I would like to begin this letter by thanking all the members and friends at Emmanuel for your love, prayer and commitment through another year. 2018 was not an easy year in the life of our church in that we lost a number of our dear friends in death. Others went through very demanding situations in their own lives of that of family members, but we are grateful for the fellowship that has supported us through these difficult times. It is that mutual care that has focussed my thinking for this letter.
In Job 1:5 we read
“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Obviously Job is acting here first and foremost as a father, but he is also a leader in his community and we can learn a lot that will help us focus our responsibilities and privileges in a new year.
The first thing that we must remember in this practice in Job’s life is that we have a wonderful picture of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Job, He is the one who takes the initiative in our salvation and redemption. Before the world began He offered Himself as a ransom for our sins. When He walked this earth He did not act complacently, presuming on the grace of God, but He was often up a great while before day in order to pray. Unlike Job, our Lord is certain of our position in His sight. There is no doubt about our moral and spiritual condition, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 6:23). Similarly, He did not continually offer multiple sacrifices, but “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)
Job stands as a great example for us at the beginning of a new year. He was a wealthy man, who had built up a good business, but he was also a caring family man who cared for his wife and family as well as the community in which he lived. We live in a prosperous society and compared to the majority of the world we are very prosperous. That is not sinful, but what is important is that we use our wealth for the good of God’s people and the glory of His Name.
Job maintained his own walk with God and was commended by God for his godly living, but he exercised a mutual care for others, particularly his own family. When they faced trials and his wife tempted him to curse God, he was patient with her and said
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)
Knowing that the legitimate celebrations of his children may have gone to excess he made intercession for them. I purposely use that term, because it is much stronger than saying he simply prayed for them. I do not mean to belittle prayer by saying ‘simply prayed’, but rather that his praying was intense and involved. He could have reasoned with his children and left them to their own responses, but on the contrary he looked at their manner of life carefully and cast himself and them on God.
Our world is daily and consciously moving further from God and the principles of His Word. Our children are growing up with practices that a generation ago would have been unthinkable. The only thing that is going to arrest this is a direct intervention of God. We cannot engineer that, but we can like Job plead for God on behalf of our own children and the children of our society. I am equally concerned that as a church it is easy to be doing the work of the Lord in our own strength, rather than pleading with God for His grace. In reality that is pride and will lead to personal burnout and to the dishonour of His Name.
At the beginning of this year I plead that we all might give priority to seeking the presence and wisdom of God in our regular prayer times, but also in our week of prayer. We still have great opportunities in this country; let’s take them in the power of God.
Yours in our Interceding Saviour,