Day 241

Just Love

Wisdom Proverbs 21:5-16
New Testament 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11
Old Testament 2 Chronicles 31:2-33:20


The prison governor was an immensely impressive, dynamic, eloquent and young African-American woman known as ‘Chief Jennifer’.

Our team assembled at the start of the visit, together with those who ran the prison. Chief Jennifer welcomed us with these words: ‘Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

She told us that there were 2.5 million people in prison in the USA, each costing the taxpayer $24,000 a year. Only 3% will stay in prison for the rest of their lives. 97% of those presently incarcerated will, at some point, be released back into society. For that reason, she continued, there was good secular motivation for wanting to see change in their lives, besides her own desire, as a Christian, for them to experience redemption.

The prison was run not only with justice, but also with love. All wrong attitudes and actions were lovingly confronted. There was no bad language, no graffiti and a learned respectful behaviour. We spent some time with a group of men who had recently completed Alpha there and heard their testimonies of changed lives.

God is love. He is also just. In his book Justice in Love, Nicholas Wolterstorff points out that justice is a necessary constituent part of any properly formed conception of love.


Proverbs 21:5-16

5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
   as surely as haste leads to poverty.

6 A fortune made by a lying tongue
   is a fleeting vapour and a deadly snare.

7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away,
   for they refuse to do what is right.

8 The way of the guilty is devious,
   but the conduct of the innocent is upright.

9 Better to live on a corner of the roof
   than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

10 The wicked crave evil;
   their neighbours get no mercy from them.

11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
   by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.

12 The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked
   and brings the wicked to ruin.

13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
   will also cry out and not be answered.

14 A gift given in secret soothes anger,
   and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.

15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
   but terror to evildoers.

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence
   comes to rest in the company of the dead.


Justice and the poor

A society without justice and the rule of law is a terrifying place to live. Evil is unrestrained. The poor, in particular, suffer. We see the terrifying results of a lack of justice in many societies around the world.

Where the rule of law operates it has a double benefit. When justice is done, it brings ‘joy to the righteous’ (v.15a). It also deters evildoers. It brings ‘terror to evildoers’ (v.15b). ‘Good people celebrate when justice triumphs, but for the workers of evil it is a bad day’ (v.15, MSG).

Justice leads to a society where people feel protected and secure – especially the poor. One of the reasons our prayers might not be answered is that we have not heard the cries of the poor: ‘If you shut your ears to the cry of the poor, you too will cry out and not be answered’ (v.13).


Lord, I pray for justice in our world. I pray for those that are seeking to bring justice to parts of the world where injustice reigns.

New Testament

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

23 I call God as my witness —and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.

2 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

Forgiveness for the Offender

5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.


Justice and forgiveness

Many of us tend to avoid confrontation. I find it difficult. It is not just the fear of rejection or being unpopular, it is also the fear that I might make the situation worse by fuelling the fires of anger and resentment.

Some people seem positively to enjoy confrontation. If we look forward to confrontation, if we find it easy to put others right, to correct and to criticise, it is possible that we are not always acting out of love.

Paul loved the Corinthians deeply. Yet he did not shy away from confrontation. His love led him to confront, though it caused him ‘great distress’, ‘anguish of heart’ and ‘many tears’ (2:4). ‘I didn’t write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care – oh, more than care – love you!’ (v.4, MSG).

Confronting people with the truth may be very painful. Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it also cures. Operations like this must be carried out with love. We do not know exactly who or what Paul is referring to here. However, it may be the man that Paul had denounced in 1 Corinthians 5:1–5 (who had been living with his father’s wife).

Paul had insisted that he be thrown out of the church. However, now he is saying that this man has received punishment enough. He urges them to forgive and comfort him, and to reaffirm their love for him (2 Corinthians 2:7–8). Justice had been done. Now was the time for mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Paul was very quick to forgive: ‘Anyone you forgive I also forgive. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake’ (v.10). When Paul forgave, he forgot – hardly even remembering whether there was anything to forgive.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was once reminded by a friend of a cruel thing that had happened to her many years earlier. Clara seemed unable to remember the incident.

