Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. (Habakkuk 2:20)
Prayer of Confession
Confession is formative. It trains us to recognize the ways our hearts have become de-formed and how Christ is at work bringing redemption in our lives. Pray with this in mind.
God of grace, you love us, but we have not loved you. You call, but we have not listened. We walk away from neighbors in need, wrapped up in our own concerns. By our actions and our attitudes we praise what you condemn. Help us to admit our sin, so that as you come to us in mercy we may repent, turn to you, and receive forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
Take a moment to confess your sins, knowing that he hears you.
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus. Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: The Exodus is a powerful and dramatic and true story of God working salvation. The story has generated an extraordinary progeny through the centuries as it has reproduced itself in song and poem, drama and novel, politics and social justice, repentance and conversion, worship and holy living. It continues to capture the imagination of men and women, especially men and women in trouble. It is significant that God does not present us with salvation in the form of an abstract truth, or a precise definition or a catchy slogan, but as story. Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
This section of the Devo focuses on the passage(s) for Sunday’s sermon. Use it to reflect upon the ways Christ has been working in your life this week. Makes a great midday reflection, or group discussion guide. Follow along with our Parables Reading Plan + Study Guideas we all read the Parables every day this Fall.
Read: Matthew 18:23-25
Matthew structures his gospel around five sets of Jesus’ teaching. This parable falls within Jesus’ fourth discourse and centers around forgiveness. It’s probably best to start read at verse 21 where Peter asks Jesus:“How many times do I need forgive someone? Like, maybe, would seven times be enough?” (That was more than double what the Talmud required, after all!).
Jesus responds and we can imagine Peter’s surprised eyebrows jumping heavenward as Jesus relays how forgiveness works in the kingdom of heaven, “Naw, how about seven times seventy!” Michael Card notes, “Jesus’ response is not to be taken literally. This is a wonderful example of the way numbers can have an emotional value in Judaism as much as a numerical value. A good paraphrase of Jesus answer might be, ‘More times than you can possibly imagine.’”
As this sinks in, I think it is important to also consider the original audience with whom the Apostle Matthew shared this story. They were in all likelihood Jewish Christians in the region of Galilee (you remember Galilee, right?). Tensions were growing in these towns and villages as the early Jewish Christians continued to carry out their daily work, Sabbath observance, and participate in synagogue worship. The synagogue was at the heart of Jewish life in these towns, and the possibility of being expelled from the center of cultural life and experiencing very public rejection by friends and family would have rested heavy on these early followers of Jesus.
So imagine how these early Christians would have leaned in as Matthew shared Peter’s question? Might they also need to forgive friends and family for rejecting them? How would Jesus respond? Would Jesus’ words have shocked them the way they did Peter?
Jesus doesn’t skip a beat and continues on into a tale about a gracious king and a man who has brought financial ruin upon himself and his family. His debt is greater than Peter could have ever imagined. How could anyone run up so much debt? But the king smiles mercifully upon the man who has been so foolish and forgives the whole debt.
That’s where I imagine we all think the story will end, but not so! The man goes out and, in a scene straight out of a Flannery O’Conner story, begins to choke another man to death because the man owes him a pittance of what he was forgiven! It doesn’t end well for the man whose lack of mercy (hesed) has torturous results.
So what is Jesus’ point? Simply this: “that once we are shown mercy, we become obligated to give mercy. Upon realizing that the person from whom we have a right to expect nothing has given us everything, we must reciprocate.” Jesus leaves the parable and Peter open-ended. This is something that Peter (and we) must learn for himself.
Questions to Ponder: What surprises you about this parable? What surprises you about God’s mercy?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
You have put gladness in my heart, more than when grain and wine and oil increase. I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:7-8)