“The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place” (2 Chron. 36:15)
When I lived in New York City in the 1980’s, it seemed that bicycle messengers were everywhere, weaving adroitly through multiple lanes of traffic, miraculously (it seemed) arriving in one piece at their destinations. This was before business transactions could be executed by computer or video conference. At each step in a business deal, executives would dispatch bicycle wizards with parcels holding important papers for their counterparts across town. When received, the documents would be examined, revised, and signed, and another messenger would return them to the original sender. The need for reliable couriers provided a rather risky livelihood to many fearless cyclists. This is still an image that comes to mind when I think of messengers.
I realize it might be difficult for younger people who have never known life without computers to find an appropriate image to associate with the concept of “messenger.” In our day, messages can be delivered instantly and effortlessly. Therefore, when we consider the geographical and cultural distances between people groups during the centuries when the Bible was being written, it is mind-boggling to consider how information got transmitted. They didn’t even have bicycles!
Messengers had to walk, or ride on pack animals, or sail on ships. They were essential to the functioning of all civil, social, and governmental systems. They were sent to execute transactions, deliver peace treaties, warn neighboring leaders of impending war or invasion, and in general, to communicate essential information across geographic and cultural boundaries.
In his parables, Jesus often portrays servants who function as messengers for the Master. In the parable of the great banquet (Lk. 14:16-24), for instance, a servant was tasked by the master of the house with informing the invited guests that the banquet was ready. When the invitees made excuses and refused to come, the servant was then commanded to find “the poor and crippled and blind and lame” and bring them into the party. When that was done, there was still room, so the servant was to “go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in”.
It is evident that Jesus intended this parable to show that all types of people–but especially those whom the world considers despised and unworthy, will find a seat at the table in the great house of God. Others who seem secure in their own righteousness will forfeit the opportunity. But the parable also tells us that his trusted servants are charged with bringing people in, that the Master’s house may be filled. He could send angels to speak for him (and sometimes does!), but he sends us too.
God still speaks today. He looks for faithful servants who will carry his messages to the church and to the world. With the Great Commission of Jesus, God’s servants are sent to all nations, to make disciples everywhere, baptize them, bring them into the refuge of God’s family, and teach them to obey Jesus’ commandments (Mt 28:19-20). This could be construed as an exalted position, but it is a responsibility entrusted to all who are willing–whosoever believes!
When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples, their primary message was, “The kingdom of God has come near.” They ventured out into a Roman culture that was largely hostile to their message. They followed Jesus’ instructions, and returned joyfully reporting how God had used them to bring truth, healing, and deliverance throughout the Galilee.
This same message of the kingdom and its power and love is what the world needs to hear. It is unpopular to say, but there are severe consequences for repeatedly rejecting the message of God and causing harm to his messengers (see the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-41).
But the God of the Bible is merciful. Over and over, he dispatches his messengers and gives human creatures opportunity to join their lives and destinies to him and his liberating truth.
Thank you for your patience with your people, Lord. Help us to be faithful messengers for you.