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The Global Glorification of the Merciful GodBy John Piper — 1 year ago
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:8–13)
When you read the letters of the apostle Paul, you discover that one of his trademarks is to build modest houses and then dig mile-deep foundations under them.
For example, marriage is a modest house, and the way a husband treats a wife is a fairly ordinary, everyday, modest act in that house. Paul builds that modest house in Ephesians 5, and then he digs a mile-deep foundation for it.
He says to husbands, “Here’s the foundation for your modest house called marriage: the Son of God — the second person of the infinite, eternal Trinity and the Creator of the universe — possessed, from before eternity, a predestined holy and blameless bride, the church. And to make her his own and cleanse her from all impurity, he came into the world as the God-man, and he was crucified in her place. And deeper than the mystery of Genesis 2:24, he became one flesh with her — one body — that they might enjoy each other forever.”
To this mile-deep foundation Paul adds, “Therefore, husbands, a modest proposal: this afternoon, be kind to your wife.” So Paul builds modest houses and digs mile-deep foundations under them.
Modest Conflict Reconciliation
Here’s another example from Romans 14. The vegans and the meat lovers in the Roman church are quarreling, so Paul builds a modest house. He says, “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6). So, get along without judging each other, says Paul.
Then he digs a mile-deep foundation under that house:
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7–9)
“One of Paul’s trademarks is to build modest houses and then dig mile-deep foundations under them.”
To which, perhaps, one of his impatient pragmatist friends would say, “Paul, we are talking about vegetables and steak! And then you bring in life and death and the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection and his lordship over the living and the dead — good grief! Lighten up. You don’t need to get all deep and theological and heavy about everything.”
Then we come to our text, Romans 15:8–15, and we notice that it begins with the word for — otherwise known as a massive drill bit for digging pilings a mile deep under modest houses.
Paul builds the modest house in Romans 15:5–7:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
There’s the modest house: “Live in harmony. Welcome each other. Do it all to show how glorious God is.” And then he fastens the drill bit in Romans 15:8 — using the word for — and digs a mile-deep missions week text about “The Global Glorification of the Merciful God,” which is the title of this message.
This is not a message on Romans 15:5–7. It’s not an exposition of living in harmony and welcoming each other as Christ welcomed us for the glory of God. But it’s good for you to know that this mile-deep missions text about the global glorification of the merciful God was drilled to support the modest house called Bethlehem Baptist Church, who welcome one another as Christ welcomed us.
We often think the other way around — namely, that the church exists to support missions. There’s a sense in which that’s true, but that’s not the way Paul set it up here. Romans 15:8–13 is a mile-deep missions text about the global glorification of the merciful God, and all of this passage is dug as an unshakeable foundation under the modest house of Christian harmony called Bethlehem. God has been doing this for one hundred and fifty years — making his global mission a massive support for the church. It’s not just the other way around.
So let’s watch him drill these pilings. Romans 15:8 says this: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised.” Male circumcision was the sign of belonging to Israel. So Paul is saying that the Son of God came into the world as the Jewish Messiah. When the high priest asked Jesus in Mark 14:61, “Are you the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus answered, “I am.”
As the Messiah, he said in Mark 10:45, “[I] came not to be served but to serve, and to give [my] life as a ransom for many.” As the Messiah, “[he] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). As the servant-Messiah, he became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
But as a servant to the circumcised he was not coerced or forced: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Christ served Israel freely. He gave his life freely. He took it back freely. He died. He rose. And thus he served.
Why? Why did he come to serve like this? Paul answers in the middle of Romans 15:8: “To show God’s truthfulness.” Here’s the entire verse: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness” — or we might also say, for the sake of God’s truth. Christ came into the world as the Jewish Messiah to prove to the universe that God tells the truth. He only tells the truth. He never lies. Every word of God comes true.
Two Great Purposes of God
At the end of Romans 15:8 and the beginning of Romans 15:9 Paul drills down into two purposes guaranteed by God’s truthfulness. Because God is absolutely truthful, two purposes of God will come to pass. First, God’s promises made to the patriarchs are firm — they will come to pass. Second, the Gentiles will glorify God for his mercy.
Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Romans 15:8–9)
We might jump to the conclusion that these are two distinct purposes. Confirm promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — that’s one purpose. Bring about the global glorification of the merciful God — that’s the second purpose. But I doubt it, because God’s purpose to save the Gentiles was included in the promises made to the patriarchs.
Promises to the Patriarchs
Genesis 12:3 says, “I will bless those who bless you . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” When the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, came to serve Israel — when he died and rose again to confirm the promises made to Abraham — in that very act of confirming the promises to Israel, he secured the global glorification of his mercy among all the families of the earth. Because that’s what God promised to Abraham.
So God is true. He keeps his word to Israel, and that word promised that Israel would be blessed and that Gentiles would be blessed through Israel. Never think of the Great Commission as excluding Jewish people. Jesus came into the world to confirm the promises made to them. And those promises include a great salvation through faith in Messiah Jesus.
There are almost fifteen million Jewish people worldwide. Sixty-five thousand Jews live in Minnesota, mostly in the Twin Cities. There are twenty-four synagogues in these cities. Jesus Christ is their only hope. Every missional focus at Bethlehem includes them. God’s call is on some of you for the Jewish people. Your call is right here in this text — to join Christ in confirming the promises made to Israel.
Gentiles Will Glorify God
But let’s focus for the rest of our time on God’s second purpose — the global glorification of the merciful God.
Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, [first] in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and [second, to make explicit that it is included in the first] in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Romans 15:8–9)
Let’s ask three questions: Who are the Gentiles? What is God’s mercy? And, How are Gentiles to glorify God?
1. Who are the Gentiles?
Paul quotes four different Old Testament passages to support his claim that God’s purpose is that Gentiles glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:9–12)
In all four quotations he mentions Gentiles. He chose these texts to show that already in God’s purposes in the Old Testament — you could say, in his promises to the patriarchs in Deuteronomy, Psalms, or Isaiah — already in God’s word to Israel, his aim was that the Gentiles would be saved. They would glorify God for his mercy.
In one of these four quotations from the Old Testament, Paul shows us what he means by “Gentiles.” It’s in Romans 15:11: “And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.’”
“God’s purpose is that he be glorified for his mercy among the peoples of the world.”
“Peoples” — with an s — parallels “Gentiles.” This means that Gentiles are not simply to be understood as individual non-Jews. It does have that meaning in many places, but Paul is striking another note here. God’s purpose is that he be glorified for his mercy among the peoples of the world. This is why there is an s at the end of the word people in our church mission statement: “We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”
Therefore our calling as a church in global missions is not only to win to Christ as many individuals as we can, but also to make disciples among unreached or unengaged peoples. Or as one of our global partners emphasized yesterday, our calling is to plant biblical churches that plant biblical churches among all the peoples of the world.
2. What is God’s mercy?
In the Bible “mercy” and “grace” are overlapping realities. Where they overlap, they have the common meaning of treating someone kindly and helpfully. The difference is this: when that kindness is drawn out by a person’s misery, we tend to call it mercy, but when that kindness is drawn out in spite of the person’s guilt, we tend to call it grace.
You can show mercy to an animal because an animal can be miserable (Proverbs 12:10). But you don’t show grace to an animal because animals don’t have moral capacities that make up the basis of moral guilt.
The Bible tends to use these words interchangeably when dealing with God’s grace and mercy towards sinners because our greatest misery — namely, suffering in hell, forever cut off from the goodness of God — is inseparable from our guilt. No human being but one has ever lived whose misery was not accompanied by guilt. Therefore all of God’s mercy toward humans is gracious.
But here Paul strikes the note of mercy: “ . . . that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:9). When God came down on Mount Sinai and declared his name, he said, “I am.” He said, “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious” (Exodus 34:6). The first thing out of his mouth after his name is mercy: “My name is Yahweh! My name is Yahweh! I am merciful. I look with pity upon the miserable.”
And when Zechariah was filled with the Spirit in Luke 1:78, he exulted in why Jesus and John the Baptist had come: “Because of the bowels of the mercy of our God.” That’s a risky image. God doesn’t have intestines, but he has mercy way down in the feeling part of his being. Not just brains of mercy. Bowels of mercy. Deeply felt mercy.
