Jesus' Footprints

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1 Corinthians 13:5b
GrudgesHow do you deal with people who hurt you?  Do you talk to them about it or do you keep quiet but hold a grudge against them?  Do you think of ways to get back at them?

God is clear about how we should act when someone hurts us.  We don’t keep rehashing what happened. We don’t wish that person harm.  Instead, we put away the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness.  We give them to God.  We let go of the negative thoughts and ill feelings.  We ask God to help us to forgive the person and then move on.

Of course, this is easier said than done.  We need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us.  It is not in our nature to show love when we are hurting.  We prefer to lick our wounds and have a pity party.  We feel better when we imagine how that person would feel if we were to do the same thing to him or her.  How does this make us any different from those who are not of the faith?  How could we say that we belong to Christ or that we are God’s children if we can’t find it in our hearts to forgive the wrongs that has been done to us?

What if Joseph had spent all of his time hating Potiphar’s wife for what she had done to him?  Would God have prospered him, promoting him to be in charge of the jail or becoming second only to Pharaoh? What about Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego?  Did they harbor any bitterness toward King Nebuchadnezzar for throwing them into the fiery furnace?

Instead of thinking evil, in love we pray for those who have wronged us.  We pray that God will touch their hearts.  Jesus prayed for His enemies when He was hanging on the cross.  Stephen prayed for the men who were stoning him before he died.

The next time someone hurts you, what will you do?  Perhaps like Joseph you ask this question, “am I in the place of God?”  While Joseph forgave his brothers he left them to God’s mercy.  Romans 12:19 says, “Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’” (J.B. Phillips).  Don’t take the place of God.  God sees and knows all.  He will deal with the person who has wronged you as He sees fit.  Don’t repay evil with evil.

 

2 Corinthians 7:10

When I read this I remembered that Paul had written an earlier letter, rebuking the congregation for not sorrowacting in the case where a member was guilty of adultery. He had relations with his father’s wife, something that God had condemned. The other members had not dealt with matter. Apparently, they were proud of their church when they should have felt shame that this type of thing was in the church and root it out.

Paul called on them to do what needed to be done. He reminded them that they were not to keep company with such a person. His letter was very frank and it had the desired effect. The Corinthian believers repented. Their pride had turned to mourning and sorrow. Paul didn’t regret writing the letter because it produced godly sorrow.

Sometimes we have to do what is necessary what is best for others–no matter how hard or painful it may be. Paul revealed his motive for writing the first letter. It was not for the sake of the man who committed the wrong or his father whom he had wronged but for the sake of the church. He did it because he cared. Sometimes what we do might seem harsh to someone but we do it out of love. Tough love.

abimelechabrahamAbraham and Sarah journey to Gerar where he passes her off as his sister again.  The first time was in Egypt.  Abimelech, the king of Gerar took her but God again intervenes.  He speaks to the king in a dream.  He tells him point blank that he is a dead man because the woman he had taken was another man’s wife.  Abimelech had not gone near Sarah but this was not of his own doing but God’s.  The king defends himself saying that Abraham told him that Sarah was his sister and he had believed him.  He was innocent of any wrongdoing.  God agreed with him on this point.  God who knows what is in a person’s heart acknowledged that the king had done this in all honsety.  Abimelech had no reason to doubt Abraham.  He had acted in ignorance and for his innocence God had prevented him from sinning–from committing adultery.  But now that he was aware of the truth he had to do the right thing and restore Sarah to her husband.

Abimelech shared his dream with his servants and then he called Abraham demanding an explanation for his deceit.  Abraham’s excuse was, “Because I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.”  He feared for his life and he tried to insinuate that the lie was not really a lie.  Sarah was his ister because they had the same father.  She was his half-sister. The nature of their relationship does not excuse his sinful deception.  This is the second time God had to intervene so that His law regarding adultery would not be violated.  Abraham encouraged Sarah to go along with this deception, refeering to it as kindness on her part.  This is almost like saying, “If you love me you will do this for me.”  Abraham’s motives here were purely selfish.  Fear fo his life took precedence over Sarah’s feelings.

