REVIEW: Message written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to revert back to Judaism. The writer is attempting to put back in some of the mislaid puzzle pieces that will leave the readers with no doubt that Jesus is God's Son and the anticipated Messiah. He does that not by negatively criticizing their former Jewish religion, but by using their beloved Old Testament scriptures that point to what/Who is to come. We've studied where he has reminded them that:
As a part of the Deity, Jesus was there at creation.
Jesus' revelation is superior to the prophets' revelation.
Since Jesus is Lord, He is superior to the angels.
He is superior to Moses and Joshua.
In today's lesson the writer begins his explanation of why Christ's priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood.
He reminds them that the Aaronic priests were supposed to be appointed by God. This must have really struck home to these Jews, because for the last couple of hundred years that was not the way it had been done. Instead of relying on God to choose the next high priest, the rulers of the land were appointing them. It became a political game, and occasionally the office was even bought with money. Men desired the office for its power and prestige and the honor that they wanted for themselves. Our writer reminds the readers that Christ didn't exalt Himself into this position, but was indeed appointed by God. He backs that point up with their Holy Scriptures.
The priests were to be chosen from among the men that they were to represent before God. For only someone from among them would be able to sympathize with their weaknesses and struggles. This is the reason Christ had to become man and dwell among sinners and be tempted Himself, so He could understand from a human point of view the weakness of man and the trials and temptations we face.
And face them He did. As I was doing my lesson, I became intrigued with the questions about the prayer life of Christ and the role prayer is to have in a Christian's life today. I want to dwell on prayer for the next few minutes, hopefully without answering these two questions.
Our text says in verse 7 that "Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death..." I imagine most of you thought of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His betrayal. Reading that account from the book of Mark 14:32-35 --
"And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, 'Sit here, while I pray.' And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be GREATLY DISTRESSED AND TROUBLED. And He said to them, 'My soul is VERY SORROWFUL, EVEN UNTO DEATH; remain here, and watch.' And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed..."
The agony revealed in just those few verses lets us know that we do have a High Priest who is able to sympathize with our trials and struggles.
God communicates to us through His word. Prayer is our communication to God.
A Christian who loves God surely will consider prayer to be a most essential evidence of love for God and a right relationship with God.
Prayer can be abused. The Pharisees loved to pray, but their prayers were not acceptable to God (Matthew 6:5; 15:7-8). Their long prayers were uttered to be heard and praised by men, but they received no reward from God. Likewise, empty repetitions in prayer do not reach the ears of God. He wants sincerity.
Prayer is a daily essential in the personal life of every Christian. Pray constantly. Daily we are to approach that throne of grace with confidence "that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). Yet we are to approach with a penitent and humble attitude.
For what does a Christian pray? What should be included in our prayers?
Let's pray, ". . . if it be Your will; You know what is best."
- Adoration and Praise of God. God's holy name is to be hallowed when we pray (Matthew 6:9). Thus we place God where He belongs - far above us, majestic, perfect, sinless, great, pure, ever-present, kind and good. David certainly understood this. He had a very active prayer life. We're told he was a man after God's own heart - perhaps because he poured out his own heart to God so frequently and abundantly. David was generous with his praise of God (Psalms 8 and 9). In Psalm 103, after praising God, David says that "we are dust" in relation to the Almighty God, ever-to-be adored.
- Thanksgiving. Thank God for everything! For the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our prayers, for the gift of God's love, for the means of salvation He has provided us, our families, our Christian brothers and sisters,
and all God's innumerable blessings. Thank God for the Church. God has not always required collective meetings of His people. Aren't we thankful that we have them now? It is not a burden to come to church; it is a privilege, a gift from God. We all have outside interests to fill our time with, but wouldn't we be missing a lot if we didn't have each other to work with, to help bear our burdens and sorrows and rejoice at our blessings. Many of the Psalms are outpourings of gratitude in prayer (8, 9, 30, 35, 103, 117, 118).
- Wisdom. God will grant wisdom to those who ask (2 Chronicles 1:1-13; James 1:5). We gain knowledge of God's will through a study of the Scriptures, but the ability to discreetly use the knowledge comes through prayer.
- Others. We are to pray for preachers and teachers of the gospel, missionaries, and for elders (2 Thessalonians 3:1). We are to pray for all Christians (Colossians 4:2-3; Hebrews 13:18), as well as for government officials and rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-45). Christ died for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8), so we disciples should love and pray for all men, including those that persecute us.
- Deliverance from Temptation. Sometimes we think it is our responsibility alone to refuse to sin. Jesus told his disciples to "watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 6:13). God does not tempt us (James 1:12-16), but he does allow us to be tempted. He will not "suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Forgiveness. Christians are still capable of sin despite the radical change in their lives following salvation (1 John 1:9). Jesus tells us to ask for forgiveness when we pray. That example is given in the Lord's prayer in Luke 11:4.
- Peace. The world needs peace today, but it cannot be obtained in the many ways by which man has sought it in the past. Philippians 4:6-7 says to have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and then God's peace will keep us in Christ Jesus.
- Unity. Jesus, the Head and Founder of the true church, prayed that all disciples who believe on Him might be united together with each other, the same as He and His Father are one (John 17:20-21). We should pray for all Christians to be one, to be "perfectly joined together" in one mind, in the one body, the church (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Divisions over names and doctrines are not right. We should therefore pray fervently that denominational divisions be destroyed. If we "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) and speak only "as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11), there will be unity in the one body--the church, for which Christ died and to which he adds the saved (Acts 20:28; 2:47). Truth and unity constitute a great part of Jesus' prayers to the Father.
- Personal Needs. In His model prayer, Jesus said, "Give us this day our daily bread." He will take care of us. So why does He want us to ask for these things even though He has told us He will supply them? Perhaps that can best be answered by this saying:
"Lord, do not let me forget that prayer is not to get You to give
me what I ask for, but to get me to ask for what You give."
He wants our dependence on Him, to lean upon the Savior. I know the Lord is keeping me at this income level to teach me to DEPEND ON HIM and not my income; but how long is this lesson going to last? Upon no one else can we lean upon--He is our Rock and our Salvation. "So let us then with confidence draw hear to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Finally we are to pray through Jesus. This is the point of the Hebrew letter--Christ is our Mediator, our only mediator. There is "one God, and one mediator between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). In spite of this plain teaching in the Bible, today the religious world recognizes literally hundreds of mediators. But there is no priest on earth through whom God is approached. Pray to God through the One He has appointed (Hebrews 4:14-16; Colossians 3:17; John 14:4) --the Messiah, the Promised One, who has given the ultimate sacrifice, removed our sins, and is taking our requests personally to God --Special Delivery-- Jesus Christ.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Spring 1990
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