Today’s selected passage continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, and more specifically, is found in the sixty-fifth chapter of the book. I can’t help but be consumed with the first few words that begin this particular chapter. “I am sought.” Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous weight, power and force of these words. With these words the Lord emphatically declares that He was being sought—a reality which meant there was a people within and a people upon the earth which sought after Him. I can’t help but consider the various references in Scripture that deal exclusively with this seeking after and this seeking of the Lord. Perhaps the most noted references is found within the seventh chapter of the New Testament book of Matthew. This particular chapter contains the final portion of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Specifically, there is contained within this passage of Scripture words Jesus spoke which directly speak to the concept and reality of seeking. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much. More shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:7-12). With these words, Jesus clearly identifies three distinct act and actions which characterize and describes our pursuit of the Lord of hosts. When speaking of our pursuit of the Lord of hosts, Jesus is sure to use the word “ask,” the word “seek,” and the word “knock.” When describing the pursuit of the Father, Jesus described it in terms His audience would undoubtedly understand and recognize. Jesus spoke of the pursuit of the Father as requiring three distinct acts and/or actions—asking, seeking and knocking.
Tell me dear brother, dear sister—when was the last time you examined your relationship with and your pursuit of the Father with these three words? When was the last time you used these three words to describe how you pursue the Father of all lights with whom there is no shadow of turning? I am convinced it is absolutely necessary that we understand the pursuit of the Father with these three words, for these three words properly convey how we are to pursue the Father of lights. When speaking of our pursuit of the Father, it is absolutely necessary that we understand how it begins with an asking. Any and every pursuit of the Father has always and must always begin with the concept and reality of asking, for we have been called, invited and encouraged to ask of the Father, and ask the Father. Our pursuit of the Father is not only asking the Father very specifically and pointedly, but also asking of the Father. On the one hand, our pursuit of the Father involves our asking Him the questions which either cloud or consume our minds. Our pursuit of and our relationship with the Father has within it a willingness to ask the Father that which is most pressing within and most pressing upon our hearts. This pursuit of the Father includes an asking of the Father for the needs we continually find ourselves encountering on an individual and daily basis. Our pursuit of the Father most certainly includes our asking of the Father who shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory which are in Christ Jesus. This pursuit includes asking of the Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and who knows what we have need of even before we ask Him. Consider the words which Jesus spoke when delivering His famous Sermon on the Mount—“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:5-15).
When studying what many have come to refer to as “the Lord’s Prayer,” it is imperative that we understand the order and progression of this asking. When teaching His disciples and followers how to pray, Jesus teachers, encourages and instructs them to first begin with the acknowledgement that our Father dwells in heaven, and then an acknowledgment that the name of our Father is hallowed or holy. Immediately following the declaration of the dwelling of the Father, and the nature of His name, our Lord then instructs us what to ask for first—“thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” In all your asking of the Father, it is imperative that you recognize and understand the first and primary things we ask for concern the will of the Father and the kingdom of the Father. I would dare say that there have been a number of times when we have allowed our asking of the Father to be skewed and to be out of alignment. Sure we have come to the Father and have acknowledge that He dwells in heaven, and that His name is holy, yet we move right on to the bread, and even to deliverance from evil. I would dare say that there are numerous times when we skip right over a pursuit of the will and kingdom of the Father, and even forgiveness—both forgiveness of our own sins, and our forgiveness of the sin(s) of others. As surely as I am sitting here right now, I can’t help but wonder how much of our “asking” is absolutely and completely characterized, dictated and controlled by the anxiety, the fear, the doubt, and even the worry which is present within our hearts. Consider the words which Jesus spoke in this Sermon on the Mount concerning the various needs we face—“Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for thy sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeders them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I saw unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:25-33).
Jesus encourages us to ask the Father for bread—and not just bread, but daily bread. Jesus encourages us to ask the Father for forgiveness of our trespasses, so long as we are willing to forgive the trespasses and the debts of others. Jesus encourages us to ask the Father to deliver us from evil, yet before He encourages to ask for deliverance, for bread, and for forgiveness, He first encourages us to ask concerning the kingdom of God, and concerning the will of God. In all our asking, it is necessary and imperative that we never allow ourselves to become so caught up and consumed with asking for everything else that we neglect asking for that which truly matters. Isn’t it interesting that when teaching His hearers to pray, Jesus not only encouraged them to pray to the Father asking for His kingdom to come, but He also encouraged them to seek first the kingdom. What’s more—Jesus not not only encouraged His audience to seek first the kingdom, but He also encouraged the kingdom of God, as well as His righteousness. In essence, Jesus directly connects the kingdom of God with the righteousness of God, for you cannot have the kingdom of God without and apart from the righteousness of God. Jesus encourages us to ask the Father for His will to be done and for His kingdom to come, yet when speaking of the kingdom, Jesus also connects that kingdom with the righteousness of the Father. I’m reminded of the words of the psalmist which are recorded in the ninety-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms. “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about Him: RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUDGMENT ARE THE HABITATION OF HIS THRONE. A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about. His lightning enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (Psalm 97:1-6). In another translation, we read not “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne,” but rather “righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.” Please don’t miss the significance and importance of this reality, for there can be no kingdom without and part from the throne, and the throne is established upon righteousness and judgment. When we ask for, and when we seek the kingdom of God, we are seeking the foundation of His throne, which is both righteousness and judgment. Before we ask for deliverance from evil, before we ask for daily bread, and before we ask for forgiveness of debts, we are encouraged to ask the Father for the manifestation of His kingdom, and for the fulfillment of His will. THE FULFILLMENT OF THE WILL & THE MANIFESTATION OF THE KINGDOM!
