Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 24 November 2022:
2 Kings 13:2 — He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them.
There is a theme that runs throughout the Bible — it is hard to break free from customs, courtesies, social norms, traditions, and ‘common sense’ that have been passed down from generations but is contrary to God’s word, will, and commands. We all must remain grounded in God’s word and willing to challenge sinful norms. God wants you to live a holy life, not a socially acceptable life.
The Bible continually reminds us how destructive the sins of one person can be on following generations and also continually reminds us the parents bear a burden of responsibility to raise their children to be godly — “Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” (see Malachi 2:15)
2 Kings 13:4 — Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him.
God will respond to genuine repentance.
2 Kings 13:18, 19 — And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”
How you respond to little things reveals how you respond to big things. As someone once said, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” Given a command by Elisha, Jehoash responded with marginal commitment, reflecting how he would lead his people in battle. Had he doubled his efforts before Elisha, he would have demonstrated they type of zeal required to totally defeat Syria. What sort of energy and passion do you bring to your chores or to work? How well do you energize others to bring out their very best when they really don’t want to? What you do with little things today reveals what you will do with big things tomorrow.
2 Kings 13:10, 11 — In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. He also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Later in life, Jeroboam sought the Lord. Unfortunately his son Joash remained on the path of evil. Parents must train their children in righteousness starting at a young age.
2 Kings 13:19 — Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”
Elisha had a bigger vision for Israel than the king did. Have God-sized expectations as you serve God in your lifetime. Remember, you have the power of God working through you if you are working for God.
John 17 — This chapter is Jesus’ last recorded prayer before His crucifixion. Notice that His final prayer is all about glorifying the Father and about His disciples’ relationship with the Father. What is your most earnest prayer? Are your prayers about you or about God’s glory and the needs of others? How do you judge the effectiveness of your prayers? How do you judge whether your circumstances, regardless how painful they might be, are good or bad? If your prayers or circumstances draw you closer to Jesus, they have served their ultimate purpose, regardless the tangible outcomes.
John 17:1, 4, 10, 22, 23 — Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you… I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do…. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them…. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me….”
In our readings today, the concept of ‘glory’ is mentioned several times, eight times by Jesus. Jesus, in an impassioned prayer to the Father, describes the transfer of ‘glory’ from the Father, through Jesus, to the true believer, an allocation which occurs for two reasons – that the believer may be in unity with God (or truly ‘know’ Him) and that the world might see the power of that unity and ‘know’ that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 deserves much deep, prayerful meditation on our part. The Father glorifies the Son so that the Son can glorify the Father before men; Jesus glorifies the believer so that the believer can glorify the Father and the Son (who are One) while living in unity with God, “accomplishing the work” given by God. So, what is ‘glory’? The word is Kabod or doxazō in Hebrew or Greek respectively, meaning to honor, to magnify, or to properly weight in priority or significance. God ‘magnified’ the Son, proclaiming His pleasure with him, that the Son would ‘magnify’ the Father by revealing the character and will of the Father through his perfect life. To see Jesus was to see the Father in human form – “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) The Father and Jesus are truly ‘One,’ which relates back to the first point John makes in this Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. 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.” Jesus is the Logos – the outward expression and revelation of the mind, wisdom, and voice of God. Jesus is the ‘Wisdom’ spoken of in Proverbs that existed before Creation and who was the source of Creation; He is the Truth of God personified. (Proverbs 8:22; John 14:6; John 17:5) The written word of God in the Bible is powerful because it communicates the will of God and reveals the Word (Jesus). God’s word is true, it is through His word that we “come to know the Truth,” Jesus. (John 17:8) When we ‘abide’ in God’s word, we are aligned with His will and become one with Him, personifying (imperfectly) His will, bringing glory to Him, living out His Kingdom on earth (thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…). Walking in the word, empowered by the Spirit, we have the mind of Christ and unity with both God and fellow believers (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 1:27). Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 8:31, 15:7). Living God’s word is how we walk with God as Noah did. The Bible says the Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” and that we were originally created “in the image of God.” (Colossians 1:15; Genesis 1:27) How clearly does your life reflect God to others? Do you magnify God on earth by your obedience to Him?
John 17:3 — And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Eternal life begins on earth not when we die and go to Heaven. Eternal life is not something that begins after you die, it is something that begins the moment you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian that doesn’t feel the joy, peace, and rest of eternal life, carefully consider the quality of your relationship with Jesus; go the Lord in prayer, and ask Him to strengthen your faith, hope, and love; and walk in obedience with eyes wide open to see a greater revelation of God in your life.
