God at Work

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We are studying the Gospel of John and are currently in chapter 5. Please open your bibles, and we will read this together; today from the NASB.
John 5:1–18 NASB95
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
When reading God’s word, it is good to ask questions. This can keep us from just reading over it and moving on without really thinking about it.
The question for today is...

How is God at Work?

Context: Jesus has healed a man who was lame for 38 years. He showed mercy and compassion on this man and healed him.
It just so happens that this man was healed on the Sabbath. As we saw last week, the Sabbath was given for man to have a break from their labor, and to set aside time to remember God who had brought them out of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 5:15 NIV
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
They were to observe the Sabbath to remember how the LORD God brought them out of bondage in Egypt with power!
Now, Jesus has released this man from 38 years of bondage with power! But instead of praising God for this wonderful act of mercy through power, what is their reaction?
John 5:16 NIV
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.
They were persecuting Jesus. To them, he broke their traditions. He did what they called work on the Sabbath.
We will always get into trouble when we start calling things differently than God does.
How was Jesus going to respond to this persecution?
It isn’t the only time this happened. There were other occasions. Once in Galilee this happened. Mark records that for us.
Mark 3:1–6 NIV
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

What is lawful on the Sabbath?

In the synagogue, Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” They knew even their traditions said, doing good on the Sabbath was a good thing.
however, they had hard hearts. They already made up their mind that if Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it was work! And that broke the Sabbath according to their tradition!
So, how is Jesus going to respond this time, now in Jerusalem, when this same issue is coming up? How is He going to respond when they accuse Him of ‘working’ on the Sabbath when He was doing good? He already knew they did not care about doing good on the Sabbath.
This is how he responded...
John 5:17 NIV
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
Jesus said his Father is always at work to this very day. Now, from the context, we know that the Jewish leaders he was talking to knew exactly what he meant. He was calling God his Father, and saying that God was at work to that very day.
What? God is working on the Sabbath? God is working?
What about Exodus 20:8-11
Exodus 20:8–11 NIV
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Another reason for the Sabbath was because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath.
What does that mean that he rested? Was he tired? Let’s go back and look at Genesis 2 where this is recorded.
God Created and then rested...
Genesis 2:2–3 NIV
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
God Rested on the seventh day.
Was God tired? What was the rest? 1st. God did not rest from all work. He rested from the work of creating.
2nd. the Word shabat, has a range of meaning including rest, cease, and remove.
For example...
Exodus 12:15 NIV
For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.
Daniel 9:27 NIV
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
cease, put an end to.
Keeping in mind the range of meaning, God rested, or removed himself from, put an end, or ceased his work of creating.
It does not mean that God stopped all activity, and laid around like I do when I want a rest.
Jesus pointed this out when he said His Father was working.
God may have stopped doing his creation work, but he did not stop all activity.
Actually, the Jewish religious thinkers knew this. They knew God was at work showing compassion every day.
Lamentations 3:22–23 NIV
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
They knew God’s providential care, his administration of justice and his creation of life (children born) all continued on the sabbath.
John: An Introduction and Commentary vi. Jesus and ‘The Jews’ (5:16–18)

Jewish scholars acknowledged this and made efforts to show that while God worked on the sabbath he was not guilty of breaking the sabbath law. They argued that God was not guilty of carrying things from one domain to another, because the whole of creation is his house and so he never carries things ‘outside’

So, the Jewish religious leaders had the idea that God would work. They knew that He did good on the Sabbath, and came up with a logical argument to make God ‘working’ (according to their definition) jive with their interpretation of the Sabbath of doing no work whatsoever.
However, when Jesus came and did good things, healing people on the Sabbath, it did not fit their model. Why not? I think in big part because they thought of Jesus as a man! They did not think of Him as God! They did not recognize Him as God even though he was doing things to show that is who He is! Who else can make the lame walk? God alone can do that!
So, in this case, Jesus makes it plain to them.
John 5:17 NIV
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
And when Jesus said that, they got the point. Just like they already knew that God was working, so too Jesus was working. But Jesus didn’t just call God, ‘God’. He called Him Father!
Just as my Father is working to this very day, I too am working!
They got what He was saying. He was claiming to be God!
John 5:18 NIV
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
I love this passage. It is plain here that Jesus is God, and they knew exactly what it meant when He was called the Son of God. They knew it meant that He was God!
Well, that is an awesome truth! And we are going to get into that next week.
But for today, I wanted to pause a moment back on verse 17.
John 5:17 NIV
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
God is always at his work to this very day.
Last week we talked about how these Jewish leaders and the lame man sinned. Remember how Jesus said to the man in the temple, “Stop sinning.”
Do you remember how he was sinning?
Failure to see God at work
Fear of man
Rejecting the Lord’s Discipline
Last week, I pointed out that these men were failing to see God at work. Here He was, making a lame man walk, just by telling him to get up! Before, they had seen him restore a man’s crippled hand.
On another occasion, they saw the Lord forgive a man’s sin, and make him walk!
Remember that one?
Mark 2:1–12 NIV
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

God is at Work!

