E. F. Hallock served as the pastor of Norman, First for 46 years, from November 1923 to September 1969. He was a great preacher. He was a visionary leader, pioneering Baptist Student Union work (now Baptist Collegiate Ministries) across the Southern Baptist Convention by beginning the work on the University of Oklahoma Campus.
I suppose Preacher Hallock is best remembered as a man committed to praying the promises of God. He read the Bible through at least twice every year for the 46 years he served in Norman. Preacher Hallock used to say, “Read it through, write it down, pray it in and live it out!”
As 2018 came to a close, the Lord put a Bible promise on my heart. I want to ask you to join me in praying this promise in 2019. Would you pray this verse for yourself, for your church and for Oklahoma Baptists? The verse is found at the beginning of Zephaniah’s vision for a future after the Day of Judgment on Jerusalem. I think this Old Testament prophecy gives us a glimpse of our Lord’s purpose for His Church.
“For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them will call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph. 3:9 NASB).
“I will give” speaks to the LORD’s work of turning, changing or converting people. Zephaniah declares that only the LORD has the power to turn people from their sin and pride to humble dependence and purity of life. We need the Lord to turn things around for our churches.
“Purified lips” is language loaded with Old Testament background. Our lips speak from our hearts. Our lips coincide with our lives; our conversation is our character.
We cannot separate our worship from our way of life. We need our Lord to do a lot of things for us, but maybe most of all, we need Him to purify us. “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6).
“Shoulder to shoulder” translates Hebrew that literally reads, “with one shoulder.” The language calls for unity and vitality in service. Oh, that the people of God would be so transformed by the power of God that we would all together put our shoulder to the wheel. Our service is too often limited, half-hearted, short-lived. Wouldn’t it honor God for His people to really grab hold of His work?
Our English translations struggled to capture the depth of the vivid Hebrew vocabulary in the prayer promise. Eugene Peterson offered this great translation.
“In the end I will turn things around for the people. I will give them a language undistorted, unpolluted, words to address God in worship; and, unite them to serve Me with their shoulders to the wheel!” (Zeph. 3:9 The Message).