The main points of the last “Interactive Book” posts have been located in Isaiah 55:11 and 1 John 1:1-4. The first point regards seeing to it that God’s word accomplishes what He sent it into this world to do in each of our lives, and giving Him a good return on His investment in us. The second point concerns how our hands handle the word of life, including our fellowship with the Father and the One Sent. Moving on, let’s look at a familiar verse in John 4.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)
Notice this is spirit-influenced worship … not production-line, corporate, cookie-cutter, micro-managed worshippers. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but we aren’t all alike, and while men may try to make us all to conform to their standards and become the proverbial yellow pencil, and stuffed into an easy-to-control box, God wants us all to remain unique in our relationships with Him through His son.
If we look at the letters to the seven churches of God in Revelation 2 and 3, we see that God is not looking for “yellow pencils,” but for individuals that respond to His word and alter their lives. Each of these letters begins by addressing the group as a whole, citing strengths and weaknesses of each church, but each one ends with an appeal to the individual human heart – “he who has an ear to hear, let him hear” – and a promise “to him who overcomes.” God is addressing each of our unique minds and hearts that respond to the ways and thoughts of God in spirit and truth.
On Our Behalf
In 2 Chronicles 16:9, the Hanani the seer tells King Asa of Judah that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” This tells us that God is constantly scanning humanity, observing and watching to see what kind of response He’s getting on the word that He has sent into the world – to see how our hands handle the word of life. It also tells us that His scanner is tuned to certain character traits in human hearts.
The word translated “loyal” here and “perfect” in the KJV is the Hebrew word shalem (H8003). According to Strong’s dictionary, it means “especially friendly, or peaceable … full, complete, safe, whole.” Since we’re talking about our hearts, we could use the word “whole-hearted.” That’s the kind of people God is looking for and, lest anyone should be discouraged, I would add that this is a process. It takes time to become this committed, and on top of that we’re still human and we all stumble at times.
The other phrase in this verse I’d like to take a long look at is “to show Himself strong.” It’s from one word, the Hebrew chazaq (H2388). Strong’s paints this word picture for us: “to fasten upon or seize, to strengthen, confirm or fortify … to cleave, to be urgent, to behave Himself valiantly.” It’s somewhat similar to the phrase “to latch onto.”
And with all that in mind, we have to look at the next phrase, “on behalf of.” The Hebrew here is im (H5973), and it is a preposition, used to indicate something done together, or in common with, such as to eat with, talk with, travel with, have companionship with. It is used to show a closeness of spirit, as God said He would be with His people (Ex. 3:12).
So God is saying to us, “My eyes have roamed the whole earth, and I’ve found you, I’ve called you. You are my kind of guy or gal because of what I see in your heart, and if you keep responding to My word in this way, I’ll continue to strengthen and confirm you.”
Before diving into my next scripture, Philippians 2:12, I want to take a moment to notice that it begins with the word “therefore.” In other words, what follows is a result and consequence of what has already been said in verses 1-11 about Jesus Christ. Seeing His example of humility, studying what He did and the way He did it, then seeing the reward He received from the Father should inspire us to make the effort to follow His example.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)
Here we find Paul, the former authoritarian pharisee now a changed, and humble man, addresses the beloved brethren. This word “beloved” is from the Greek agapetos (G27). It is a form of the familiar word for godly love, agape, which Zodhiates defines as “beloved, dear … spoken only of Christians as united with God or with each other in the bonds of holy love … co-joined in the bonds of faith and love … beloved of God, or chosen by Him for salvation.”
Paul tells these people who have been chosen by God that they are doing just great when he is present with them, and then he counsels them to do even better without him. Paul knew that their salvation did not depend on their reliance on him. He did not try to make them dependent upon him (as some modern ministers do). In fact, he urged the exact opposite, as Matthew Henry’s commentary on Philippians 2:12-13 points out.
He [Paul] urges this from the consideration of their readiness always to obey the gospel: “As you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, Phi_2:12. You have been always willing to comply with every discovery of the will of God; and that in my absence as well as presence. You make it to appear that regard to Christ, and care of your souls, sway more with you than any mode of showing respect whatsoever.” They were not merely awed by the apostle’s presence, but did it even much more in his absence.
In 2 Corinthians 1:24, Paul said to another group of called out brethren, “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.” Paul was very careful not to even appear to be dominating or controlling of their faith. He did not want them to be dependent on him, but rather to be dependent on the One who called them into a personal relationship with Him and who counts us among His beloved ones.
“The Interactive Book” series: