But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Even if we’re pretty open folks, we all have secrets. There is a secret life inside our skulls that no one really knows. Every report of what we think and feel is, in the end, the testimony of just one witness. Not even a “he said, she said” sort of problem – in those circumstances those folks know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. But remember, we’re image bearers. We have the stamp of God’s eternal being in us. And no one is better at keeping secrets than Him.
He has secrets and we have secrets. Christ is alluding here to Deuteronomy 29:29 – where our Father explicitly tells us this. His secret will is His to know. What does this secret will refer to? It’s contrasted to His revealed/declared will – all the moral things we’re told to do and the immoral things we’re told not to do. That’s His “revealed will,” usually called the Law in our bibles. His secret will is what actually happens in this world – not even a little birdie falls out of a tree apart from His design and appointment and decision.
Lots of folks don’t like that teaching. “That’s determinism!” or “that’s Calvinism” or “that removes human responsibility” and stuff like that are the typical responses. Don’t listen to those voices. None of us is greater than God, with a perspective big enough to weigh His will and ours. You’d have to be greater than the universe to do that. News flash – you aren’t. But the point is merely this – He has a secret will and we have a secret life – and He’s telling us here He wants those to meet. Yes, He wants those to talk to one another. That’s utterly incredible.
He’s kept it a secret whether He will heal you, or someone you love. Or whether you’ll get that job, or find that special someone. He really has. He isn’t telling anyone His plan. But then Jesus tells us – go in secret to the God who is in secret Himself. Right there, in that crucible of His will and your will – He will fully hear you! That’s just amazing. He’s telling us – in some way that baffles our small minds – that His secret will is to act on our secret requests – the things we wish would happen! Does He always do what we ask? Of course not. He’s good and wise, and 99% of what we want isn’t. But then He does things we ask anyway, again and again.
So what will you do with the impenetrable eternal will of the Almighty? Throw up your hands or shake your fist at heaven? No!! Give all that up! Go and find a place where no one sees you – a place you never even tell others about, and ask. He’s waiting in secret for you. Claim this promise to full effect today, in Jesus’ name, amen!
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2
At different times in my life I find I need to simplify everything. I’m not sure how it happens, but I seem to get distracted and bogged down. Everyone’s opinions are barking in my ear, and I can’t tell anymore what I think about things. There are a bunch of decisions to make, and I keep making them, but I feel so uncertain of what’s wise. All of my commitments, each one made for a good reason, now all add up to constant busyness and distraction. I need to cut through it all. I need to simplify everything again and figure out what’s basic. What’s the foundation.
That is why Paul made this resolve and stuck to it. It’s a desperate move in a sense. It’s reducing all of life and ministry to one core commitment. But then you do it, and you suddenly realize how liberating it is, how cleansing. All of the opinions of men shout at you, and then you realize they’re only that: opinions of men. For all those decisions you need to make, you can now see a guide. What glorifies Christ? What glorifies Him as crucified? All of the commitments I’ve made, I now submit them to this new resolve.
Some will stay, some will go. Let the glory of Christ, and Him crucified be all I know, or need to know, or need to tell others. It’s a simple and wonderful way. This resolve is a great shout of NO to all of the confusion and options around us. Run today to the blessed simplicity of the love of the Father, in Jesus His Son.
For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Git ‘er dun. That was a popular redneck slogan for a while. What does get things done? I’ve got a whole book on it. What’s the answer? A good plan? More hard work? Better “inbox” strategies? We all make all sorts of resolutions, and we all work together in many ways to see things get done. Sometimes stuff does get done; sometimes it doesn’t. I have a good friend who never delegates anything if she can help it. I know why. If she does it, then she knows it’ll be done, it’ll be done right, and it’ll be done on time. People like that are a great asset at times, but in the end, they’ll just burn out. They always do. Our God won’t. This is what this verse says. He will never burn out. The Lord, our God, is passionate about getting stuff done. What stuff? Our rescue and the coming of His Son. Our salvation from sin. Our hope. Nothing else will “git ‘er dun” like His will! It’s the passionate longing of an eternal Being to save folks like us from sin, to rescue us from judgment. It’s this passion that goes to the cross, it’s this passion that chases you for years, it’s this passion that gets His work done in you. Whether you like it or not. Our lives are so unfinished all of the time, our best hopes and hard work are nothing – and my zeal for my family, my church, and my calling won’t last. I need His zeal – His passion for me, in me, and through me. Then everything will get done. His own driving passion will do it. Praise Him!
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
I’m so very glad that these words are in the scripture. Even more, that they’re on Christ’s lips as He dies alone on the wood. Otherwise, how could I hold on to hope when it’s really gotten that bad? Sometimes we have a weak picture of Christ, that somehow, because He was also God, that His suffering was less. As if He were play acting a predetermined drama or His divinity was some eternal tylenol. That would mean these words were lies to me.
The truth is, in His innocence, and in the breaking of His relationship with His Father, that all of eternity and time were being shaken. And His grief was like no other. That’s what it must mean. When we feel low or depressed, when we are suffering, we often feel alone. And honestly, in some ways, we are tasting the tiniest bit of those words. That’s why it hurts so much. But we will never be alone like He was. In fact, we can never be alone again, because He knows how our sadness feels. There is always One who knows your pain and more beyond it. That’s really something. And in the end, it’s “my God.” The tender words of owning and loving the Father who has wounded Him. We are people who know grief. This is a part of what it is to be a Christian. But that grief will never be the final word to us. Take your suffering now to Jesus, because He’s yours. Even the suffering of not finding Him. He even understands this pain and bends His whole heart to His every child crying out in the darkness.
You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
There is a truth here to guide us in a world with so many places to go, so many turns in the road, and so many pitfalls around us. Don’t go to the left or the right. We all have certain directions our personalities tend to go, certain things that tempt us, loyalties that will bind us. Have you ever noticed, as you lift your hands for a brief moment from the steering wheel of your car, that it will tend to drift one way or the other? It’s the suspension, worn down by potholes and uneven tires. Your heart is the same way. Do not go the left or to the right. Right or left of what? Dear child of God, make it Jesus and Him crucified. There is so much distraction, and our own hearts are slow and “prone to wander.” That’s why we like that song so much, it tells the truth about us. We all tend to wander around, either to the left or the right. The real trick is to see it isn’t really about what’s on the left or on right. That’s not what we must concern ourselves with. Not at first. That’s just your context, wherever you are and wherever you live. What is on the left or right will change with the different places you will live and the circumstances you face. What remains constant is Christ and Him crucified. Set your mind on the cross, where your savior died. Set your heart on the Father’s love for sinners, for us His children. Set your hope on the Prince of Glory, who died that you might live. Make that your “true north,” your ready compass at all times. And don’t stray in your worship, in your heart, or in your choices – be careful with this and you’ll discover something oddly beautiful and strange. You will know what way to go, not because you’re smarter or more spiritual than anyone else. No. You’ll know and turn and live freely, because you walk with the path maker Himself. Praise Him.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
I am not going to say planning is a waste of time. Of course it isn’t. But guard your heart, because it can be pure disobedience! So often our idea of planning, or even more grandly, our strategic planning, is just another way that we manage to try to worry about tomorrow. There is almost something comic about the way Jesus puts it. You have got enough trouble on a daily basis and Christ is practically promising you that. Here is what I think is the most basic reality of it all. Which of you, by planning anything, has kept yourself from sinning? It is humiliating when you consider it. Not one of us, by any plan that we can forge or implement, can keep ourselves from sinning in the most ordinary and practical ways every day! So when is planning not disobedient? When it begins out of prayer and faith, with hope in our God; when it is born out of love for Him and is authored by the Holy Spirit present with us. Then our hope is in Him, and not at all in our ridiculous plans. We begin with surrender and no control, and then we are ready to plan, or should I say, submit our requests to our God! I suppose, in a funny sort of way, that good planning is, in the end, just that. A rather detailed form of prayer request. I will tell you this, I will hope for much from such plans. Go now to your Father in heaven about today, tomorrow, and the next day! They all belong to Him.
“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
This is a picture from the delivery room, a scene of blood and birth, which our Father is using to describe His love. In this passage God’s people are described as a newborn abandoned in a field, despised by its mother. How can this express His love? There is nothing really attractive about birth. It is a fairly gruesome event. This birth is even worse. However, our Father is talking about the way He loves us without any conditions. We were not his children naturally, and He chooses to love us even as He sees where we begin in it all. The poet Herbert wrote, “I was born crying, and every day shows why.” This is us, born into the world’s misery and ugliness. We are not beautiful. But He sees all that, and He loves us. It is this love that began before the world was made, for in His love he chose us before time was time.
He loved, and he loves today. So often in our squalor and guilt, we feel helpless. This is what the doctrine of election, of God’s choice, is for – it is to give hope to us. If I was loved this way, and chosen this way, I have so much to hope for in His love. I can be bold; I can come to the Father, I can trust in His love. When the Father loves, nothing and no one shall defeat it. Let us come, full of repentance and faith today, remembering that the Father looked on us and saw the whole truth of who we were. And then He decided to set His love on us. How great is His grace!
Then David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.”
1 Samuel 23:4
This was David’s habit. What should I do here? Where should I go? What should I do next? He inquired of the Lord. He asked God. At a later point, he stops these questions. Stops asking what and where. No more inquiring of the Lord. His lust and pride blind him to his own awful destructive manipulations. But that’s not yet. Here it’s just wonderful. Now David had some advantages. He had a priest who could find God’s will for him. Before some of you say, that must have made it easier for him, need I remind you how little we listen to men of God today? But the priest had the advantage to help him. He could throw dice to discover God’s will. That sounds primitive and crude because it is. If it looks like an easy way to live, it isn’t. It takes a whole lot of faith to throw a seven and run into danger with confidence.
But the truth is we have an advantage over David! David was limited with a small Bible (one he was actually writing!) and priest shooting dice. I have the Son Himself, and I have the Holy Spirit, and I have scriptures – rich, full, and complete! He really was flying blind compared to us, so why is his faith so much stronger? He had a habit. Go and ask our God what to do.
But I think he also had something else. We could compare scars with David (we’d lose) and compare how much we know versus how much he knew (we’d win,) and it just wouldn’t matter. God isn’t fairer now than He was then. You’re responsible for what you know, so it’s all essentially equal in the end. But what David had was surrender. He never went to God and asked about what to do and then thought about it. Never. He went to God with a heart that was already committed to doing whatever he was asked. That’s the difference. Whether you have a ton of info or just a little isn’t the issue. We usually go to God and ask Him to tell us to what He wants, so we can figure out if we’re going to do it. I can tell you one thing. You’ll never discover any of His wisdom for your life with that attitude. And I see it everywhere, even in myself. The deeper habit of David was not that He asked God what to do, is it? The deeper habit of faith that David understood was a heart surrendered. So when God said “Get up and go down to Keilah,” David’s only response was “How long till we get there?” A habit of the soul that I believe sees every answer. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.
