Today’s readings.. (2 Samuel 1), (Jeremiah 7), (Matthew 18)
One of the most wonderful messages within the Bible concerns the mercy and forgiveness of God. Today, in Matthew 18 we read the well-known parable of the lost sheep, it is prefaced by the words, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones”[v.10]. This, we conclude means – those seen to be the “least” as the Gk word is translated in in Ch 11 v.11 – in contrast to the ‘greatest’ – for the disciples had asked him (`8 v.1) “Who is the greatest in the kingdom …”. In seeking to save the sheep, a little one, that became “lost” Jesus concludes his story by saying, “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” [v.14] Jesus put a child “in the midst of them” [v.2] and told them they had to be humble and trusting like the child.
As his mortal mission is reaching its climax Jesus is more urgently teaching his disciples. Peter asked him a question about forgiveness, it seems he had a brother who caused a lot of friction and Peter seems to say, ‘Surely 7 times is enough to forgive him’, but Jesus says. “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” [v.22]. If we expect our Heavenly Father to be always forgiving, then we must do the same.
Our thoughts go back to the preaching of John Baptist we read early this month when he saw “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism” [3 v.7-10] John’s words to them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” is a lesson for all; God’s forgiveness and mercy is not automatic! We have lessons on this in God’s words to Jeremiah today: “Do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me” [7 v.16] this was because they “did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; and truth has perished … the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.” [v.28,29]
We shudder to contemplate the situation that faced Jeremiah, so Godless had the nation become! While we tremble at the comparisons with these last days, we remind ourselves “that it is not the will of my Father … that one of these little ones should perish” The “little ones” are, said Jesus” “my sheep (who) hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish” [John 10 v.27,28] Let us “hear” the voice of Jesus (and the Father) every day through reading his word and a seeking “little child” and prayer.