RELIGION: Philemon Study, Part Three | Chroniclers


The eight musicians hired aboard the supposed unsinkable RMS Titanic, from England, Scotland, Belgium and France, knew the end was in sight. The screams, tears, screams and horrified chaos as the freezing water rolled down bridge after bridge prompted these eight to try and lend some dignity and courage at the end by performing one last serve. Their choice ? “Nearer My God To Thee” The beautiful hymn was written in a week in 1841 by British theater artist Sarah Adams for her pastor who wanted a special hymn for her upcoming Sunday sermon on Genesis 28 on Jacob’s Ladder . I don’t know why they chose this hymn, maybe they were hoping that some could turn to God and find out that God was in this place from the start and they didn’t know it. There in this amazing piece of scripture, which you should read, we find the well known and often quoted verses 12-17 where Jacob, renowned by God himself as Israel, awoke from a dream and said “… Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.

In our little study of Paul’s fantastic letter to his friend Philemon, we find yet another great lesson in life. Even the most difficult situation gives us time to see the Lord in this place. In the bondage of Onesimus, God was watching there. In his flight, his arrest and his imprisonment, God was watching there. Imagine being a slave, escaped, arrested and imprisoned. What a place to find that “… Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it. Jacob was amazed to realize that there in a deserted place with stones piled up for pillows, God was there with him. Onesimus discovered that the same wonderful, merciful, terrible loving God was “in this place, and I did not know it”.

In Sarah Adams’ beautiful hymn, her first line understands that what a terrible trial, affliction, infirmity could come, even if it is a cross that lifts me up (speaking of course of the death of Christ on the cross) again … cross anything; yet, said Sarah, my song will be “closer to you my God!” In other words, whatever happens, even if it is a cross on which I will be crucified, I will sing! Closer to you my God! Onesimus, locked up with Paul, finds himself in the same situation as Jacob. God was there… even in this damp prison. Friend, is your affliction serious? Is your infirmity awful? Has your life become a barren place where your pillow is a pile of stones? May I remind you that our God is there in your life, no matter how sterile and ruined it may seem! You are important to him. You are important to the great king of kings! The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is also in your place. Don’t underestimate your importance to God. Don’t underestimate the importance of the place God has placed for you. No matter where you are, God wants and loves you and is watching you! Won’t you come? Onesimus, if he could speak to you right now, would say to you, “The God of mercy loves you and he will make you profitable if only you turn to him.” How? ‘Or’ What? Call us at Calvary Baptist Church and let us share the good news of the gospel with you today! Come visit us this week!

Malcolm Harrison is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church at 703 E. Gillespie on the loop in Palestine. Find religious and chronic services online at calvarybdpalestine.com. 903-729-5924


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