John 17:12-14

While I was with them,
 I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me….
But now I come to You. I do not ask You to take them out of the world,
but to keep them from the evil one.
John 17: 12–14
My older sister and I were about 7 and 4 the night we accidentally locked ourselves in our bedroom. We were fine until a rainstorm moved in with a peal of thunder that sent us running to the door. ‘Mom, Mom!’ we screamed when we discovered we’d locked ourselves in and fear turned our fingers all fumbly.
Mom’s feet padded down the hall. ‘I can’t find the key,’ she said. ‘Just push in the lock button and turn it sideways.’ Our efforts proved futile. ‘Go to the window and open it,’ she commanded. ‘I’ll come get you.’
We weren’t a bit surprised when Mom showed up outside the window, climbed a ladder, removed the screen, lifted us out, and herded us to the back door. In pouring rain. In her nightgown. Mom always kept us safe. Always.
The sense of assurance and security Mom provided came to mind during a recent word study of the Greek word for ‘keeping’ and ‘kept’ in John 17. I hoped the study would reveal how the Father keeps His children safe and it did, though his methods were somewhat different from Mom’s. I discovered the word “keep” is often used to refer to God protecting and guarding his children–showing that part of being in relationship with the Father is being protected by him.
Elsewhere in John and other New Testament books by other authors, a more common usage of ‘keeping’ and ‘kept’ is for believers to keep God’s commandments. The further I went into the study, the more I became convinced that his command to obey is his means of protecting us. In other words, he doesn’t call us to obey to keep us in line or under his thumb, but to keep us safe. This understanding led to several more questions. How can believers keep God’s word in light of the lifting of COVID restrictions? How do we keep it as racial injustices in our country are exposed?
Matthew 9:35-37 provides some answers for our present circumstances. The passage says Jesus had compassion on the crowds he encountered and describes the people as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus commands his followers to get involved. 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,’ he says, ‘therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’
How do we keep God’s word in times like these? We pray for the Lord to send laborers who will show compassion to all who are harassed and helpless, to all who are wandering like sheep without a shepherd. And we ask the Lord to show us how to keep his word as we join in his labors out of gratitude for the One who saved us when we could not save ourselves.
Jolene Philo | Author

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