Forgiveness

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (Exodus 32:7-14)

Moses left the Israelites in his brother Aaron’s hands while he went to get God’s Ten Commandments up on a mountain. He was gone a long time. The people grew restless, and so Aaron helped them build idols that they worshipped in place of God. He even told them that the idols represented the gods that had rescued them from Egypt. Then they had a wild party.

God was furious. He felt the same pain, the same anger that a spouse feels when the other spouse has an affair. In fact, later prophets would use adultery as a picture of idolatry. God’s first response was to dump the Israelites and replace them with Moses. It’s hard to forgive because it means you have to give up on getting justice.

But Moses begged God to forgive the people of Israel, without disputing that they deserved punishment. Instead, he reminded God of how important the Israelites were to him. So God forgave them. The relationship meant more to God than getting even.

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A Kingdom Divided

Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the LORD had commanded.

So the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:9-13)

Solomon was an idolater. He had built temples to the gods of his wives and offered sacrifices to them. And yet Solomon had known God, had worshiped God, had been given the gift of wisdom by God. He is noted as the wisest man who ever lived.

But despite his relationship with God, despite his wisdom, he still went far astray. Solomon illustrates what Paul said: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23)

But God’s judgment on Solomon was not as harsh as we might imagine it should have been. God did not strike Solomon with illness or strip him of his position. Instead, he stripped Solomon’s future from him. After his death, his son would oversee the loss of Solomon’s wealthy kingdom. Ten of the twelve tribes would break away to form a new nation, with a king not descended from Solomon to rule over them.

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Balaam

But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God, to do less or more. You remain here, as the others did, so that I may learn what more the LORD may say to me.” That night God came to Balaam and said to him, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you to do.” So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.

God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. (Numbers 22:18-25)

Just because God lets you do it, it doesn’t mean you should. God had told Balaam not to do what Balak, king of the Moabites, had asked. But like a child who continues pleading with his parent long after the parent has said no, so Balaam, because money was being dangled before him, kept begging God. Balaam knew what God wanted but chose his own way instead.

Angry that Balaam insisted on going, God sent an angel to block his path. The donkey Balaam was riding saw the angel and tried to avoid him. Balaam reacted by beating his donkey. But despite whatever pain Balaam gave him, the donkey refused to go anywhere he wasn’t supposed to.

In contrast, despite everything that God told him, Balaam was going to go his own way, regardless. He pronounced a blessing rather than a curse upon Israel, but he figured out a way—or so he thought—to get around God’s constraint. He told Balak to send women to seduce the Israelites and lead them into idolatry. Balaam might not be able to curse the Israelites, but he thought he could get God to curse them anyhow. That way, Balak would still pay him. But it didn’t work out quite as either he or Balak hoped. Instead, it cost both of them their lives (see Joshua 13:22).

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Apollo 13

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Told You So

All this time, Peter was sitting out in the courtyard. One servant girl came up to him and said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.”

In front of everybody there, he denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

As he moved over toward the gate, someone else said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.”

Again he denied it, salting his denial with an oath: “I swear, I never laid eyes on the man.”

Shortly after that, some bystanders approached Peter. “You’ve got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away.”

Then he got really nervous and swore. “I don’t know the man!”

Just then a rooster crowed. Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” He went out and cried and cried and cried. (Matthew 26:69–75)

Jesus warned Peter ahead of time what was going to happen. But the warning didn’t stop Peter or alter his behavior in any way.

With Jesus’ arrest, with the disciples scattered, Peter suffered the loss of everything he had believed in, everything that he had hoped would happen. During the whole night as he skirted about, his mind would likely have been filled with the disappointment over how things had turned out and over his own failure to act. Perhaps he wondered if there might not be something he could do to change the circumstances, to fix the problem. But with each choice he made, he merely solidified the outcome and fulfilled the very words that Jesus had told him, words that he didn’t want to believe, that he couldn’t believe were true—until the moment the rooster crowed and all his hopes came to nothing.

Over the course of our lives, we have doubtless received good advice that we ignored. And likewise, we have given good advice that we saw ignored. We have heard people tell us, “told you so” and probably have said it ourselves, or perhaps on some occasions, resisted that temptation. . Peter learned and came out fine on the other side of his mistakes. His misery, his suffering, did not have to be what it was. The night could have gone a different way for him had he understood what Jesus had been trying to tell him. God won’t abandon us just because we don’t always understand or follow his good advice, though he might tell us, “told you so.”

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God’s Will, Human Choice

While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.”

Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled. (Matthew 26:47–56)

Jesus’ knew that his death on the cross was inevitable. And he knew that Judas would sell him out for a bag of silver.

But until the moment Judas made his decision to betray Jesus, Judas had no clue. He had been a follower, convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. But one day, maybe all at once, maybe gradually, something changed for him and so he had changed, too. Even though Judas was foreordained to be Jesus’ betrayer, he made his choices freely. God did not force him, twist his arm, or talk him into something that he didn’t want to do.

Although God has absolute power and authority, he has chosen to give people their freedom. Somehow, God accomplishes his will through the choices we make, whether they’re good or bad. Judas made an appalling choice, but by it he accomplished God’s will.

Judas demonstrates that we have the freedom to make whatever choices we decide we want to make. We might want to be careful, therefore, how we exercise the freedom God has granted us.

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Human Weakness

He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.

“Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:37–46)

Jesus told his Father just how unhappy he was about his circumstances. He also told his disciples about how he was feeling. Even so, we sometimes wonder how we are supposed to feel about our problems. We become concerned that there’s a right way to feel and we’re afraid that how we really feel isn’t it.

A pastor once went to comfort parents who had just lost their only daughter in a car accident. Rather grieving, they were pretending to smile. They told him that as Christians, they believed they shouldn’t “mourn as the heathen do.” He gently suggested that the passage did not teach against mourning, but rather, that when we mourn, we should feel neither hopeless and nor helpless about it, because we know God is with us and we know the resurrection is coming.

Jesus knew who he was the Son of God. He knew he would rise from the dead. But he still mourned his circumstances. He still wished for some other way. But he was also willing to face God’s will.
What gives us strength in disaster is not pretending that we’re not in pain. Our strength comes from understand that God is with us and that he will stay with us until the end.

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A Prayer of Jesus

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory.” (John 17:1–10)

One of the best ways to learn how to pray is to listen to how Jesus prayed. He used no particular formula or special words. Rather, when we overhear Jesus’ prayers to his Father, what we discover is that he simply talked to him about whatever was on his mind. He told his Father the things that mattered most to him. He simply discussed his deepest concerns with his Father, expressing whatever emotions and thoughts that came from deep inside of him. He was not concerned with what anyone might think of his words. He was only concerned that his Father knew what really was weighing on his mind.

When we pray, we needn’t worry about the shape or form of our prayer, whether our words are pretty or whether our hands are folded right. Instead, we should simply tell God whatever is in our heads, without pretense, without pretending, without thinking about what we think we should be talking about to God. God already knows our needs. He already knows what is troubling us, what is important to us, and how we really feel about our situation. He only wants us to share it all with him. Think about how much better we feel after we unburden ourselves to a close friend. He wants us to let him lighten our load just like that.

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Remembrance

When the hour had come, Jesus sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:14–20)

Passover was a memorial service, a way for the Israelites to remember what God had done for them when he had rescued them from Egyptian slavery. The sacrificial system with all its rituals and its slaughter of animals served a similar purpose: it was a picture, a parable of what God would do through the final sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The sacrifice of bulls and goats in the old covenant of ancient Israel never took away sins (Hebrews 10:3-4). It was simply a regular reminder of their sins and the fact that God was forgiving them.

The breaking of bread and the drinking of the wine of the Lord’s Supper now serves a similar purpose: it is a memorial service, a way of remembering what Jesus did on the cross. It is a picture for us. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper does not take away sins: instead, it reminds us that our sins have already been taken away thanks the great price that was paid by Jesus on Calvary. It was and is only Jesus’ death on a Roman cross that takes away our sins. We remember that wonderful reality every time we share the bread and the fruit of the vine. As often as we do it, we proclaim to all those with us the amazing love of Jesus.

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Am I the One?

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”

And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?”

He said to him, “You have said it.” (Matthew 26:18–25)

During the last supper, a Passover Seder, Jesus revealed that one of the Twelve was going to betray him. Each of them asked Jesus if he was the one. Only Judas got an affirmative answer.

All the disciples were going to run away from Jesus. Peter would wind up denying that he even knew Jesus. But only Judas worked to destroy Jesus. What motivated Judas in his actions is unknown. The New Testament authors only tell us that “Satan” had entered him. His action was unexpected and startling to the other disciples. None of them suspected him.

Of the twelve disciples who asked, “is it I?” only Judas knew the answer. If we wonder if we will betray Jesus, if we wonder if we might go astray in some way and like the other eleven, we really don’t know the answer to it, then our answer is what it was for all the disciples except for Judas. Those who are abandoning Jesus don’t really wonder whether they are doing it. They already know.

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