Daily Devotion for November 14, 2014
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.
This impossibly beautiful Russian Orthodox hymn is sung a capella, in the old style. “Hallelujah. Behold, the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night. Blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching.”
For Each New Morning
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
I thank thee.
Prayer for Fellowship
Oh Holy God, who has taught us that we should not be yoked with unbelievers, and that righteousness has no fellowship with unrighteousness; I pray that you will send into my life people who confess the name of Jesus Christ, people who love you and follow you and seek to grow in your Spirit every day. Let me be honorable and worthy before the profane world, dear Father, but also let me find more friends of sincere convictions, that I may follow your command to be in fellowship with other saints, and thus be reinforced in the holiness and purity of Christ to which I aspire.
And let me live in harmony and unity with other Christians. Let me know them and spend time with them, that we might share the blessing of your love. Grant that I might never feel lonely in my faith; and help me to let others feel the comfort of Christian community. In Christ's name, I pray,
[I long for your companionship.]
Now to Him who has given me grace in accordance with His gospel, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for many ages past, but now revealed and made known by the command of the eternal God, so that all mankind might find the obedience that comes from faith; to the only God, the God of wisdom and truth, be glory forever through His only son, Jesus Christ.
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.
Psalm 31:19 (NKJV)
Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 (DP)
The Sinfulness of the Jewish Authorities
14-16 You remind us of Christ’s church in Judea, because just as they suffered at the hands of their fellow Jews, you suffer at the hands of your own countrymen. These Jews are the ones that killed Christ and the prophets, and the ones who drove us, His messengers, out of the country.
They oppose man and God alike. When we tried to save the souls of Gentiles in Judea, they would not even let us speak to them. Their ultimate purpose is to fulfill all sinfulness; and even now, the wrath of God begins to fall upon them.
14 For you imitators became, brothers, of the church of god being in Judea in Christ Jesus, because the same you suffered and you under the own countrymen just as also they under the Jews [or Judeans], 15 who also the lord killed Jesus and the prophets, and us driving out, and to god not pleasing, and to all men opposed, 16 preventing us to Gentiles to speak that they might be saved, in order to fulfill of them the sins always. And arrived [or arrives] upon them the wrath in conclusion.
Notes on the Scripture
Paul begins this section by extending his praise of the Thessalonians. The church of Jerusalem was the original “church”, the site of the Pentecost, and for many years the center of Christianity, playing much the same role as the Vatican plays to Catholicism today. The church at Antioch, largely because in was in Roman Syria and outside the reach of the Sanhedrin, flourished and, in some respects, outshone Jerusalem. But Acts 15 teaches us that, when a theological dispute arose in the Antioch church, they sent to Jerusalem for a ruling; without doubt, as long as Peter was there, Jerusalem was the home of the church.
Verse 14 is thus high praise indeed. Jesus was persecuted and executed by the Sanhedrin and, by extension, the branches of Judaism that controlled it, primarily Pharisees and Sadducees. Peter equated them to the Jewish rulers who had murdered so many prophets during the two-kingdom period.
Paul equates the Thessalonians' persecution by their Gentile countrymen to the Judean Christians' persecution by the Jews. Although the Jewish establishment in Thessalonica hated the Christians, and stirred up trouble for them, they were themselves a rather small minority.
The Greeks and Romans, unlike the Jews, did not engage in the systematic persecution of Christians until the edict of Emperor ValerianFor Roman history buffs, it was actually an emperor named Decius who first criminalized Christianity, in 250, but he only lived 18 months, followed by several emperors who survived only months in office. Valerian, who took the purple in 253 A.D., is considered the great persecutor of Christianity. in 253 A.D. But periodic and very bloody local persecutions erupted periodically — most famously, Nero feeding Christians to dogs and burning them alive as torches for his garden parties. But Nero had nothing against Christians as such; he simply designated them as the scapegoats for the great fire that destroyed Rome in 64 A.D.
Paul's praise of the Thessalonian leads him into a tangent, a vitriolic criticism of what we might call the Jews. Translation is a bit difficult, because there was no word meaning “Jew” or “Jewish” in Greek. The New Testament writers borrowed the word Ioudaios, “Judean”, which came to have two meanings; and since we are getting into a very sensitive area, we need to distinguish different meanings of the same word. Those Jews who persecuted the church in Judea could properly be called Judeans; but the Jews of Thessalonica, identified by the same term Ioudaios, were not Judean. They were Hellenized Jews.
Paul was not “anti-Semitic.” He, like most of his fellow Christians, was a Jew by birth. But he rightfully castigated the Jewish religious establishment for the evils it committed against Christ and his followers. Note also that Paul does not suggest or hint at any sort of revenge (unlike centuries of misguided Christian leaders in later years). He tells us that they will suffer God's wrath which, together with his conduct, demonstrates full acceptance of Christ's teaching not to resist evil people. He left their judgment to God.
Just so nobody misreads Paul, he will later write a long piece in Romans 11 on how many of the Jews will be “grafted back” into the tree of life, i.e. be accepted into the Kingdom of God, as they accept Christ and their sins are forgiven. And in this regard, we must also remember that Paul is not simply Jewish by birth, but was a primary perpetrator of violence against Christians before his conversion; by his own life, he proves that forgiveness is possible for all, Jew and Gentile alike, no matter what their sins. (E.g. Romans 3:22.)