Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. —2 Thessalonians 3:1

John Piper, in a sermon, “The Power that Wields the Weapon”

This text gives tremendous significance to prayer in God’s victorious purposes. We could state the doctrine like this: Through prayer the word of the Lord overcomes obstacles and reaches a glorious victory.

finish-lineThe word of the Lord is pictured as an athlete running in a race to attain the prize of glory. An athlete is glorified when he wins and is recognized and acclaimed as superior to all the others in the race. So the word of the Lord is running in the world. It will one day win the race of words—the race of philosophies and theories and worldviews. It will be recognized and acclaimed as superior to all other words and philosophies—IF we pray! Pray for us that the word of the Lord may speed on in triumph.”

Now just think of it. Almighty God has spoken. If he is God, it is sure that his word will accomplish all his purposes. God’s truth must win the race of words, but the text says, “Pray that the word will be victorious!” I take this to mean that God will indeed cause his word to be glorified, but he does not intend to win the victory without prayer. Or to put it in the most amazing way, he does not intend to win without giving you a part in the victory.

This is simply amazing. God’s whole purpose of creation and redemption hangs on the success of his word. Jesus said that the gospel must first be preached to all the peoples (Mark 13:10) before the end will come. In the end there will be people in the kingdom from every tongue and tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9). The word must run in triumph to those peoples if the purpose of God is to be accomplished. If his word fails, if there are insurmountable obstacles, then the new heaven and new earth abort.

Therefore, since God does not intend to win the race of words without the prayers of his people, the very purpose of God in creation and redemption hangs on your prayers.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
(Luke 12:32 ESV)

John Piper on Luke 12:

This whole chapter of Luke (ch. 12) is strewn with words from Jesus about not being afraid. And in every case the contentment and peace and fearlessness and courage that he wants us to have is not owing to the human resources at our disposal (like money or ability or possessions or intellect or looks or status or connections). In every case the peace and courage and fearlessness is owing to the fact that God will be there for us even when human resources are small or fail entirely.

Over the course of the next three days, I will post parts of a commentary on Psalm 148-150 by Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries.  Here is Part 1:

Psalms 148-150 are too lengthy for me to include in the text of this meditation, and too important for any of us to ignore. So I encourage you to open your Bible and read them now. After you are finished, consider these four themes that emerge.

First, worship is a universal privilege. I could have said “obligation”, for worship is a duty we are commanded to fulfill. But I don’t want to give the impression that it is burdensome or oppressive. Exulting in the exaltation of God is an unparalleled privilege that is permeated by joy and satisfaction. But it is the universal dimension that I want you to note, especially as it is delineated in Psalm 148.

There are no people who are excluded, or a place where praise is not proper. In vv. 1-6 the whole of the celestial or heavenly universe is called on to praise God and in vv. 7-12 it extends to the whole of the terrestrial or earthly universe.

He is to be praised both “from the heavens” (v. 1) and “from the earth” (v. 7). “All his angels” (v. 2a) form an innumerable choir and join in the song (cf. Rev. 5:11). Even the “sun” by day and the “moon” by night (v. 3a) declare his power, never leaving their Creator without a witness.

All “shining stars” (v. 3b) add their voice to the chorus of praise! Billions and trillions and quadrillions of thriving heat and energy and blinding brightness testify to his immeasurable power and artistic skills. The Babylonians, from whose captivity these worshipping Israelites had recently been released, believed the stars were deities that controlled their destiny. But here we see that they are but one section in the celestial choir that echoes the glory of their Maker!

Every “creature” of the “sea” (v. 7) has a song to sing: whether diminutive perch or massive whale, be it the majestic dolphin or the ravenous shark. Stingrays and moray eels and starfish and barracudas and bass and trout and salmon together draw attention to him who is worthy of all worship.

As we saw in Psalm 147, so also in 148 “fire and hail, snow and mist,” even “stormy wind” fulfill his word (v. 8). “It is a grand orchestra which contains such wind-instruments as these! He is a great leader who can keep all these musicians in concert, and direct both time and tune” (Spurgeon, 3:B:439).

By means of “mountains and all hills,” whether the towering Himalayas or the foothills of central Kansas, be it Everest or an ant hill, God is glorified (v. 9a).

“Fruit trees and all cedars” (v. 9b) testify to his splendor: yes, apple trees and cheery trees and sycamores and oak and elm and sweet gum and weeping willow and sequoia and pine and, well, you get the idea.

Let us not forget the “beasts and all livestock” (v. 10a), both longhorn and lion, both jersey and jackal, even simbrah and stallion.

For some of us it’s hard to imagine that “creeping things” (v. 10b) such as tarantulas and ticks could praise God, but indeed they do; as also do all “flying birds”, both bluejay and buzzard, whether cardinal or crow.

Of course, we mustn’t forget the human race! “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers” (v. 11), “young men and maidens” together with “old men and children” (v. 12) are to praise the name of the Lord!

All that have “breath” (Ps. 150:6) should praise him with every breath until they are out of breath!

“We sing the greatness of our God that made the mountains rise,

That spread the flowing sea abroad and built the lofty skies.

We sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day,

The moon shines full at His command and all the stars obey.” (Isaac Watts)

2 Chronicles 28:1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made metal images for the Baals, and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering,according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

2 Chronicles 29:1 Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah  the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.

What a contrast!  The writer of the Chronicles is very clear, unambiguous, about the character of these two kings.  No need to wait until the end of their account to know where they stood.  Right away we learn the condition of their hearts.

Question:  What is the condition of MY heart?  Do I do what is right in the eyes of the Lord? Is my heart devoted to God?  Do I not only DO what is right, but obey out of a heart of LOVE for God?

