With verses 10 and 11 Isaiah closes this prologue to the rest of his prophetic utterances. “Behold [LOOK] the Lord your God…[your shepherd].“ Our God is holy, just and fierce against our enemies. But he is also a gentle pastor–shepherd to his people.
Men with all power tend to corrupt their power. But God, with almighty and eternal power will visit his people, not with the self-serving vicissitudes of power, but with compassionate, merciful and forbearing care. It is not just God’s self-restraint. He is holy yet “gentle and lowly” – that is just who our God is (Mat 11:29). Lord my feeble and wandering heart you mercifully embrace.
*For a beautiful impression of God as our shepherd see Barnes’ Notes on Isaiah 4:11.
With verses 10 and 11 Isaiah closes this prologue to the rest of his prophetic utterances. “Behold [LOOK here], the Lord your God.“ See your God as coming. See him as coming to deliver you from your troubles. See him coming with magnificent power and strength. See him as the mighty ruler that he is.
“Behold [LOOK here], the Lord your God.“ See him as the restorer of that which was lost by sin and the devastation of captivity. See him also as Messiah who comes to save to the uttermost. See him as the reward of heaven itself. Lord, may I have a vision of you as mighty in power and able to save to the fullest; my reward of restoration.
How quickly public opinion changes. But God‘s word never changes. Men make promises and do not keep them. But God‘s word is true and he keeps his promises. Men are like grass that withers and flowers that fade when the heat and drought comes. But the word of the Lord stands forever.
God keeps his promises to deliver this ancient people. He kept his word to send a deliverer in Christ Jesus. He came to deliver men from the curse of sin. He will keep us until the day of our salvation. God’s word will never fail. Oh Lord, you are faithful even when we are not faithful. You are utterly reliable.
Here we enter into the preparations of a great Monarch to forge a path through hostile desert places, perilous/treacherous mountain passes and murky low places, serpentine pathways and impassable routes. Why? So that the Monarch may be with the people of his/her kingdom.
“The Voice?“ A crier, lowly and hidden by the royalty and glory of the Monarch. The crier leads a great procession, legions of crews and engineers, to remove every obstacle hindering access of said Monarch to the people. Jehovah God, the Monarch, will move to deliver his people from the baneful hand of Babylon.
Just so, John the Baptist was a “voice” in the wilderness crying out, “Make way [clear the way] for the Messiah [our Monarch].” He is the deliverer of all men from sin (Jhn 1:23). The Lord Jesus has come to deliver us in these modern times and epochs from the curse of sin. Open the highway to your heart. Lord, may I tear down every obstacle that hinders the work of the most high God in my life (1Co 10:5).
“I have learned how to be content…“ This is a parenthetic statement given in the midst of a gratuitous statement of deeply felt thanks to the Philippian church for their financial provision to Paul. Paul’s joy (expressed so often and so well in this letter) informed his sense of contentment.
Joy is detached from circumstances. It comes from a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. So contentment is detached from other inner desires for more and for abundance. It comes from the One who alone gives us strength and courage every day. Therein lies the secret of joy and contentment. Fully rely on God for EVERY need. Lord, fill me with your joy and contentment today.
I learned this lesson long ago from, Beggar At The Banquet, the story of Hong, Woo Joon. He, his parents, brothers and sisters were severely and unspeakably persecuted Korean Christians as communism took over Korea in the 1920s-40s. Hong’s story is told by Donald B Sheley.
The book opens with this quote from Hong. “Life is like a banquet in a strange land. Great expectation preceeds some of the [banquet] dishes while caution hinders the complete enjoyment of others. As the guest, one is expected to taste and experience each course. Some of the courses are delightful, and others are not, but all are given by a concerned host [the Lord] and must be received and appreciated. That is my philosophy of life, a philosophy which I have been practicing at life’s banquet for 52 years. Some of the courses have been wonderful, others have been bitter.”
The love and admiration between Paul and the Philippian church went both ways. He loved them and they loved him. They did not need coaxing to help Paul financially. It was and is what friends do. Help each other in times of need. They stood with Paul and his mission work like no other church.
Paul views their generous financial help as a sweet smelling sacrifice, pleasing to God. This same God will continue to supply all their needs, and his. We serve a God who is able to provide for every task to which he calls us.
Lord, I can never out give you. You supply my every need, allowing me to give generously to the cause of Christ. Thank you also Lord, for my church and it’s generous mission work.
