The first statement: The Reluctant Giver
Ever have the sense that asking God for stuff is like pulling teeth? Ever have the sense that God is like the man asleep in house and we're trying to arouse him to action? You're in good company, for even King David prayed to God that way:
Ps 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.Why does God behave this way? For if He knows there's a need, why do we even have to pray for it to be met? Why doesn't he just take iniative and meet it? But instead He acts like a man asleep, as if unaware of our needs, as if we have to remind him of our needs.
Ps 44:23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
It may be simply because of what God has made us to be. By requiring us to ask, this puts us in a role where we have to acknowledge our dependence upon God, both to remind us of our role and to bring glory to God. But then why does He put on an appearance of reluctance? Possibly in order to filter out those requests which are not born of conviction. Quickly answering every trivial thing we ask will not help us to think deeply as to whether we have really asked for the right thing or whether we really need what we asked for. And it would lessen our appreciation of God's response - we get spoiled.
He doesn't mean to say that God is a wishing machine and that by repeating our wishes a certain number of times, we get what we wished for. But rather, we should pray for things seriously and not in a trite or ritualistic manner.
And we should ask for things that are actually needed. The man was not asking for toys. He was asking concerning a practical, real need. Much of what we ask for are not needs, but desires. However, there are many legitimate needs, being spiritual in nature, which are neglected and people don't pray for, while at the same time people are often diligent in praying for their desires.
The second statement: The general principle
"Ask and it will be given to you" is not a promise but a principle. Jesus is speaking by way of hyperbole in a proverbial sense, which is common in his sermons, and in accordance with the types of figures of speech used in that culture - such as the proverbs of Solomon illustrate. As a general priniciple, it is true that if you ask you will received and if you seek you will find and if you knock the door will be opened. But he is not referring to every particular case. God is not promising that you can ask him for anything and in any manner, and you will receive it, as even the parable above implies. But rather that he generally gives to those who ask. This is meant to motivate people to ask God for essential things seriously. And not to portray God as a wishing machine.
The third statement: The father's perspective
The third statement is meant to portray the Father's perspective in giving. Often children feel their parents are reluctant to give in to all their demands. But parents often know better what is good for their children than the children. Giving into all the demands of the children could result in their own destruction. But if the request is for something essential and edifying (a fish, an egg), parents take these more seriously.
Jesus makes his view of human nature abundantly clear - it is evil. He is very explicit about this, even when others in the society are not. There was a man who came up to him and said, "Good Teacher" (Luke 18:18), and Jesus replied, "No one is good-- except God alone." There are no such things as "good" people. We are all evil in terms of our behavior. But isn't it interesting that despite that fact, God has made it innate within evil parents to know how to give good gifts to their children.
In contrast, what would you expect from the good Father to give to his children? Even better things. Notice he ends with "give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" This was a spiritual gift, yet the most essential of all gifts. Most people pray for visible, physical things. But the most important, essential, enduring and edifying things are spiritual.
The Internal Permanent Reception of the Holy Spirit
Concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit, realize what the situation was. For it is written:
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37-39Up to this point, no one had receive the Holy Spirit in a permanent sense as they would starting in Pentecost. The New Covenant had not been intiated yet until Jesus was glorified, which would follow his resurrection and ascension. But at Pentecost Peter, after having received the Holy Spirit himself, says:
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:38,39The Holy Spirit is received after a person believes.
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory" Eph 1:13,14This promise was not available to those in the Old Testament nor even to his own disciples until Pentecost. And after Pentecost, it was associated with a person's salvation status. "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9
The Holy Spirit doesn't justify us, but rather He gives us guidance and the power to minister and to purify our lives. The Holy Spirit is essential in living the Christian life.
The External Reception of the Holy Spirit
But what if someone who either doesn't understand the gospel sufficiently, or understands it, but is not fully convinced, prays to receive the Holy Spirit? He may also receive it. But not in an internal sense. The Holy Spirit also plays a "Paraclete" role with seekers. "Para" meaning to come along side. In this role he is like the fire by day and cloud by night that led the Israelites through the desert to the promise land. So he leads the seekers into a relationship with Christ. And many seekers can testify the experience of the Holy Spirit, while still being unsaved.
|Suppose at midnight you go to a friend
Ask of him three loaves of bread to lend
For you say a friend has come over your house
And you have nothing to eat, not even a mouse
But the one inside says, "Don't bother me.
The door is locked and I can't find my key.
I can't get up, we're all in bed
I'm not going to give you any bread."
But as he continued to plead more and more
I tell you the man will open the door.
Not because he was his friend
But just to make his pleading end
So I say: Ask and it will be given to you
And if you seek, you'll find what is true
Knock and you'll suddenly find you're inside
Just as the man did because he had tried
Which of you fathers, if your son has a wish,
Will give him a snake if he asks for a fish?
Or give him a scorpion if he asks for an egg?
Is that what you'd give if your son did beg?
If you then, being evil, know how to give
Good gifts to your children to help them live
How much more will God make it his task
To give his Spirit to those who ask!
The Berean Christian Bible Study ResourcesApr 16,2010