When we seek to understand our pursuit of the Father, we must do so recognizing that it begins with an asking of the Father. “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 11:22). “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you” (John 15:16). “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24). “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you” (John 16:26). “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20). “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and ubraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and is tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-6). “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:1-14). WHEN ASKING IS REPLACED WITH FIGHTING! WHEN ASKING GIVES WAY TO QUARRELS! WHEN ASKING GIVES WAY TO WARS! The words which are recorded in the fourth chapter of James are actually quite telling, for I am convinced they reveal what takes place in a number of Christian circles and churches more than asking. James writes of wars, fightings and quarrels, and how such arise because of the lusts which war within and among our members.
James declared that we have not because we ask not, and then goes on to describe the two greatest dangers and threats to our asking—asking amiss, and asking apart from faith. James acknowledged that there was an asking which took place among those to whom he was writing, but there were essentially three distinct types of asking within our assemblies and gatherings. There is asking in faith according to and in the name of Jesus the Christ, and this asking draws the attention of the Father of lights who shows no partiality among those who ask in faith and ask in accordance with the name of Jesus the Christ. There is, however, two other distinct forms of asking which most aren’t willing to acknowledge—must less actually admit are present within their own heart(s) and life. There is an asking which is not in faith—an asking which is rooted in wavering, which causes one to be doubled-minded and unstable in all their ways. There is an asking which is an asking amiss—asking in order that we might use that which we have obtained to satisfy our own lusts which war within and war among our members. It is a great tragedy when asking in faith gives way to asking amiss, and asking while wavering. What’s more, is there is a great danger when asking is replaced altogether—replaced with quarreling, with fighting, and with wars. I can’t help but wonder how many wars have broken out among us within our churches and assemblies because we aren’t willing to ask. How many men and women have resorted to fighting with others in order to obtain that which they desire—and not only that which they desire, but even that which they covet. WHEN ASKING GIVES WAY TO QUARRELING AND DESIRE GIVES WAY TO COVETOUSNESS. It is absolutely impossible to talk about asking without also acknowledging the dangerous possibility that our desires can give way to covetousness. When desire gives way to covetousness, when desire gives way to jealousy, when desire gives way to envy, it is almost certain that wars, quarrels and fightings may very well break forth. Oh, how many Christian circles are nothing more than members warring with each other to obtain that which they covet? How many Christian circles are nothing more than members quarreling and fighting with each other because their lusts and pleasures are not met and have not been satisfied? The key and true underlying reality that lies at the very heart and foundation of all this is our being completely, totally and utterly satisfied with the Lord of hosts. Those who are not completely satisfied with the Lord will find themselves giving way to lusts, desires and pleasures which war against and among their members. I would dare say that there are men and women who are more skilled in fighting and engaging in quarrels and wars than they are going before the Lord in prayer and asking Him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we could ask or think. Tell me dear brother, dear sister—are you more skilled with entering into your closet, shutting the door behind you, and asking the Father in prayer, or are you more skilled in engaging in quarrels, fighting and wars with others?
I can’t help but see how the words which we read in this particular chapter within the prophetic book of Isaiah describes a number of churches, assemblies, houses of worship and congregations in this generation. “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; a people that provoketh me to anger continuallly to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; which say, Stand by thyself, Come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day. Behold, it is written before me: I will not. Keeps silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom, your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom” (Isaiah 65:1-7). There is a people in the earth today which draw near the Lord with their lips, while their hearts are removed far from Him. There is a people who fast to find pleasure, to exact all their labours, and who fast for strife and debate. There are those who fast to smite with the fist of wickedness, and who do not fast to make their voice to be heard on high. I am convinced there is a strong connection and strong similarity between the words which are recorded in the prophetic book of Isaiah—particularly what we read in this chapter—and the words of James concerning those who ask amiss, and who allow quarreling, fighting and wars to break out among them. The prophet speaks on behalf of the Lord and declares how He was sought by a people who did not ask for Him, and was found by a people which sought Him not. The Lord allowed Himself to be revealed to a nation which was not called by His name—to a rebellious people, which walked in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts. When I read the words of the prophet Isaiah in this chapter, I can’t help but be directly reminded of and challenged by the words of James in the first and fourth chapters of his epistle concerning asking amiss and asking while wavering. I am challenged by the words of James concerning fighting, quarreling and wars breaking out in the place where asking should be manifested. Tell me dear brother, dear sister—are you better at fighting than you are asking? Are you better at engaging in war and conflict than you are asking? Are you better at inciting and engaging in quarrels more than you are asking? Where do you find yourself more comfortable—before the throne of God asking by faith in the name of Jesus, of engaged in quarrels, fights and wars here on the earth? Let us examine our own thoughts, our own motives and our intentions in order that we might be a people which ask in faith according to the name of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord.
I so absolutely love how this chapter ends—with a promise of a brand new creation being released by the Lord of hosts. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: For, behold, I creat Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain saith the Lord.” BEFORE THEY CALL, I WILL ANSWER! WHILE THEY ARE YET SPEAKING, I WILL HEAR! What a tremendous promise is contained within this chapter—especially considering how it begins. Once more the Lord speaks of creating something new and calling the former things to no longer be remembered, nor coming to mind. The words recorded in the eighteenth verse are words which must be heeded by each and every saint of the living God in this generation—“But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create.” Oh that we would rejoice and be glad in that which the Lord has created. The Lord not only promises to create a new heavens and a new earth, but the Lord even promises to create a new version of us—“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Let us read these words and find tremendous hope and encouragement contained within them. Let us examine our hearts and our minds and let us examine whether or not we are those who ask in faith, or whether we are those who ask amiss and who engage in quarrels, fights and wars among ourselves and with others.