It is astonishing, isn’t it? One minute I was preaching or praising, and the next I deserted the truth. We so quickly abandon the beauty and truth of the gospel. It feels like all of the truth of God’s love written on our hearts is actually scratched on sand. One wave of worry, finances, or entertainment and whoosh. It’s gone. Erased from our minds like it was never there. So often we experience this, and we shake our heads like we’re confused by it, or surprised by it. Let’s wake up! We are exactly like the Bible describes us – hard-hearted, foolish, and distracted. Let’s wake up!
Read your Bible, pray, go to church, listen to the sermon, praise Him, get communion. Repeat. Read your bible, pray, go to church, listen to the sermon, praise Him, get communion. Repeat. Etcetera. You get the idea? Repetition and routine are the answers to our often idiotic spiritual life. At least it is for mine. I must hear over and over, and I must tell someone else, how great Jesus’ love is, or I actually seem to forget. Oh, I know about it in my skull, sure. But I don’t know it, know it. Not like I want to.
Dear child of God, live your life anticipating your flesh and your weaknesses. You will forget spiritual truth like you’re an amnesiac. Count on it. This is why we repeat all of those good things that your Father has given you, and repeat them often. There will come a time, staring right at His beauty, when this is no longer necessary. But that’s in heaven. So, for here and for now – I repeat: It is astonishing, isn’t it? One minute I was preaching or praising . . .
To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul’s prayers are a precious thing for us. They describe the heart of a man in love with God, exuberant and joyful, passionate and full of praise. This is one of them. So what is this knowledge that can’t be known? There’s a rule for thinking about God that we should often be reminding ourselves. You have a conception of God. Whatever it is, whether an idea of His love, His person, and His greatness, you have it. Now, whatever that is, you can know this – it’s wrong. Dead wrong. Why? Because He’s still greater than that! He is greater than any conception you come up with!
This is what knowing God is like. He’s eternal in majesty, eternal in His love, eternal in His goodness. So whatever you think or imagine, it simply doesn’t go far enough. This is what Paul is experiencing and trying to describe. As you investigate it, as you try to discover what this love of our God is like, you get lost in it. It does not end. Enter all His fullness!
As you discover more about yourself, and you see ever more clearly your sin, it only increases the wonder of His love. It’s like swimming the depths of the sea or looking into the limitlessness of space. Modern telescopes tell us that He must be bigger than bigness itself. Try imagining His perfections. It’s like counting grains of sand or snowflakes. Get lost in His love. Pray to be lost in it, amazed by it, and overwhelmed with it. This is where knowing jumps past and over knowing itself! This is where worship, awe, and joy are born! It’s what we need so much today, and it’s my prayer for you and myself. And I still can’t even imagine what I’m praying for! Praise Him!
Again He appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Today. There’s an urgency here that’s impossible to evade. Procrastination is something we joke about, but it’s no laughing matter here. I don’t know where you are today, or where you might be reading this, or what you face in your job, your family, or your marriage. This is simply something I’m writing as I worship. In a certain biblical sense, it’s my “today” before my Father in heaven. But whoever you are, and wherever you are, this is also your “today.” There’s a joy and a warning in this, isn’t there? If it’s true, that this message is for you today – that means it’s not too late for you. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re reading this, then my Father has allowed you to know about His love for the very worst sorts of people! Me. This is your “today” to know that whatever has gone before can be over and covered by the blood of Jesus. That whatever has passed is past, and “today” He’s telling you His love is for you. What a glorious day it is for you!
This is all sounds so joyful, so why is this verse a warning? This is also your last day. That sounds frightening, doesn’t it? You may say to me, how could you possibly know that? Of course, I don’t, but I know this: you should be reading this as though it were. Don’t harden your heart about this. I don’t doubt for someone who reads this one day in the future, that this might be their last day. Their final chance. Procrastinators can start tomorrow, but it might be under judgment. This might be the last day you are offered His love, or this might be the last day you live. I don’t know. I do know this. This hour is the day that the Scriptures are telling you about, telling you to do something about it. Lay hold of Him now, while He is still near, while He can be found. Today.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
This seems like ugly teaching to us. We don’t buy things with our blood or make transactions in sacrifices, or profit from slaughter. This language of blood is primitive, and reeks of the messiness of an ancient religion. Priests were cutting the lambs all day like butchers, their hands slippery with animal blood to pay the price for sinners. But what spiritual value is there in lamb and cow blood? None. The value was in the meat if it was anywhere, and those sacrifices were used for the priest’s family dinner every day. However, this primitive idea of blood is the only way to understand Christ. He’s not a moral story of sacrifice, to inspire you or me to give up our lives against injustice. It has that element, but it’s incidental to the main idea.