‘Don’t you remember the wrong that was done to you?’ the friend asked insistently.

‘No,’ Clara answered calmly. ‘I distinctly remember forgetting that.’

Forgiveness is absolutely vital in the Christian church. Lack of forgiveness is one of the ways that the devil can get in – it opens a door for his schemes. Forgiveness shuts him out: ‘In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes’ (v.11).


Lord, help us to spot the schemes of the devil. Help us to be quick to forgive and love one another and to shut Satan out of the church.

Old Testament

2 Chronicles 31:2-33:20

Contributions for Worship

2 Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions —each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the Lord’s dwelling. 3 The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals as written in the Law of the Lord. 4 He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. 5 As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. 6 The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them in heaps. 7 They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the Lord and blessed his people Israel.

9 Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; 10 and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, “Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.”

11 Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the Lord, and this was done. 12 Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts. Konaniah, a Levite, was the overseer in charge of these things, and his brother Shimei was next in rank. 13 Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath and Benaiah were assistants of Konaniah and Shimei his brother. All these served by appointment of King Hezekiah and Azariah the official in charge of the temple of God.

14 Kore son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the East Gate, was in charge of the freewill offerings given to God, distributing the contributions made to the Lord and also the consecrated gifts. 15 Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah and Shekaniah assisted him faithfully in the towns of the priests, distributing to their fellow priests according to their divisions, old and young alike.

16 In addition, they distributed to the males three years old or more whose names were in the genealogical records —all who would enter the temple of the Lord to perform the daily duties of their various tasks, according to their responsibilities and their divisions. 17 And they distributed to the priests enrolled by their families in the genealogical records and likewise to the Levites twenty years old or more, according to their responsibilities and their divisions. 18 They included all the little ones, the wives, and the sons and daughters of the whole community listed in these genealogical records. For they were faithful in consecrating themselves.

19 As for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who lived on the farmlands around their towns or in any other towns, men were designated by name to distribute portions to every male among them and to all who were recorded in the genealogies of the Levites.

20 This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21 In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

32 After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. 2 When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. 4 They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said. 5 Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields.

6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: 7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

9 Later, when Sennacherib king of Assyria and all his forces were laying siege to Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah king of Judah and for all the people of Judah who were there:

10 “This is what Sennacherib king of Assyria says: On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? 11 When Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst. 12 Did not Hezekiah himself remove this god’s high places and altars, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before one altar and burn sacrifices on it’?

13 “Do you not know what I and my predecessors have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? 14 Who of all the gods of these nations that my predecessors destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? 15 Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my predecessors. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!”

16 Sennacherib’s officers spoke further against the Lord God and against his servant Hezekiah. 17 The king also wrote letters ridiculing the Lord, the God of Israel, and saying this against him: “Just as the gods of the peoples of the other lands did not rescue their people from my hand, so the god of Hezekiah will not rescue his people from my hand.” 18 Then they called out in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to terrify them and make them afraid in order to capture the city. 19 They spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples of the world—the work of human hands.

20 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. 21 And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons, his own flesh and blood, cut him down with the sword.

22 So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side. 23 Many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.

Hezekiah’s Pride, Success and Death

24 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. 25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. 26 Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come on them during the days of Hezekiah.

27 Hezekiah had very great wealth and honour, and he made treasuries for his silver and gold and for his precious stones, spices, shields and all kinds of valuables. 28 He also made buildings to store the harvest of grain, new wine and olive oil; and he made stalls for various kinds of cattle, and pens for the flocks. 29 He built villages and acquired great numbers of flocks and herds, for God had given him very great riches.

30 It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook. 31 But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.

32 The other events of Hezekiah’s reign and his acts of devotion are written in the vision of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 33 Hezekiah rested with his ancestors and was buried on the hill where the tombs of David’s descendants are. All Judah and the people of Jerusalem honoured him when he died. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.