Abimelech not only returned Sarah to Abraham but he gave them sheep, oxen, menservants and womenservants.  The king’s generosity did not end there.  “Behold, my land is before thee:  dwell where it pleaseth thee.”  He also gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver.  His generosity put Abraham to shame.  Sarah was rightfully rebuked for her part in the deception when the king said to her, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver;  indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody” (NKJV).

Abraham prayed to God who healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants so that they were able to bear children.  God had closed the wombs of the women in the king’s household because of Sarah.  This is the second time other people had to pay for Abraham’s deception.

God is a God of truth, honesty and this is why He could not tolerate deception.  He had to let Abimelech know the truth.  Even though it was His will that saved the king from becoming intimate with Sarah, that was not enough.  Abimelech had to be aware of what he had unwittingly gotten himself into and do the right thing.  Once God reveals the truth to us it is up to us to do what is right and to live our lives according to this truth.

We can no longer plead ignorance.  Once Abimelech knew the truth about Sarah, it was his responsibility to return her to where she rightfully belonged–with her husband.  Marriage is sacred to God and it is wrong for any of us to treat it lightly, casually.  And honesty is important to God.  It was deception which brought sin into the world in the first place.

When King Herod heard about Jesus he thought it was John the Baptist come back to life.  Then we learn how John died and why.  First, he was arrested and then thrown into prison because he dared to speak out against Herod’s unlawful relationship with his sister-in-law, Herodias.  She was still his brother’s Philip’s wife.  Theirs was an adulterous relationship.

Herodias wanted John dead because of what he was saying about her and Herod.  All John was doing was speaking the truth.  He was a man (prophet) of God and his duty was to speak out agains iniquity.  Adultery was a sin.  It had to be addressed and that was what John the Baptist was doing.  He could not look the other way.  This was the same man who called for people to repent.  He had to confront Herod about his sin.  He told him plainly, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  For this Herod wanted to put John to death but feared the people.

Herodias was determined to have her way.  She played on her husband’s weakness.  She used her daughter to get what she wanted on Herod’s birthday.  John 14:6,7 state that the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and the guests and pleased the king so much that he foolishly promised with an oath to give the girl whatever she asked for.  She asked, at her mother’s bidding, for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Herod realized too late that he had been set up.  Obviously this request had Herodias’ name written all over it. She stood to gain a lot from John’s death.  Mark wrote in his Gospel that she held what John had said about her against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not;  for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.  Herodias had to scheme and plot to get what she wanted.

Herod couldn’t go back on his word.  He had no choice but to do as the girl asked.  John was beheaded and when his head was brought on a platter to the girl, she took it to her mother.  I could just imagine the smug look on Herodias’ face.  She had gotten rid of the baptist.  She had succeeded in silencing his voice.  Now she was free to live as she pleased.

Herod had been tricked into killing a just and holy man.  This reminds me of King Darius who had been tricked into signing a decree that would sentence the prophet Daniel to death.  He could not revoke it.  It also reminds me of the story in Judges 11 of Jephthah, the foolish father who made a vow he could not take back.

What can we learn from this horrible and tragic story of John the Baptist?  We shouldn’t make vows or promises we will later regret.   And if someone we know is doing something wrong, we should say something.  Just today I heard a story of someone was behaving inappropriately at his workplace so his co-workers they confronted him about it.  They warned him to stop what he was doing or risk losing his job.  It was then up to that individual to either smarten up and heed his co-workers’ warnings or continue doing what he was doing and get fired.  As Christians, we could only bring the truth to people–what they decide to do with it is up to them.  At least they can’t plead ignorance.

I think that as a holy and just man, John the Baptist had to do what was required of him which is found in Ezekiel 3:18, 19.  He was to warn King Herod of his sinful way and if the king did not turn from his wicked way, he will die in his iniquity.

When God sends someone to call us out for a sin we are committing, we should not want to shut the person up.  This is God’s way of reaching out to us and calling us to turn away from our sin and to turn to Him instead.  In other words, don’t shoot the messenger but be thankful that the One who sent him or her loves you so much that He is willing to wash you thoroughly from your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sin (Psalm 51:2).


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