The lesson of the priest’s daily butchering of animals, of all of that blood all over the altar, is Jesus paying for us with His blood. It’s elemental and visceral. Sinners must pay with their lives for what wrong they do. Our God has made it clear; only blood will pay. So the praise of heaven, here in this text, is this: praise Him for how He bought us with His blood. Is that your story? Purchased by blood? Is your hope this bloody business, this transaction of His blood for your life? I will become ugly about this. I will die on this hill. I will preach this ugly truth about Jesus saving sinners with blood because it’s the truth that makes me beautiful. Rejoice today; you have been made holy and gorgeous before God by the bloody business of the Lamb. Praise Him! Amen.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the I AM that had been thrown down.
1 Kings 18:30
The altar is in ruins. It doesn’t take long to make a ruin. Perhaps you’ve seen recent video segments of Chernobyl, deserted twenty years ago because of a nuclear catastrophe. It’s amazing how quickly it’s all decayed.
Christians, we must beware. This message is clear. Those folks that Elijah was talking to were in a perverse slavery to evil false gods – gods that demand child sacrifice and self-mutilation. You might ask me, how can our altar be in ruins today? How is this a warning to us now? Tell me, what’s the state of your heart? What’s the substance of your life of praise, or the praise of your family? We have our ruined altars today – neglect of the cross and praise of Jesus Christ. That’s what all those altars were meant to be to begin with – little pictures of Jesus and His grace.
There might be a lot of religion around, and there might be religiosity everywhere. Perhaps there’s lots of skepticism and doubt. What must be constantly “repaired” with “upkeep” is proclaiming of Christ’s death on a cross for sinners. Jesus loves sinners with His blood. This altar has been in ruins in the church today. Let us rebuild it in our hearts, in our families, and in our community. The Son of God came into the world to save the worst sorts of people. Me.
And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.
1 Samuel 16:23
There is an image in our culture that music will tame the savage in us – that there is something soothing in music that will calm a wild beast. I don’t really know if it is true or not, but I do not think that is what this passage is saying. Think about it. What would David be singing? He was a songwriter and a rather prolific one. We have his songbook; it is called the Psalms. So what rescued Saul from the torture and manic fury of a demon riding his conscience and heart day in and day out? It was those Psalms, the songs and lyrics of a man in love with his God, full of praise, repentance, and love. It is the word that calmed Saul’s heart. The word of God.
I would make much of this for your own heart and life. Christian music has its place in the life of the Christian, especially when it is the scripture itself in music. Use it, and use it wisely. Find what you like in devotional music and listen to it, even better sing to yourself. Don’t be distracted by the folks who tell you not to listen to the music of the world. That is not forbidden. But be wise, because evil spirits are real. Be in the word, memorize the word, and soak in the word. Take in the word of God like it is cereal in the morning, or a sandwich at lunch, or pasta at dinner. The word set to music can do all of this. And when evil comes, it will not stay very long. Within earshot of David’s songs, no demon can linger to bother the children of God.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Don’t you want to know what it is? Your new name? A special name just between you and Jesus, as a secret you share? I so want to be renamed by God! Maybe that’s because I got such a goofy name to begin with. But I think it’s more than that. He knows what my name should be, what my name should say about who I am and that it should show the marks that I am His. In that Spirit(?!), He will name me for His own. It’s such a strange little detail, isn’t it? A new moniker on some granite just for you. I picture holding it my hand and examining it over and over, feeling its weight and the rough engraved letters that form my new identity.
There’s a weird moment in the Bible when God appears to some folks, to tell them about their soon-to-be miracle child. It’s one of those rare glorious appearances, and the old couple asks Him His name. And He says “you wouldn’t understand it.” I feel like that about this. I don’t really understand what it means, but I get one thing. A new secret name between Him and us means amazing intimacy. When I hear that heaven will be like that, it gives me a certain thrill. There’s a joy in all the multitudes and myriads and myriads of angels that are described in heaven. It sounds glorious and earthshaking! All of them praising together! But right alongside that, as if to comfort you sweetly with a whisper in your ear, there will also be these tender and sacredly personal moments with you and Jesus. That’s what this promises. And I can’t wait!
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Who talks like this? We often seem to have a blind spot to the things Jesus says. This, in particular, strikes me as a very odd thing to say. Simply stated, Christ takes the Bible and talks like he could just do that. Abolish it all. But, He says, that’s not it. That’s not the play. Instead, He makes an even larger claim. He doubles down. We’re a bit self-obsessed, so we don’t easily get what it all implies. But this is His glory; He came to legitimize the whole book morally and spiritually through His words and His works.
The Bible, as a book, is fulfilled in Him! It now has its very purpose for being there. He’s saying “Look, I validate all of the prophecies and all the commands.” Who validates God’s word in Himself?! Only His Self! He’s saying “Imagine the Scripture is this huge gate, well I’m the hinge it swivels on. I hold it up.” We can be as slow and sleepy as the disciples. Christ wears His greatness and glory like an old coat. He’s so comfortable in it we forgot He has it on. To get Him big enough is to begin to worship – to enlarge your thoughts, to change your attitude, to set free your imagination with the magnitude of who He is, Eternal Son, very God and very man. He speaks the Scripture into existence! This is just the start of getting rid of that “majesty” blind spot we have with Him. What worship and confidence and joy waits for those who trust in Him!