July 23

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (ESV)

Pray for Us

3:1 Finally, brothers, [1] pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, [2] as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. [3] And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

July 23

Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)

Do Not Be Anxious

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [1] 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [2] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his [3] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

July 23

Psalm 148 (ESV)

Praise the Name of the Lord

148:1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. [1]

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

July 23

2 Chronicles 28-29 (ESV)

Ahaz Reigns in Judah

28:1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made metal images for the Baals, and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering, [1] according to the abominations of the nations whom theLord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

Judah Defeated

Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed 120,000 from Judah in one day, all of them men of valor, because they had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, killed Maaseiah the king’s son and Azrikam the commander of the palace and Elkanah the next in authority to the king.

The men of Israel took captive 200,000 of their relatives, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much spoil from them and brought the spoil to Samaria. But a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the Lord, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven. 10 And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the Lord your God? 11 Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you.”

12 Certain chiefs also of the men of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against those who were coming from the war 13 and said to them, “You shall not bring the captives in here, for you propose to bring upon us guilt against the Lord in addition to our present sins and guilt. For our guilt is already great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.” 14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the assembly. 15 And the men who have been mentioned by name rose and took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.

16 At that time King Ahaz sent to the king [2] of Assyria for help. 17 For the Edomites had again invaded and defeated Judah and carried away captives. 18 And the Philistines had made raids on the cities in the Shephelah and the Negeb of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages. And they settled there. 19 For the Lord humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had made Judah act sinfully [3] and had been very unfaithful to the Lord20 So Tiglath-pileser [4] king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him. 21 For Ahaz took a portion from the house of the Lord and the house of the king and of the princes, and gave tribute to the king of Assyria, but it did not help him.

Ahaz’s Idolatry

22 In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. 24 And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the Lord, the God of his fathers. 26 Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 27 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem, for they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

Hezekiah Reigns in Judah

29:1 Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah [5] the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.

Hezekiah Cleanses the Temple

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us.11 My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”

12 Then the Levites arose, Mahath the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; and of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah; 13 and of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel; and of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14 and of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. 15 They gathered their brothers and consecrated themselves and went in as the king had commanded, by the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord16 The priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and they brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it and carried it out to the brook Kidron. 17 They began to consecrate on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of theLord. Then for eight days they consecrated the house of the Lord, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. 18 Then they went in to Hezekiah the king and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the showbread and all its utensils. 19 All the utensils that King Ahaz discarded in his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and consecrated, and behold, they are before the altar of the Lord.”

Hezekiah Restores Temple Worship

20 Then Hezekiah the king rose early and gathered the officials of the city and went up to the house of the Lord21 And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the Lord22 So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood and threw it against the altar. And they slaughtered the rams, and their blood was thrown against the altar. And they slaughtered the lambs, and their blood was thrown against the altar. 23 Then the goats for the sin offering were brought to the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them,24 and the priests slaughtered them and made a sin offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel. For the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.

25 And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets. 26 The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27 Then Hezekiah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. 29 When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped. 30 And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped.

31 Then Hezekiah said, “You have now consecrated yourselves to [6] the Lord. Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the Lord.” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. 32 The number of the burnt offerings that the assembly brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the Lord33 And the consecrated offerings were 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. 34 But the priests were too few and could not flay all the burnt offerings, so until other priests had consecrated themselves, their brothers the Levites helped them, until the work was finished—for the Levites were more upright in heart than the priests in consecrating themselves. 35 Besides the great number of burnt offerings, there was the fat of the peace offerings, and there were the drink offerings for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored. 36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had prepared for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. —2 Thessalonians 2:16–17

John Piper, in a sermon, “Why Hope? Grace!”

The answer in today’s text is very simply, the grace of God. Our hope is rooted in the grace of God. It is based on the grace of God. If God were not a gracious God, we would have no hope. We could cross our fingers. We could have strong desires and wishes. We could even perhaps decide, by sheer dint of will-power, to be positive thinkers and thus make the best of our brief and uncertain lives. But there could be no talk of moral certainty about good things in the future. There could be no confident expectation that all things will work out in a wonderfully happy way for us.

The foundation of that confidence—that biblical hope—is the grace of God. Let’s get the text of God’s Word before us. 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17,

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

The phrase that we will focus on is the phrase, “good hope through grace.” The hope we have is a good hope. And it comes to us “through grace” or “by grace.” So when someone asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, one basic answer you can give is that you have tasted the grace of God. You have gotten your good hope through his grace.

    And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
(Luke 12:15 ESV)

J. C. Ryle:

It would be vain to decide positively which is the most common sin in the world. It would be safe to say that there is none, at any rate, to which the heart is more prone, than covetousness. It was this sin which helped to cast down the angels who fell. They were not content with their first estate. They coveted something better. It was this sin which helped to drive Adam and Eve out of paradise, and bring death into the world. Our first parents were not satisfied with the things which God gave them in Eden. They coveted, and so they fell. It is a sin which, ever since the fall, has been the productive cause of misery and unhappiness upon earth. Wars, quarrels, strifes, divisions, envyings, disputes, jealousies, hatreds of all sorts, both public and private, may nearly all be traced up to this fountain-head.

Let the warning which our Lord pronounces, sink down into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Let us strive to learn the lesson which Paul had mastered, when he says, “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content.” (Phil. 4:11.) Let us pray for a thorough confidence in God’s superintending providence over all our worldly affairs, and God’s perfect wisdom in all His arrangements concerning us.

  • If we have little, let us be sure that it would be not good for us to have much.
  • If the things that we have are taken away, let us be satisfied that there is a needs be.

Happy is he who is persuaded that whatever is, is best, and has ceased from vain wishing, and become “content with such things as he has.” (Hebrews 13:5.)