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Devotion for February 07, 2007

Devotions

In her book,Getting Involved with God, Ellen Davis recounts the story of a friend diagnosed with a brain tumor. They prayed fervently for her healing—and God answered. Only the healing was not for the brain tumor; her friend died fifteen months after her diagnosis. But she was healed from her crippling anxiety and sadness that had characterized most of her life. Sometimes God’s answers appear different from the questions we have asked.

Our reading for today examines what happens when God doesn’t seem to live up to the expectations we’ve set for Him. The Jews of Jesus’ day had clearly defined hopes for the Messiah, and so long as Jesus fulfilled these, they embraced Him and His message. As Jesus began to preach and teach and heal all throughout the region of Galilee, their adulation swelled. Their hopes of deliverance and redemption were embodied in this master teacher and miracle worker (v. 15).

Imagine their shock and disdain for His provocative words at the end of today’s reading. They had cast the hopes of the Jewish nation on Him, but He seemed to be implying that the Gentiles, not the Jews, would enjoy God’s favor. What had been worship turned into murderous rage. The expectations were shattered, and they determined to destroy the man responsible.

We know from other passages of Scripture that Jesus wasn’t denying that He had indeed come for the people of Israel (Luke 13:34). But it was also true that the misshapen expectations the Jews held of the Messiah and His kingdom would prevent many of them from embracing them. The Jews wanted a king. They wanted a winning team. They didn’t expect a crucified Jewish Messiah and a call to repentance. So, they rejected Jesus

We can be just as dense when it comes to understanding God’s kingdom. We each have our own pet expectations of Christ and what He should do for us. Because the concept of “kingdom” shapes what we pray for and how we expect God to answer, understanding it biblically is fundamental to our prayer lives.

Apply the Word

The Lord’s Prayer calls us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” That means that our first priority in terms of what we want and seek through prayer is the accomplishment of God’s purposes. But do we really understand what God’s kingdom would look like? Look back to verses 18 and 19 of today’s reading. Write down some specific things, based on these verses, that would be evidence of God’s kingdom being present.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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