his word written. We wish we had been there to hear him speak audibly, to hear his voice. Rather we should be amazed and grateful that we have his completed word written. So many believers throughout history have only had bits, pieces, sayings. Many lived while it was being given, before it was written. Many had limited access to only parts of it. We have his word quite literally from beginning to end. Those who heard it audibly would have to trust their memory; we can go back to the very words over and over again to check and listen and read and study. We are truly blessed!

Full Joy

Look at verse 11. Do you see the connection between his word and our joy?

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He spoke, he gave us his words to fill up our joy. His commands are not burdensome. Quite the reverse, through them he gives us rest for our souls (Mt.11:28-30). He came to give us life abundantly (Jn.10:10). Jesus is eager for us to find true joy, lasting joy in him.

Love One Another

His command?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Pass his love along. Love others with his love. Abide in his love for you, and then love one another.

Friends

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Friends. Jesus calls us his friends. Intimacy. Relationship.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus invites us in to his confidence. He invites us in as friends. Because he has given us his word, the word of his Father.

Ask and Receive

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You are meant to bear fruit, so ask. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus he would cause you to bear much fruit for his glory. Back in verse 7 he said:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And in chapter 14:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And again in John 16, he says:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus is eager that we talk to him, that we pray, that we ask. He wants to fill up our joy as we bear fruit for him in answer to our prayers.

The Spirit in You

There is one other thread that runs through this passage that we must pay attention to. Back in 14:16, he said:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus will ask his Father to give us his Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit will be in us. Not only are we to abide in Jesus and he will abide in us, and his word will abide in us, but also his Spirit will abide in us. In 14:26 he says:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. He will point us back to the word.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit delivers the word of God. The Spirit seeks the glory of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit living in us to open his word to us and enable us to obey. We need the Spirit to empower us to bear much fruit to the glory of God.

Conclusion

Jesus is coming back for us. We are to be ready, anticipating his return. How are we to wait? Let not your hearts be troubled, but rather trust in him. He is coming back to take us to himself, to be with him. Relationship is the goal. If we abide in him, draw strength and sustenance from him, from his love, we will bear much fruit for his glory. We abide in him by his word abiding in us. We ask him to glorify himself through us. We depend on the presence and power of his Holy Spirit living inside. Abide and pray. Trust, depend on his Spirit. Press in to know him better!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Abide and Pray (John 14-15)

05/03 Obey Jesus: Abide and Pray; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200503_abide-and-pray.mp3

Obey Jesus’ Commands

Jesus said to his disciples:

Matthew 28:18 …“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Make disciples, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. We are to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commands. What did Jesus command? That’s what we are looking at. We’ve looked at Jesus command to come to him and believe in him, to find him and meet with him in the Scriptures. Today I want to look at Jesus’ command to abide and pray.

The Upper Room Discourse; John 14-16

John records some amazing teaching that Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room before he was betrayed.

Our Only Access to the Father is Through Jesus

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was leaving them and going to his Father to prepare a place for them.

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

When his disciples expressed confusion about where he was going and how to get there,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anyone who wants access to the Father must come through Jesus. Jesus wants us to be with him and with his Father throughout eternity, to enjoy his glory with his Father. But we must come through the way Jesus opened to us by his blood.

Greater Works Than These

I remember reading this section of John’s gospel for the very first time. I was downtown Minneapolis on a weekend retreat with my High School campus ministry. And what I read blew me away.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus prefaces his statement with ‘truly, truly.’ He wants us to take note, to pay attention to what he is about to say, and he wants us to be doubly confident that what he says is true. ‘Whoever believes in me;’ whoever believes in Jesus, that included me! Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that he does. What did Jesus do? He fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead! Is Jesus saying that I will do all that?

But he doesn’t stop there, as if that is not enough. He said ‘greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Greater works than these? What could possibly be greater than all that Jesus did? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to show someone. Jason, have you ever read this? Look at this! Look at what Jesus promises us!

Ask Jesus Anything

Look at the next verses:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Ask me anything. Jesus invites us to ask him anything in his name, and he will do it, to the glory of his Father. This tells us that we can pray to Jesus, we can ask Jesus directly for anything, and he will do it, if we ask in his name.

What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? The typical Christian prayer ends ‘in Jesus’ name, amen.’ Is this a special formula that guarantees to get our prayers answered? Why do Christians pray like that?

In My Name

If we look in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 18 God says:

Deuteronomy 18:19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

God takes what is said in his name seriously. If anyone presumes to speak in his name something God did not speak, the penalty was death. I am not to use God’s name to give weight to what I want to say, when it is merely my words; when God hasn’t said it.

A person’s name is tied to their reputation. The Lord’s name is holy, set apart, but his people have dragged his reputation through the mud by bearing his name while acting inconsistently with who he is. In Ezekiel 36, God acts to defend the honor of his own name.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

God’s name, God’s own reputation is at stake, and he acts to vindicate the holiness of his own great name.

