Daily Devotion for January 20, 2011
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.
Prayer for the Morning
Lord, teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain wisdom of heart.
Help me do today the things that matter, not to waste the time I have.
The moments I have are precious, Lord, see that I count them dear. Teach me to number my days aright. Fill me this day with your kindness, that I may be glad and rejoice all the days of my life. Through Christ 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 days of trouble, do not let our trust in you fail; all which I ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now unto him that is able to keep me from falling, and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Psalm 148:1-5 (ASV)
Praise ye him, all his angels: Praise ye him, all his host.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: Praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, And ye waters that are above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For he commanded, and they were created.
John 1:32-34 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit descends on ChristAnd John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
Notes on the Scripture
As we saw in the Christmas verses, the parents of John the Baptist knew that he was to be a special person. Elizabeth, his mother, was visited by an angel who announced the pregnancy to her and informed her of the child's special purpose. In today's scripture, we learn that John himself has some sort of first-hand knowledge; God has spoken to him. This revelation is not described in the Bible, but John says that he has received instructions and knowledge from God first-hand. It is, indeed, the only way he could know about his mission.
Although John has baptized many people with water by now, his mission is not simply to baptize Jews in a river. It is the means by which God has promised to reveal the identity of his son, the Christ. So when John baptizes Jesus and actually sees the Holy Spirit descend upon him, he knows that Jesus is the Christ for whom he has been waiting.
The passage doesn't say that the Holy Spirit took the actual form of a dove; there is a difference of opinion about this, although most of the iconography shows a white dove just above Jesus' head. It is certainly possible, from this passage, that a soft white ball of light that looked an moved something like a dove descended. Or, it could have taken the form of a dove. It doesn't make any difference.
The choice of a dove, however, is important. When Julius Caesar was vying for political power, he was empowered by the appearance of an eagle, the greatest and most powerful bird of prey, the very symbol of military might carried on Roman standards. A dove, by contrast, is the most peaceful of birds. It is preyed upon by falcons and eagles. It harms nobody. It's song is a soft and comforting cooing sound. It is beautiful, a symbol of love throughout the ages, and represents peace.
It presages the great surprise that will characterize Jesus' life and ministry. The savior of the Jews does not come with a sword to kill the enemies of Israel, but carrying a cross that he will be killed upon, to defeat the real enemies of all humanity. He will not bring death; he will defeat death.