Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Reconciliation’ Category

Restoration Is Expensive

Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. ~~ Ezra 9:1-8

It is never a good idea to do what you have expressly been told by God not to do. But we all do it from time to time. The Israelites in exile took wives from the neighboring peoples. God had expressly commanded that they not do this from the time they first entered the promised land.

Like willful children, they did it anyway – not all of them, but some did. Returning to Jerusalem, they are returning to the laws of Moses as well. They needed to purify themselves to worship the Lord again in the temple. So they decided to send the foreign wives and their children away.

We are not told where these women and children went. Could they go back to their own families? What would have been their status in their own countries? I can’t imagine that these women and children would have had easy lives after being sent away.

Did you ever notice that when man tries to make things right he sometimes messes up something else? God had told them not to do it. They did it anyway. Then when they try to fix their disobedience, they cause trouble for someone else.

The community of Israel spent two months looking at individual cases. We’re not told how many, if any, were allowed to keep their foreign wives, but there is that possible inference in the text. Otherwise why judge individual cases.

How much simpler it would have been, had they just obeyed God in the first place. How much mess they made when they decided that they knew better than God.

Are we ever guilty of thinking we know better than God? Do we do things in disobedience that require fixing later – things that cost someone else?

Father, God,

Help us to remain ever obedient to You commands, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Remind us that we see only fragments while You see the whole picture.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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God With Us

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.  ~~  Genesis 28:10-22

AARRGGHH!! Don’t we ever learn?

The verses leading up to this passage are full of egos, self-seeking and deceptions. Deceit has had serious consequences in the past and will again in this instance.

However – and this is a big however — when Jacob obeys his father’s directive to go to Paddan Aram to seek a wife, he sets his feet on a righteous path once again. And he is rewarded by this dream and promise from God.

“Surely the Lord is in this place.”

Whether we are aware of it or not, God is with us. Day in and day out, He stands with us. It is our disobedience that builds a wall between Him and us. It’s our wall. It is built brick by brick of little rejections of His call upon our lives.

Do you notice? God’s promise to Jacob is not predicated upon his apology for his deceptions. It carries no contingencies. It is full, complete, absolute.

God knows and we are learning that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. That is called consequences.

But our God is omnipresent – present everywhere at once. With us, beside us, within us if we let Him be.

We are into the season of advent. We will be singing “O come, O come, Immanuel.” It’s a nice song and one of my personal favorites. But it’s redundant. He has already come. He is with us. Let us rejoice in His presence.

Father, God,
Help us to be ever mindful of Your presence with us. Teach us to rely on You and only You at every moment.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Martyrdom and Forgiveness

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him (Stephen) with their teeth.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. ~~ Acts 7:51-8:2 (KJV)

Stephen is called the first martyr of the church because this death is the first one recorded in the Book of Acts. For many years it was just a so-so story for me. After all, this happened many years ago. I was probably not going to be martyred, so what did it have to do with me?

Then a member of my family was murdered. It was a senseless, random act. He simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anger at the perpetrators of this heinous deed boiled and seethed. But then I remembered Acts 8:1.

Saul of Tarsus (whom we now call Paul – yes, the same Paul who wrote more than half of the New Testament) was at this event. Not only was he there, he gave approval. I can see him now, egging the crowd on. It’s a Cecil B. DeMille crowd scene in an epic movie. Lots of noise, lots of anger, lots of yelling, dark clouds, ominous music. Then a break and light and glorious paean of praise at the climax.

Of course, Saul wasn’t “participating.” He was there, giving his approval. He certainly wasn’t throwing stones, but he might as well have been.

And Stephen, as he is dying, repeated the thoughts of Jesus. He asked the Lord not to hold this sin against the members of the crowd. That forgiveness was powerful. It was one factor that freed Saul to become Paul.

If God can take the chief persecutor of the early church and use him to write the larger part of the New Testament, He can do anything. He can even forgive the people who murdered that member of my family.

Forgiveness is not a matter of the emotions. It is a decision that we make. We can decide to forgive. That doesn’t mean feelings will not surface from time to time. It does mean we can decide to override those emotions. We need to agree with God that even the most heinous crime is forgivable if the perpetrator repents.

We hear “forgive and forget” or “kiss and make up.” But those are not really forgiveness. Forgiveness is being able to look at the offense as fact, accurately recognizing the perpetrator’s part in the offense, and then seeing that person through the eyes of God, as a beloved child who has strayed from the path, whom He wants to bring back into the fold.

Father, God,

Help us to see those who have offended us through Your eyes. Grant us the strength and grace to move from anger and hurt and bitterness to forgiveness and peace.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,

So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.

And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.  ~~  Genesis 50:15-21  (KJV)

Forgiveness and reconciliation give us great difficulty. In the first place, they are not the same thing. You can have forgiveness without reconciliation. But you cannot have reconciliation without forgiveness.

Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph was being kind to them only for their father’s sake. So when Jacob/Israel died, they needed to find out what Joseph’s attitude would be toward them. So they – the offenders – went to Joseph – the offended – with their apology. And Joseph forgave them and was reconciled to them.

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Holding a grudge takes time and energy and effort. It makes you unhappy because you dwell on the offense, not on the present joys you may have. Worst of all, however, holding a grudge puts you at odds with God. Not a pleasant place to be.

You can forgive unilaterally. The offender need not ask for forgiveness.

Reconciliation is another matter. It involves a recognition of the offense from both the offender and the offended. It requires forgiveness. And it requires a rebuilt sense of trust between the offender and the offended.

Joseph had seen the remorse of his brothers, first when they came to Egypt to purchase grain and in the intervening years between their dad’s settling in Egypt and his death seven years later. We have a tender reconciliation scene in which Joseph indicates his forgiveness of this brothers as well as his desire that they be provided for.

Can you recall an offender that you haven’t forgiven? Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? What steps can you take to remedy these issues?

Father, God,

You have commanded us to forgive. Give us the strength and stamina to forgive, even when there has been no apology. Grant us the faith to put our reconciliations into Your hands.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.