Jeremiah 49:1-22; 2 Timothy 4:6-22; Psalms 95:1-11; Proverbs 21:21-22
NT: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing… At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 CSB)
Paul had been through his preliminary first trial. For one reason or another, anyone who could have stood with Paul in his defense, did not. He had to face the judge alone… but he wasn’t alone. The Lord, who had promised to be with Him until the end, stood with him and strengthened him through the trial, that he could continue preaching the gospel to the gentiles as long as he had breath to do so. Paul did not deny the faith. As he stood before the judge defending his life, he also defended the faith that he had given his life for. The devil did not claim him as another victim. Through Christ’s strengthening presence, Paul was rescued from the temptations of the devil… and Paul knew that Christ would continue strengthening him until he came to his rest in Christ’s heavenly kingdom.
With his first trial complete, Paul knew that his second and final trial was just a matter of time. He knew that in his second trial, he would be found guilty and executed. The man who beseeched the Roman believers to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice was in the process of not just offering his body, but his very life for the sake of the kingdom. The time for his departure was near. The Greek word for departure refers to a ship that has been loosed from its moorings and is ready to set sail. Paul was ready to be finally loosed from his body of flesh and set free to enter his eternal life with Christ. The only judge that Paul was truly concerned about pleasing was the Lord, the only truly righteous judge. Not only would he soon be standing before the Roman judge, he would soon be standing before the Judge of all Creation. As Paul looked back over his life in preparation of standing before the Righteous Judge, he was confident that he would be rewarded with his crown of righteousness. He had fought the good fight and kept the faith. The long marathon of faith that he had begun so many years ago on the road to Damascus was nearly over. He could see the finish line, he had strength from the Lord, and he knew that he would finish well.
Unfortunately, it is very common for people to not finish well. The Bible is replete with stories of people who started out strong in their race of faith, but got off track or gave up before the finish. The Lord desires to see us finish our race well, and like Paul, He will stand with us and strengthen us for our battles. He will rescue us from the mouth of the lion and any other evils and bring us safely into His kingdom. For us to receive His strength and experience His rescue, we have to remain submitted to Him, filled with His Holy Spirit, and ever-listening to His voice.
Psalms: “Come, let’s shout joyfully to the Lord, shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation! Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving; let’s shout triumphantly to him in song. For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. The depths of the earth are in his hand, and the mountain peaks are his. The sea is his; he made it. His hands formed the dry land. Come, let’s worship and bow down; let’s kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep under his care. Today, if you hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know my ways.” So I swore in my anger, “They will not enter my rest.”” (Psalms 95:1-11 CSB)
The Lord is the creator of the universe and the God of all the earth. His is our Maker and we are His creation. He desires to be our Great Shepherd, and we His sheep. As our Good and Great Shepherd, the Lord will lead us to green pastures and quiet waters. He will renew us, lead us, protect us and care for us. Under His leadership and lordship, we find rest for our souls. As much as God desires to be our Shepherd, there are conditions to being in His flock. We must enter His presence with praise and thanksgiving. We must submit ourselves to Him in loving and reverential worship. We must hear His voice and obey His words. Though the children of Israel, after they were delivered from Egypt, praised God and offered acts of worship, they did not believe and obey God’s word. Therefore, they were not allowed to enter into the promised land, and had to wander in the wilderness outside of God’s rest. Paul was able to enter into the rest promised to him by the Lord because he honored the Lord with praise, submitted himself to the Lord in worship, and obeyed the Lord to the end. We need to not follow the example of the Israelites, but follow the example of Paul instead.
Proverbs: “The one who pursues righteousness and faithful love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21 CSB)
As Paul proved out with his life, the one who runs the race of pursuing the righteousness and [checed] zealous mercy and covenantal love of God will find life, righteousness and honor.
Prayer: Lord, You are my Lord, my God, and my Master. I am thankful to be one of Your people – a sheep in Your flock. I know that You will be faithful to care for, protect and strengthen me as long as I remain with You. Help me to run the race You have called me to run with endurance, diligence and faithfulness. Help me to lay aside the weight and sin that can easily trip me up and hold me back as I look to You, the author and finisher of my faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.