In this week’s chapters from our companion book, The Shepherd’s Wife, Pheodora learns that her plan to sell her goats for the Festival of Atonement will not work. The amount of money she will receive is not enough to cover her husband’s debt. As readers, we know that his imprisonment isn’t about the money, so her plan was never likely to work.
Motivated by a new understanding of her brother Yeshua’s death, Pheodora concludes that her only option is to sell herself into slavery for six years. The amount of money she expects receiving should be more than enough to cover her husband’s debt. Even though her new plan may also fail, Pheodora will not stop trying to free her husband.
The evening before she was to meet her owner, the auctioneer advises her to rest and not worry about what would happen the next day. It reminded Pheodora of similar advice spoken by her brother, Yeshua. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will come soon enough.
Meanwhile, Yeshua appears to her. The experience seems like a dream at first, but she quickly realizes that it’s really happening. Earlier, Pheodora prayed God would reveal to her any debt she owed. Yeshua, aware of her prayer, reminded her that everyone falls short and owes a debt. However, His death covered all debt.
But there is something else eating away at Pheodora. As the youngest of seven children, Pheodora never felt she measured up to her older siblings. This was particularly true when she compared herself to Damaris, her older sister. In Pheodora’s eyes, Damaris was prettier, smarter, and more popular. Her stored up resentment bubbled up when Damaris refused to help her free Chiram from prison.
Surely there are pieces of Pheodora’s story that resonate with you, even if you’ve never read a single page of Angela Hunt’s book. According to the Mayo Clinic, not forgiving others results in resentment. While forgiveness actually frees you from the control of the memory of the offense.
Go to all people and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Pheodora’s revelation began when a stranger told her a story she heard from Yeshua when she heard Him speak. The story was about forgiveness.
Matthew tells us that one day Peter asked Jesus, “If my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him?” The opinionated Peter offered the number seven. To which Jesus responded, “No, seventy times seven!”
Those who need an exact number for keeping score can do the math. But Jesus moved from keeping score to an illustration to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.
There was a king to whom was owed a large sum of money by one of the king’s subjects. When the king demanded payment, the man didn’t have the means to repay him and the king planned to throw him in prison. But the man pleaded for mercy and the king canceled his debt. What a wonderful ending to what could have been an unhappy outcome.
The man also had others who owed him, although not nearly as much as the amount forgiven by the king. The man demanded repayment of a loan, which the man who owed him the debt wasn’t able to repay. But when the man owing him asked for forgiveness of his debt his request was denied.
Apparently word got back to the king, who, understandably, was furious. He called the man whose debt he had forgiven to come before him. Only this time he threw the man in prison who hadn’t offered forgiveness after receiving forgiveness himself.
With whom do you most identify with among the characters in the story Jesus tells? Why? What are some similar experiences you’ve had with forgiveness of debt?
The story helped Pheodora see that, like the man who refused to forgive the person who owed him, she hadn’t forgiven her sister. But did Pheodora owe a debt?
Are there persons that you’ve chosen not to forgive? Are you carrying grudges that causes ongoing resentment? What would forgiveness look like for the offense and offender you haven’t forgiven? Who do you need forgiveness from?
Most, if not all, of us know the Lord’s Prayer by heart. In this familiar prayer, we ask for forgiveness in proportion to the forgiveness that we offer.
We all fall short of God’s expectations. We all owe a larger debt than we can ever repay. But God chose forgiveness over punishment, sending His Son into the world to cancel any and all debt that we owe to God. If we believe this to be true, then we should be able to find a pathway towards forgiving others who owe us.
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Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. The Shepherd’s Wife. Jerusalem Road Series. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2020.
Dr. Thomas Long. “Homiletical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol 3, David Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, Eds. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.