I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
So how did Paul finally come to Rome? He speaks here, as he always does, with the full authority of an apostle. He is a herald of Jesus Christ, speaking with the knowledge of a prophet. He knows he’s headed there in God’s plan, but he doesn’t know how. He predicts “the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” We do know how he got there. As a jailbird. He got there in chains and was probably executed in the year 63, when the neurotic Nero unleashed his evil on the believers in Rome. Many folks would, in the end, say Paul was a fool. He obviously expected something grand and he got something awful. So much for apostles and prophets, they might say. But that attitude doesn’t understand God or how He works. That view doesn’t get the cross or why it’s there. It doesn’t understand Paul’s absolute confidence. It can’t imagine Paul looking at his prison walls and praising God. I know we’d rather shine like Olympic champions completing our record lap, but the way of following Christ is not the way the world works. The world doesn’t know the Scriptures or the power of God! Be careful of men who look strong and successful, beware yourself if that’s what you hope to become. The road of the cross leads to death here in this world. If you look for your fullness here, you won’t know the blessing He gives. And wherever you might be headed, I know where I want to go. I’ll even predict how I’ll get there – in the fullness of the blessing of Christ! Amen.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
How can this be true? How can veins and skin, hair and teeth, or legs and arms contain all of this? John says it — We have seen His glory; we saw it just looking at him. Sometimes the Psalmist says something like this when he says the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord. In Isaiah 6, the angels say that when Isaiah sees them. However, that is not what John is saying. It is not a general idea, the way the sky and sea or bird and dog declare His glory. This is the glory of His Person, in particular in His Son. I would have supposed this was not possible. We were forbidden to make any graven image of Him, forbidden to create something we could look at and say, “this is our God.” It seems contrary then that we could say that about a man as He was walking by. But then so much comes together as I think about that problem.
To begin with, man was made in His image, so man could image forth God in a way that creation around us cannot. And then the picture becomes clearer. Those old idols of stone and wood, they are not fashioned like we are. There is something here, here in my skin and bone, that can bear the image of the invisible God.
An idol of wood would obscure that truth, make it less beautiful, and hide that the Eternal Son would come and become a man. He is the God-Man, and something is now possible in created things that we might not have seen or suspected before. Now the possibility is open. Look at your hands, your feet. If you have the Son, then you also share in His glory. How much more urgent we must be about holiness, about how we use our bodies! Pray for that glory to be revealed in you, and to you. Amen.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
My own flesh seems weak and ugly to me, and it is a wonder to me that this too will be redeemed — all of it. My hunger, my thirst, these also will be redeemed and restored. Jesus is no abstract savior, only interested in my spirit. No, He is a complete savior, a complete rescue of my dust. That is why it is so startling to read the accounts of Jesus after His resurrection from the dead. He is all glorious but cannot be touched by Mary right away. He is somehow completely unnoticeable by friends and yet can somehow transport Himself into locked rooms – suddenly appearing in the middle of them. And then He eats! All glory to the Son! He eats! We are confronted with the strange nature of resurrected flesh. It means so much for us. We hunger now and somehow that hunger itself, for a catfish dinner with friends, is a part of our experience in the new heavens and the new earth. This strange flesh will be mine. I wonder what it can do, or will do, for the glory of the Son in His new kingdom. I can only hope that this body will taste redemption now in the obedience of my senses to the holiness of my God.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:12–17
Paul cannot keep talking or writing without a burst of praise. He absolutely cannot do it. He’s like a full kettle, erupting with worship. He can’t process the matchless grace, glory proved again in the saving of garbage like him, without praising the King Eternal. And it’s not just him. Peter and John do it their writing and thinking, as if worship was so alive in them it jumps out of their skin. Which kind of brings up a question. How do we do it? How are we able to talk or read or hear about Jesus without the need for praise? A need burning, growing and forcing its way out into the world? I don’t know, except the answer might be shameful for us. There must be some way to do it, to rediscover it all with joy, to renew our passion and fire for Christ. But Paul’s path to worship is a funny one. The way up, up into God’s mercy and joy, is first and foremost the way down, down into the discovery of our own twisted hearts. Paul is gripped by the glory of Christ because he’s so aware of his sin, shame, and ruin. It’s proportional. The farther you go one way, the further you go the other. And what do we become? Little grace trophies! Pictures and examples of unmerited love, so all the other folks – who doubt anyone could love them if they really knew them – you can look them in the eye and say, “God knows worse about me and still loves me!” Sure you’re a dumpster fire. I am too. Paul knew full well what and who he was. It never stopped him. Our Father has shown so much grace to First Pres, your pastor, and our people. Let all our theology be dead if it does not spring into praise when we know love like that! Now to the King Eternal, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, our Jesus, be praises forever! Amen.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God
In the devastation that can come in a man’s life, in the loss and grief that some people taste and endure, only the believer can begin to speak clearly of what his real hope could be. This clarity, this insight that Job has is amazing. The book of Job is arguably the most ancient text of the Scripture, thus an ancient argument over the problem of suffering and God’s justice. Job seems to grow in his understanding, finally brought to humble worship by the words of God Himself. But our God speaks to him, and here, speaks through him so clearly. He knows. He knows the resurrection, our Savior, the final judgment. In the dim, ancient, and murky past of a land called Uz, Job speaks with more conviction and clarity than many of us ever do. His faith is radiant, and it’s all he has left. Even his friends are a disappointment. Here is what is only seen and truly known by the power of the Holy Spirit. I want to ring loud and burn bright with this conviction too. I know that my Redeemer lives, Jesus Christ my Lord!