Here was God at work, and they were missing it.
The question I have for us today is, are we missing it?
I mean, we read the Bible and we see God at work back then, right?
Do we see Him at work today?
Jesus said the Father is working to this very day… What is He doing?
What is God doing?
God gives life
Numbers 16:22 NIV
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
God give all living things life. As Job put it...
Job 12:10 NIV
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
They knew that nothing living would have come to life without the Lord’s working.
They also knew that without the Lord’s continual sustaining work all would die.
Job 34:14–15 NIV
If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust.

God is the giver and sustainer of all life.

God is Watching Over Us

Job 34:21 NIV
“His eyes are on the ways of mortals; he sees their every step.
and in a special sense...
Psalm 1:6 NIV
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
God is caring for us
Psalm 37:18 NIV
The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever.
God cares, and provides inheritance
God is showing patience and kindness
Romans 2:4 NIV
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
God shows love and Compassion
Psalm 103:13 NIV
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
God is a Father
Psalm 68:5 NIV
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV
And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
God Disciplines and Corrects
Deuteronomy 8:5 NIV
Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
God Provides
Matthew 6:26 NIV
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
God Sustains
Isaiah 46:4 NIV
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
God establishes Kings and Kingdoms
Daniel 5:21 NIV
He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
God determines times and places
Acts 17:26–27 NIV
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
God Speaks
Hebrews 1:1–2 NIV
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
God Draws
John 6:44 NIV
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
God Justifies
Romans 3:25–26 NIV
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
God is the savior
1 Timothy 1:1 NIV
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
God sanctifies
1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God Keeps us from stumbling
Jude 24–25 NIV
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
God is keeping us secure
John 10:29 NIV
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Psalm 37:23–24 NIV
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
God is strengthening those who trust in Him
Ephesians 6:10 NIV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
God is the avenger
Romans 12:19 NIV
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
God will give wisdom
James 1:5 NIV
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
God gives comfort
2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV
who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
God is providing direction
Proverbs 3:5–6 NIV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
God is giving us victory!
1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our Refuge, strength, help
Psalm 46:1 NIV
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

God at Work!

Why do we miss it?
Trials, difficult circumstances in life
Not going the way we would like
Others have it so easy, why me?
Remember, there were crowds at the pool of Bethesda. He healed one lame man.
Imagine if you were one of the countless others there. Just because Jesus did not heal them, was God not at work? God was at work. If they did not choose to see that and rejoice in the work God was doing just because it wasn’t for their benefit at that time, does that mean God was not at work?
No! God is at work. Even if the miraculous is taking place in someone else’s life, He is at work!
And we know from the scriptures that He is at work in our lives through the trials that come our way. We would not grow and mature in perseverance, faith, hope and love without the trials that stretch us, sometimes beyond what we think we can handle. But for those who have been stretched, for those who have been stretched and thrown themselves on the Rock of Ages, the God who watches, hears, cares, sustains, strengthens, comforts, provides refuge, helps and loves, they are the spiritual giants we look up to still today!
I think of Paul and Silas in prison singing praises to their God and Savior after they had been beaten severely in His name.
I think of Stephen who was stoned to death for Christ.
I think of all the apostles who were martyred for their faith.
And I think of those who wrote the songs and hymns which are still sung today.
Do you know the song, What a Friend we have in Jesus?

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged—Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness—Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge—Take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer; in His arms He’ll take and shield thee—Thou wilt find a solace there.

Joseph Scriven wrote this hymn as a poem to his mother who was dying. Joseph Scriven was engaged to be married and the night before his wedding, his bride to be drowned.
Joseph was estranged from his family in Ireland because of his faith, and moved to Canada to minister. He was there a short time and had to return to Ireland because he was so sick.
He eventually returned to Ireland, and later was ready to marry again when his fiancee died of pneumonia.
Joseph struggled with depression, but the encouragement he gave to his sick mother is still with us today. He knew God is at work!
Have you heard the song, Day by Day?

Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best—lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour; all my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r. The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid: “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” this the pledge to me He made.

Lina Sandell Berg wrote this hymn after her father died. They were on a ship going across a lake that suddenly lurched, and her father fell overboard and drowned before her eyes.
God is at Work!
These saints knew that God is at work. They experienced it because when they went through the trials, they took it to the Lord in Prayer. They went to His word. They read and believed that He is a refuge! They believed that God is at work. And those eyes of faith let them see, the God who is at work to this very day!
Do you see? Don’t be like the Jewish leaders. Pray. Go to the Scriptures. See the God who is at work all around you, in you, and through you. What is He doing? He is at work, whether you see it or not.
Read Psalm 37. How is God at work according to this Psalm? How does this encourage you for what you are facing today?
Read Psalm 6:9; Mark 11:24; John 15:13–16; 1 John 5:14, 15. Look up the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Read it. Sing it. Know that God is at work. He is listening. He knows your sorrows, and He is your comfort.
Read Psalm 55:22; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 4:16. Look up the hymn, Day by Day. Read it. Sing it. Know that God is your refuge and strength! What are you facing today? How did He help you through yesterday? How is He helping you today?
Read Psalm 33:20; 48:14; 90. Look up the hymn, O God Our Help in Ages Past.
Read Psalm 16:11; Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 58:11; Romans 8:14. Read the Hymn Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.
Read Isaiah 43:1-3. Read and sing the Hymn, How Firm a Foundation.
Passages and hymn ideas from:
Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996).
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