Ears to hear

Today’s readings are Lamentations 3:25-39 and Matthew 13:1-23.

“It’s not fair!”

I suspect every child ever born has uttered those words at one point or another when something bad has happened to them, or they have received unpleasant consequences for their actions.

After the first two and a half chapters of Lamentations, filled with graphic description of suffering and pain through God’s consequences delivered to Jerusalem, it’s notable that we don’t hear Jeremiah cry out it’s not fair – in fact quite the opposite. What we hear instead is acknowledgement of the goodness of God, and how good it is to wait upon the Lord for his mercy. We see that even though God is the source of the suffering, God does not delight in it, for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men (v33).

Jeremiah is convinced that both good and bad come from God, and that his current suffering is just. It’s as if he’s crying out the opposite of children everywhere “that’s totally fair”.

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?

 

Over in Matthew 13 we read again perhaps one of the most famous of Jesus parables, one of the only ones where Jesus himself provides the interpretation. It is perhaps ironic then that both the explanation of why Jesus uses parables, and the parable itself feature people’s inability to understand. Yet there is a subtle difference between the two groups.

For the first, it has not been given to those listening to Jesus’ parables to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. It seems their lack of comprehension is part of God’s plan. This does not seem to be the case for the three groups not producing fruit in the parable itself however. In these groups the hearers themselves appear to be the cause of their own lack of comprehension. They don’t understand what they hear, or things get tough and they give up, or they love the things of this world more than the word of God. For these groups, it does not seem to be because God withheld understanding.

We of course, have the benefit of being able to read the explanation of the parable – God is not withholding understanding from us. With that explanation we therefore have the chance to decide into which category of hearer we fall.

Perhaps this morning is a good time to reflect on whether you have ears to hear.

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