And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
1 Kings 19:12–18
Elijah was a man just like us. That’s what James says in James 5:17, and you can see why he says it. Elijah is feeling sorry for himself. Just before this, in one of the most amazing displays of God’s power in the whole Bible, a whole mountain top altar was lit up by fire, right out of the sky. The blaze was so hot it licked the altar clean. It was a contest between him and a bunch of religious hucksters. Thousands saw it, and those baby-killing priests of Baal were routed (little ones were their favorite sacrifice.) It was jaw-dropping. But it also triggered a political backlash against Elijah, and he ran. Can’t mess with someone’s false religion, it’s their moneymaker. But fire came out of heaven! Even so, there he is, scared and pouting, telling God, “I’m all on my own.” If this isn’t a picture of me, I don’t know what is. How do we do this all the time? One minute we see His amazing power, the next minute we act like we’re all alone and no one’s there to help us – from worship to self-pity in 60 seconds.
What’s our Father’s answer to Elijah? To us? To me? He still speaks with a whisper of love – “Don’t panic. Do the things I tell you to do. I’ve got it all under control. Oh, and by the way, I’ve got another 7,000 of you back at the ranch.” What a good God we worship! Even as we fight feeling sorry for ourselves, feeling lonely, and feeling like we’re always failing, He’s gently reassuring us, “It isn’t like you think it is at all.” He’s got you in His victory, He’s included you in His plans, and He’s taking care of your worries. And He even knows You’re still freaking out about it all. Hear Him as He comforts you today. You’re just like Elijah, and even more sure that that – God is just the same too. Ready to answer and ready to save.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
I love that David whines. And he really does. When you read his story, and you know about his years on the run, all of the intrigue and delay in his life, you can see why. But it seems like a part of the Christian faith and life is missing for us. Here we have it, a holy complaint. What is that? It is not the faithless grumbling and complaining of Israel that is recorded in the book of Numbers. Our God’s judgment on them for that sort of thing was severe and quick. Complaining can easily be sinful, but that is not always the case. So, what is the difference? It is here in the Psalm. Look at how David ends. His complaining is born out of genuine faith. He says I trust your love. A holy complaint comes from faith. That is its context. What is next? He praises God’s salvation. He rejoices. A holy complaint comes in the context of real worship. It is mixed with joy. What is after that? A resolve. I will praise even more. I will bring my complaint to my God, because He is my God, and I will praise Him for His goodness all the same. If you complain in this manner, expect the kind of real-life answers that our father David found. He was the apple of our Father’s eye.
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
The poet’s view of the Bible is so concrete and immediately relevant to him. He uses this image of refined silver as a word-picture for the flawless word of God – a metal with a visible value of perfectly smelted purity. But for him, this isn’t a dusty doctrine. It’s about a book, that’s for sure, but it’s not just sitting on a shelf. This isn’t merely some conviction, idea, or concept. Far from it! He doesn’t think about a theology of inerrancy. It’s there, but that’s just taken for granted. He isn’t interested in debates on biblical inspiration. He’s counting on all that. It had a very plain meaning to him right where he was. Broke, used, needy, groaning, and longing for safety. God hears those sorts of folks! What is the doctrine of inerrancy? It means this – on the ground, where we live and work and sweat – God has spoken out about His attitude and His response to your need, He has heard your groaning, and He will arise! The I AM Himself will get up and do something about it. Alert Him today of how often you’ve felt used, how you feel so vulnerable, how much you want to be safe. Call on Him! His words, His promises, His eagerness to answer – those are all pure and perfect words. As true as Truth Himself who says, “Truly, truly I say to you, before any man was, I AM!” And that’s the point, isn’t it? Someone that amazing and eternal promises to be that available for our every crisis. Amen and Amen!
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
What an odd thing to say! If the house was not there, I would not have told you about it. What Jesus says here affirms the reality of the Father’s house- He speaks of it as a real place, not a metaphor.
You know the dreams you have that one day you’ll own a home like the ones you read about in magazines or see on TV? This is the sort of desire He is talking about. It is the stuff of dreams. There are roads here in town that you can drive down and just be amazed at the beauty and architecture. The pure wealth of many mansions are all around us but do not lust after them. It is tempting.
In my Father’s house are many such kinds of places, and it is wonderful that our Father promises these things. We can have a simple joy that those desires in us for a beautiful place to live are understood well by our Father. He knows, and He tenderly promises a home for each of us. So do not be deceived. These earthly mansions only get termites anyway, and we couldn’t even afford to pay the taxes or utilities. My mansion in glory is paid for, and I don’t believe it has any pest problems at all! Therefore, I will not be troubled. I will trust in Him!
Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”
Moses asks, and the Lord gives. It is an amazing exchange between them. Moses starts with a sort of complaint, saying “I really don’t have what I need to lead these folks like You have told me to.” God replies that He will be with them. Then Moses says something remarkable, “I’m expecting You to be with us. I need more.” That response amazes me. How does a man talk to God like that? And then, there’s God’s reply. And the funny thing is that He knows Moses is really asking to see His glory, so our Father answers with a sure, I’ll do it.
Moses craves something more than what he had experienced and lays it on the line. I want to come before my Father and start this kind of discussion — I don’t have enough of You yet. Give me more. I don’t see You clearly yet, in Your glory. Show me more. I can’t seem to get by with just what I’ve got now. Reveal to me more. King of kings. Lord of lords. Ancient of Days. Christ Jesus. Show me Your glory.
Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.’
I don’t like giving someone leverage against me. Who does? If you know what makes someone tick, what they truly value, then you can use it to get them to do something. That’s why money works so well. It’s the leverage that needs no explanation.
The amazing thing is how Moses uses leverage against God. And how our Father allows it. Moses understands how our God is jealous for His glory. Very jealous. It’s what He truly values. So in this beautiful and strange way, that I can hardly begin to understand, God invites us to use this leverage against Him. Moses saves the whole people of God using it. “Folks are going to talk bad about You, God” — that’s the substance of his argument with the Lord. We can go further than Moses did, we have the Son Himself! In Him we have the cross, the blood, and the new birth. But we can go further than this. He calls us sons and daughters and told us to call Him Father. We have the Spirit of sonship! What a staggering leverage this is! Use it!
I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
God loves us unconditionally. That final word that He loves us freely without anything we did to provoke it is the word of constant hope to often failing Christians. Unconditional love is beautiful. But the truth is that we don’t love that way. We can’t. We try to love our children that way, our spouses that way, and one another that way, but it is terribly difficult. Inevitably we have conditions. It has to be a fruit of the Holy Spirit when we love that freely because that is the way our God loves.
Look how unapologetic the psalmist is. He loves God because God hears him. That startled me when it was first pointed out. I had not thought of it that way before, but it makes perfect sense. We can’t love our God unconditionally! We don’t have to! The truth is that we never would have to. He has met all the conditions for real love in the sacrifice of His Son. And He has heard you cry out, and will hear you when you cry out today.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
It is so easy to disconnect our Father’s answer to our prayers from thankful praise. Like children who consistently need to be reminded to say thank you, we need a lesson in how to respond to our God. Thanksgiving is the breath of life for the believer. Our faith is not called to be something merely abstract, but something listed with proofs. Not proofs that can appeal to someone who does not believe. They wouldn’t work. No, they are reminders of our reason for confidence and joy, listed out for the glory of the Son. Perhaps nine churches out of ten will forget to do this, and perhaps that portion is always the same in the coming of our Savior’s kingdom. Let’s not let that happen to us. So much has been done for our church; it would be all the more shame not to shout our constant thankfulness to our God!
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
“God is on our side.” This mantra, this slogan, is the lie of emperors, kings and presidential hopefuls. Joshua sees this man and asks the question we all ask, “Are you on my side or not? Are you for me or against me?” Here is Joshua, God’s appointed leader and servant of God’s people. He is the good guy. We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our experience with political leaders. However, there is nothing to question about Joshua. We know he is the hero, but our God makes a point that cannot be overstated – God is not on anyone’s side, not even Joshua’s side. He is God, not the token of a person, nation, or a political party. “God with us” should be struck from our currency. Not merely because it is doubtful these days, but because it rejects the glory and greatness of our God. We belong to Him, not He to us. The commander of the armies of the Living God has now come, and His name is Jesus. It is because I am His that He is mine.
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.
1 Samuel 2:4–8
This prayer of praise is from Hannah, an insignificant woman of rural Palestine over 3,000 years ago. Her problems were infertility and a bad, polygamous marriage. She is dealing with the spite of a second wife who happened to be very fertile. All in all, her problems don’t seem to amount to those of the princes, but they matter a great deal to her. Amazingly, they matter even more to her God, and amazingly, her issues matter eternally. Her vindication, which comes as answered prayer for a child, is God’s interest in the cause of the downtrodden and despised.
Hannah’s cause is her heavenly Father’s cause, and so is yours. Do not despise yourself and believe the lies that your problems do not matter. Your issues at work, your issues with family, and your issues with neighbors are the causes that matter to our God – for no other reason than they matter to you. Take up your cause with Him, and let Him take it up for you.
Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
I cannot get over Abraham. It’s the sort of boldness and persistence that I would figure was inappropriate. And I would be wrong. It makes timidity seem downright offensive, if not foolish. God has told him what He is going to do, and Abraham seems to figure that if God is telling him this sort of thing, then He must be open to input and negotiation. It’s a startlingly different view of God’s will, and Abraham is brazen about it. He even knows he is being bold as he is speaking.
Have you ever dealt with our Father like this? Our Father has told us He is going to judge the world, and it seems like He is on His way to do it. If His sons and daughters will plead for cities and countries, for whole nations and generations, then who knows what He will do? Perhaps He will give us such a blessing that we will not be able to contain it all. Perhaps He will come as a judge, but the truth here is this: our brazen negotiation will always be heard and considered by our Father in heaven.
In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
No intermediary. No go-between. No barrier. Not since the cross. Not even the Son, in whose name we pray, needs to go for us! The door is held open with a doorstop that cannot be moved: the cross. Let us go directly. Christ said, “Our Father” which means prayer is an invitation to join Him, shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee at the throne of grace. What other invitation is so beautiful and real?
Sometimes people will come and ask me to pray for them, and I get this sense that they think my prayers are more successful. But, they aren’t. My prayers are no more successful than the least child of my Father. The fact is that so many don’t really ask. Every child of our King can walk right up to Him in all of His glory. The angels around Him cannot bear to look at His glory and cover their eyes. All of their words are praise. They have their work there at the throne, and we walk right by them in our prayers, plop down next to our Almighty Father and ask what we need. No one can bar you out or keep you from Him. We need not to be ashamed of our boldness, our reckless approach toward His glory; we only ought to be ashamed that we have loitered for so long without coming and telling Him what we need and want. Oh, how He loves us! Praise Him!
