2 September 2019
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.
Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’
When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon
It saddens me each time to read about incidences of bullying, especially those that lead to suicide. This is bullying in all forms, either in politics or at the playground. Are we really such inhumane, uncompassionate creatures, the very opposite of what God made us to be? If we are made in His likeness, I’m sure it is meant to be in all aspects. Yet, we still choose the fruit of knowledge of evil to see how far we can go, how much we can get away with. And these perpetrators go about their lives thereafter as though nothing happened. Is there anything to be gained in making someone else miserable? Is there any pleasure at the thought of ridiculing and ending another’s existence? And then go about life like normal as though it was an entitlement to you? A moment of ‘fun’ for the perpetrator is a lifetime of scarring for the oppressed.
If you have ever felt oppressed, rejected, or like an outsider, the stress must be only too great and I do not say this lightly at all. If you find yourself in such a situation, reach out to someone you can trust — a parent, teacher, pastor, or helpline. Seek help — help is at hand, help will come. Remember that Jesus was rejected by his own people in his hometown, remember that they wanted to throw him off a cliff. Remember that they did eventually kill him on the cross, but not before humiliating and hurting him. Remember that he was abandoned, betrayed and denied by those who followed him, some who were closest to him. Yet, at the end, God delivered him from the clutches of death by raising him on the third day. The naysayers were silenced. Tears were turned to rejoicing, disbelief turned to belief.
Remember that you are worthy, we are all worthy in God’s eyes. Jesus reminds us today that God performed miracles in the unlikeliest of places — the widow from Zarephath in Sidon, an area considered to be an outsider, and Naaman from Syria, a foe of Israel. Miracles could have well been performed in Israel, but God wanted to prove a point – that His love knows no bounds. The downtrodden, the oppressed, the unloved – if the world has rejected you, know that God has not. God doesn’t only reserve His mercies and graces to people who are born Christians or high-ranking leaders or active people in ministry. His grace is open to all. His grace is overflowing, even to outsiders (see Eph 2:11-13). His love is for you and me; it is in rejecting His love, where we will lose it and He will move on to others who need Him, until the day we return to Him.
Remember as well the Gospel reading from yesterday (Luke 14:7-14), where Jesus told his host to invite to his banquet “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”. God sees these people worthy to be at His banquet, more so than people who have been invited but rejected the invitation (Luke 14:24). Do not think that God has forsaken you. Those that have oppressed you may enjoy their lives now but there will come a time when they will need help, only to find that help will be denied them.
I don’t think I will understand why people have to be so unkind. There is nothing to be gained from being unkind, only for it to come back and bite us some day. Our lives are given to us by the mercy and grace of God; if we abuse it or reject it, some day it will be taken away from us and given to another.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the oppressed, the rejected, the unloved. We pray that You will deliver them from their pain and persecution, and give to them the grace and mercy that You have promised for all of us.
Thanksgiving: Lord we give You thanks for deeming us worthy, regardless of our standing in life, or the value that others may place on us. We give You thanks for Your unending and unconditional love.