Word of the Week
June 5, 2021
Ekluō: When Your Strength Fails
And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.
Which is the hardest mile of a half marathon?
You would assume that it’s the last mile. But that was never my experience. Of course, I was just trying to walk the whole 13.1 miles. I can’t speak for the trained athletes who cover the distance like greyhounds. However, I always had the hardest time around mile 8.
By that time, any adrenaline rush had fizzled out, and it was hard to imagine that you could keep chugging along for another five miles. The main thing that kept me going was the sheer humiliation of giving up and flagging down the bus that followed the slowest walkers, waiting to scoop them up and return them to the finish line.
We all experience times when it seems that we’re in Mile 8 of life. Maybe you’re the mother who wonders if she will ever get a full night’s sleep again. Or the guy who has been struggling endlessly to launch his own business. It might be a persistent medical problem, or an agonizing relationship rift. Or just the burden of juggling too many balls at once.
God understands what you are going through. He even has a Greek word to describe your experience!
The word ekluō means “to become weary or exhausted, to give out or give up.”
It is a variation on the word luō, which means “to release, loosen.” In secular Greek, it was used for unstringing a bow when you were through using it, releasing the tension. One early Christian document used it to describe the way a person might loosen his belt and let his robe fall free at the end of strenuous exercise. It was a picture of someone who has had enough, one who can’t keep going.
Ekluō occurs only five times in the New Testament and each verse provides encouragement for the person who is ready to drop out of the race.
- Jesus notices and cares when you are exhausted (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:3).
Throngs surrounded Jesus near the Sea of Galilee. They had come from miles around to seek healing and to hear His teachings. Now they had been there for three days, and they had consumed all the provisions they had brought with them. Jesus was well aware of this predicament, as He explained to the disciples:
“And if I send them away hungry to their home, they will faint (ekluō) on the way” (Mark 8:3).
Imagine being away from home for three days then walking home for several miles with no food. You would be operating at the very edge of your reserves, and your strength might give out.
The Lord not only noticed their need, He did something about it, providing food of the entire crowd of 4000 people.
- Jesus set the example for weary walkers (Hebrews 12:3).
Hebrews 12 begins with the familiar call to run our race with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, who endured death on the cross for us. Verse 3 exhorts us to “consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (ekluō).
Christ refused to give up, even in the face of a cruel death. He ran the race to the finish, and He will give us the strength to complete our course.
- God uses tough mileage to strengthen us (Hebrews 12:5).
When you face a seemingly endless trial, it is easy to wonder if God has forgotten you. But Hebrews 12 says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint (ekluō) when you are reproved by Him.” Good fathers train their kids to develop mental and emotional stamina, even when the curriculum involves something hard.
- Jesus promises a harvest for those who don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).
Galatians switches from the stadium to the farm. Paul points out that a farmer goes through the long growing season waiting for his crops to ripen, hoping that drought or locusts won’t wipe out his efforts. Then he applies this image to the Christian’s walk. We sow acts of faithfulness now, expecting spiritual results and rewards in the end. It may seem that our efforts are fruitless, but the Lord urges us “not to lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary (ekluō).
In Mile 8, it is normal to get tired. In the strenuous stretches of life, we do get weary, and that’s OK. But the Greek word ekluō reminds us that we can’t afford to give up. God will provide what you need – Gatorade every mile! – and the medal is waiting for you at the finish line!
When you study a word that only occurs a few times in the New Testament, you can expand your study by looking at secular Greek and the Old Testament Greek Septuagint. In this case, you can find much added information on ekluō by finding a list of the places where it occurs in the Septuagint.
You can access a partial list by using the Blue Letter Bible app and clicking on the Thayer’s Lexicon entry.
If you need help in using the Blue Letter Bible, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the PDF “How to Find a Greek Word in 1 Minute.”
Q & A
Q – What did Jesus mean when He accused the moneychangers of making the Temple into a “den of robbers” in Mark 11:17?
A – Jesus was actually referring to an Old Testament prophecy where Jeremiah accused the nation of Judah of bringing offerings to the temple without any intention of obeying God’s commands (see Jeremiah 7:11). The word Jesus used for “den” literally means a cave. We might assume that He was accusing the merchants of coming to the temple to rob people. However, a “den of robbers” would be the cave they used as a hideout, the place where they would plan their crimes and divide the loot. Thus Jesus was saying that the temple itself had become the place where these unscrupulous men were protected in their illicit activities. No wonder He was angry!
(I am indebted to D. Edmond Hiebert, Mark: A Portrait of the Servant, Moody, 1972, page 278 for this insight.
Jesus said that the greatest command was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and understanding. Next week we will explore what it means to love God with your mind and understanding.
©Ezra Project 2021