Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
We're surrounded by sorrow. The readings for this and the following three posts are used for the commemoration of one of the saddest events recorded in the Bible, the occasion of the execution of the male children two and under in the area of Bethlehem, at the order of Herod.
Scholars differ on their estimates of the extent of the slaughter of the innocents. Most agree that Bethlehem was not a heavily populated place and that there were likely not all that many male children two and under at the time. It was not a large enough event to prompt comment from sources outside the Bible. It didn't provoke a revolution.
The fact remains, though, that in Jeremiah 31:15-17, the proper response to these sorrows, to the loss of children who have been taken away, is weeping. It is a time of sorrow.
My native country is one of the few in the world which allows the legal execution of unborn children, for any reason or for no reason, up to the time of birth. By some estimates, and they are estimates because political authorities have not considered it worth their time to gather statistics about this legalized homicide, between 15% and 30% of unborn children are killed in the womb. We are a heavily populated place. There are a lot of pregnancies in this country. Though the statistics lag behind the current date by a couple of years, and though numbers of abortions are not reported by some of the most populous states, a modest estimate is that about 860,000 unborn children were killed in the United States in 2017. Our current pandemic death toll is dwarfed by the death toll caused by the execution of unborn children.
Yes, the proper response is weeping. Is there any hope? These people seem lost to us. For many we don't even have a reasonable hope that they will be participants in the resurrection to life. What hope is there?
Verses 16-17 say that we can have hope. The children of the righteous who have been taken away in the acts of warfare instigated by the Babylonians will be returned in the restoration of all things. We don't know precisely what that means. We can't say that all children who have been lost to their parents will be returned to them. We can't make any guarantee of their resurrection to life. We don't know exactly how God works. But we do know, for those who have been hearing the Gospel in faith, even those who are cruelly taken away have still been given the precious gift of the Gospel, which leads them to eternal life. Will they depart from the faith? We don't know. Will they remain in the faith? We don't know. But we do know that God is merciful.
While we pray to end the acts of warfare and abuse which result in killing others, particularly in killing children, we can also have hope that God, in his mercy, will show himself to be the God of restoration. So we fight the slaughter of the innocents. And we refuse to give up hope.
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