Daily Devotion for November 19, 2009
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
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew, 19:27-30
Christ's Promise of Eternal Life
Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, we have abandoned everything and followed you; what will be our fate?"
Jesus told them all, "Truly, after the resurrection when the Son of man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And those who have left behind houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life."
"Many who are first will be last; and many who are last, first."
Comment on the Scripture
When Christ says "many who are first will be last", he means "first" in the sense of what is called "precedence" in aristocratic and diplomatic circles; that is, first in importance or stature. He is saying "many who are greatest will be least . . ."
Because we humans have limited intelligence and experience, we interpret Christ's teachings in light of our limited scope. Judea, and in fact the Roman world 2000 years ago, was a culture that took hierarchy more for granted and tended to a more concrete philosophical view. Just 700 years ago, Dante (who wrote the Divine Comedy in the early 14th century) conceived of hell as having nine levels of increasingly painful torment, depending on the classification of the soul's sins. Today, most people in the West live in democratic societies, and our concept of heaven is rather democratic; many people conceive of heaven as a less-structured eternal unification with God.
Christ's teachings reflect the ability of his audience to understand. He tells the twelve apostles that they will sit on thrones, as judges (who were at times the near equivalent of kings) of the twelve tribes. This reflects the concrete and hierarchical society in which they lived.
If you want to believe that this is literally true, I could not disagree with you. For all I know, heaven has an intricate hierarchical structure with cherubim, seraphim, archangels, apostles, etc. It is also possible to believe that we simply cannot really understand what heaven is like, and that Christ was attempting to give Peter and the other apostles an image that they could comprehend. Either interpetation, and many others, are supported by the Scripture.