Settling scores is a good idea, when possible. Jesus said, “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny” (Luke 12:58, 59 ESV). Jesus is using this story to tell the person who owes debt to hurry up and make things right, to settle with his accuser.
I don’t believe Jesus is using this story to only talk about financial debt. He is also talking about wronging others. When we sin against others, we carry a debt. Christians often avoid repaying the debt they owe against others while demanding that the debt be forgiven by the one sinned against. “Forgive and move on” is too common a phrase in religious circles. Precisely what happened in Matthew 18 when the servant who’d received mercy demanded that his fellow servant pay back his debt.
Jesus is clear that coercion will backfire on the one who owes the debt. If we are going to ask for mercy, we need to attempt to pay back what we owe. This is part of settling debt. Too many people don’t take responsibility for their actions then turn around and demand that others forgive them. This kind of free pass eventually catches up to the one who is destructive. This is exactly Jesus’ point. Better to settle debt with the accuser than to be brought before the Judge and lose.
As Jesus once said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 ESV). This is in the context of denying one’s self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus. Making restitution is costly. It takes denying ourselves. It requires humility and honesty. It’s a challenging thing to do, but it is the right thing to do for the sake of the one who we’ve wronged.
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While God’s foundation is righteousness and justice, he longs for people to repent. In God’s compassion he offers a way for our sins to be removed. God doesn’t wish harm on people who sin, but neither will he tolerate continual unrepentant sin. Isaiah preached during a time of great unrest. The people were wicked. They were oppressive. Poverty was rampant and disease was common.
As we noted last week, Isaiah preached hope into the hearts of the few righteous people. God longs for people to come back to him. God calls us to love and bless our neighbors. In Isaiah 55, Isaiah speaks of God’s compassion for those who turn back to him. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV).
This is great news for people who are still alive. It’s not too late to turn back to God. In his compassion, he extends pardon because of his mercy. It’s perfectly fine to warn people who do not repent. And it’s also good to share God’s compassion with those who turn back to God. This is not about people turning to God for their own sake, but for the blessing of others. Our wold can and should be a kinder place. It should be a place of peace where people feel safe to walk the streets.
As Isaiah says, “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).
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God is a God of revival. Joseph’s brothers hated him. They let jealousy take root and became very corrupt-to the point of throwing him in a well, selling him into slavery, and telling their father Jacob that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. This lie was perpetuated for decades.
Meanwhile, Joseph rose to power in Egypt. He was made second in command to the Pharaoh himself. Joseph interpreted a dream where there would be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. During the 7 years, storehouses were build and grain was piled up throughout Egypt. When the famine was at its worst, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food for their starving family. They didn’t know that the man they were speaking to was Joseph. Later Joseph revealed himself to them and they all wept bitterly.
Joseph forgave his brothers and they brought Jacob and all his siblings into Egypt to live. When Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared that Joseph would retaliate and kill them. So they lied one more time to say that Jacob left this command: “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you (Genesis 50:17 ESV). Joseph’s response reflects his integrity: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Genesis 50:19-21).
Joseph spoke kindly to them. This story is powerful on so many levels. Joseph’s brothers repented. They not only begged for forgiveness, but they laid themselves down at Joseph’s feet and said, “Behold, we are your servants” (Genesis 50:18). God redeems horrific patterns of deception and sin when there is repentance. The story of Joseph is our story. Even when we sin, God is working His purpose. When we repent, revival can take place. Joseph’s family became well established in Egypt. They were fruitful and multiplied. Through God’s mercy they were spared.
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