Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gaining Spiritual Ground in 2013: Emphasize Prayer

Hebrews 4:11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

Numbers 36:1 "And the heads of the fathers’ households of the family of the sons of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near and spoke before Moses and before the leaders, the heads of the fathers’ households of the sons of Israel"

The Christian life or participation in their spiritual inheritance is pictured by the land of Israel
Hebrews 4:11-16 represents one of the sections in the Book of Hebrews that exhorts readers to strive towards knowing and following Jesus Christ.  The word for "diligent" in Hebrews 4:11 refers to "hasten, be zealous, eager, make every effort".  So the question is: what is it that the author is wanting his readers and us to be diligent about?  Answer: to enter into the "rest" of God.  This statement fits into the larger section of Hebrews 3:7-4:16, wherein the comprison is made between the Old Testament Israelites and their relationship to the land of Canaan to New Testament Christians and their growth in the Christian life.  The Old Testament promises of land for Israel are concrete illustrations used by the Bible to illustrate the Christian's inheritance and Christian life in Christ. 

With that basic understanding established, we can legitimately draw the conclusion that excercising the "diligence to enter into that rest" equals gaining spiritual ground. 

Gleaning principles for gaining ground in the Old Testament: Emphasize Prayer
As we pointed out, the Jews and the promised land in the Old Testament picture for us the Christian and their Christian walk in the New.  The idea of inheritance is mentioned nearly 20 times in Numbers 36, making it the perfect place to understand this concept of gaining ground.  The heads of a tribe in Israel was appealing to Moses on behalf of five daughters who were attempting to obtain their late father's inheritance.  The father's name was Zelophehad, and being that he had no sons, the question of course would be whether or not his daughters could claim the right to inherit his possessions.  Back in Numbers 27 these same people had appealed to God and Moses, with the Lord telling to Moses to grant their request.  It was now a matter of them laying claim to what was rightfully theirs. 

So what was it that these people of God did to gain their share in God's inheritiance promised to them in the promised land?  Notice what they emphasized: prayer. 

Numbers 36:1b states - "came near and spoke before Moses and before the leaders, the heads of the fathers’ households of the sons of Israel."  Where did these people draw near to speak to the Prophet Moses about this right of inheritance?  According to Exodus 33:7 "Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp."  Over time this "tent of meeting" came to be associated with the tabernacle. (Leviticus 1:1; Numbers 3:25). They drew near to the place where God's people go to speak to God and to hear God by way of the priest.  The priesthood in turn would perform sacrifices and go into the tabernacle to represent them in prayer. 

Gaining spiritual ground in the New Testament entails emphasizing prayer
In Hebrews 4:11 we read of the necessity for the Christian to "strive" or "be all the more diligent" to enter into God's rest.  That "rest" is the spiritual counterpart to the "land" and physical inheritance we see in Numbers.  What is it that we are to do today as Christians in gaining ground for God?  One of things spoken of in Hebrews 4:11-16 is the need to emphasize prayer. 

The writer employs the language of the tabernacle and priesthood.  Hebrews 4:14 and 16 - 14 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.... 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Specific areas of gain that can occur when we emphasize prayer
Just as the people of God drew close to the entrance of the "place of prayer", the "tent of meeting", so are we as New Testament believers.  No gaining of spiritual ground is possible apart from prayer.  Take note of significant New Testament passages that emphasize the place of prayer in Christian growth:

1. Ephesians 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

2. Philippians 4:6-7 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

3. 1 Timothy 2:1  "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

4. Jude 20 "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit."

As we gain ground for God in 2013 by way of prayer, we can expect to have clearer thinking (Ephesians 6:18), more peace of mind (Philippians 4:6-7), greater ability to change our communities (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and be stronger personally in our pursuit of God (Jude 20).