Think of it this way. A steward in biblical times was a trusted servant to whom his master would delegate certain responsibilities in his absence. He had access to his master’s resources, he could make decisions, buy and sell in the name of his master. We might say he was given the ability to sign checks in his master’s name. But he was a servant, doing his master’s business, and he was expected to have his master’s best interest in mind. He was free to make decisions and sign his master’s name, but he would be held accountable for those decisions upon his master’s return. Jesus told a story about a steward in Luke 16 who had wasted his master’s resources and was being called to account.

We could say that Jesus has entrusted to us the ability to sign checks in his name. To ask in Jesus’ name is to sign his name to the request, to represent him. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask consistent with who Jesus is, is to ask for something that he would ask his Father to do.

James 4:2 …You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Abide in Me and bear Fruit

Jesus says in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Abide in me. Abide. Remain connected, like a branch of the grapevine is connected to the vine. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit to the glory of God. But he knows that to be fruitful, a branch must be connected to the vine. It must continually draw sustenance from the vine, to get nourishment from the vine. A disconnected branch will quickly wither and dry up. A dead disconnected branch doesn’t produce fruit. Rather, it’s only good as fuel for the fire. The only way we remain fruitful is to remain in Jesus, to stay connected to Jesus, to constantly be listening to him, communing with him. We are to draw strength and sustenance from him, to be with him, and enjoy him being in us. Disconnected from Jesus, we can do nothing, nothing good, nothing of eternal value. We are fruitless apart from Jesus. But if we remain plugged in to Jesus, if his words, his truth, his teaching is nourishing us, we can ask whatever we wish and we will bear much fruit that glorifies the Father and shows that we are Jesus’ followers indeed.

Abiding is the prerequisite for asking. If we are abiding in Jesus as a branch in the vine, we can ask whatever we wish, because our wishes begin to flow out of Jesus’ own heart. Our wishes will align with Jesus’ own words. Our wishes will be to bear fruit for God, to glorify the Father. Our wishes will truly begin to express the name and nature of Jesus.

Jesus commands that we abide in him, that we stay connected and talk with him.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

He commands that we ask the Father that we may be fruitful in his name.

Jesus Modeled Prayer

Jesus modeled prayer for us. He made prayer a priority in his own ministry. He found solitary places to pray alone (Lk.5:16); He prayed early in the morning (Mk.1:35); he prayed late into the evening (Mt.14:23; Mk.6:46); on one occasion he prayed all night long (Lk.6:12); he invited his close friends to pray with him (Lk.9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:40-41). Jesus took time to pray for the seemingly insignificant (Mt.19:13). John 17 records Jesus’ own lengthy prayer to his Father. Jesus was honest and even emotional in his praying (Lk.22:44), but he always submitted his own will to the will of his Father in prayer (Mt.26:39,42,44). Jesus not only commands us to pray, but shows us by his own example how essential prayer is.

One of the things that infuriated Jesus most, that stirred him to zeal for this Father’s house, was the clutter and commotion that deterred people from prayer. (Mt.21:12-13; Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46)

Jesus Taught How and What to Pray

Jesus taught his followers “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk.18:1). He taught that humility and not self-righteous pride was the appropriate way to approach his Father (Lk.18:10-13).

He taught us to pray for deliverance (Mk.9:29), for strength and faithfulness (Lk.21:36), for protection from temptation (Lk.22:40). He taught us to pray for God to send more laborers into the evangelistic harvest (Mt.9:38; Lk.10:2). He even taught us to pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28).

He taught us not to pray in order to impress others, but rather to pray privately and sincerely (Mt.6:5-6). He taught us not to make long prayers or pile up empty words to impress God or man (Mt.6:7, Mk.12:40).

He taught us to pray with persistence, with bold confidence, assured that our Father loves to give good gifts to his children.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to all who ask him. Jesus encourages us, actually he commands us to ask, to ask in prayer.

Jesus’ Model Prayer

When Jesus’ followers asked him ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Lk.11:1)

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus invites his disciples to address God as Father, because through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family as his children.

Notice that this prayer is in the plural voice. It begins with ‘our Father’ and it continues with ‘give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us’. We are to pray in secret, privately to our Father, but there is an essential communal aspect to prayer. Even when we pray individually, we acknowledge that we are part of a blood-bough community of believers. We are not independent, we are interdependent. We are connected to each other.

Jesus teaches us that our praying must be God centered. We ought to start by acknowledging that God is above us, over us, sovereign and superior. He is enthroned in heaven. We ought to be pursuing his glory in prayer. Remember, in John 15, Jesus commands us to abide in him so that we will be fruitful, ultimately so that God will be glorified. We are to pray that God’s name be treated with honor and awe.

