But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5:16)
Have you ever noticed how often we read in the gospels that Jesus was surrounded by crowds?
We find crowds round Jesus in many locations; in private homes, on mountainsides, in villages, in the Temple and by the lakeside. Yet, despite the constant pressure from the crowds, healing power flowed from Him as the deaf received their hearing, the lame walked, the blind saw, demons were cast out and multitudes were fed.
With a life surrounded by the needs of the multitudes, how did Jesus maintain His relationship with His Father? The answer is simple: He made time for prayer. It is clear that for Jesus, prayer came first and last.
Jesus began his public ministry in prayer.
Now when all the people were baptised, Jesus was also baptised, and while he was praying, heaven was opened. (Luke 3:21)
After a time of ministering to the crowds, Jesus went aside to pray
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. (Matthew 14:23)
When He had important decisions to make, Jesus prayed
He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. (Luke 6:12,13)
Before starting the day, Jesus prayed
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. (Mark 1:35-39)
When facing the powers of darkness, Jesus prayed
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray...” (Matthew 26:36)
The NLT Study Bible footnote on Luke 5:16, our title verse, is worth noting. It says: 'The Greek verb tense indicates that Jesus habitually withdrew for prayer.’
The greatest argument for the priority of prayer is the fact that Jesus was a man of prayer. If it was Jesus’ priority, let us also ‘habitually’ make it ours.
“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, mighty and awesome. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from Heaven above
With wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God
(Michael W. Smith)
.When we think of ‘awesome’ it conjures up images of a majestic sunset, a spectacular mountaintop view or the roaring of the mighty Niagara Falls. It could be a crystal clear night where, even if you stayed up ‘till dawn, you could not count the number of stars shining above in the heavens. All these sights are ‘awesome’.
However, God’s ‘awesome’ power and love can be seen in other ways. We see it displayed in the lives of men and women of God, a great example which is the Apostle Paul who first encountered Jesus on the Damascus Rd. God revealed to Ananias, a disciple who first prayed with Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts of the Apostles 9:16)
This suffering came in a multitude of ways over the years. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul lists some of these. He tells us that he was:
More persecutions followed until Paul was eventually martyred at the hands of Emperor Nero.
We often talk of Paul as being a great man of God with an indomitable spirit. He is spoken of in almost reverent terms. He truly was a wonderful man of God. However, while I in no wise want to detract from his great faithfulness and loyalty to God, there is a danger that we miss something of the truth behind Paul’s ‘awesome’ life. It can be summed up in one verse.
'I can do all this through him who gives me strength.'
(1 Philippians 4:13)
Paul sets the record straight. It’s all about God! It’s God who is awesome, not Paul. In Paul, we don’t just see the faithfulness of a man, but we see the faithfulness of God. We see how God strengthens and empowers a man over decades to carry out His work. God poured His power and strength into, and through, a human vessel. As we look past Paul, we get a glimpse of our ‘awesome’ God.
Friends, the next time you face your own trial or difficulty, and doubt if you will come through this, be encouraged by the power of God that is revealed through Paul’s life. Surely, we have an awesome God!
Tell the people of Israel to go forward. (Exodus 14:15)
We read of many tragedies in The Bible. The first, and perhaps the most tragic is the fall of man. Adam and Eve, whose lives were meant to be lived in the light of the glory of God, found themselves plunged into a world of spiritual darkness that they could never have imagined before the fall.
The story of Noah is also a tragedy. The human race had wandered so far from its Creator, that God saw it necessary to ‘start again’ with one chosen family. The human race, with the exception of eight people, was wiped out.
We also read a whole book of the Bible which relates a tragedy. The children of Israel wandered needlessly around a relatively small area of wilderness for almost forty years. A journey from Egypt to Canaan, which should only have taken eleven days, lasted 40 years. ‘The Israelites didn’t wander in the dessert for forty years because they were lost, but because of their faithlessness and rebellion’. *
What wasted years! What tragedy! The generation who was meant to be a people who fought and conquered nations, fought no battles except with their own natures.....and it looks like they lost those battles too!!
We only have one life to live. Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake as many of our predecessors. Instead, let us be like the apostle Paul who boldly said:
‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:12,13)
Let us too, adopt Paul’s attitude, pressing onward and upward.
'Marching onward, upward,
Marching steadily, onward,
Jesus leads the way,
Marching onward, upward,
Onward unto glory,
To the perfect day.’
Eliza E. Hewitt
* NLT Study Bible. Introduction to Numbers
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. (Isaiah 40:3-5)
What does this mean for our lives? This verse speaks of transformation. It speaks of clearing away everything that stands in the way of allowing the King to have free access to our lives, day and night. In reality, it speaks of living a holy life.
The Hebrew word for ‘straight’, ‘Yashar’, is worth looking at closely. It’s a word that can mean a number of things, all connected but with different nuances, but all showing us how we need to live in order to allow the King this free access. Here are some of its meanings;
There is an account in 1 Kings 22:1-38 of the actions of a man that demonstrates these qualities. His name was Micaiah.
We read that Israel’s King Ahab is about to go into battle and summons his 400 puppet prophets to prophesy victory for him. They were men pleasers rather than God fearers. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, who is with him, is suspicious of these prophets and asks if there is a prophet of the Lord. Enter Micaiah. Right from the start, Micaiah is upright and honours God. He has ‘made straight in the dessert a highway for our God’. Boldly facing kings and prophets he states:
“As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me”. (1Kings 22:14)
Micaiah fearlessly prophesies King Ahab’s death, followed by Israel being scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd.
As a result of his loyalty to the living God and living a holy life, King Ahab had Micaiah put in prison until he returned from battle. However, as prophesied by Micaiah, Ahab never returned from battle, and we are never told what happened to God’s willing servant and prophet. Was he released from prison? We just don’t know. But one thing that is clear is that Micaiah was a shining light in a dark period of Israel’s history. He chose to please God rather than men. He stood alone, apart, fearing God more than he feared men. He was a man of intense loyalty and integrity, a man who was straight, upright and just. Micaiah is a good example of a man who put ‘Yashar’ into practice. He had cleared the rough ground of anything unlawful or unjust and his life became a ‘highway for our God’.
God is looking for the same in each one of us. He longs for deep communion and fellowship with us, but we need to be ‘straight’, ‘upright’ and ‘just’ in our innermost being. That is how we make a ‘highway for our God’.
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