READY FOR ANYTHING?
Lord, you are more than the blessings you have provided. Thank you for being such a generous God.
Read Matthew 10:16–23
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Paul said to the Romans, ‘I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.’1 Take time to reflect on his words.
Now everything changes for the disciples, for they are no longer just watching Jesus but going out on a mission themselves and Jesus warns them that this, as well as their future missionary work, will put them in grave danger.
He certainly doesn’t mince his words! Jesus says they are in as much peril as sheep surrounded by wolves and warns them that opposition will come not only from the authorities but even their own families. However, he also instructs them on how to deal with this danger. They are to be as ‘shrewd as snakes’ (v 16). We don’t think of snakes as particularly shrewd, but their wisdom lies in their alertness to danger and their ability to move swiftly from it.2 This fits with Jesus’ encouragement to flee from a city when persecuted rather than stay and face martyrdom. Acts reveals how following this advice led to the gospel spreading further afield, for Christians who fled Jerusalem moved on into Gentile areas, telling the people about Christ.3 Jesus also instructs the disciples to be innocent as doves. The Greek behind this translation means ‘unmixed’, suggesting they are to be pure, untainted by sin.
In what ways do we need to be as shrewd as snakes today? Do we rush into decisions and situations without being aware of the pitfalls? Are we naive about the spiritual battle we are in, making plans without seeking God’s guidance first or without listening to advice and covering our activity in prayer? Similarly, how can we be innocent as doves? Is there any sin in our lives that we are deliberately not facing up to and tackling? The image of sheep surrounded by hungry wolves is a stark reminder of the dangers we face by not staying close to Jesus the Good Shepherd, our guide and defender.
Ask God to reveal any gaps in your spiritual armor and pray for anyone who is currently experiencing opposition – whether that’s you, or somebody else.
Powerful One, grant me wisdom and courage to share the gospel today. Remove my timidness and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit.
1 Rom 16:19 2 Revd A Carr, St Matthew, Cambridge University Press, 1906, p164 3 Acts 11:19–21