May 1, 2017
Zach Williams – Old Church Choir
May 1, 2017
A new command I give you: Love one another. John 13:34
My brother and I, less than a year apart in age, were quite “competitive” growing up (translation: we fought!). Dad understood. He had brothers. Mom? Not so much.
Our story could have fit in the book of Genesis, which might well be subtitled A Brief History of Sibling Rivalry. Cain and Abel (Gen. 4); Isaac and Ishmael (21:8–10); Joseph and everyone not named Benjamin (ch. 37). But for brother-to-brother animosity, it’s hard to beat Jacob and Esau.
Esau’s twin brother had cheated him twice, so he wanted to kill Jacob (27:41). Decades later Jacob and Esau would reconcile (ch. 33). But the rivalry continued on in their descendants, who became the nations of Edom and Israel. When the people of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Edom met them with threats and an army (Num. 20:14–21). Much later, as Jerusalem’s citizens fled invading forces, Edom slaughtered the refugees (Obad. 1:10–14).
Happily for us, the Bible contains not just the sad account of our brokenness but the story of God’s redemption as well. Jesus changed everything, telling His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another” (John 13:34). Then He showed us what that means by dying for us.
As my brother and I got older, we became close. That’s the thing with God. When we respond to the forgiveness He offers, His grace can transform our sibling rivalries into brotherly love.
Lord, we invite You to transform our relationships with Your healing love.
Sibling rivalry is natural. God’s love is supernatural.
Over twenty “one another” statements in the New Testament call us to focus on the needs of others. We are challenged to love, pray for, serve, comfort, and forgive one another.
This week, will you watch for ways to extend love and grace to others through His Spirit?
Anyone who studies God’s ways soon realizes they are quite different from man’s ways. Worldly wisdom tells us that extraordinary people and abundant resources are needed for great tasks, yet the Lord often chooses the small and insignificant to achieve His purposes on earth.
For example, Christ selected a rather ordinary group of men as disciples, yet after being filled with the Spirit, they turned the world upside down. During His ministry on earth, Jesus fed thousands with a child’s meager lunch, and He viewed the widow’s two small coins as a greater offering than all the larger amounts given (John 6:5-12; Luke 21:2-3).
To accomplish His tasks, God specializes in using people who aren’t naturally qualified. Moses was a verbally impaired 80-year-old shepherd who liberated a nation. After Gideon hid from the enemy, God made him a valiant warrior. David was the overlooked youngest son, yet he killed a giant with a small stone and became Israel’s king and a man after God’s own heart.
The Lord isn’t looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission. Being weak and ordinary doesn’t make you useless. Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life. God delights in using our dependence to display His glory.
Have you ever considered that your lack of ability, talent, or skill is the ideal setting for a great display of Christ’s power and glory? If you are willing to submit to His leading and venture into the scary yet rewarding territory of faith and obedience, He will do great things in and through you.
“I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3)
This is an open praise. David is “bragging” about God to anybody who will listen. The boast that his soul is making is broadcast so that everyone will know of his joy. The Hebrew word translated “boast” in this passage is halal, from which hallelujah is developed. Halal is most often used to convey the idea of excitement or delight.
Our boast is designed to magnify and exalt the Lord so that we can halal together. “Magnify” (Hebrew gadal) is an imperative verb that demands us to “make great” or elevate to “great importance” the memory of the Lord. “Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty” (Psalm 104:1). With similar emphasis, “exalt” (Hebrew ruwm) demands that we “raise up” the name of the Lord above everything else. “I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isaiah 25:1).
Our church environment often connects the idea of praise with musical episodes during our worship or moments of celebration (clapping, vocal response, etc.). Although these may contain elements of magnification or exaltation, they are not the focus of David’s request. The boasting that David is speaking of brings about body language that is unmistakable. “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; . . . as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). HMM III
Adapted from Treasures in the Psalms, Henry M. Morris III, 347-348.
Our last reading gave us two parts of a delightful Canticle: we will now read the third portion, in which the King is the chief speaker, and rejoices to extol his bride, even as the Lord Jesus rejoiceth over his church.
The King thus speaks—
Song of Songs 4:8
Jesus would have us look above the highest earthly delights, and leave all earthly loves for his sake. Shall he say, “Come with me,” and shall we refuse to follow? Hear how he sets forth his love to us, his jay over us.
Song of Songs 4:9
Though but one grace be seen in us, Jesus spies it out, and is charmed with it; such is his condescending love.
Song of Songs 4:10, 11
In the esteem of Jesus, the love, the spirit, the words, and the outward conduct of his people are all acceptable.
Song of Songs 4:12-15
Jesus thus extols his beloved Church, but having done so, he intercedes for her that the Holy Spirit may visit her, for what would she be without him? Listen to the Redeemer’s prayer.
Song of Songs 4:16
Moved by the love of her Lord, and influenced by the Spirit, the Church begs the Lord to come nearer to her.
To her he answers lovingly.
Song of Songs 5:1
Jesus accepts us and our fruits; let us therefore rejoice in him and feast upon him.
He calls me from the lion’s den,
From this wild world of beasts and men,
To Zion, where his glories are—
Not Lebanon is half so fair;
Nor dens of prey, nor flowery plains,
Nor earthly joys, nor earthly pains,
Shall hold my feet, or force my stay,
When Christ invites my soul away.
2 Corinthians 11:26
When my family first moved to the territory of the former Soviet Union, it was at the worst economic time that part of the world had known since the events of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. It seemed there was a deficit of everything. Store shelves were empty. Pharmacies had no drugs to offer medical patients. There was little fuel available for automobiles or planes.
In those early days, I was traveling continuously across the eleven time zones of the USSR to obtain contracts for the television programs we broadcast on our television network. Often the pilot of the airplane would announce that the plane was landing because there wasn’t enough fuel to reach our destination. Once we deboarded, we had to get very creative in order to figure out how we were going to get from where we were to the place where we were headed. It usually meant we had to travel by train or by car—and we often had very, very long distances still to go to reach our destination.
But even with all these inconveniences, our situation didn’t begin to compare to what the first-century preachers had to do in order to get to hard-to-reach places and preach the Gospel. Cars and trains were slower than airplanes, but at least we weren’t walking to get where we needed to go! In Second Corinthians 11:26, however, Paul tells us that he had no choice but to walk in order to reach many of his destinations. He said, “In journeyings often….”
In Journeyings Often
The word “journey” in Greek is odoiporia. This word describes a walking journey. The word “often” is the word pollakis, and it refers to many times, often, or frequently. Paul used this phrase to tell us that he had walked to most of the destinations where he had been called upon to preach.
For instance, he walked from Antioch Pisidia to Iconium (Acts 13:51); he walked from Iconium to Lystra (Acts 14:6); and he walked from Lystra to Derbe (Acts 14:20). From Derbe, he walked back to Lystra (Acts 14:21); and from Lystra he walked back to Iconium (Acts 14:21). From Iconium, he walked back to Antioch Pisidia (Acts 14:21); from Antioch Pisidia, he walked throughout the whole region of Pamphylia (Acts 14:24); and then he walked all the way to Perga (Acts 14:25).
For a brief period, Paul and his team traveled by ship to Antioch (Paul’s home base). But then they walked to Phenice and Samaria (Acts 15:3). From there, they walked to Jerusalem (Acts 15:4); and from Jerusalem, they walked back to Antioch (Acts 15:22).
From Antioch, Paul walked throughout the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41). He walked back through the cities of Derbe (Acts 16:1) and Lystra (Acts 16:1). Then he walked to Phrygia (Acts 16:6) and walked throughout the regions of Galatia (Acts 16:6). After that, he walked to Mysia (Acts 16:8) and then walked all the way down to Troas (Acts 16:8).
After seeing a vision of a man in Macedonia calling to him for help (Acts 16:9), Paul took a ship from Troas (Acts 16:11). His ship ported in the city of Samothracia (Acts 16:11) but departed the next day to Neapolis (Acts 16:11). From there, Paul and his associates sailed to Philippi (Acts 16:12), a chief city in that part of Macedonia.
From Philippi, Paul walked through Amphipolis and Apollonia (Acts 17:1); then he walked to the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). From Thessalonica, Paul walked to Berea (Acts 17:10).
Paul took a ship from Berea to Athens (Acts 17:14, 15). From Athens, he walked to Corinth (Acts 18:1). He sailed from Corinth to Syria (Acts 18:18). Then from Syria, he walked to Ephesus (Acts 18:19). From Ephesus, he sailed to Caesarea (Acts 18:22); but from there, he walked to Antioch (Acts 18:22). From Antioch, he walked all over the regions of Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23), and then he walked along the upper coastlines to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). The list of places where Paul traveled to fulfill his calling is amazing. Paul did a lot of walking during the course of his ministry!
If you add up all the miles/kilometers Paul walked, he probably spent more time walking than he did preaching. No wonder he could say, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Paul had a lot of time to pray in tongues as he walked across the east and northeast side of the Mediterranean countries to preach the Gospel and to establish the Church.
This also gives us insight into the kind of relationships Paul had with his fellow travelers. It would have been impossible for him to travel so far, so regularly, and through such difficult circumstances without really getting to know his traveling companions. No wonder he could tell Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions…” (2 Timothy 3:10, 11).
Keep in mind that the man who did all this walking was the same one whose feet had been beaten with rods three times (see October 21)! Paul could only have walked this extensively if he enjoyed a healthy body. A sick man could never have attempted this kind of physical exertion. Therefore, we know that although Paul’s feet had been beaten with rods, he suffered no remaining effects from those hideous beatings. Here again, we see that Paul knew how to draw upon the resurrection power of God to quicken his mortal flesh.
In today’s society, many people circle parking lots for twenty minutes just to look for a closer parking space. But the truth is, if they parked farther away, it still wouldn’t take but five minutes to walk to their destination! People are often simply too lazy to walk unless they are forced to do it.
Paul had no car, train, or airplane to ride in order to get where he needed to go. Yes, traveling that far by foot meant he had to face incredible hardship and difficult circumstances. But nothing was so difficult to bear that it was going to stop Paul from fulfilling the call on his life. He had made up his mind. Even if it meant walking around the world by foot in order to fulfill his call, that is precisely what he would do.
If modern transportation had been available, Paul would have used it. Today cars, trains, and airplanes permit us to travel farther and faster and to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But the lack of these conveniences didn’t stop Paul.
Yet how frequently does lack of convenience stop us today? If we allow lack of convenience to hinder us from doing the will of God, there is a serious flaw in our level of commitment.
I’m sure that as Paul traveled on these roads, he encountered literal impasses on roads that forced him to take unexpected, unplanned detours, costing him more time, effort, and money. Still he pressed onward to take the message of God’s Kingdom to the Gentile world.
In Perils of Waters
After referring to these long walking journeys, Paul also says, “… In perils of waters…” (2 Corinthians 11:26). The word “perils” is the word kindunos. It is the Greek word for an extremely dangerous or highly volatile situation. Paul uses this word eight times in Second Corinthians 11 to tell us that much of his ministry required him to live in extremely dangerous situations. He basically lived in danger all the time. Danger wasn’t something he sought. It simply went with the territory God gave him.
The word “waters” is the Greek word potamos, which is the Greek word for a river. By using these two words kindunos and potamos, Paul tells us that as he traveled, he was occasionally forced to cross extremely dangerous rivers to get to the places where the Holy Spirit sent him.
Crossing rivers was a very serious act in the ancient world. It’s a vivid example of the hazards a traveler encountered in Paul’s time. Bridges were few and far between, especially in remote areas. This presented awkward problems, especially during times of flash-flooding, which was a frequent occurrence. Although Paul does not mention the exact rivers he had to cross, we know that they would have included the Jordan River (Judea), the Orontes River (Syria), the Cydnus River (Cilicia), the Meander River and Cayster River (Asia), and the Strimon River and Axios River (Macedonia).
During Paul’s journeys, he crossed “badlands,” climbed cliffs, scaled bluffs, and passed through some of the most dangerous rivers of his time. We don’t usually think of these kinds of hazards when remembering Paul’s ministry. But these were daily risks Paul faced to do God’s will.
How many people do you know who would put their lives at such risk to do God’s will?
I am always amazed at the number of people who write to my family with concern when they hear of political unrest in our nation. They often tell me, “You and your family need to get out of there before it gets too tough! God doesn’t want you to get caught in a difficult situation!” But if the Early Church and other God-called people through the last two millenia had taken that approach, none of us would know of the Gospel today!
Regardless of what you face or what you cross through to fulfill God’s plan, nothing takes God by surprise. Certainly He didn’t plan those problems. But when He called you, He equipped you with all the power, wisdom, and insight you would ever need to get across the hurdles Satan tries to put in your way. There is no impasse you cannot get through on your way to achieve God’s will for your life!
Lord, help me to stay absolutely committed to the assignment You’ve given me, ready to do whatever is necessary to finish the job. Forgive me for giving up so easily in the past when I ran into barriers. Help me to get more creative the next time I hit an impasse so I can find a way to do what You’ve called me to do. I know that by the power of Your Spirit, I can show much more fortitude in the face of obstacles than I’ve done in the past. Forgive me for being so easy on myself. I ask You now to teach me how to operate in Your strength and wisdom when I encounter impasses so that I can forge ahead to finish the job You’ve given me to do!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that regardless of what I face or what I cross through to fulfill God’s plan, nothing takes God by surprise! When He called me, He equipped me with all the power, wisdom, and insight I will ever need to get across the hurdles Satan tries to put in my path. There is no impasse I cannot get through on my way to achieve God’s will for my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
When God called you, He also equipped you with all the power, wisdom, and insight you would ever need to get across the hurdles Satan tries to put in your way. There is no impasse you cannot get through or conquer if you are really determined to finish your God-given assignment.
Let’s pretend that you have decided to gear down to the level where hundreds of millions of people on this planet live. Here’s a starter kit on how to get there:
As a follower of Christ, what is my responsibility?
“If a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered… He who gives to the poor will lack nothing , but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.” (Proverbs 21:13; 28:27)
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17, 18)
PRAYER: “Dear God, help me to see those less fortunate than myself through your eyes, and respond in a way that reflects the very heart of Jesus. Amen.”