Read Matthew 9:13 and consider what God might be instructing you. How can you show mercy in your day-to-day life to honor God?
The latter part of Daniel 9 introduces us to a fascinating end-times prophecy, but I’d like to draw your attention to the beginning of the chapter. As foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel had been in exile for nearly 70 years because of their disobedience to the Lord. (Daniel experienced the exile first-hand, as he was one of the young Israelite men selected to be trained in Babylon for service to the king.)
In keeping with God’s example of creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, the people of Israel had very specific regulations about their work ethic, including honoring the Sabbath day each week and letting the land rest every seventh year. As we read time and time again in the Old Testament (as well as modern day, if we’re honest about ourselves), the people had veered away from following God. Jeremiah tried to warn them to get back on track, but they didn’t listen.
God has a way of bringing his will to pass, even when we are stubborn and don’t follow it, in the first place. I think it’s interesting how the people of Israel neglected the Lord’s instructions to let the land rest every so often, yet the land went fallow for decades while they were in exile. It reminds me of how we go-go-go through life, and then – wham! – you get sick and have to stay in bed for a few days, smack in the middle of a busy schedule. Our bodies need rest, even if we have to be forced to do it.
Daniel realized through his own studying of Jeremiah that the period of exile was coming to a close, so he prayed to the Lord in humility to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. I think this is interesting, as well. God said that the people would be in exile for 70 years, but instead of just waiting out the time, Daniel approached the Lord submissively and asked for forgiveness for his people. Daniel was a young man when he was exiled; he could hardly be blamed for the decisions of his forefathers, yet he bore the burden and interceded on their behalf. May we, too, stand in the gap for our communities in prayer.
Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean inactivity. Peter did what he knew how to do, until he was instructed otherwise. Be watchful while waiting.
The Bible doesn’t give us much insight as to what went through the potential disciples’ minds when Jesus called them to put down their fishing nets and follow him. It simply said that they did. In fact, Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:18 report that Simon [Peter] and Andrew left their things “at once.” A few verses later, we learn that not only did brothers James & John also leave “immediately” upon hearing Jesus’ call, but they even left their father Zebedee behind in the boat preparing the fishing nets. Luke 5 gives us a bit more insight into the four men, as we learn that they were fishing partners who witnessed Jesus bring in a catch so full that their nets began to break.
And yet, where were the disciples later on, when things looked uncertain? They were back in a boat, fishing. In John 20, we read that the risen Christ appeared to his disciples and others, and although they were thrilled to see him, I imagine it was a lot to take in, mentally and emotionally.
John 21 goes on to say that Simon [Peter] decided to go fishing. My hunch is that he needed to clear his head, so he went back to something that was familiar to him.
I feel validated when I read about the disciples going back to their fishing boats while waiting for Jesus to give them instructions, because it tells me that they didn’t always know what to do, either. Yet, they knew to wait. They knew Who was in charge, and they followed his call. Just look at our fishing pal, Peter. Jesus told him that he was the rock upon which the church would be built (Matthew 16), and Peter was later martyred for his faith (John 21:18-19).
I have often struggled with understanding my place within God’s bigger plan, and sometimes I feel a little jealous of the disciples for having the advantage of Jesus’ face-to-face instructions, because honestly, I frequently feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. We can learn a lot from the fishing disciples: Be willing to wait on the Lord, but also be willing to get up and go when he calls.
God instructed the Israelites to pray for Babylon while in captivity (Jeremiah 29:7), a notion that Jesus would repeat in Matthew 5:43-45.