Devotional Thoughts for Today
“What We Need to Hear”
Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.”
In the well-known fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes, two weavers dupe a vain emperor by telling him that the special clothes that they made for him is made of fabric that is so special that it looks invisible to those who are not enlightened or incompetent. And so the proud emperor puts on these “special” clothes and marches through the town. The emperor’s advisors didn’t dare say anything and neither would any of the townsfolk, except for one young child who shouted during the procession, “The emperor is not wearing any clothes!” So, of all of the people surrounding the emperor, it was a young child, who, by being honest about what he saw, turned out to be the king’s best advisor and friend. All other people, including the emperor’s advisors, either didn’t say a word or told the emperor what he wanted to hear.
If we were to list all the qualities and attributes of an ideal friend, at the top of our lists would be things like fun, loyal, and supportive. One quality that probably wouldn’t be on the lists is brutal honesty. We all want our friends to be supportive of us, but we don’t really look forward to our friends telling us things that we don’t want to hear. But the truth is that sometimes the best thing our friends can do is to tell us the difficult and uncomfortable truth about ourselves.
Jeremiah the prophet tells the people of Israel that, “I will keep nothing back from you” with regards to what the Lord had to say to them. Jeremiah was being a good friend and shepherd to the Israelites because he loved them enough to tell them not what they wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear—the truth from God Himself.
We all need Jeremiahs and people like that young child in our lives. Like the emperor in the story, we are prone to vanity and pride. Like the emperor, we’d rather surround ourselves with people who flatter us or tell us what we want to hear. Unlike the emperor though, we ought to know that we need to ground ourselves into community and seek to hear even the hard truth about ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us pray that we will be surrounded by people who love us enough to tell us not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear from the Lord.
Prayer: God, I pray that You will surround me with brothers and sisters who will care for me and love me and point me to You. Help me to be humble and to hear what You have to say to me through them. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 9
Lunch Bread Study
Read Galatians 2:11-14: But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Questions to Consider
- What was Cephas (Peter) doing wrong in this passage?
- How were Paul’s actions out of love for Peter and for the church?
- Would you be willing to do what Paul did? Are there people in your life who can speak to you like Paul spoke to Peter?
- Peter was separating himself from the Gentiles at the church in Antioch when some Jews came to visit him. Peter, out of fear of what these Jews would think, decided to act just like what these Jews would expect by essentially discriminating and distancing himself from the Gentiles who were his brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Paul speaks bluntly to Peter and points out his sin, telling us that Peter and the Jews’ conduct was “not in step with the truth of the gospel.” We should also note that Paul publicly put Peter on the spot by writing about this in this book of Galatians and making an example of him to the whole church and Christians for all time. While what Paul says and does may seem harsh, it was an act of love for Peter because he was pointing Peter back to the truth of the gospel. Also, it was important to Paul to make an example of this because he loved the church and the unity of the church was at stake.
- Personal response
Think about the people in your life. Are there people who can speak into your life? And is there someone whose life you should be speaking into? Pray that God will start or deepen friendships that point you to the truth.