Daily Devotion for April 13, 2016
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.
Note: The translation of the Zulu is difficult and the spoken words sometimes don't sound like the English transliteration, so it is hard to follow word-for-word. There are many repeats.
Prayer for the Morning
For the bird who sings outside my window,
For the tree that stands outside my door,
For the neighbor who waves and says "good morning",
I give you thanks dear God, for these and more,
Your blessings every morning know no limit,
Yet I often rush by not seeing them, I fear;
Let me take a moment this and every morning, God, I pray,
To remember all of them, and know that you are here.
Prayer for Life
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant me so to die daily to sin, that I may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Prayer for Peace
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live together in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[There is no limit to God's blessings. They are infinite.]
May the God of hope fill me and all of us with the joy and peace that comes from believing, so that I may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Jeremiah 19:4-7 (ESV)
Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind —
therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when . . . in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth.
Matthew 2:16-18 (J.B. Phillips NT)
Massacre of the Innocents
When Herod saw that he had been fooled by the wise men he was furiously angry. He issued orders, and killed all the male children of two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding district — basing his calculation on his careful questioning of the wise men.
Then Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more’.
Notes on the Scripture
Herod the Great was a bloody, odious, narcissistic and paranoid tyrant who murdered copiously at the sign of any threat to his position. He slew about 30 innocent babies in hopes of eliminating one who was prophesied to become a great king. His type is unfortunately common throughout history; in modern times, he must remind us of Josef Stalin, who like Herod would murder groups of thousands on the suspicion that a few of their members were his enemies.
In describing the Massacre of the Innocents, as it is called, Matthew uses Jeremiah just as he used Hosea in the preceding verses. The quote from Jeremiah did not actually foretell the slaughter of children at the birth of the Messiah. It is not a direct prophesy of Christ and Matthew does not intend it as such. Rather, Matthew uses it to invoke a more general parallel between the Babylonian Captivity — the conquest of Israel by Babylonia, which destroyed the Temple of Solomon (the First Temple) and transported the Hebrews to Babylonia in slavery around 587 B.C. — and Christ's exit from Judea into Egypt.
Jeremiah may be the most baleful prophet in the Old Testament, and looking at his life, one can understand why. His early years were spent in a period of great reform under King Josiah, where idols were smashed and a vibrant revival of the law occurred; but this lasted only as long as Josiah.
Upon Josiah's death, Israel slipped into the wickedest idolatry imaginable. A horrifying Baal cult came into prominence: high altars, akin to those of Moloch, on which infants were sacrificed by roasting them alive. So Jeremiah lived through the downward spiral of the Hebrews, their conquest and enslavement by Babylonia, and the destruction of the First Temple.
The quote from Jeremiah occurs as the Hebrews are being led in chains to Babylonia. They pass by the tomb of Rachel (who was buried at a place called Raman) and the children for whom she figuratively weeps are the Hebrews, “God's children”.
Like Christ, Jeremiah spent his life preaching the damnation that would follow wholesale breach of the Hebrew covenant with God, and like Christ, Jeremiah was reviled, persecuted, beaten, and sentenced to death. (He was actually rescued while being starved to death, and he was later set free — by the Babylonians!)
Thus, Matthew ties Herod's massacre of infants to the practice of child sacrifice preceding the destruction of the First Temple by Babylonia. Judea under Herod, with the complicity of the Pharisees and Sadducees, has once again hit rock bottom. In the first case, God allowed Israel to be conquered and nearly destroyed. Pretend, for a second, that you know nothing of Christianity and have read the Bible from Genesis to Matthew 2; what would you expect God to do next?
There is a hint: Yahweh, unlike Baal and Herod, not only allowed but also required that infants who were doomed to sacrifice be redeemed by the death of a lamb. (E.g., Exodus 13:13) But still, we should remember what an astonishing surprise ending Matthew has.