Daily Devotion for July 4, 2012
U. S. - Independence Day
Carving of five main scenes from the Book of Jonah, made for a sarcophagus in 3d Century Mainz (now in the Vatican Museum)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
An American classic for the U.S. Independence Day. Let us to remember to pray first for God to bless all people of the world, wherever they may live.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for the Nation
Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage; I humbly pray that we may always prove ourselves a people who remember your favor and are glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here from so many different lands and languages. Grant the spirit of wisdom those to whom we entrust with the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may demonstrate your praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in days of trouble, do not let our trust in you fail; all which I ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
I will proclaim your faithfulness
with my own mouth
from one generation to the next.
Jonah 4:1-4 (ESV)
Jonah's Anger and the Lord's Mercy 
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Notes on the Scripture
We finally find out why Jonah — a man devoted to God — has been acting with such disobedience. He is a Hebrew and loves his nation. He grew up in a great nation under King Solomon, where the Lord was worshipped and the state stable and strong. But after Solomon's death, civil war rent Israel into two parts, and the part where Jonah lived — the northern part, the Kingdom of Israel — became wicked, idolatrous, and weak under the leadership of Jeroboam.
Jonah had spent his life preaching and prophesying, trying to bring the Kingdom of Israel back into righteousness, but to no avail. Neither Jeroboam nor enough of the people heeded his prophecy, and his native land was in peril of losing God's favor.
Assyria, the powerful empire to the north, was an enemy of Israel and a heathen country, where idolatry was state policy. God had no covenant with them. Jonah hated and feared Assyria. So, being told to take his prophetic talents to the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, in order to save it from destruction, went down hard with him. He had to leave his own beloved land, which was in trouble and needed him, and go to Nineveh to help them out instead. No wonder he was reluctant!
And his emotion is so strong, that although he praises God for His mercy, he wants to die.
There is a huge lesson for all of us in Jonah's story. We form strong attachments to whatever culture we were born into: our community, our state, our language, our nation. Others are the "bad guys". It is our pride to think that God favors us. German belt buckles in WW1 had "Gott mit uns" — God with us — engraved on them.
But this is not God's will at work; it is our will at work. God's mercy and love extends to the entire world, including people who do not believe in Christ or people who do not believe in God at all, including atheists and — as in the story of Jonah — worshippers of idols.
This is a very hard lesson to read. But we do not read the Bible for support of our preconceptions; we read it to learn God's will, and especially to learn where His will is different from our own.