Daily Devotion for February 18, 2012
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 General Intercession
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, who in your mercy and all-loving kindness regards the prayers of all who call upon you with their whole heart, incline your ear and hear my prayer, now humbly offered unto you:
Be mindful, O Lord, of the church of all who believe and confess the name of Jesus Christ; confirm and strengthen it, increase it and keep it in peace, and preserve it unconquerable forever. Be mindful, O Lord, of all priests, ministers, pastors, deacons, bishops, and others known by whatever title, who work as Christian leaders, for you have established them to feed the flock of the Word. And by their prayers, have mercy upon me and save me, a sinner.
Be mindful, O Lord, of all civil authorities, of our Armed Forces, of this city in which I dwell, and of every city and land; grant us peaceful times, that we may lead a calm and tranquil life in all godliness and sanctity.
Be mindful, O Lord, of my parents, my brothers and sisters, my relatives and friends, and all who are near and dear to me, (name those who you wish to remember), and grant them mercy, life, peace, health, salvation and visitation, and pardon and remission of sins; that they may evermore praise and glorify your holy Name.
Be mindful, O Lord, of those who travel by land, and sea, and air; of the young and the old; orphans and widows; the sick and the suffering; the sorrowing and the afflicted, all captives, and the needy poor; upon them all send forth your mercies, for you are the Giver of all good things.
Be mindful, O Lord, of me, your humble servant; grant me your grace, that I may be diligent and faithful; that I may avoid evil company and influence, and resist all temptation; that I may lead a godly and righteous life, blameless and peaceful, ever serving you, that I may be accounted worthy at the last to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, for you are merciful and compassionate, and love mankind, and to you are due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
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.
But the rich has many friends.
He who despises his neighbor sins;
But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Genesis 19:23-29 (ESV)
The Story of Abraham  - Sodom
The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
Notes on the Scripture
The walk to Zoar for the unprepared Lot and his daughters took a long time, almost a day; it was morning when the angels first started trying to make them leave Sodom, and by the time they reach Zoar, the sun has risen again.
As they leave Sodom, we get one of the iconic moments of the Bible. In verse 17, one of the angels had told them, "Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley." But Lot's wife, in her famous moment of disobedience, turns to look back at Sodom, and is transformed into a "pillar of salt".
Was the angel giving Lot's wife a command, which she was punished for disobeying, or was he simply warning her about a hazard, which she disregarded with an unfortunate result? The tone of the story would indicate the latter; throughout the incident, the angels took the role of helpful and patient advisers, doing all in their power to get Lot and his family out of danger.
Also, we can never be sure how literally we should think she became a "pillar of salt". Whoever observed and retold her death was hardly in a position to perform a chemical analysis. She certainly died, and her appearance changed to something pale and mineral-looking. But the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is filled with fascinating mystery. And there is a human-shaped pillar of salt overlooking the Dead Sea.
Whatever else we can say, Lot's wife gave us a wonderful metaphor for how we must approach our faith. Once we find God and receive the Holy Spirit, we must not look back; we must not fantasize or romanticize a life of indulging our appetites and letting our pride, rather than the Bible and our spirit, guide our lives. To do so is to freeze us, to make us as incapable of action as a pillar of salt. Many people with some Christian feelings live a life trapped between righteousness and sin, like Lot's wife; and like her, their inability to commit, to put their eyes forward and strive toward their destination, will doom them.
About the Painting
The large painting at the top of the page is "The Burning of Sodom" by Camille Corot, a French master, c. 1857. Lot and his two daughters are fleeing in the foreground. Lot's wife is dimly seen to the right, in the background. She has been left behind by the others who, following the order given by one of the angels, refrain from looking back.
The painting, like most on the subject, misrepresents the Biblical account for dramatic effect. It is very exciting to think of Lot fleeing a burning city at night, but Lot fled the city in mid-morning, and its destruction did not occur until after sunrise the next day, when Lot and his daughters had reached Zoar.