Friday (July 12): Sheep in the midst of wolves – wise and innocent
Scripture: Matthew 10:16-23
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.
Meditation: What does Jesus mean when he says his disciples must be sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)? The prophet Isaiah foretold a time when wolves and lambs will dwell in peace (Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25). This Old Testament prophecy certainly refers to the second coming of Christ when all will be united under the Lordship of Jesus after he has put down his enemies and established the reign of God over the heavens and the earth (Ephesians 1:10 and Revelation 11:15). In the meantime, the disciples must expect opposition and persecution from those who oppose the Gospel and the coming of God’s kingdom.
The readiness to serve and face hardship for Christ and his kingdom Jesus never hesitated to tell his disciples what they might expect if they chose to follow him. Here Jesus says to his disciples: This is my task for you at its grimmest and worst – do you accept it? This is not the world’s way of recruitment for service and toil with promise of honor and reward. After the British defeat at Dunkirk (June 1940), Churchill offered his country blood, toil, sweat, and tears.
This is not the message we prefer to hear when the Lord Jesus commissions us in his service for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the battle against Satan’s kingdom of darkness and death. Nonetheless, our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of the Lord and Master who willingly laid down his life for us in order to bring us victory over Satan, sin, and death. Are you willing to accept hardship and suffering in serving the Lord Jesus Christ?
“Lord Jesus, help me to patiently and joyfully accept the hardships, adversities, and persecution which come my way in serving you and your kingdom of love, truth,and goodness. Strengthen my faith and give me courage that I may not shrink back from doing your will.”
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security. 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide for ever; 19 they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance. 27 Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever. 28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. 39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. 40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Spirit of your heavenly Father speaks through you in every age, by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)
“To be sure, we heard in that reading, ‘But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how or what you are to speak… for it is not you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you.’ And he says in another place: ‘Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20). Does this mean that the people who heard those words of the Lord would be here until the end of the world? The Lord was referring, rather, not only to those about to depart from this life but also to the others, including us and those who would come after us in this life. He saw everyone in his single body, and the words he spoke, ‘I am with you even to the end of the world,’ were heard by them and by us too. And if we did not hear them then in our knowledge, we heard them in his foreknowledge. Therefore, safe as sheep among the wolves, let us keep the commandments of him who directs us. And let us be ‘innocent as doves but cautious as snakes’ (Matthew 10:16). Innocent as doves that we may not harm anyone; cautious as snakes that we may be careful of letting anyone harm us.” (excerpt from the Sermon 44a.2)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.