When Christ became a servant to the circumcised and gave his life as a ransom for many, they sang a new song in heaven: “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). A tsunami of mercy was unleashed for all the peoples of the world. Missions is God’s plan to make that mercy known and glorified. There is no other plan. Therefore, it will succeed. Which brings us now to our last question: How are Gentiles — the peoples — to glorify God?
3. How are the peoples to glorify God?
Be sure you see what Romans 15:9 says. It does not say, “In order that the Gentiles might receive mercy.” It does not say, “In order that the Gentiles might glorify God’s mercy.” It says, “In order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
“God’s mission to the world is radically God-focused, God-exalting.”
God’s mission to the world is radically God-focused, God-exalting. The end of all things is God. And he is so glorious — so great, so beautiful, so valuable — that his glorious fullness overflows with mercy. Mercy is the stream. God is the fountain. Missions lead people to the stream and then up the stream to the fountain because the goal of all missions is that all the peoples would glorify God — glorify God! — for his mercy.
So then, how are all peoples to glorify God? The answer is found in the four Old Testament quotations in Romans 15:9–12. As I read them, you tabulate the words that describe how the peoples are to glorify God for his mercy.
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:9–12)
I think “extolling” and “praising” are basically the same, so what we have is praise, sing, rejoice, and hope. Which of these is at the bottom, giving rise to the authenticity of the other three? Here’s what I suggest.
Joy is at the bottom. Romans 15:10: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” Joy is the root: joy in seeing and savoring the glory of God spilling over in mercy. Next comes hope: the hope that this joy will last forever, never giving out but only getting better and better. Next comes praise: praise may be unspoken or spoken. In my heart I can offer to God words of praise for his glory. And finally comes song: my inner joy in God’s glory, my hope that it will last forever and get better and better, and my heart-praise burst forth in song.
You do see what this means, don’t you? It means that the way the peoples glorify God for his mercy is by being happy in the glorious God of mercy — not just happy in the relief of misery, but happy in the glorious God who relieves the misery of guilty sinners, all because Christ became a servant to the circumcised. Gladness in God for his mercy glorifies God for his mercy.
Sustained for and by Missions
So here we are at the bottom of the mile-deep foundation for Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another [at Bethlehem] as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Then Paul fastens the drill bit and digs his mile-deep foundation for our welcoming one another: incarnation, the service of Christ’s sacrifice, the declaration of God’s truth, the confirmation of God’s promises, and the global glorification of the merciful God.
God has sustained our church for one hundred and fifty years. He has sustained us for the sake of world missions, but in this text it’s also the other way around. God’s mission to be glorified for his mercy among the peoples is the mile-deep foundation that supports the church. So may God raise up hundreds of you for the sake of the peoples and for the sake of our church.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!Let the nations be glad and sing for joy. (Psalm 67:3–4)
Sleep Beneath His Promises: Learning Rest from the PsalmsBy Scott Hubbard — 1 month ago
On some nights, as the lights go off and the house grows quiet, a restful hush seems to descend on everything around us — but not on us. We lie on our bed like Gideon’s fleece, the only dry spot in a world bedewed with sleep.
A thousand thoughts may keep us awake when all around us rests. Thoughts of work unfinished and questions unanswered. Thoughts of living sorrows and dead comforts. Thoughts of last day’s regrets and next day’s needs.
Falling asleep may seem simple enough. “All it takes,” writes sleep researcher Nancy Hamilton, “is a tired body and a quiet mind” (The Depression Cure, 207). Yet the second half of that equation sometimes feels like a wish beyond reach. We might sooner touch the moon.
Our Lord “gives to his beloved sleep,” Solomon assures us (Psalm 127:2). But on nights such as these, we can hold the gift in helpless hands, wondering how to unwrap it.
Calm and Quiet Mind
The psalmists knew just how easily cares, sorrows, and mysterious causes could chase the sleep from their eyes. They, like us, had lain for long hours on their beds, thoughts churning (Psalm 77:1–3). They had watched many moons roll slowly across the sky (Psalm 22:2). They knew that sometimes, for good and kind reasons, the God who gives to his beloved sleep also takes from his beloved sleep.
