Evening Devotion for January 15, 2021
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.
Robin Mark, from Northern Ireland, gives us a pretty, quiet setting for Psalm 42.
To Rest in God’s Strength
O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works proceed: Give to your servants that peace, which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and also that by you, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made me one with your saints in heaven and on earth. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know myself to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
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.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
Galatians 4:12-18 (Daily Prayer Bible)
was ill when I first came to you to preach the Gospel, but you bore my infirmity with me. Instead of losing patience, you welcomed me like an angel of God, like Christ Himself. I think you would have torn out your own eyes and given them to me, if you could.
15-17 What has become of your blessed devotion? Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? These so-called evangelists certainly are not telling the truth. They seek prestige, not goodness. They strive to separate you from the saints so that you will be their followers.
18 To strive is good when you strive for goodness.
15 Therefore where the blessedness of you? For I witness in you that if possible the eyes of you digging out you gave to me.
16 And so enemy of you I became telling-truth to you?
17 They zealously court you not goodly but to exclude you they want, that them you seek.
18 And good to be striving for good always, and not only when present me with you,
Notes on the Scripture
What Happened to You? (Galatians #46)
When Paul appeals to his earlier days spent with the Galatians, his message contrasts starkly to a similar and much longer passage in another epistle, written in the same general time period: 1 Thessalonians. The first three chapters of 1 Thess. are a love letter. Paul recounts at length, almost nostalgically, the time he spent in Thessalonika, the hardships and suffering they shared, and the tight bond he had formed with the church there. He then praises the faithfulness and dedication of the church, despite its tribulations, and despite his long absence from them:
And so we thank God every day for you, our brothers and sisters, who not only heard God’s words with your ears, but also took them into your hearts, where they could accomplish their great work. (1 Thess. 2:13)
In today’s verses from Galatians, Paul briefly engages in the same sort of nostalgic remembrance; but what a difference in the behavior of the church after he left! Where the Thessalonians remained steadfast despite tribulation, the Galatians have been sucked into the theological schemes of charlatans.
In modern English, “antichrist” evokes a fearsome demonic being, while “false prophet” sounds comparatively mild, perhaps a person who has gotten something incorrect about the Bible. But in terms of the New Testament, they are nearly synonymous. A false prophet, a person who preaches a non-Biblical gospel, is “anathema” — accursed in himself, and a curse to those who hear and accept his message. (Gal. 1:8-9)
We think of “antichrist” as somebody “against Christ,” but in Greek it has more the connotation “instead of Christ.” The term is actually used in the Bible only in the epistles of John, and not to designate the beast of Revelation, as Hollywood might lead us to believe; in fact, John speaks of “many antichrists,” and his primary target are Gnostics who call themselves “Christians.” (1 John 2:18)
The point being, when we read about “false prophets,” the term is intended as an onerous opprobrium, as vile and evil as an “antichrist.” A false prophet is a person who lures people away from Christ into death, not by attacking or denouncing Christ, but by teaching something else and calling it Christianity. Paul describes them at the end of today’s verses; preachers of a gospel that is not true and does not seek goodness, who seek to inflate their own pride, wealth, and/or fame, or who simply teach what is not God's Word. We have them still today. Some are obvious, such as the purveyors of “prosperity gospel,” who are incredibly unabashed about what they seek for themselves and their flock: money. Some are more subtle.
We can hear Paul’s pain when he recounts his memories of his time in Galatia. He was ill, but the Galatians did not ignore him or reject him. Instead, they took his trials upon themselves. We can hear, in these verses, echoes of Christ’s disciples taking up their own cross, adopting His suffering as their own. The Galatians loved Paul to the point of suffering his trials with him — and we might infer that he was, indeed, in very bad physical condition. We know from Acts 14:19 that Paul had been stoned, dragged out of Lystra and left for dead.
“What,” Paul cries out in pain, “has happened to the love we shared?” What, indeed?
To be continued . . .