Daily Devotion for June 5, 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.
Prayer for Renewal
Lord, I am one of your people, the sheep of your flock. I pray for you to heal those who are wounded; touch those who are in pain; clean those who are soiled; warm those who are cold; help me to know the Father's love through Jesus the shepherd, and through the Spirit.
Help me to lift up that love, and show it all over this land. Help me to build love on justice and justice on love. Help me to believe mightily, hope joyfully, and love divinely. Renew me that I may help renew the face of the earth.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
Acts 9:1-9 (NKJV)
The Conversion of Saul
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
And he said, "Who are You, Lord?"
Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Notes on the Scripture
Saul gets something in the nature of an arrest warrant, or warrant of extradition (since Damascus was not part of Judea) from the high priests; this would have included permission from the Roman authorities, because Damascus was not in Judea; it was part of the Decapolis and not under Herod's jurisdiction. His specific authority was to arrest Christians and bring them in chains to Jerusalem, where they could be tried for heresy and executed or imprisoned.
By all appearances, Saul is rabidly anti-Christian and eager to play henchmen for the high priests.
The Scripture is mostly straightforward. In a famous Bible scene, Saul is knocked to the ground by a flash of light, and told by the voice of Jesus (heard by his companions) to stop persecuting Him. He is struck blind and cannot eat; but, despite this, he follows the Voice's instructions. The three-day period of suffering parallels the three days of Christ's passion.
One phrase in the lesson — "It is hard for you to kick against the goads (or pricks)" — is difficult to understand and omitted from many translations. But it shows that Saul, deep in his heart, is troubled by his actions. A goad is a sharp stick used to prod cattle; Jesus' mention of Saul being goaded must mean that he has been driven by worldly authority to his activism against Christians, and Christ understands how difficult it is for him to resist.
At any rate, we must remember that Saul is not some heathen murderer. He believes in God and is a devout Jew. Hearing the voice of God in such a miraculous manner, saying that it is Jesus, would have a profound impact on him. He was fertile soil for the seeds of salvation. His innovative and energetic nature, shown in his zealous pursuit of heretical Christians, will remain with him after his conversion.