From Henry T. Blackaby — Knowing God through experience is radically different than knowing about God from a theology textbook. According to the Bible, you cannot say you know God unless you have experienced Him (Phil. 3:8, 10). Biblical knowledge always involves experience. You may become discouraged because the truths you read about in the Bible are much richer than the reality of your own experience. If you have not experienced God’s power at work in and through your life, do not settle for a secondhand knowledge of God’s power, rejoicing in what He has done in others. Jesus’ prayer was that you would come to know God and His presence in your life and experience. Don’t discount the power of God as described in Scripture simply because you have not experienced it. Bring your experience up to the standard of Scripture, never reduce Scripture to the level of your experience. Don’t settle for a head knowledge of God’s love. Jesus prayed that you would experience the depth and width and height of His love and that you would enjoy God’s full and unending love in the day-to-day experiences of your life. If you sense there are biblical truths that you are not experiencing, keep that truth before you and ask God to bring it into your everyday experience. Ask God if there are any adjustments you need to make in order to receive His promise. Don’t give up on the promises of God, stay with them until you are fully experiencing them.
John 17:4 — I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
Jesus understood that the purpose of life on earth is to glorify God and to serve Him wholeheartedly. Life success is measured in obedience to God that results in ever-increasing love for Him and unity with Him, which draws others closer to Him – increasingly knowing Him and making Him known. God is glorified when we do what He has commanded.
John 17:6 — I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.
The word “manifested” is important for us to understand, meaning, “demonstrated, displayed, showed, exhibited, or revealed.” Jesus brought the invisible, intangible attributes of God into physical reality on earth. He was the embodiment of God’s word and will. We now are called to be “the hands and feet of Jesus.” As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to be His representative in any situation, to “manifest” Jesus at the moment to those who otherwise would not see Him to know Him. This is a tremendous calling and responsibility.
John 17:8, 9 — For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them.
Jesus modeled for us the pattern for evangelism and disciple-making: Give them the words of God (not our own words), walk with them, demonstrate obedience for them, help them know the truth, and pray for them.
John 17:9 — I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me….
Jesus does not see everyone the same.
John 17:10 — All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
Jesus took ownership of the people God had placed in His life, committing to discipling them for the glory of God.
John 17:11, 21-23 — …that they may be one, even as we are one…. that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…. that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…. that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Jesus’ prayer for you is that you would come into perfect unity and love with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and other followers of Jesus; and that your perfect fellowship in love would be a testimony to the world that does not yet know that God is Love. If you have ever wondered what God wants you to do with your life, now you know. This is your measure of life success: How well you obey the commandments of love. The closer you get to Jesus, the closer you get to Love and the more the Light of Love will reflect off of you to others. Today, seek unity in love, first with God, the source of Love, and then with other Christians, while drawing others into that love. Know Love (God), and make Him known to others. It is very popular today to talk about unity, but unity around anything but Jesus is doomed and ultimately no unity at all. Draw closer to Jesus today, and let His love illuminate your life and brighten the lives of others around you, all to the glory of God.
John 17:12 – While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
From Henry T. Blackaby — Nothing that Satan can do to you should cause you to fear (2 Tim. 1:7). Jesus chose the twelve disciples the Father had given Him and then jealously guarded them from the evil one. Jesus sent His disciples into the world where they experienced difficult and dangerous circumstances, but He interceded on their behalf with His Father that they would have His strong protection from the evil one (John 17:15). In the same way, Jesus said that we, as His sheep, are held securely in the Father’s strong hand (John 10:28). There is no better place to be than safely in the hand of almighty God. Do you believe this, or are you fearful of what Satan or people can do to you? The apostle John encourages us that we do not need to fear: He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). This is not merely a theological concept but a profound reality in which you can have absolute confidence. It is not just a truth for meditation in the security of your home; it is a promise you can cling to in the midst of a hostile and menacing world. What you do reveals what you believe. If you are living a fearful, anxiety-filled life, you are proving your lack of confidence in God’s protection, regardless of what you may say. Live your life with confidence that Jesus is continually interceding with the Father on your behalf. If you trust Him completely, you will have nothing to fear.