We are to pray that his kingdom and will might be fully realized. He is sovereign over all creation, but much of his creation has rebelled against him. We are to pray that all creation is brought back under his supreme authority. As God is obeyed by his heavenly armies, so we are to ask that we too would obey him immediately, enthusiastically, completely. We are really asking here for him to change our hearts, our desires, what we value most.

We are to ask him for daily bread. Father, give us what we need for today. We don’t always know accurately what it is that we need or what is best for us. So in this is implicit trust in his superior wisdom. Lord, give us what we need for today.

And if you remember what Jesus taught in John 6, after he had fed thousands with a few loaves,

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… 32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” …35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Father, give us Jesus. Give us Jesus for today. Sustain us in Jesus today.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life. …51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We are to abide in Jesus. We are to feed daily on him, to draw daily nourishment from our connection with him.

As we daily ask for nourishment, we are to daily ask forgiveness, daily acknowledging that we continue to fall short. We need the gospel applied daily. We need his mercies that are new every morning. In our daily connection with him, we need daily grace, daily cleansing.

And we are to remind ourselves that as we have been freely forgiven, we ought to freely forgive. We have sinned and been freely forgiven. We have been sinned against, and as followers of Jesus, we must freely forgive.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We acknowledge that God leads us wherever he deems best for us, and as his followers, we must follow. But we ask that he spare us from temptation, and when we are tempted, we ask that he rescue us from evil. We need his strength to stand firm. Without his daily deliverance, we will turn each of us to our own way. We will go astray and fall into evil. Apart from him we can do nothing.

Bear Much Fruit

Jesus commands that we come to him in prayer, that we abide moment by moment in him, so that we will bear much fruit to the glory of his Father. He commands us to ask the Father because he loves to give good gifts to his children. We only have access to the Father through the finished work of Jesus, who died in our place to bring us to God (1Pet.3:18).

And Jesus said:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead!

When Jesus fed thousands, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to give to others. Jesus has given us himself, the true bread from heaven, and he intends that we pass him on to others.

Greater works than these will we do, because Jesus finished his work and sat down at the right hand of his Father, and he is now at work through us as he abides in us.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We have this ministry by the mercy of God. By the open statement of the truth …we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and God shines in blind hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor.4:1-6). ‘God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; …we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us’ (2Cor.5:18,20).

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Greater works than these will he do.’

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing….7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 4, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer for Multiplied Thanksgiving

10/29 2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer and Multiplied Thanksgiving; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171029_2cor1_11.mp3

Today we look at the subject of prayer. In 2 Corinthians Paul offers no thanksgiving for the Corinthian church; but invites the Corinthians to bless God with him for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for the deliverance of their apostle.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

To make this passage read more smoothly in English, the translators have broken it up into shorter sentences, but in the original verse 11 is not an independent sentence. It continues the thought of the previous. It begins with a participle; some translations render it ‘as’ [NET] or ‘while you (also) join in helping…’ [LEB, HCSB].

Working Together With God

This is an amazing statement. Paul has just said that the affliction that so utterly burdened them beyond their ability to cope and caused them to despair even of life was so that they would rely not on themselves but on God who raises the dead. This resurrecting God delivered them from a deadly peril, and he will deliver. They have set their hope on God alone that he will deliver. No dependence on self. All dependence completely, exclusively on God alone, and you also. Even you, working together (with God) on our behalf by prayer. What in the world is Paul saying? God alone is their hope. God alone rescues. And the Corinthian church works together with God to bring about this rescue?! This is staggering. This seems contradictory. God alone saves. God alone brings deliverance. And you work together with God to bring about this deliverance. God works alone, but he often works in answer to prayer.

This word translated ‘help’ is a big word. It is a compound word. The first prefix of this word means ‘with or together’. The second prefix means ‘under, beneath, or through’. The root of the word is ‘toil or work’. Working together under; laboring or toiling underneath with. When I look at this word, I get the picture of Moses in Exodus 17.

Exodus 17:8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Aaron and Hur labored underneath with Moses. In another sense, Moses labored underneath with Aaron in and all the fighting men. This story gives us an insight into prayer. Prayer is hard work. What is more exhausting, what is more draining, what is more difficult? Standing, holding a stick in the air; or wielding a sword in battle against an enemy all day? I think it is fair to say that Joshua or any one of his fighting men burned more calories that day than Moses, Aaron and Hur combined. But we don’t read of Joshua growing weary. We read of Moses growing weary. You see, prayer is hard work. It is wearying work. It requires help from others who come alongside. If you have ever entered into the serious work of prayer, you understand. Think about it. How many of you have fallen asleep while doing manual physical labor? How many have fallen asleep while attempting to pray? Prayer is labor.