This is not rocket science. If you always want to be full of joy (v4), contentment (v6) and know God’s peace (v7), do this: focus on the soon return of Christ (v5), spend time with God in prayer (v6) and exemplary living (v8) – enthusiastically embrace the truth and what is honorable; embrace what is ethically right and morally pure; embrace amiability and virtuous living; embrace an attitude of praise for all it is excellent.
Give attention to these things, study them, practice them. All of these things practiced consistently will lead to a life of joy and contentment and peace. It ain’t rocket science. Lord, I recognize that true joy, contentment and peace are not out of the grasp of even an aged old sentry.
Having noted several divisions and disagreements in the church at Philippi, Paul moves to some more practical instruction. “Joy“ being a major focus of this letter, Paul begins there. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; again – rejoice!”
“Joy” is not happiness with no gloom. It is the victory of faith, the confident assurance of the soul secure in Christ Jesus. It is often related to and/or out of times of affliction.
Joy “In the Lord“ – God himself is the ground and object of the believer’s joy (Neh 8:10). This joy is like a storm cellar in the midst of a storm; safe, secure, from the tempest outside. Lord, be my joy, my source of strength in turbulent times; at all times.
Paul turns his attention to two women in the church at Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche. Their harsh disagreement comes as a bitter pill for Paul to swallow. First, because of his love for this church and second, because of their previous effective hard work sharing the good news with Paul and others.
Perhaps Paul recalls his own falling out with John Mark and Barnabas (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). When it comes to the Christian life before a watching world, it is time to mend fences and resolve to be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14,15). Lord, lead me to correct any unresolved conflicts in my life.
This verse rounds out Paul’s previous discussion with the Philippian believers. They are encouraged to stand courageously as citizens of heaven (3:20,21). I am also reminded here of Paul’s enormous love of those in the church at Philippi.
Paul expresses his absolute delight in the people of the church at Philippi. He equates them to a victor’s crown given to the winning athlete competing in the games. Who could be happier than that? They are Paul’s “crown,” reward, in the service of Christ Jesus. Lord you have so blessed me with fruitful faith encounters, with folks I have grown to love deeply:
Michael S, Robert, Mark P, Marvin H, Kendall K, Ronda R, Larry B, Rulen & Rebecca C, Diane F, Randy K, Juan, Raquel G, Joe & Hope Canales & Hope C, Rodney G, James G, Jennifer M, Raye E, Mary A, Ronnie A, David A, Lori B, Derek & Beth P, Danya B. THE LIST GOES ON. I love you dear brothers and sisters in Christ. You are my joy and my reward.
Standing in apposition to those who have corrupted the Gospel are those whose lives clearly represent the kingdom of Heaven. They are ambassadors of Christ Jesus in this world. This is a temporary home and soon the savior from Heaven’s Kingdom, Jesus, will call us home.
Our mortal bodies will put on a immortality like that of Christ. He will, by his power, bring all things under his control and we shall be like him in our resurrected bodies. Lord, while I am in this world may my life be a true reflection of your Kingdom.
We have the written word of God to guide us. But faith is more than a book of code to follow. How that “Code“ is followed, lived out, is also important. Therefore, we have examples to follow. Paul says, “Follow my example” (follow me as I follow Christ – 1Cor 11:1). Paul says we may also follow the example of others (like Timothy and Epaphroditus).
I have had a lifetime of examples to follow – parents, teachers, pastors, mentors, associates, friends – many godly examples of the “Code,” the word of God. I in turn am an example to others of that “Code.” I have witnessed the “Code” at work In others. Lord, may I honor and live out the sentry’s “Code” for others to see.
Paul reflects momentarily on his past. But he does not dwell there. He mentions some things for which he was ashamed. Are we not all dogged by shameful things? But Paul‘s point of view is that the past ought not haunt us today and paralyze our movement forward in Christ.
Paul strives for maturity. He labors now, not for salvation, but for knowing Christ more fully. Like a track athlete, he disciplines himself and pushes himself toward the crown of victory to which Christ has called him. Lord, this old sentry is encouraged by Paul to let go of my past failures and hold nothing back from fully knowing and serving Christ.
Oh, precious dear friends, remember to always rejoice in the Lord, no matter what comes your way. It is a joy for Paul to remind his dear brothers and sisters in the faith to rejoice in every circumstance. It is a joy for Paul to keep on telling them of the things that will safeguard their faith.This is just good fatherly advice going forward.
