You Were Not Willing

Laurie Buffo, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | June 16, 2023

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Matthew 23:37-39

The concept of God’s judgment unsettles me and most Christians I know. One reason for our discomfort is we assume God judges as we do. Since our measuring sticks are flawed, balanced judgment is hard to envision. A related issue is that judgment does not fit our idea of a loving God. It does not seem fair that people we consider good may be left out. Perhaps the idea would be more appealing if we experienced violence and oppression daily as some people do. We would long for justice in a way that comfortable people do not.

In Exodus 34:6-7 God describes Himself with all the adjectives we want to hear but then adds that He will not let the guilty go unpunished. A good God is patient and loving yet does not ignore injustice. Evaluation is necessary for the new creation to be free from evil. Only those who recognize God, and want to please Him, will be a part of it. Otherwise, there will always be conflict and disorder.

The phrase, “you were not willing,” is the turning point in today’s passage. Jesus offered reconciliation, and it broke His heart when the people refused. Unlike human kings, Jesus never forced anyone to submit. However, Jerusalem’s continued rejection had consequences. Jesus warned them that destruction was coming to their house. Rome fulfilled the prophecy in 70 A.D. when they crushed a rebellion against their rule. Jerusalem and the temple were abandoned and destroyed.

The gentle imagery of Jesus as a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing set against the prophecy of destruction is poignant. It is a reminder of God’s compassion and love. He does not gleefully punish those who reject Him. Instead, as Peter says, God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish but for everyone to turn to Him (2 Peter 3:9).

We may not be able to become comfortable with judgment, but that could be a good thing. Otherwise, we may lose our compassion and become self-righteous. So, with that in mind, let us both acknowledge our discomfort and be ready to explain our hope in Jesus with gentleness and respect.

Next Steps 

On the Mount of Olives is a church called Dominus Flevit, which means the Lord wept. It commemorates Luke 19:41-44 which describes how Jesus wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Check out the beautiful stained-glass window with a view of the city like Jesus had. What would it be like to witness Jesus’ tears?

Going Deeper

That marks two weeks in a row of diving deep into one chapter of the Bible. Well done! Today, review the chapter once more. What stands out to you the most from the week? Consider memorizing the verse that speaks loudest to you. If you’re more on the creative side of things, consider how you can artistically convey what God taught you this week through a drawing or word art, perhaps. Then, take some time to pray and ask God to show you how this chapter of the Bible speaks to your current situation in life.