What Has You “Hemmed In”?

What Has You “Hemmed In”?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

There is an interesting Greek word with a very elastic use in the New Testament. The verb, συνέχω (sunecho), is translated the following ways in its 16 uses (ESV):

  • “Oppressed” (Mat. 4:24)
  • “Ill” (Luke 4:38)
  • “Seized” (Luke 8:37)
  • “Surround” (Luke 8:45)
  • “Distress” (Luke 12:50)
  • “Hem in” (Luke 19:43)
  • “Holding” (Luke 22:63)
  • “Stopped” (Acts 7:57)
  • “Occupied” (Acts 18:5)
  • “With” (Acts 28:8)
  • “Controls” (2 Cor. 5:14)
  • “A hard pressed” (Phil. 1:23)

The word means “to press in hard from all sides” (Louw-Nida 225). Zodhiates says its figurative meaning is “to constrain, compel, press on…to be in constraint, distressed, perplexed…to be seized, affected, afflicted…with fear…with diseases…spoken also of a person held fast, pressed, occupied or the like…Paul was compelled or constrained to preach ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified'” (np). 

It is not always a negative thing. In fact, we can be compelled by some very positive, powerful motivations. Paul was pressed hard by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14) and his desire to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). Yet, it can be bad, too. Stephen’s murderers were seized with such hatred for the gospel that they stopped their ears (Acts 7:57). The people from the country of Gerasenes were seized with great fear over Jesus’ miracle, but it caused them to ask Him to leave their presence (Luke 8:37). 

Is there something in your life that is driving and pushing you, moving and motivating you to make your decisions? Maybe it’s like the crowds surrounding and pressing in on Jesus (Luke 8:45), and it is occupying your attention intensely (Acts 18:5). What is it?

  • Academic achievement?
  • Occupation and career?
  • An earthly relationship?
  • Human praise?
  • An addiction or habit?
  • Your past?
  • Anxiety about the future?
  • Financial success or wealth?
  • Competition? 
  • The need to avoid embarrassment?
  • Self-indulgence?

Any number of things may fill in that blank, but Christ wants His love and His presence to mean so much to us and be so much a part of us that it presses us in and leaves little room for movement (BDAG, 971). We can grow to the point that He fills in all the spaces and so totally controls our desires and longings that His will is our want. I want to grow and mature to the point that this always describes me. If it does, those other things won’t tempt me as much! 

Neal Pollard

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