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Daily Devotion for December 4, 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.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
8 Do not remember our past iniquities; help us quickly with your tender mercies, for we have been brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name. Deliver us and purge away our sins, for the sake of your name.
10 Why should the heathen be able to say, Where is their God? Let him be known among the heathen in our sight, by revenging the blood your servants have shed.
11 Let the groans of the prisoner come before you; preserve those that are appointed to die, in keeping with your great power;
12 And return to the hearts of our neighbours seven times their scorn, when they turn it against you, O Lord.
13 We, your people and the sheep of your pasture, will give you thanks forever; we will show forth your praise to all generations.
Comment on the Scripture
Three of the six verses (8, 11, 13) are very much in keeping with the message of Christ and are a beautiful prayer to God, asking for forgiveness. The phrase 'tender mercies' was used as the title for a very good movie, 'Tender Mercies', starring Robert Duvall; in fact, the movie garnered two Academy Awards, Best Actor for Duvall and Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated for several more, including Best Picture. It concerns a country singer with a checkered alcohol-soaked history, estranged from his daughter and ex-wife; he meets a widow who runs a humble motel in rural Texas, very much "wind-swept plains" in the middle of nowhere, and finds redemption. It is not an overtly Christian movie, but the themes are very appropriate to the Christian message — and clearly in the writer's mind, given the title. It is an outstanding movie for adults and older children who enjoy realistic inspirational entertainment.
The other verses are peculiarly Hebrew. The Israelites are having problems losing battles to heathens, and they ask God to help them for the sake of His name. This sounds pretty arrogant. This reflects, however, the way in which God had set up His first covenant with the Hebrews. Their blessed status in God's eye was personal and tribal. They identify themselves so closely with God that they believe, unabashedly, that their success in battle will make God look better.
It was correct for the Hebrews to believe this, because it was God's will for them to have earthly successes as a sign of His covenant with them. The Old Testament is a constant cycle of the Jews forgetting or ignoring their religious duties and beliefs, God punishing them by invasion or famine or captivity, then a new prophet appearing who leads them back to spiritual correctness, and God then rewarding them with sheep, land, and political supremacy. Although a number of prophets and several other prominent Old Testament figures led ascetic lives, the Christian values of humility, poverty, etc., were not nearly so prominent in the Hebrew theology of the day. Asceticism was practiced more as self-punishment, often as a proxy for the entire nation, than as a theological rejection of earthly wealth.
These verses also reflect the "eye for an eye" philosophy of righteous vengence against heathens. Unlike the message of Christ, God's first covenant with the Hebrews was often vindictive. Remember, this was written in the period before God had reached out to the Gentiles, through Christ.