And yet, Solomon and David and the other psalmists also knew that sleep really was possible, even on the most unlikely nights. Even when hunted in the wilderness (Psalm 3:5), or sunk down in sorrow (Psalm 42:8), or consumed with thoughts of life’s half-finished buildings (Psalm 127:1–2), they had experienced the wonder of laying their cares before their God, and laying themselves down to sleep. The psalmists knew that a quiet mind could be theirs, even when a quiet life was not.
No doubt, a quiet mind comes, in part, from simple wisdom: if we drink coffee in the late afternoon, or try to sleep in the afterglow of our smartphones, we should not be surprised to find ourselves still awake at midnight. But ultimately, the Psalms remind us that a quiet mind comes from the hand of our sleep-giving God, who nightly draws near to our beds as the Lord who is our shield, our shepherd, our comfort, our life.
The Lord Is Your Shield
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. (Psalm 3:5)
The David of Psalm 3 had every reason to be anxious, every reason to lie down on a bed of cares. Chased from Jerusalem by a treacherous son, he now ran through the wilderness, hunted like a beast (Psalm 3:1–2). I can scarcely imagine a scenario less hospitable to sleep. Yet sleep David did, and apparently without much trouble: “I lay down and slept,” he says (Psalm 3:5). But how?
David’s words just before these shed particularly helpful light on the faith that sent him to sleep:
I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:4)
David, king of Israel, was used to reigning on the holy hill of Jerusalem. He once sat atop that hill with tremendous authority, royal power. Yet David knows that even when his own throne sits empty, or occupied by a rebel son, God’s throne is always and ever full. David didn’t need to reign on his throne in order to sleep; he just needed God to reign on his. If only God was on his holy hill — his character sure, his covenant firm — then David could sleep in the wilderness.
“Our cares may be many and close; our God is mighty and closer.”
We may lie down tonight in some wilderness of helplessness, hunted by cares far beyond our control. We may feel utterly vulnerable before some dark and brooding uncertainty — some coming diagnosis, some job insecurity, some relational conflict with much at stake. But even then, our God still sits with crown and scepter, his holy hill untouched. He is, by night, “a shield about me,” and by morning, “the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). Our cares may be many and close; our God is mighty and closer.
The Lord Is Your Shepherd
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He makes me lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23:1–2)
In his helpful little book And So to Bed . . ., Adrian Reynolds notes that sheep lie down for only one reason: to rest or sleep (35). Picture, then, those familiar green pastures of Psalm 23 dotted with mounds of dozing wool, at rest beneath a shepherd whose faithful care assures them, “I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
How many restless nights find their source in the deep-down fear that we shall, in fact, want — that the new morning will not bring new mercies, that tomorrow’s bread will not come? How often does our lonely ruminating suggest that we do not trust the Lord to be our shepherd? How strange and sad it would be to see a sheep anxious and fearful beside the rod and staff, bleating as if it walked alone. Yet so I often am.
On such nights, we could hardly ask for a better bedtime confession than “I shall not want” — nor for a better assurance of that truth than “the Lord is my shepherd.” Especially when tomorrow seems filled with daunting needs, with wants beyond the strength of sheep, these words may become the staff that leads us to green pastures, the shepherd’s hand that lays us down.
If the Lord really is our shepherd, then our wants do not require a worried and wakeful heart. He can do far more in our sleeping than we can do in our waking. And whatever needs tomorrow holds, his provision will prove equal to the task.
The Lord Is Your Comfort
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. (Psalm 147:4)
Among the many kinds of restlessness the psalmists bring to their beds, the restlessness of sorrow may be the most common. Throughout the Psalms, we read of midnight weepers (Psalm 30:5), of wakeful, comfortless souls (Psalm 77:1–2), of saints whose tears stain their sheets (Psalm 6:6). Sorrow often makes for a sleepless heart.
In such moments, God’s voice in creation joins his voice in Scripture to speak comfort over our pain. Turn, then, and look out your window. Can you see a hundred burning stars — and imagine beyond them billions more? Your God “determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4). Such a thought might, at first, make us feel smaller than ever, our broken hearts too humble for God’s notice. But the psalmist draws the opposite application: if God names the very stars — these background props of creation — then he has certainly not lost sight of his dear people’s sorrows (Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 40:26–27).