Manasseh King of Judah

33 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

7 He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and regulations given through Moses.” 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favour of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.

14 Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.

15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. 17 The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.

18 The other events of Manasseh’s reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, are written in the annals of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer and how God was moved by his entreaty, as well as all his sins and unfaithfulness, and the sites where he built high places and set up Asherah poles and idols before he humbled himself—all these are written in the records of the seers. 20 Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in his palace. And Amon his son succeeded him as king.


Justice and confrontation

God himself is not afraid of confrontation! In this passage we see how, in his love, God confronted both an essentially good leader who became proud, and an evil leader who was enabled to repent.

It is such a relief to read about a good king. Hezekiah restored the temple. He led by example – he contributed from his own possessions (31:3). The people responded generously (v.5). The Lord blessed them and they had plenty to eat with food left over (v.10).

‘Everything \[Hezekiah\] took up... he did well in a spirit of prayerful worship. He was a great success’ (vv.20–21, MSG). He had an ‘exemplary track record’ (32:1, MSG).

All this did not save Hezekiah from coming under attack. But when the attack did come from Sennacherib, Hezekiah inspired the people, ‘Be strong! Take courage! Don’t be intimidated… There are more on our side than on their side. He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us! Morale surged. Hezekiah’s words put steel in their spines’ (32:7–8, MSG).

In our own lives, sometimes we face seemingly overwhelming problems. Christians in the UK, for example, seem to be like a small minority facing a vast army of secularism and hostility to God. But the good news is that there is a greater power with us, and with them there is only the ‘arm of flesh’. With us is the Lord our God to ‘help us and to fight our battles’ (v.8).

There is always a danger that success will lead to pride. People look up to leaders. Indeed, we are supposed to honour our leaders. But all leaders need to be aware that this honour has danger written all over it. If pride creeps in, repent quickly and humble yourself.

As soon as Hezekiah was successful, arrogance crept in. When God confronted him, thankfully, ‘He repented of the pride in his heart’ (v.26) and God blessed him again with great riches and honour (v.27). He succeeded in everything he undertook (v.30).

Then, mysteriously, ‘God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart’ (v.31). It was a dark night of the soul.

Don’t be discouraged if there are times when you do not sense God’s presence. Sometimes God is silent and imperceptible. Continue to be faithful when God tests your heart. Hezekiah had a good heart – his life was full of acts of devotion (v.32) and was honoured when he died (v.33).

His son’s life seems to be almost a complete reversal of his own. Manasseh started out doing evil in the eyes of the Lord (33:2). In fact, it is hard to think of anyone who did more evil than Manasseh. ‘He burned his own sons in a sacrificial rite… He practiced witchcraft and fortunetelling. He held séances and consulted spirits from the underworld. Much evil – in God’s view a career in evil. And God was angry’ (v.6, MSG).

But no one is beyond redemption. No matter how far we have fallen, if, like Manasseh, we repent and turn to God we can receive forgiveness.

God confronted Manasseh. ‘Now that he was in trouble, he went to his knees in prayer asking for help – total repentance before the God of his ancestors. As he prayed, God was touched; God listened and brought him back to Jerusalem as king’ (v.12, MSG).

This is one of the reasons why I love to visit prisons. No one is beyond redemption. Jesus has made this possible through his death on the cross where, in the words of John Eddison, ‘Love and justice mingle, truth and mercy meet.’


Lord, thank you that at the cross we see both your love and justice together. Thank you that you have mercy on me. Help me to show your love and bring your justice to the world, in Jesus’ name.

Pippa adds

Proverbs 21:9 says:

‘Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.’

… Or, presumably, a quarrelsome husband!



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel Commentary is available as a book.


John Eddison (1916–2011), ‘At the Cross of Jesus’.

The Clara Barton illustration is taken from John C Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2012) p.105.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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