C.H. Spurgeon writes about this passage “I find that in the original, the word for, “helping together,” implies very earnest WORK. Some people’s prayers have no work in them, but the only prayer which prevails with God is a real workingman’s prayer—where the petitioner, like a Samson, shakes the gates of mercy, and labors to pull them up rather than be denied an entrance! We do not want fingertip prayers, which only touch the burden— we need shoulder prayers—which bear a load of earnestness, and are not to be denied their desire. We do not want those dainty runaway knocks at the door of mercy, which professors give when they show off at prayer meetings, but we ask for the knocking of a man who means to have, and means to stop at mercy’s gate till it opens and all his needs shall be supplied! The energetic, vehement violence of the man who is not to be denied, but intends to carry heaven by storm until he wins his heart’s desire—this is the prayer which ministers covet of their people!” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

We see Jacob, in weakness, his hip dislocated, clinging to God.

Genesis 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jesus taught his followers

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus invites us to ‘keep bothering him’, to ‘beat him down by our continual coming’, to ‘cry out to him day and night.’

Jesus tells another parable in Luke 11

Luke 11:5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Jesus invites us to impudence, to persistence in prayer.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

An Example of Earnest Prayer

Paul tells the Corinthians that they also are laboring together under God on our behalf by prayer. God’s deliverance and future deliverance come to him by means of the prayer of the churches. We see this very thing happen in Acts 12.

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.

Peter is in trouble. James had already been beheaded. Peter was next.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Earnest prayer. Fervent prayer. Intent prayer. The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days. We don’t know how many of those days Peter was imprisoned. This might have been a seven day prayer meeting. The church had something serious to pray about.

Acts 12:6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.

God waited until the last possible moment.

Acts 12:11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

These believers were gathered together laboring together under God in prayer on behalf of Peter. God rescued Peter in response to their prayers. This resulted in great joy. The servant girl Rhoda was so overjoyed, she left Peter locked outside while she ran in to tell the others.

Prayer and Need

This is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

When whole churches labor together under God in prayer on our behalf, it results in many giving thanks on our behalf for the grace granted through many.

There is a request that goes out horizontally. Pray for us. This is not the only place that Paul asks for prayer. In Romans 15 Paul says:

Romans 15:30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

To the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

And to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

To the church at Philippi,

Philippians 1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

And to the church in Colossae:

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—

And to Philemon

Philemon 1:22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Paul was not ashamed to ask for prayer. He knew his own weakness and his need for help. This was the primary evidence of his own salvation. In Acts 9, when God humbled Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, when God sent Ananias to heal him, the main evidence of his transformation was ‘for behold, he is praying’ (Acts 9:11). Paul was praying; he began to acknowledge his dependence on God alone. He was no longer relying on himself.

Allow me to quote Spurgeon again: “Why God has been pleased to command us to pray at all it is not difficult to discover, for prayer glorifies God, by putting man in the most humble posture of worship! The creature in prayer acknowledges his Creator with reverence, and confesses Him to be the giver of every good and perfect gift; the eyes are lifted up to behold the glory of the Lord, while the knees are bent to the earth in the lowliness of acknowledged weakness. …prayer… is the most humble, and so the most fitting to set forth the glory of the perfect One as it is beheld by imperfect flesh and blood. …in their very essence, all truthful confessions of personal fault are but homage paid to the infinite perfections of the Lord of hosts. …Moreover, the act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is no small blessing to such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favors without compelling us to pray for them, we would never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, a request in forma pauperis, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. I believe that the most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty, and always depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and therefore the use of prayer, because while it adores God, it lays the creature where he should be—in the very dust. ” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

Multiplied Thanksgiving

To the proud Corinthian church, who were looking for a celebrity to follow, someone who had it all together, Paul holds up his weakness and need. Paul wants the Corinthians to know that it is not him who is strong, but Jesus. It is not him who is self-sufficient, but all sufficiency is in Jesus. He is not independent, but dependent, utterly, hopelessly, helplessly dependent on God alone. For righteousness, he depended on God alone. For rescue from present circumstances, his hope was in God alone. For future resurrection and eternal life, he depended on God alone. It is not his strength, his credentials, his capabilities he holds up, but his weakness. He is dependent on God, and he is dependent on their prayers for him.

Pray for me. The request goes out to many. Many prayers go up to God for him. The grace comes down to rescue him. The report goes out that God has delivered him. Now many faces are turned to God in thanksgiving for him.

Thanksgiving reverses the degeneration of sin described in Romans 1

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Paul invites the Corinthians to give evidence of their own transformation in thanksgiving to God. He invites them to partner with him in his dependence on God as they labor together for him in prayer so they can join him in blessing God as they see and experience the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we are able to comfort those who are in all affliction. Through his abundant affliction, Paul seeks to multiply prayer so that thanksgiving is multiplied, to the glory of God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment