Dec 5, 2015
Dec 5, 2015
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face. Revelation 22:3–4
As the lights dimmed and we prepared to watch Apollo 13, my friend said under his breath, “Shame they all died.” I watched the movie about the 1970 spaceflight with apprehension, waiting for tragedy to strike, and only near the closing credits did I realize I’d been duped. I hadn’t known or remembered the end of the true story—that although the astronauts faced many hardships, they made it home alive.
In Christ, we can know the end of the story—that we too will make it home alive. By that I mean we will live forever with our heavenly Father, as we see in the book of Revelation. The Lord will create a “new heaven and a new earth” as He makes all things new (21:1, 5). In the new city, the Lord God will welcome His people to live with Him, without fear and without the night. We have hope in knowing the end of the story.
What difference does this make? It can transform times of extreme difficulty, such as when people face the loss of a loved one or even their own death. Though we recoil at the thought of dying, yet we can embrace the joy of the promise of eternity. We long for the city where no longer will there be any curse, where we’ll live forever by God’s light (22:5).
Lord Jesus Christ, give me unfailing hope, that I might rest in Your promises and welcome Your life eternal.
God promises His people a good end to the story.
In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, he writes about Revelation 22:1–5: “The presence of God in heaven is the health and happiness of the saints. . . . The devil has no power there . . . . There will be no night; no affliction or dejection, no pause in service or enjoyment: no diversions or pleasures of man’s inventing will be desired there.” In this “new heaven and earth,” Jesus will wipe away our tears and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (21:4). The promise of an end to our suffering can bring a glimmer of hope and joy to our life when we face difficulties, but the brightest hope comes in the knowledge that one day we as His followers will be in the presence of our Lord who loves us. Free from temptation, free from sin, and free from pain and sadness and death, we’ll have only joy in the service of the King!
How does the promise of this bright future help you today when you face troubles and trials? What about heaven do you most anticipate?
Do you ever struggle with thoughts that you know you shouldn’t have? Perhaps you sometimes allow your mind to drift over into unforgiveness, pride, lust, or anger—attitudes and feelings that you know are not good. How do you tend to respond when this happens?
We live in a time and culture that continuously bombard our mind with information through radio and TV broadcasts, movies, newspapers, and the internet. Sometimes the message is good, but often it isn’t. And the truth is that our thinking affects us more than we may realize, shaping us into who we are becoming. Thoughts reap actions, actions reap habits, habits reap character, and our character reaps our destiny.
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul urges believers to “keep seeking.” In other words, we need to habitually seek Christ and continually set our mind on things above. Scripture reassures us that we can control our thoughts by relying on the Lord. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.) If we continually look to God for help with how we think, He will mold our heart and shift our attention from materialistic, ungodly priorities to more wholesome, spiritual values (Phil. 4:8).
The moment we place our trust in Jesus, we become brand-new people. That is the basis for our capacity to think correctly (that is, to think more like Christ) and therefore make wise decisions in life. This doesn’t mean we will always think right thoughts, but we now have the responsibility—and power through the Holy Spirit—to steer our mind in a heavenly direction.
“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
The promise that God will never leave nor forsake His people occurs often in Scripture. It was given here through Moses to the children of Israel as they were preparing to enter the land promised long ago to Abraham. Two verses later, it was then repeated personally for Joshua, who was to be their leader in the coming battles.
Essentially the same promise had been made to Jacob as he began to assume his God-ordained role. “Behold, I am with thee,” God had said, “. . . for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). It was again repeated directly to Joshua by God. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5).
David passed on the same promise to Solomon as he became responsible for the kingdom and for building the great temple. “[God] will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:20). “I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17) was the Lord’s promise still later to the faithful Israelites.
And we can rejoice today in this same wonderful promise. “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6). This remarkable verse has five negatives in the Greek, so that it could even be rendered literally as something like: “I will never, never leave thee, and never, never, never forsake thee.” Surely this is one of the greatest of God’s “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). HMM
1 Kings 14:1-3
Bad men cannot help respecting God’s true messengers. Why did not Jeroboam go to the prophets of the calves? The ungodly and those who follow false religions lose all confidence in their notions in times of necessity, and begin to look about them for better comfort. Ahijah’s word had been powerful with the king before, and therefore he sent to him again. Many a sinner has a something in his conscience which bears witness to the Lord’s minister, for his word has informer times been full of power.
1 Kings 14:5, 6
Those who think to hide themselves from God will be utterly confounded, for he will unmask them to their everlasting shame. Sinners now appear in the garb of saints, but the Lord knoweth them that are his.
1 Kings 14:7-9
Therefore the Lord declared that there should be no sons left of the family of Jeroboam, and none to perpetuate his name and race. The whole family was devoted to utter destruction and erasure from among the households of Israel. God knows how to punish as well as how to bless.
1 Kings 14:18
Upon this incident Matthew Henry remarks:—”Those are good in whom are good things towards the Lord God of Israel; good inclinations, good intentions, good desires towards him. Where there is but some good thing of that kind, it will be found; God who seeks it sees it, be it never so little, and is pleased with it. A little grace goes a great way with great folks. It is so rare to find princes well affected to religion, that when they are so, they are worthy of double honour. Pious dispositions are in a peculiar manner amiable and acceptable when they are found in those that are young. The divine image in miniature has a peculiar lustre and beauty in it. A good child in the house of Jeroboam is a miracle of divine grace: to be there untainted is like being in the fiery furnace unhurt, unsinged. Observe the care taken of him: he only of all Jeroboam’s family shall be buried, and shall be lamented, as one that lived desired. Those that are distinguished by the divine grace shall be distinguished by the divine providence.” In this family we trust there are some who have in them hopeful signs of grace: let such be encouraged by observing that the Lord notices the smallest measure of grace which may be found in any one of us.
2 Corinthians 12:7
In Second Corinthians 12:7, the apostle Paul writes that he had been given a “thorn in the flesh” because of “the abundance of the revelations” he had received. Today I want us to delve into this verse to discover the identity of this thorn in the flesh and where it came from. Did it come from God, as some assert, or was this thorn personally sent from Satan to impede Paul from making an even greater impact with his ministry?
Let’s begin looking for the answer to this question by carefully examining Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 12:7. He writes, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations….”
The words “exalted above measure” are taken from the Greek word huperairo, a compound of the words huper and airo. The word huper means over, above, and beyond. It depicts something that is way beyond measure and conveys the idea of something that is greater, superior, higher, better, more than a match for, utmost, paramount, or foremost. It could also describe something that is first-rate, first-class, top-notch, unsurpassed, unequaled, and unrivaled by any person or thing. The second part of the word huperairo (“exalted above measure”) means to lift up, to raise, or to be exalted.
When these two Greek words are compounded to form the word huperairo, it speaks of a person who has been supremely exalted. This is a person who has been magnified, increased, and lifted up to a place of great prestige and influence. Although huperairo could be used to express the idea of a person who has haughtily exalted himself, this is not the idea Paul has in mind when he writes this verse. Rather, this is a person who has been greatly honored and recognized due to something he has written, done, or achieved.
Notice that Paul refers to the “abundance of the revelations” that God had given to him. The word “abundance” is the Greek word huperballo, a compound of the word huper, described above, and the word ballo, which means to cast or to throw. But when these two words are compounded to form the word huperballo, it describes something that is phenomenal, extraordinary, unparalleled, or unmatched. It is the picture of an archer who aims for the bull’s eye; but when he releases the string and shoots his arrow, he watches as his arrow flies way over the top of the target. Now Paul uses this word to explain that the revelations he had received were not only unparalleled in quality, but the vast number of them were far beyond what anyone else had ever received.
The word “revelations” is from the Greek word apokalupsis. It refers to something that has been veiled or hidden for a long time and then suddenly, almost instantaneously, becomes clear and visible to the mind or eye. It is like pulling the curtains out of the way so you can see what has always been just outside your window. The scene was always there for you to enjoy, but the curtains blocked your ability to see the real picture. But when the curtains are drawn apart, you can suddenly see what has been hidden from your view. The moment you see beyond the curtain for the first time and observe what has been there all along but not evident to you—that is what the Bible calls a “revelation.”
From Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 12:7, we know that the curtain had been pulled apart and Paul had seen into the spirit realm on many occasions. He’d had an “abundance” of these experiences. It was this “abundance of the revelations” that Paul was preaching as he traversed the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Everywhere he went, he preached what had been divinely revealed to him. As he preached, his power, authority, and fame grew greater and greater. As his authority grew, so did his ability to impact the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Due to these revelations and his boldness to preach them, Paul was unquestionably becoming one of the most influential men of his day.
Now Paul lets us know that Satan was alarmed by the great progress the apostle was making with the Gospel; therefore, the enemy launched an full-scale attack to impede that progress. Satan didn’t want Paul to be recognized or magnified to a greater extent than he already was. Instead, the devil wanted to pull down this man of God—to ruin him, to destroy him, and to discredit the message he preached. Since there was no moral flaw in Paul that Satan could use to destroy him, he inflicted Paul with a “thorn in the flesh.”
The word “thorn” is the Greek word skolops, a word used to describe a dangerously sharp, spiked instrument or tool. However, this word was also used to describe the stake on which an enemy’s head was stuck after being decapitated.
The word skolops gives the impression that this thorn was excruciatingly painful. Some have suggested that the words “in the flesh” refer to a physical sickness, but this is not affirmed by any scripture in the New Testament and should be taken as unsubstantiated conjecture. People have gone so far in their imaginations as to assert that Paul suffered from malaria, epilepsy, eye disease, club feet, or a hunched back. There is nothing in any New Testament scripture to back up such speculations!
One thing is clear, however: Satan wanted Paul’s head on a stake! He wanted to eliminate this man of God and put him completely out of the picture. Instead of referring to sickness, the words “in the flesh” most likely describe a type of event that was a constant source of irritation to the apostle Paul. This event caused him personal distress and kept reoccurring over and over again. For this reason, he referred to it as a “thorn in the flesh.”
Some argue that God sent this thorn in the flesh to keep Paul from being prideful about his many revelations. But there is no reason to debate this issue, for Paul plainly wrote that it was a “… messenger of Satan to buffet me….” The word “messenger” is the Greek word angelos, a word that can describe an angel; one who is sent on a special mission; or a messenger who is dispatched to perform a specific assignment. This “messenger of Satan,” perhaps a demonic angel, was sent directly from Satan himself to buffet Paul and to restrict the progress of his ministry.
This thorn in the flesh categorically did not come from God; otherwise, Paul would have called it a “messenger of God.” Paul himself plainly states that this thorn in the flesh was given to him by a “messenger of Satan”—a special force that had been dispatched to keep Paul from gaining additional status and prestige and to prevent him from taking the Gospel further and higher into the world scene.
Look at the facts: Paul was preaching to kings, governors, and world leaders. He was establishing churches, writing New Testament scriptures, and pushing back the forces of hell. His personal influence was growing, and his impact was increasing day by day. The revelations that God had given him were about to change the course of human history. Fearing that Paul’s influence would grow too great, Satan strategically sent forces who had been instructed to create disturbances to “buffet” the apostle.
The word “buffet” is the Greek word kolaphidzo, a Greek word that comes from the word kolaphos, a word that describes the fist or knuckles. When it becomes the word kolaphidzo, as Paul uses it in Second Corinthians 12:7, it refers to beatings with the fist. The Greek tense describes unending, unrelenting, continuous, repetitious beatings. This means Paul is not telling us of a single event, but of a series of many events. This word kolaphidzo (“buffet”) gives us our greatest insight into the “thorn in the flesh” Paul is writing about in this verse.
As noted earlier (see October 17-30), Paul endured many afflictions during his ministry. Many of the afflictions he faced were due to the religious leaders who so fiercely opposed him. These religious leaders included Jewish leaders who hated him and his message. They also included false brethren who were constantly trying to displace his position of authority in the local churches. Paul was resisted outside the church by leaders of the Jewish faith who hated him. He was also opposed from within the church by those who wanted him out of the picture so they could take his place of prominence.
Thus, the biggest “thorn” in Paul’s life was the fact that he had to deal with these different groups of people who covertly planned the problems and hassles he frequently faced in the ministry. A special messenger from Satan, perhaps even a demonic angel, had been sent to incite these people against Paul.
If you survey the types of ordeals Paul endured, you will see that many of them were orchestrated by these people who wanted to get rid of him. They were so teeming with hatred toward Paul that they wanted to see his head on a stake! These people were the primary source of Paul’s problems and distractions he faced in his life and ministry.
One type of attack Paul experienced at his opponents’ hands were many physical “beatings,” which explains his use of the word kolaphidzo (“buffet”) in this verse. However, Paul was also constantly buffeted, harassed, hassled, and distracted by the negative activities of these people. As a result, he was hindered from focusing on what God had called him to do because of the great amount of time he had to spend defending his apostleship and answering the charges of those who were stirring up trouble against him. These opponents really were a thorn in the flesh for Paul. Their actions were a constant irritant that he had to deal with on an almost daily basis.
In light of these Greek words, consider this fresh interpretation of Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 12:7:
“Because of the phenomenal revelations I have received and on account of the vast number of these revelations that God has entrusted to me—and to hinder the highly visible progress I am making in the Lord’s cause—a special messenger has been sent from Satan to harass me with constant distractions and headaches. There’s no doubt about it! Those whom Satan has stirred up against me want my head on a stake! Satan is using these people to constantly buffet and distract me in an attempt to keep me from reaching a higher level of visibility and recognition and to sidetrack me from preaching my revelations.”
You see, Paul’s thorn in the flesh wasn’t sickness or epilepsy or any other physical malady; it was the people who opposed and irritated him and continually caused him problems! The devil used these people again and again, trying to keep Paul so distracted solving “people problems” that he wouldn’t be able to make any more significant personal or Gospel advancements.
What about you, friend? What do you intend to do about the “thorns” that the devil is using to steal your joy and to sidetrack you from your mission? How do you intend to react to this ongoing disturbance? Paul never allowed people to keep him from fulfilling his divine call, so today I urge you to follow his example. Don’t allow people to stop you! The devil is obviously afraid of you, your gifts, your potential, and your revelations; otherwise, he wouldn’t need to incite people to stir up trouble for you.
More than likely, the opposition you’re facing is a good indication that you’re right on track. So just keep forging ahead toward your God-ordained goal, regardless of the distractions that try to steal your focus!
Lord, I ask You to help me remain focused on my goals, even when the devil tries to use people to steal my focus and distract me. Knowing that the devil tries to use people, I ask You to help me equip myself spiritually and mentally so I will be able to keep my eyes on the goal You have given for my life. I choose to forgive those whom the devil uses. I will pray for them to change and to repent for their actions; I will keep my heart free of offense; and I will continue to march full-steam ahead to achieve what God has told me to do! Holy Spirit, please help me stay on track and keep my heart free from all strife!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that Satan is unable to distract me from what God has told me to do. Although the enemy tries very hard to knock me off track, I will not take my eyes off the goals God has given me, nor will I ever stop pursuing those goals until I know they have been achieved. The power of God resides in me. The power of Christ’s resurrection operates in my life. I have all the power I need to shove aside every distraction and to keep pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Paul’s thorn in the flesh wasn’t sickness or epilepsy or any other physical malady; it was the people who opposed and irritated him and continually caused him problems!
“Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought be of You.”
“Let my first impulse be to worship You.”
“Let my speech be Your Name.”
“Let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer… ”
“Let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;”
“Keeping me chaste in thought: (“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14)
“Keeping me temperate and truthful: (“Do not let any unwholesomeness talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29)
“Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself: (“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:3b)
“Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others: (“Freely you have received, freely give… Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Matthew 10:8b; Romans 12:10)
“Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past: (“Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.” Proverbs 22:28)
“Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of yours: (“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3b, 4)
“Let me then put back into Your hand all that You have given me, rededicating to Your service all the powers of my mind and body, all my worldly goods, all my influence with others. All these O Father, are yours to use as You will… Speak in my words today, think in my thoughts, and work in my deeds… ” In Jesus Name. Amen.