GNB 51


July 13, 2022


“Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. The people celebrated the festival [as they were instructed by the Word] for seven days. On the eighth day [the Sabbath day], in accordance with the regulations set forth, there was an assembly.” (Nehemiah 8.18)


For all time, from beginning to end, the Word of the Lord which is the Lord and the Lord with us remains constant. As it was in the beginning so it shall be at the end and at all times between the two. In Revelation, Jesus introduces Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end who is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is imperative that we embrace the understanding of “the beginning and the end” as indicating “the start and the finish.” When John introduces his gospel rendering of the life, ministry and purpose of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of God, he offers this same insight. Jesus is the beginning of our faith and the finisher of it.

Paul urges the early Church to maintain their discipleship with illustrations taken from the track and field competitions popular in his day. He tells Timothy that he has run the race, fought the good fight and maintains his diligence to the end. To the Corinthians, he speaks of competitions which are entered with great training and due diligence. What is their gain? They receive the prize for which they trained and competed. It was a crown. Actually, it was a laurel wreath. He speaks of it in terms of temporary achievements because that “crown” does not last. He means this in two ways: one, the wreath will wither and crumble; two, there will always be someone faster and stronger who will win the next race and set the next record. But, he does not speak of such worldly competitions to be the ultimate goal. They serve merely as an allusion to the race of faith and the crown of glory which is given to all who run the race of life in faith to the finish as from the start.

In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read of the rebuilding of a nation of faith and a temple of God. It represents for the people of Israel, in the faith tradition, a new beginning. Those who ran before them the race that was set did not finish so well. They were overtaken and their defeat was cataclysmic. The nation’s citizens were transformed and scattered to the winds. The leadership had been captured and sent to a distant shore to dwell in exile for seventy years. At the end of that time, they would be released as God promised. In a report to Nehemiah from Jerusalem and in a vision to him from an angel of the Lord, the condition of his “people” is revealed. He appeals to Artexerxes, his desire and the call to rebuild the city and the hope of its people. He is granted the permission to do so with the blessing of the King who was their captor. It wasn’t just about rebuilding the walls of protection, the homes and businesses or even the restoration of the great Temple itself. It was about reminding the people that they were a “people of the Word.”

Mighty ones of God, followers of the Way of Christ Jesus, we are a “people of the Word,” too. God’s Word is faithful and true. His promises shall endure forever. The facts of this world do not prevail over the reality of the faithfulness of God. We are called to see the world through the testimonial lens of the Word. We are not called to see the Word through the broken lens of the world. When our race through life is completed, regardless of the “End of the Age” which is to come at God’s perfect timing, we will be addressed by how we finished. Will we have been true to the purpose of our lives, the cause of our lives and the faithfulness of our lives? God’s Word never changes but ours must!

We are called to be a “people of our word and our word must be the Word.” We have been a people of broken promises, good intentions, failed attempts, misguided endeavors and arduous searches for the the meaning and purpose of life itself. But, that is only the description of how we started. It must not be the description of how we finished. The determination of how we finished will probably never match up to the standards of the world. But, the true determiner of our lives is of the Kingdom of God revealed by His Word. No better revelation of this truth do we have than Jesus Christ Himself. Look how His life started: a pregnant fiancee was His mother; a doubting working man was His step-father; a town of disrepute was His homestead; a hollow in the rock used for an animal stall was His birthplace; He was born into poverty and His birth was the excuse used to murder innocent babies and children; He was a wanderer in exile Himself for nearly twelve years hunted and haunted by evil. Quite a dubious beginning if it were not for some shepherds, wise men and an angel of the Lord as well as parents faithful to their calling and to the Word. Hard to miss how His earthly life ended, too: hated, hunted, rejected, accused, betrayed, misunderstood, convicted, humiliated, crucified and buried in a borrowed tomb in haste with no fanfare. Rather a dubious ending if it were not for God’s promise of resurrection, faithful followers committed to finish their task, His own commitment to trust the process of God and angels of the Lord. And in all of this, we must see that His earthly beginning was not truly of this world but in it just as was His earthly ending. We must also see that as a “man of the Word,” He is now as He always was- “without end.” He is justified, glorified and seated at the right hand of God. He is the witness and the encouragement of our fate in faith. Our place is promised to be with Him always. Now the call for us is to be like Him: faithful and true to the very end which will have no end if it is determined by the Word. The question is not about God’s faithfulness to humanity. It is about humanity’s faithfulness to God.


Father God, how great is Your name in all existence from beginning to end which has no beginning nor end. You have determined to love us into life. You have committed Yourself to love us through this life. You have promised to give us life eternal and in all fullness. We thank You. We recommit ourselves to the race that is set before us. We will press forward in faith, hope and love to finish it because we have already received the prize which is Your abiding presence the same yesterday, today and forever. We run now not to gain anything but because we have the opportunity to glorify You and bring others to this truth for their lives. Bless us in our determination to be “people of Your Word.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. AMEN.

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