Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pray Earnestly to the Lord

I needed that reminder from the Lord today, "Pray earnestly to the Lord" (ESV). I was in my morning devotions, taking a detailed look at Matt 9:35-10:15. I don't often get to enjoy the extended time that I spent today – I had no particular agenda and my time was free to allow the Lord to take me wherever He wanted in the Scriptures. My wife usually sleeps in on Saturday mornings – it is 11:30am as I begin writing this and she is still sleeping – whereas I've been up for hours.

When I see a word in the Bible that raises a question, I will often look at the Koine Greek. I know some Greek, but it is not strong enough to recognize many of the various words or word endings. Therefore, I will go to various tools that I have: a very nice Interlinear NASB-NIV that someone graciously gave me; PC Study Bible which I've used for years and along with the NA27 Greek version that is an add-on to PC Study Bible; and some specialty software that I wrote which allows me to easily find words and word roots throughout the New Testaments based on the NA27 and NET Bible versions of the New Testament. By using these three resources, I can often dig fairly deep into the Scriptures to pull out a special nugget.

I started my devotions today looking at the verb ekballo (transliterated because the Greek font that I use may not be available on your computer), seeing that not only did Jesus cast out (ekballo) the demons, but he also gave the disciples authority to cast (ekballo) them out as well (v10:1). The root word for ekballo is ballo which means to "throw" or "send out." The first nugget that I saw was that Jesus did not just send out the workers, he applied ekballo to get them into the world (v9:38). That is to say, "Jesus thrust forth the workers." That I found to be very interesting, for they were not just sent or commissioned, but rather they would have solidly known that they were being pushed into doing it. With that, I wondered if I need that same ekballo at times to do what the Lord is asking me to do.

Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out the laborers into his harvest." And he called to him his twelve disciples ... (Matt 9:37 - 10:1 ESV).

I often look for chiasms as I read the Bible, and I am well aware that the book of Matthew is full of them. A chiasm, for those that are not familiar, is a literary structure that was used throughout the Bible as a way of giving emphasis to a certain part of the Scripture. (For more information on chiasms, see my article:
What is a Chiasm?.
Simply put, a chiasm is a structure of repeated words or themes that are in a form such as A – B – C – C' – B' – A', or A – B – C – D – C' – B' – A', and the verses that appear in the center are normally the point of emphasis.

I saw this pairing for Matthew 9:37-10:1 as I studied the Greek:
  A  – Disciples
    B  – Harvest
      C  – Laborers
        D – Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest
      C' – Laborers
    B' – Harvest
  A' – Disciples

(Some English translations present these verses as Disciples – Harvest – Laborers – Pray (or ask) the Lord of the harvest – Harvest – Laborers – Disciples. In so doing, the chiasm is made obscure which is one advantage of looking at Scriptures using the Greek as well as an English translation. I chose the ESV because it presents this structure correctly.)

As I stated above, the center point of a chiasm is the point of emphasis, which in this case is the portion that states, "Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest."

There it was, speaking to me in terms that I can plainly understand: the emphasis to pray fervently to God for the situation that is being thrust upon me by the Lord. The Greek word for pray earnestly is dehthete which some translations state as, "Ask the Lord of the harvest." In my word search through other places in the Bible where that word is used, particularly in the books of Luke and Acts, the sense is much stronger than "ask" – it is fervent prayer.

Over the last several weeks, I have been sensing an increasingly strong coaxing to develop another book. To me, that is an ekballo experience. My three earlier books, Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua, A Topical Treasury of Proverbs, and A Garden of Love, have had some success but they have not been best sellers. Should I follow this lead to develop another book, and if so, how do I approach the topic that is being presented to me?

The answer should have been obvious, but I had been using my problem-solving skills (that the Lord gave me) to figure it all out. Through the above chiasm, I came to understand the strong relationship between ekballo (the strong sending) and dehthete (earnestly praying which is the leading). If I am appointed by the Lord to do a work, I must know His direction in getting there lest I fade from the task. Therefore, I must reach out to my loving Lord and listen for His instructions. Time will reveal what the Lord will say, and then I will be obedient to that call. Stay tuned.