“As surely as God knows the name of every star, he knows our hidden sorrows, our unseen aches.”
God’s exhaustive awareness of heaven’s hosts is meant to assure us not of our insignificance, but of his attention — and his attention particularly to our pains: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” the psalmist says (Psalm 147:3). As surely as he knows the name of every star, he knows our hidden sorrows, our unseen aches. And he is, for all his people, the great Healer of hearts and Binder of wounds.
Such a promise, shining from every star above, can become the song that sends us to sleep.
The Lord Is Your Life
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
Someday, if Jesus should tarry, we will shut our eyes one final time, never to awake again in this world. The psalmists keenly felt the coming of this last sleep. But they were also given glimpses, however small, of something past this sleep. When David sings of a waking that will show him “your face . . . your likeness,” he sings of a waking beyond this world, a morning only heaven could make (see also Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2).
It was a precious glimpse, but still just a glimpse. You and I see more. For David’s Son has now come, bringing a dawn beyond death’s night. For two days he lay down in the tomb, and then on the third, he woke. The apostle Paul draws the line between Jesus’s great and final sleep and ours:
God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10)
As we go to sleep tonight, our Lord’s hands are ready to hold us safe. And in the hollow of his hands is a quiet that can calm the loudest mind, waking or sleeping, living or dying. Because even if this sleep should be our last, our eyes will open once again — not now upon the face of spouse or children, but upon the face of him who for ten thousand nights has been our shield, our shepherd, our comfort, and now our everlasting life.
Lead Me, O Lord: Ten Prayers for Christian LeadersBy Jon Bloom — 7 months ago
Pastor is a strange and difficult calling. It’s strange because, to use the biblical metaphor, a pastor is a sheep to whom the Great Shepherd has entrusted certain shepherding responsibilities within a particular “flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2) — he’s a shepherding sheep. And it’s difficult because, in addition to carrying out his demanding shepherding responsibilities, he himself needs to be led by the Great Shepherd as much any other Christian. Indeed, he is to set an example of following for his fellow sheep (1 Peter 5:3).
In other words, a pastor is a lead follower, which puts the emphasis of his calling in the right places. He’s first and foremost a follower of Jesus, the Great Shepherd, like any other sheep. Lead describes not his exalted status or unquestionable spiritual authority or superior value within the flock, but his sober calling to follow his Shepherd in such a way that his fellow sheep can “consider the outcome of [his] way of life, and imitate [his] faith,” to speak to them “the word of God,” and to keep watch over their souls, as one “who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
Call to Prayerful Dependence
If understood correctly, a pastor’s calling is designed to keep him in a posture of prayerful dependence, with his fellow flock members praying on his behalf. For who is adequate for such a calling — accountable to Jesus for how he models what it means to be a Christian, how rightly he handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and how the souls under his care spiritually fare? A pastor’s calling should regularly send all the sheep to their knees, because how well a pastor leads hangs on how well he follows the Great Shepherd’s lead.
“How well a pastor leads hangs on how well he follows the Great Shepherd’s lead.”
To that end, the following are ten suggested ways pastors can pray to be led by Jesus, drawn from various psalms. And they can be easily adapted by church members as ways to pray for those who love them enough to serve as lead followers.
1. Following: Lead me as my shepherd.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1–3)
Great Shepherd, the flock I am a part of is your flock, and I am only an “overseer,” a lead follower, by the appointment of your Spirit (Acts 20:28). Therefore, I am all the more dependent on you to shepherd me, since apart from you I can do nothing (John 15:5). Help me keep looking to you for everything I need (Philippians 4:19) and seeking to serve your flock in the strength you supply (1 Peter 4:11). Lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.
2. Wisdom: Lead me in your understanding.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. (Psalm 119:34–35)
Great Shepherd, I believe that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and that “all those who practice it have a good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). This is why I delight in your word: it is the source of understanding for how I and my fellow sheep may “walk in a manner . . . fully pleasing to” you (Colossians 1:10). So give me understanding that I may wisely observe your commandments with my whole heart, because I love you (John 14:15).
