A Quick End To The Slow Black Death

In the 14th century, as many as 200 million people died as a result of the bubonic plague. The death toll included:

  • 33% of the Middle East population
  • 40% of Egypt’s population
  • 50% of the inhabitants of Paris
  • And the population of Germany was reduced from 170,000 to 40,000.

Wikipedia reports:

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population, reducing the world’s population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover.

Although the Black Death has ceased ravaging the world’s population, we fight an equally insidious plague that all of us must resist.

Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Job 23:1-27:23
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11
Psalm 41:1-13
Proverbs 22:5-6

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Job 23:1-27:23. After listening to his friends continually beat him down, Job has now reached the low ebb of his suffering. He sees God as good, but uncaring. Beyond his suffering, he recounts the suffering he has witnessed in the lives of others. And Job is correct—untold suffering continues to this day without any apparent intervention from God to make things right.

Many scholars believe that in verses 18-25 in chapter 24, Job is quoting his friends or his friends are speaking.

Scholars also believe verses 5-14 in chapter 26 are really a continuation of Bildad’s speech in chapter 25 because they follow the same theme. Remember, this is the oldest book of the Bible, so it’s possible that sections might have been mixed up.

Finally, in chapter 27, Job reaffirms his integrity and his commitment to God. He will not give up nor will he abandon his faith in God.

2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11. Paul’s accusers had claimed Paul was indecisive because he had made a change in plans regarding his visit to them. So, Paul explains himself. Again, Paul didn’t do this to defend himself, he did this to salvage his credibility so his message wouldn’t be undermined.

Psalm 41:1-13. In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever” (verse 12). This is a hard verse to read in light of Job’s suffering. In fact, Job’s integrity is defended three times in the book of Job (Job 2:3; 2:9; 27:5). The word “uphold” means to grasp securely. So did God uphold Job in his integrity? Absolutely. What—or who—was Job’s source of strength in the middle of his suffering? None other than God.

Proverbs 22:6. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I try to resist the urge to develop formulas, but this is a verse that gives me hope when I struggle to stay positive about my kids. When my oldest daughter was straying far from the faith, my wife continually reassured me, “Honey, seeds have been planted in Anna’s life. She’ll come back.” And she did. Now I offer the same reassurance to other parents.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

A man had sinned. We don’t know the nature of his transgression, but the Christian community in Corinth felt the necessity to punish him. But now, Paul advised, they needed to forgive and comfort the recovering offender. Then Paul concludes his discussion on the topic with these words:

I have forgiven [him] in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:11-12 (italics added)

Paul encouraged the people to forgive the man not only to alleviate his grief, but also fend off Satan and his schemes. What does Satan have to do with forgiveness?

Everything.

Reading between the lines, it appears that Paul identified Satan’s scheme as the attempt to separate the man from the community. And what specifically was the scheme Satan used? Unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness separates people—in their marriages, friendships and churches. The inability to move forward in a relationship eventually acts like a form of gangrene that slowly eats away the live tissue. The slow black death.

All of us are susceptible to this malady. In fact, every day we’re exposed to opportunities for unforgiveness to take root.

In my past, a supervisor treated me terribly. He undermined me and forced me out of my position, which affected me financially and separated me from many people in my community. Despite my efforts to reconcile our relationship, he refused to cooperate. To this day, my experience with him reminds me of the importance of forgiveness.

When I refuse to forgive, I cooperate with Satan’s schemes. But when I choose to forgive, I work toward Satan’s defeat.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean the other person’s actions were justified. It means letting go of the offense and giving the slow black death zero opportunity to flourish. Because if you do, it eventually spreads to your heart.

But when we choose to forgive, it brings a quick end to the slow, black death.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you seen Satan work through unforgiveness?
  3. How has God used forgiveness to bring you life?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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