The Preacher asks for prayer and then gives a benediction to close out his letter of teaching. What a great display of what praying for each other looks like! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for prayer. God didn’t intend for us to have to suffer alone. We should be bombarding heaven with prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t know about you, but when someone asks me to pray for them, I feel honored and privileged. Too often we keep our suffering silent. Why is that? Are we ashamed we don’t have it all figured out?
This benediction or blessing is so full of richness and truth. I can just imagine the Preacher extending his arms as he delivers this key address summing up the themes of his sermon: God is the God of peace; God’s power is great; Jesus is our Shepherd and cares for us; God will give us what we need to accomplish his will; and we are to honor God to bring him glory.
As Paul concludes his letter, you would expect him to wish his friends well. And he does, a couple times, in fact. But Paul also seeks God’s additional blessing on them for their financial faithfulness in supporting his mission.
When we give out of love or admiration for a ministry, probably the last thing on our minds is, “what’s in it for me?” Do you think the Philippians’ generosity was motivated by an expectation of recognition? I don’t think so. But Paul wanted them to know that he had noticed and was blessed by their continued support for him.
The angel’s message from God was pretty clear. The Israelites had messed up by disobeying God’s command. Our last reading said they had “failed” to drive out the Canaanites. Did that mean they didn’t even try? Or is it that they should have tried harder and never accepted defeat because that meant they were ultimately “disobeying” God?
Sometimes in life we have to be prepared to read between the lines and understand what is intended. When we start to make assumptions that our actions are “good enough” without striving to be what God wants us to be, maybe we’re being disobedient, too. We can’t say we didn’t get the memo. We’ve got God’s word right here in our hands. Now it’s up to us to read it. He wants to bless us!
There was a bit of a rollercoaster ride feeling in today’s reading. Overall, the theme of blessing was stronger with only a few jolts of judgment thrown in for good measure. Yet we see that God doesn’t force himself on the people. We start with an almost surprising verse. “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.” Is it like a test? Does God want to see how we respond to him?
I had to check another translation because this just didn’t sit right with me. The English Standard Version (ESV) says it this way,“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” That’s better. God is waiting for the perfect time to bless us and bring justice. It’s nothing WE NEED to do. There is no test. But we do need to be faithful and wait ourselves.
Remember the Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel? Today we see the 2nd in the similar blessings of Jesus coming to us in Revelation. I didn’t recognize the first one in Revelation 1:3, “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” In today’s passage, in verse 13, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!”
Why do we have more “beatitudes” (there will be a total of seven in Revelation)? Don’t you think Jesus knew his followers would need more encouragement all those years later? These new blessings were directed first to the seven churches we read about when we began our journey through Revelation. Jesus’ new blessings reinvigorate His followers to hold on and to realize that, while it’s not always easy to be a Christian, it would be worth it! In other words, “stay the course!”