URC Daily Devotion Thursday 9 February 2023

Thursday 9 February 2023   St Matthew 10: 16 – 33
‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.  When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;  but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.


Jesus has been instructing his disciples as they are sent out to do the work of the Kingdom. Now, he warns them that he is sending them out ‘like sheep into the midst of wolves’. Scarcely, a reassuring image! They were, and we are, vulnerable to attack. So they, and we, are to be ‘as wise as serpents and innocent as doves’.

We may well ask why Jesus chooses serpents and doves as epitomes of wisdom and innocence but that question is not easily answered, and we do better to focus on our need for these qualities as we live as witnesses to Jesus. What it means to be innocent may well be clear to us, even if, at times, we are guilty, but what does it mean to be wise? What is wisdom?

 ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 1:7). ‘Fear’ in the sense of awe, reverence, that is. And it is only the beginning of wisdom, not the whole of it. We have to increase in wisdom, as Jesus himself did (Luke 2:52). He describes those who act on his teaching as wise (Matthew 7:24). The letter of James says, ‘show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom…The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality or hypocrisy’ (3.13,17).
We may sometimes think of wisdom in terms of discerning the right thing to do, but these words of James remind us that wisdom is as much about our demeanour as our decisions, and concerns our doing as much as our discerning. Being wise is living in relationship with God through Jesus Christ; following his example and putting his teaching into practice in every area of our lives every day. If doing so brings us opposition, even persecution, we can’t say that we haven’t been warned.


Lo! The hosts of evil round us
scorn thy Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us,
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom,
grant us courage,
for the living of these days.
Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of thy salvation
be our glory evermore:
Grant us wisdom,
grant us courage,
serving Thee whom we adore.

(Rejoice & Sing 344)



Today’s writer

The Revd John Matthews is a retired Baptist minister and member of Wellingborough URC


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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