Paul says, “I never get tired.” Every spirit-filled pastor, Bible teacher and evangelist is motivated by the joy of Jesus to come week after week to a podium to instruct, exhort and reprove the people of God. Father, it has been my joy, though often tedious, to teach others from your Word. Thank you for the privilege.
How very important it is to train/mentor/disciple others to continue the work of faith in Christ. It is the job of the elder to pull the younger up to a place on your shoulders where they can see the folly of youth, grasp the pertinence of wisdom and learn to make prudent choices. Then, when he/she is unaware, to slip out from beneath, leaving them to stand on his/her own. The elder shares their place of prominence without making the younger feel painfully inadequate. Such was the work of Paul with Timothy.
Like teaching a youngster to ride a bike. You hold them up, help with balance, run beside them and then let go as they peddle their way forward. They don’t even realize you’ve let go. Eventually you stop and just cheer the youngster on forward. Lord, may I never stop teaching…or learning.
Paul rounds out his charge to the Philippines for wholehearted unity, love for one another and working together with one purpose. One word, “humility.” That’s how you do it. He gives the quintessential definition of humility: just put others first.
Set aside selfishness, looking out for my own interests. Set aside pretension and rejoice to magnify others as more than or just as deserving of praise. Show an interest in the good of others. In other words, “put others first.“ This is humility according to Paul and to Christ (see Luke 14:8-11). Lord, may I strive to always put others first, ahead of my own interests.
Paul knows his release from prison is possible, but not a “slam dunk” (v27a). So he encourages the Philippian church to make their conduct becoming, as they are citizens of Heaven. They represent the Gospel of Christ. No matter the circumstances, they should stand united in faith. They should not be intimidated by those who deride them and the entire cause of Christ.
Your life and witness is a challenge to the pagan culture around you. It serves to reveal that the enemies of the cross will be destroyed and believers will be vindicated, both by God himself. You can take that to the bank! So stand firm as Kingdom citizens. Lord, may This old sentry stand faithful and be found worthy of the Kingdom in the face of persecution and difficult times.
Seated here in my quiet place, in the early morning watch, it is difficult for me to grasp the conflict in Paul’s spirit. Words and emotions escape me. I am challenged even to write. The brokenness of Paul’s thought patterns serve only to express his inward desire to glorify Christ, whether he lives or whether he dies. Such a deep state of faith I can only imagine.
Paul is in prison and will be on trial for his life. His thoughts move from his imminent martyrdom to emotions expressing great exultation (it cannot be exaggerated) and rejoicing that he will be released. That he will see these beloved believers again is not assumed but expected. When they see him they will be doubly encouraged in their growth and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord, may the state of my faith be deep enough to glorify you whether in life or death.
Paul’s state of mind (his joy) is not tied at all to his circumstances. The entire weight of his well-being rests on two immutable facts: prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These will lead to his deliverance.
Paul believes wholeheartedly in the efficacy and potency of prayer; his own prayer, but also that of others for him. Paul also believes in the sovereign, providential leadership of the Holy Spirit as he walks with God.
God can do whatever he desires, but he chooses to work through his people. He invites us to come, counsel with him, talk with him and then walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25). This will lead to our deliverance and his glory. Lord, I can do nothing short of taking you at your word. I will pray. You will listen and you will guide.
We could spend all our time bemoaning our circumstances, thinking, we are better than this or that; thinking we deserve more, better. We sometimes compare ourselves to others. We ask God why “those people“ have all the good fortune.
Paul, writing from prison no less, for simply preaching the Good News, doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He doesn’t spend his time criticizing and judging “those people.“ Those preachers, whose egos are bigger than life, who are free to go where and when they want. No. Paul sees the bigger picture. He trusts God completely to care for, guide and use him. Lord, I surrender my circumstances to you. May I not complain, but stand in faith and rejoice in knowing that you are always at work for my good and your glory.
What is the prayer, that “holy hug,” that Paul expresses for his beloved friends in Philippi? He prays that the love of Christ might pour out in abundance from them to others. He prays that they will continue to grow in their knowledge of Christ, that they might live moral upright lives. He prays that they will be filled with the fruit of salvation (the righteous character of Christ). The ultimate goal of all of this is that they will bring much glory, praise, to God.
