Daily Devotion for February 4, 2015
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.
I felt that somebody needed to hear this song today. (I need to hear it about once a week!)
A Prayer of St. Basil the Great
I bless you, O God most high and Lord of mercies, who forever works great and mysterious deeds for me, glorious, wonderful, and numberless; who provides me with sleep as a rest from my infirmities and as a repose for my body tired by labor. I thank you that you have not destroyed me in my transgressions, but in your love toward mankind you have raised me up, as I lay in despair, that I may glorify your majesty.
I entreat your infinite goodness, enlighten the eyes of my understanding and raise up my mind from the heavy sleep of indolence; open my mouth and fill it with your praise, that I may unceasingly sing and confess you, who is God glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, the only-begotten Son, and the all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
For Married Persons
Father God, you have consecrated the state of matrimony between men and women to represent the spiritual marriage and unity between Christ and his church. Look with mercy, I pray you, upon those who are married, that they may love, honor, and cherish each other, and so live together in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and of peace for them. Let your Holy Spirit dwell with them, and guide them from pride and selfishness, and into the spirit of service for one another, and any children they might care for, as Christ humbled himself to serve us. This I ask in Jesus' name,
[Filling my mind with the praise of God.]
And finally, may the grace of Christ our Savior, and the Father's boundless love, with the Holy Spirit's favor, rest upon me, and all of us, from above. Thus may we abide in union, with each other and the Lord, and possess, in sweet communion, joys which earth cannot afford.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
What Created Our Society?
“Granted, germs, geography, printing, sailing ships, steel, and climate have mattered, but probably none of them so much as human ideas about the Gods.”
~ Rodney Stark, in “Historical Consequences of Monotheism”
Exodus 3:1-2, 13-14 (KJV)
How Were the Hebrews Different?
Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
* * *
13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
14 And God said unto Moses, “I Am That I Am”: and he said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.”
Notes on the Scripture
Wednesday is our day to do something totally tangential, and I thought, today, we could touch on the interesting topic of how the Hebrews were different from every other tribe, and how the Old Testament is different from every other (pre-Christian) book.
The Hebrews were Monotheists. The Old Testament vehemently insists that Yahweh is one, and that no other being is like him. He is different, not in degree, and not because He possesses some characteristics that other entities do not possess. He is absolutely unique in every aspect of His being. He is so different that He cannot be comprehended by the human mind.
The Hebrews were surrounded by richer, more powerful, more advanced and — truth be told — more intelligent cultures. Egypt was the most brilliant society on earth. And yet, alone among all the earth's peoples, the Hebrews' central religious tenet was a categorical denial of polytheism: “There is no god besides me.” (Deut. 32:39)
All of the great nations worshipped a panoply of gods. How did this poor and uneducated little tribe become the sole dedicated monotheistic culture in the world? And how did this belief survive — not centuries, but millennia — of conquest, relocation, and intermingling with dozens of other nations and empires, all of them polytheistic?
The Hebrews Were Iconoclasts. Not only did the Hebrews believe in a single God, but equally astonishing, He did not exist in the physical world. He was not a statue, first off; and He could not even be depicted by a statue. “Iconoclast” today is usually used to indicate a rebel, but it literally refers to someone who smashes an icon — a statue of a god. Again, every other tribe, including more brilliant cultures, thousands of years later — the Greeks, the Romans, the Mayans, the Aryans — worshipped statues that looked like people, or animals, or dragons and other fantastic creatures.
The First Principle Was Unified Spirit. One popular arrow in the quiver of Bible-bashers is to claim that the Hebrews just copied Genesis 1 from pre-existing creation myths. There are several problems with their argument, but the biggest one is that they miss the essential point of the Creation as understood by the Hebrews. “ In the beginning, the earth was . . . void.” This transcendent being they worshipped, Yahweh, was immaterial, pre-existed matter and created it by His will.
These Babylonian myths, from which virulent atheists would tell us Genesis is copied, begin with an apparently sexual union between two beings; the earth already existed but had not been named; and their union produced more gods, who mated, had conflicts, became evil and good, and created seas and birds and university professors. How is this remotely identical to Genesis? Don't ask me.
Alone among all the peoples of earth, the Hebrews believed that a single, non-corporeal, conscious being created the universe without conflict. Again, where would a somewhat primitive herding tribe come up with such a startling notion?
We take these things for granted, today; but we need to understand how extraordinary they were, and not only in 1500 B.C., but in 1 A.D., when the Hebrews were still the only people on earth who believed such things.
We are out of space, but we must mention at least several other odd ideas peculiar to the ancient Hebrews: God, although depicted with gender, transcends sex; sex is not magical or a means of worship; superstition and magic are immoral and ineffective; and proper human behavior consists of compliance with a divine ethic, given to humanity out of love.