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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Daily Devotion for February 13, 2012

Abraham and the Three Angels, painting by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Dutch) c. 1656, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

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.


A vigorous old hymn from the Salvation Army, to get you psyched up for the week!

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.

About the Painting

Abraham and the Three Angels, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Dutch) c. 1656, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Note Sarah hiding behind the doorjamb. Eeckhout made some attempt to make Abraham look at least somewhat Semitic, although the three angels are European. He places him in a masonry house with fine robes, neither of which is impossible, but the scene does look more like 17th century Holland than ancient Canaan.

Eeckhout shows three angels with wings, rather than God and two angels appearing as men. The wings are not representational of the story, but do identify the figures as angels. Some early scholars interpreted the three men to be three angels, but the text better supports the interpretation that the three men were two angels and God Himself. The first angel, who is wearing white and highlighted, might be a representation of Christ. The peacock is a symbol of immortality and renewal, to reflect God's promise to Abraham.

Eeckhout was a student of Rembrandt, and the tone, composition, and use of shadow reflect this. He brilliantly captures the casual and friendly tone of the Scripture by the posture of the subjects. In the background, everyday life goes as normal, even though God is sitting in the village.

Count Your Blessings

Count your blessings, not your crosses; count your gains instead of losses.

Count your joys instead of woes; count your friends instead of foes.

Count your smiles instead of tears; count your courage, not your fears.

Count full years instead lean; Count kind deeds instead of mean.

Count your health instead of wealth; Love your neighbor as yourself.

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Genesis 18:9-15 (ESV)

The Story of Abraham [20]

They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent."

The Lord said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"

The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."

But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh."

Notes on the Scripture

This charming vignette began with three mysterious men showing up one day at Abraham's tent. He recognizes that one of them is the Lord, and has a feast prepared for them. As they sit on Abraham's porch — which would have been a great wool cloth supported by poles, covering the area in front of the tent — Sarah remains inside, her ear to the door eavesdropping.

God has previously promised Abraham a son by Sarah, and now that the covenant has been sealed by the circumcision of Abraham's household, He states that the promise will be fulfilled immediately.

Sarah laughs, possibly in disbelief, but more likely at the sheer preposterousness of what is happening. She has passed the period of menopause; the phrase "my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?" would seem to mean that they no longer share the marriage bed.

But the Lord calls her out for laughing, and Sarah actually engages in a moment of banter — with God Himself! "Why is Sarah laughing?" She comes out of the tent and says, in essence, "Was not!" to which God replies "Were, too!"

Of course, Sarah is full of fear and awe to be in God's presence. But God here creates a friendly, personal relationship with Abraham and Sarah. Rather than appearing as a fearful voice or a shining angel, he comes as an ordinary man.

God's encounter with Abraham and Sarah, anticipating the life of Christ, tells us that part of our relationship with God is to be personal and friendly. Once we fully establish our faith, our commitment, the very sacrifice of our flesh, we may sometimes treat with God as a friend. He is not an Eastern potentate, upon whose face we may never look. Although we worship Him in all humility, sometimes with great show of reverence, our relationship with Him is multifaceted and can sometimes be familiar and conversational.

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Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

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