Where we can repent for others

Matthew 11: 20-21

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Where we can repent for others

Matt. 11:20-21   Then Jesus began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

We saw yesterday a great testimony and preach from Paul (around Acts 26: 19-21). There was conviction (26:28) and although he was held in Roman custody, they nearly let him go (26:32). The result, however, looks like the one we have often experienced: they heard about the kingdom of God – why didn’t they get it? People can remain hard hearted, even in the face of a great preach from perhaps the greatest NT preacher apart from Jesus Himself.

Today the people we are considering that didn’t repent are a different set of people in the towns around Galilee, the area that was Jesus’ home patch. Chorazin was next door to Capernaum, north-west of the lake, and Bethsaida was on the north-east shore. The story here is that hearts have not been changed even though these people have witnessed signs and wonders – a paralysed man healed, blind men receiving sight, the freeing of a demonised man unable to speak, just to pick up a few that are mentioned – and this was the area of the Sermon on the Mount and the Feeding of the 5000. The contrast is with the Phoenician, Gentile towns of Tyre and Sidon – not covenant people at all – yet perhaps more open.

There is a note of warning here. Unbelief brings woe on the community. Perhaps Jesus was calling to mind Proverbs 14: 34 –
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

We take an individualistic view of our faith or unbelief. “If I don’t believe, what is that to others? It’s about me and my faith.” That is a modern, western, Greek, rational view but not a view found in the Bible. The people of those times were tribal – a nation bound together by covenant.

The sorry story of Achan hoarding plunder the keeping of which was expressly forbidden was a particular example (Joshua 7:1) which “caused the Lord’s anger to burn” and is described as a violation of the covenant:
Joshua 7: 15 He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!

So when we encounter people who seem unable to turn, unable to respond, unable to connect with God, we have to ask the Lord why. Perhaps there is a historic or generational issue of unbelief in a family or area. But we are not in the business of judging, but blessing! We can repent on behalf of others, including (with a bit of discernment) past generations, and that opens the way for us to bless what God is doing now and declare His kingdom purposes.

As we gear up for an Alpha this autumn, this is exactly how we release people to come, and to engage, and to hear God for themselves. There may be history – there is always history – but we hold the keys!

TAKE AWAY CHALLENGE

• Are we people bound together by covenant? Can we learn from the Methodists here?

• If so, can we take some spiritual responsibility for our area? This is a good season for some prayer walking, to use our spiritual authority to bless.

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