John 17:13 – But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
From Henry T. Blackaby — If there is anything that ought to characterize the life of a Christian, it is joy! Jesus spoke many times to His disciples about His joy being complete and full in them. His disciples were filled with joy as they realized who they were: children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). They had been dead in their sins but were now made alive in Christ (Rom. 6:4). They had once been helpless victims of death, but now death had no hold over them (1 Cor. 15:55-58). With such a marvelous salvation experience with Christ, how could the disciples be anything less than joyful? Don’t deny yourself that which is your birthright as a child of God. Don’t be satisfied with a joyless life. There ought to be in every Christian a deep, settled fullness of the joy of Christ that no circumstance of life can dispel. This comes as you allow the Holy Spirit to express Himself in your life. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). This joy is unlike any happiness that is produced by the world. It fills you and permeates everything you do. Jesus did not pray that you would merely be happy or even that you would escape grief. He prayed that you would have the same joy that the Father had given Him: a divine joy, a joy that comes from a deep and unwavering relationship with the Father. It is a joy that is grounded so firmly in a relationship with God that no change in circumstances could ever shake it. This is the kind of joy that Christ is praying will be in you.
John 17:15 — I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
We are here on earth on purpose and for a purpose. We are not just waiting to die and go to Heaven. We are here to accomplish The Great Commission. Don’t pray that God would take you out of this world and away from the important mission He has given you on this earth. Pray that in all things, you would grow in your love for Him and unity with Him, and that you would be increasingly conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus. (Romans 8:28, 29)
John 17:17-18 – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — God will always sanctify you before He sends you. The Father set aside the twelve disciples and made them holy by the Truth, His Son. As they related to Jesus, the Truth (John 14:6), the disciples were refined by that Truth and were prepared to be sent out to preach the gospel. Jesus challenged their ambitions (Luke 9:46-48), chastised their lack of faith (Matt. 17:19-20), refuted Satan’s influence (Matt. 16:23), and denounced their pride (Matt. 26:33-35). When Jesus had finished preparing them, the disciples were sent out in such power that their world was never the same again. Satan will try to convince you that your sin renders you useless to God. That is a lie from the author and father of lies. As soon as you sin, the Deceiver will whisper, “You failure! You are now of no use to God.” This can bring a deep sense of defeat and hopelessness to a Christian. Yet, there is no freedom that compares to a soul set free by God’s grace. When God’s people allow God’s truth to realign them to God’s will and God’s standard, then the power of God will be released through them the same way it was through the first disciples. The Truth will set you free. The Truth is: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), and we are restored to usefulness to God.
God gave His written word. Then Jesus embodied and fulfilled that word as The Word. Then, with all power and authority, Jesus commissioned us as ambassadors, priests, and saints to proclaim the word on His behalf, making disciples of all nations on earth, and we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to receive special revelation from God’s word. So, how important is Bible study, memorization, and application?
In his final hours, Jesus prays to the Father for the sanctification of the believers. He points out that the word of God is the primary instrument used by the Holy Spirit for sanctification. Jesus points out that, under his leadership, the disciples received God’s word, accepted God’s word, and obeyed God’s word (John 17:6, 7, 14). The product of sanctification through the word of truth is unity in the Body which serves as a testimony to a watching world (John 17:20-23). Today the Bible is more accessible than ever before, but perhaps never before has God’s word been handled so carelessly and complacently by so many. How much of the division and disunity we see in the Church today is the result of Biblical ignorance? God has commanded us (not suggested to us) to study His word diligently every day, to meditate upon it all day, to obey it, and to teach it to everyone, starting with our families. We are all to be like the Bereans who, with character more noble than others, eagerly examined the Scriptures each day to discern truth (Acts 17:11). “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”
John 17:21 — …that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
From Henry T. Blackaby — God often speaks of human relationships as a part of His mission to redeem a lost world (John 13:20; Matt. 25:40). One reason He gives for a husband and wife to live in unity is so they can produce a “godly seed,” that is, children who love and obey God, who can be used in God’s mission to bring redemption to a lost world (Mal. 2:14-15). Similarly, the church is the body of Christ. A church cannot be on mission with the Father in our world if its members are waging war with one another (1 Cor. 12:12). There is a crucial connection between our relationships with others and the salvation of those around us. We might assume that during Jesus’ prayer before His crucifixion, He would have prayed that His disciples would have courage, or would remain faithful, or would remember what they had been taught. Yet He asked that His followers would remain united in their love for one another. Jesus understood that it is spiritually impossible to love God but not love others. A test of your love for God is to examine your love for others. Our tendency is to say, “Heavenly Father, the problem is not between You and me. I love You with all my heart. I just don’t love my brother.” And God says, “That is an impossibility. You cannot love Me without loving the ones for whom My Son died” (John 13:34-35). Your life will not convince those around you of the reality of Jesus if you cannot live in unity with your fellow Christians. “Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 November 2022: Worship and glorify God by loving others as He loves – “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)