1 Thessalonians 2
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” —Daniel 9:9
I remember a couple of years ago when I flew into the nation of Israel for the first time. There was a certain flight path to the Tel Aviv airport, where the plane flies over a graveyard. As I sat on the plane, I saw flight attendants helping some people prepare for that journey. An Orthodox rabbi placed a plastic bag over his entire chair and wrapped himself up in plastic. It was a bizarre sight, but this was done to adhere to the Old Testament law that dictated in Numbers 19:16, “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.” Hence, out of an abundance of caution, this rabbi covered himself in plastic so that he would not become unclean. I thought to myself, such a meticulous life that this rabbi had to embrace in order not to become unclean.
Even our best intentions to live a life of sacrificial obedience can be at odds with the mercy of God. After an extended period of ministry in the region, Jesus began to denounce the cities and towns He visited by saying, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!…And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24).
Despite this public rebuke of people who had been sitting under His teaching, Jesus extended this invitation: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus’s invitation is to everyone, particularly to those who are weary of life in a fallen world and heavy laden with rule upon rule laid upon them.
When I was flying into the Tel Aviv airport, looking at a man wrapped up in a plastic bag, I thought to myself: what if Jesus
walked up to him and said, “You don’t need the plastic bag. I have mercy for you. Come to Me and I will set you free. Take My yoke. Learn from Me and see what mercy looks like in your life.”
Lord God, thank You that I can come to You and find mercy that is not dependent on my sacrificial obedience. Praise You!