Sometimes the chapters get in the way
I’ve been reading the Bible for roughly 28 years. I think we started studying it as a family when I was 12.
I’m been sharing devotions with my son, using Jon Swanson’s 300 Words a Day and 7×7. [7×7 is reading the Bible for 5 minutes, asking God a question, and listening for 2 minutes. Therefore, it is 7 minutes a day, 7 days a week.]
For the 7×7 last week, we were working through Matthew 9 and 10. Matthew 9 ends with the inspiring:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” [Matthew 9:35-38]
I’ve read this passage dozens of times. I’ve studied it. Heard it preached on. I’ve even preached on it myself.
But in the past, I let the chapter get in the way. I’d stop. And feel great that I was praying for God to send people to do the work.
I’d just never realized I was praying for God to send ME to do the work
Most of the time I read this, I thought God was sending out someone else. Oh, I realized there were times I was used by God as a “worker in the field” in answer to someone else’s prayer.
But then comes Matthew 10!
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions… [Matthew 10:1,5]
If the chapter division (inserted long after the Bible was compiled) wasn’t there, I’d have read something like, “Pray for God to send the workers. Now get busy being the answer to that prayer.”
Pray. And then get active.
It’s so easy to read the end of Matthew 9 and feel complacent and somewhat passive. “Ok, I’ve prayed. Thanks Jesus for letting me be involved without getting my hands dirty.”
But our God is the God of the dirty hands. He keeps involving Himself with us. And He calls us to be His hands and feet.
We can’t get out of if by saying this was a special sending for the 12. After this, the 72 were sent. And before Jesus’ ascension, He sent all His followers to “do the stuff”: healing, driving out demons, baptizing, and discipling.
This is the Kingdom He invites us into. One where He reigns. He equips us with authority and power. And He expects us to get busy being the Kingdom.
It reminds my of the Frederick Buechner quote: “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”
My take away: if you sense the urge to pray for a situation, explore to see if that is the first step in being sent to work on it.
Read it anew:
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…[Matthew 9:35-38; 10:1,5]