Let your moderation be known to all men: the Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 NASB
Near – This is a funny sounding word in Greek – eggus. It literally means “close or near.” Therefore, our English translation looks just fine. But Paul is a deeper thinker than pashat meanings. He is making an allusion to an Old Testament theme. We find the real meaning of this metaphorical use by looking at Psalm 145:18 and 34:18. In both cases, “the Lord is near” means that He stands alongside ready to help. He is all around us. Now we can see why we can be epieikes (yesterday’s word for “more than fair”) before all men. We can afford to be yielding and unassertive because God stands alongside, ready to help. We have a backup. God has us covered.
A few days ago I led a Bible study on the fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful.” We discovered that the merciful ones are the ones who give up what is rightfully theirs by showing leniency toward those who have harmed them. One of the students remarked, “This is great in an ideal society, but it would never work in the real world. Just think of all the people who would take advantage of you if they thought you were merciful.” His comment betrayed a fatal flaw. We are merciful because the Lord is near. Our mercy is not foolhardy idealism. It is the reality of life in God’s universe. If the Lord were not ready to help, all mercy would be in vain. But the real Judge says, “Show mercy as I have shown mercy,” and we are ready to obey no matter what the consequences. This verse tells us that taking the risk to be “more than fair” is perfectly reasonable – God is backing us up.
How incredibly difficult it is to renew our minds by sweeping away the old ways of thinking when we tried to protect our assets and ourselves by demanding justice. How impossible it is to let go of what should rightfully be ours, simply because God tells us to be lenient when we have power. Can we really forgive that debt? Can we truly forget that insult? Can we embrace the one who harmed us? I remember an Oprah show that focused on the power of forgiveness. A woman who had been raped and brutalized repeatedly when she was a child went to the prison years later and embraced the man who hurt her, forgiving him for the damage he had done to her. Although we could not see Him, Yeshua stood right beside her. She was reflecting His character. Her Lord was near.
Let your Lord stand near and back you up. Then be merciful. He did it for you.
Topical Index: mercy, near, eggus, Philippians 4:5, justice