So, following Paul’s example, I pray for my family, friends and nation that Christ love might abound in them, knowledge of Christ will continue to grow, that Christ-likeness will be revealed in them and that ultimately, God will be glorified in their lives. And Lord, may my love, Christian character and witness also bring glory to the father.
Paul greets his Philippian readers with the words, “grace and peace.” The New Living Translation Bible study notes say, “Inside the tiny package marked ‘grace and peace,’ we find an inexhaustible treasure of God’s daily presence in our lives.” Grace and peace are at the source of all joy.
Everything I read as an introduction to the epistle of Philippians leads me to reflect on the subject of “joy.“ Yet, it is not joy that I seek as an end in itself. No. But it is the Giver of joy unspeakable whom I seek. Joy is the by-product. First Peter 1:8 underscores this appellation as descriptive of the experience of knowing Christ. I do not strive for joy. It it is a surprise gift that comes naturally as I strive to know Christ in all of his fullness. Father, may I know first hand the depths of grace and peace in relationship with you.
*Title of a book by CS Lewis; the story of his conversion to Christianity
Prayer: Stand faithful to the call of God on your life (Col 4:17,18). #AChargeToKeep #StandFaithful #LastWords
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
These are Paul’s last words to the Colossians. They are directed to Archippus: “Carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” A similar charge is given to Timothy (2Ti 4:5). It is not known for certain what role Archippus played in the Colossian church. He was an early convert to Christianity. He may have been the pastor of this church. To be faithful to the call of God was a solemn “Charge To Keep” by Archippus.
Finally, Paul, in his own handwriting, asked that the church “remember [his] chains.” He asked that they be mindful that he is in prison for preaching the gospel and to pray for him. He may also have meant that he was giving his very life for the truths that he has expressed in this letter to these Colossians. Father, the prayer sentry can give no less to his/her call to ministry and the living out of faith.
*It is worthy to note that George W Bush, then Governor of Texas (1999), wrote a book entitled, A Charge To Keep; named for the old Methodist hymn** by Charles Wesley – 1762 (based on Lev 8:35).
A painting of the same title (by artist WHD Koerner), on loan to Bush, hung in the Oval Office of President George W Bush. Bush states that the scene of the cowboy charging up the hill “epitomizes our mission. We serve One greater than ourselves.” Also interesting to note is that a closer look at the painting reveals that the charging cowboy looks a lot like Bush himself.
Epaphras (likely founder of the church in Colosse) – Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with a note about Epaphras (1:7). He mentions him again in the closing (4:12,13). Epaphras is noted as a faithful servant and man of earnest prayer. It is said that he “always labors fervently for you in prayer…“ That is, on any and every occasion Epaphras was ready to pray.
Epaphras was not only ready, he prayed “fervently.“ That is, he prayed with painstaking accuracy and knowledge. He was an earnest and sincere intercessor. Epaphras was “moved” by God towards deep heartfelt prayer. This is the goal of the Prayer Sentry. Lord, may this sentry, every prayer sentry, take every opportunity to sincerely pray for the welfare of others, that they might stand mature in the will of God.
In the closing lines of Paul’s letter to the Colossians he speaks kindly of eight men who are standing with him in the call to preach the Gospel. Some are in prison with him in Rome. Some are ministering to him in his incarceration for the Gospel. But prison for Paul, rather than a place of doom, gloom and defeat, has become a busy center for flourishing ministry. (“What [men] meant as evil against me, God meant for good, that many people should be kept alive – Gen 50:20)
From prison Paul plans ministry and prays for many. He teaches, disciples, exhorts, sends others out and serves Christ from prison. No matter his circumstances he is “content” (Phi 4:11 – written from prison). For Paul the place is here and the time is now. He finds ways to continue to spread the Gospel message. Prison holds no bars for the man or woman of God. Lord, though limited in my elder years, this duty sentry is determined to be as engaged as ever doing what he can to pray, share the Gospel and to encourage the people of God.
After you have prayed in private it is time to live your Christian life publicly. So, Paul says, Get Practical. Be prudent in your actions before a watching world…for the sake of the Gospel. Do not waste any opportunity to speak for Christ. And when you do speak, strive to flavor every conversation with grace (Eph 5:15,16).
Listen carefully to what people say so that you might give the best most appropriate response (Eph 4:29). Lord, fill this old sentry with your Spirit, that I may be prudent, alert, attentive, gracious and relevant. Enable my best sensory responses to those around me.