The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.
The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’
I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery
We’re a treacherous race. Treachery is woven into the fabric of our character. I accept it as a fact of life. People are unfaithful. That’s just the way it is. Those who cut us the deepest are usually the ones closest to us. And we in turn, hurt most deeply, those whom we hold most dearly.
Couples know this best – especially those who have had to deal with spousal infidelity.
Treachery brings separation. When we’ve violated an understanding, the guilt we feel isolates us. The anger and resentment of those whom we’ve hurt separates them from us. We feel defiled and unworthy. We hide in the shadows. Adam in the Garden of Eden hid from God after eating the fruit of the tree. Judas hung himself, overcome with guilt and grief for his treachery. Cain evaded God’s questions. That separation compounds if there is no love and no forgiveness to break the vicious cycle of guilt and resentment. That’s how marriages break down.
“I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 37:26).
It’s hard to see through our haze of anger when we’ve been hurt by infidelity. We become bitter and resentful. That bitterness causes our hearts to harden. That bitterness colors our other relationships and frames the way we view the world. That’s how we grow a heart of stone – we become cynical and jaded. We call it ‘self-preservation’. For God to heal us and give us a new heart, we have to first let go of our angry, resentful selves so that He can bring a renewal of heart and mind. Earlier this week, we read that “… unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone but if it dies it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). When we’ve been cheated on, the natural instinct is always anger. We feel almost entitled to it. But we have to find a way to die to our anger and our bitterness to allow God to give us our new heart.
Some of us never recover, and carry our bitterness to the grave. Some of us do eventually find a way to forgive, heal and learn to trust and love again.
Lent is the season of penance, prayer and reflection. Before this season is over, as hard as it may be, can we find it within us to let go of the anger and resentment that is holding us back from those we love? For those of us who have been treacherous, can we seek forgiveness of those whom we’ve hurt and begin to rebuild that trust again? Love and forgiveness can break the vicious cycle of guilt and resentment.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for those of us who are dealing with difficult marital relations. We pray that they find a way to look beyond the anger, bitterness and resentment, to rebuild again the trust that makes them whole.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to wives and husbands who lovingly soldier on together, holding their families together, despite all the challenges of married life.