“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Just as my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. You shall see this place no more. The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, Do not go to Egypt. Be well aware that I have warned you today that you have made a fatal mistake. For you yourselves sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us and we will do it.’ So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Be well aware, then, that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go and settle.”
The Mission of the Twelve1
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and I’m going to lose no matter what happens.Have you ever felt that way? These are some of my points of lowest motivation for following God instead of my own selfish desires. I mean, if the result is going to be the same anyway, why does it matter?
That is a hard place to be in and an even harder place to speak to, when you are not in it yourself. The Chalmers Center has a book called When Helping Hurts that describes ways that our attempts to speak into and intervene in the lives of those caught in tough places often ends up doing more harm than good. If you are not in one of those places but know someone who is, be sure to get your facts straight before barging in with a cure-all for their woes… because, the truth is, it really does matter.
It matters whether we are suffering as a consequence of our own disobedience or if we are suffering for obeying God. It matters in the moment because suffering out of obedience is suffering that takes on meaning. It shows the world its own corruption and brokenness. Prophets face persecution for their faithfulness because a world that wanted to hear what they had to say would not need them to say it. Their role is to stand in between unfaithful people and a God demanding justice, the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and to mediate between them. Most prophets do not survive the task, but their work is honored and their suffering brings healing to those around them. On the other hand, God uses our disobedience as well. If we will not be lifted up as a good example, He will use us as the bad example. He has His ways of getting the point across whether we want to go along or not.
The choices we have before us each day are really not as much about suffering or comfort, which we have less control of than we think. They are about honor and shame. That may not mean as much to you today, but if you look at the big picture, it may mean a lot tomorrow. Honor opens doors. Shame closes them. Doors you may not even see yet. It is why we tell our students to study and get good grades, knowing it will take years of their life away from friends, family, making money, and many other pursuits they may have. There is nothing inherently valuable about a good grade. In fact, most of our grades will never be looked at by people other than our parents and teachers. But they will open doors to places of honor that would otherwise be unattainable when we get to those paths down the road. That is the difference between a rock and a hard place.
What difficult choices do you have to make today?
What guidance is God giving you?