3. Teaching: Lead me by your Spirit.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! (Psalm 143:10)
Great Shepherd, you’ve called me, as a lead follower, to teach my brothers and sisters (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9). Help me remember that I have nothing to teach them that I have not received from you through others by your Spirit (1 Corinthians 4:7). And help me remember that I am responsible to teach not merely through what I say, but through what I do by the power of your Spirit (James 1:22). So lead me by your good Spirit, and teach me to do your will.
4. Purity: Lead me in your righteousness.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness. (Psalm 5:8)
“Great Shepherd, lead me in your righteousness — don’t let me try to lead with mine.”
Great Shepherd, apart from your sovereign keeping, I am as vulnerable to temptation and as prone to wander as any of my fellow sheep. And you know the state of my heart and my inmost thoughts more thoroughly than I do. Do whatever you must to reveal any grievous way in me so that my precious brothers and sisters “who hope in you” never have cause to “be put to shame through me” (Psalm 69:6). Help me lead by seeking to be a lead confessor, lead repenter, lead grace-recipient, and lead holiness-pursuer. Lead me in your righteousness — don’t let me try to lead with mine.
5. Guidance: Lead me in your truth.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Psalm 25:4–5)
Great Shepherd, all your providential paths “are steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 25:10). But as a lead follower, I often do not know the right path to take. I and this flock are utterly dependent upon you to lead us. Make me humble enough to remember that “in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14), patient enough not to move until you grant sufficient clarity, and bold enough to lead in following you when your guidance becomes sufficiently clear. Lead me and my fellow sheep in your truth and teach us.
6. Courage: Lead me because of my enemies.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. (Psalm 27:11)
Great Shepherd, you displayed such wise and gracious courage in the face of your spiritual and human adversaries. Train me in cultivating such courage. Teach me to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19), to courageously seek the glory of the one who sent me, and not my own (John 7:18). Teach me to truly love my enemies and seek their good (Luke 6:27) while remaining courageous enough to speak the truth in love when it is unpopular and despised (Ephesians 4:15). Lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
7. Discouragement: Lead me with your light.
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me. (Psalm 43:3)
Great Shepherd, when I do succumb to discouragement because of the opposition of adversaries, criticism from my fellow sheep, sorrow from tragedies within my flock, difficulties within my family, my besetting weaknesses, or fatigue from long, strenuous labors, have mercy on me. Send out your light and your truth, and let them lead me to once again “take courage” (Psalm 27:14).
8. Protection: Lead me to your refuge.
You are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. (Psalm 31:3)
Great Shepherd, you laid down your life for your sheep to deliver us from our greatest danger: your Father’s wrath (John 10:11; Romans 5:8–9). You told us we would experience tribulation in the world, but not to fear because you have overcome the world (John 16:33). And you promise to “rescue [us] from every evil deed and bring [us] safely into [your] heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). Protect me and my fellow sheep from the true danger of faithlessness. Protect me as a lead follower from discouraging others by fearing what man can do to me more than I fear the destruction of faithlessly shrinking back (Hebrews 10:39). You are my rock and fortress; when I am afraid, lead me to seek my only safe refuge in you.
9. Overwhelmed: Lead me when my heart is faint.
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:1–2)
Great Shepherd, I take comfort that such a faith-filled, strong, courageous lead follower as David at times felt overwhelmed by his circumstances and became faint of heart. And I take comfort that you know my frame and remember that I am dust (Psalm 103:14). When I become overwhelmed, “lift me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5), above the fray, where I can rest and regain perspective. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
10. Spiritual Desertion: Lead me through my darkness.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!If I take the wings of the morning. and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:7–12)
Great Shepherd, when darkness has covered me, and I have lost sight of you; when I can’t discern your presence, and your voice seems like a distant echo; when a spiritual storm overtakes me, and I become disoriented and confused, remind me that saints through the ages have also endured such experiences. Remind me that even my darkness is not dark to you. And reveal yourself — not only to me, but also to my brothers and sisters — as the Shepherd who never loses a sheep (Luke 15:4), even in the valley of the shadow (Psalm 23:4). Even there, let your hand lead me until the storm passes and “light dawns in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4).