I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.
Daniel is touted to be the ultimate Bible, good guy. He is it. No one is equal to him, except Christ who is greater. In general, the Bible is pretty unglamorous about its heroes. It is part of the winsomeness of the book. Abraham is impatient, Jonah is surly, David is lustful, Moses is whiney, and Peter is a loudmouth. But not Daniel. Until we get to this point, we might have the squeakiest clean saint of all. Then he prays, and this tells all. He cannot pray without confessing sin, and then he says it. The sin of the people is his sin as well. It is all “we.”
Some will hear this and say, that’s just what a good man would say, but they are misunderstanding goodness. Daniel is so righteous that he cannot finally lie by generalizing. He is not “acting a part.” That would demean it all. He knows what and who he is. Every great man and woman of God does. He is a sinner just like everyone else, of the same kind and to the same extent. You cannot lie to God. Confess your sin. Work at it, name it and specify it. No one else might ever need to know what you did. But the Father, who already knows, asks all of His sons and daughters to come and tell Him what they have done and left undone. Even as we look at our times, and the many sins of our nation and our generation, we must always say “we.”
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Are you going to pray for this or not? I don’t know how many things Christ explicitly tells us to pray for, but the list isn’t that long. We do have general guidelines and examples, and they free us up to pray about all the things that concern us in life — that is good! But then, the Son tells us to pray specifically for something that is pressing on Him, something that has disturbed Him. There is a harvest, and the fruit is ready and ripe. There are people like apples waiting to be plucked or plums on the verge of falling off the branch, but there are few people truly working in the harvest. There are few that care and fewer that act on what desire they have. Christ knows this. He is living in it and is sharp with grief over it. “Pray about this,” He cries. Are you going to or not?
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
Why have we been given these images? We have been forbidden, quite explicitly, to worship any image-or to make one for worship. Why? They will all fail. The eternal God cannot be reduced to an image. It demeans Him and deceives the worshipper. The eternal Son cannot be cast into an image for worship either. It obscures Him and the wonder of His flesh.
So why are these visions of glory in the Bible, these glimpses of our God in His glory? It is this. Although we are forbidden the graven image, we are given the imaginative picture for our faith! It is faith in flight, soaring before the throne. It is faith alive with the images we have been given by the prophets, and it is to just such a place we go whenever we pray. So pray with these texts before you. This is the place you have been going, with its throne of sapphire. This is the place you long to be, where the angels cry out and cover their faces. This is where you are when you pray in Jesus’ name, where one like a Son of Man shines like molten metal and leans in to hear what you say.
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.
Pray in His name. Nothing needs to be sophisticated to understand this. Some will object that it can be mechanical, something you say by habit. So what? Pray in Jesus’ name. Some will say that they are wiser than that. That the command to “pray in My name,” is really about having Christ in you, and you being in Him. Amen! It surely means that. If anyone pretends that using Jesus’ name is a shortcut or a magic word, then they are mistaken.
Pray in His name. Live in it, remind yourself, and always call out in Jesus’ name. It is simple, and it is good. Let us keep praying that our lives would be lived in Jesus’ name. How? In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires,
1 Kings 8:59
This is such a strange thing Solomon prays — that his words would be before God day and night. I think of the bubbles in cartoons and comics, where the words the character is speaking are above his head. But then it grips me, suddenly that is what this passage implies. Our words are always before our Father. That because of His promise and love, they can never be anything less than this, forever. The blood of Jesus is this powerful, forever. The Son stands at the right hand as your advocate, forever. Not one word asked by a son or daughter of heaven has ever dropped to the ground unheard.
As you go to pray imagine this — not one word spoken by you will ever fail to appear before our God both day and night, even for forever.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
There are groans that I cannot put into words when words fail. Sometimes it is a response to pain. You don’t have or need words when you experience terrible pain. Sometimes it is to express powerful longing. You know you want something, but you don’t know how to describe your desire. Other times our desires are so strong that words fail us completely. At times you just have an idea or a feeling, and you cannot express what you mean to say. You don’t know how to put it into words that someone could truly understand.
For the Father, all of this is good conversation! Because of His wisdom and the presence of the Holy Spirit, He knows what those groans mean every time. He has heard your incoherent ramblings. He will respond. Ramble and groan away. He knows exactly what you mean to say.
Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
What can this mean? Our prayers are anticipated, almost like the picture of an eager friend, someone who knows you well, finishing your sentences for you. Here is the Father always ready to answer, the desires of your heart already close to His heart.
What can this mean except that our prayers are already on His mind, and He only waits to hear us ask? What would you pray about if you believed this? Someone will ask, why should I pray if God knows what I will ask? But, what can this verse mean except that there is something more glorious than we expected waiting for us? God is our Father, and He wants to hear what our desires are, despite His abstract knowledge of all our needs and circumstances. He knows the details, but there is so much more to knowing than that. He wants to hear your voice. Like a loving Father who loves to know all about His children, He wants to hear from us and know all of our day-to-day needs and desires.
What answers will come from a God who wants to know you this way? Doesn’t it make you want to ask?