Daily Devotion for April 29, 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 beautiful rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria sung by Barbara Bonney (in German).
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.
And teach out of Your law,
That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,
Until the pit is dug for the wicked.
Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, "Come out," to those who are in darkness, "Show yourselves."
They shall feed along the ways, on all the bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.
And I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Lo, these shall come from far away, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
Notes on the Scripture
This passage from Isaiah is a passage of hope in a time of difficulty; it is the promise of God that a day will come to his people, when their suffering will end. The best way to interpret this is to imagine that it is a conversation between God the Father and Jesus. This may seem a bit weird, since Isaiah is an Old Testament book and Jesus will not be born for 700 years after his words. Still, Isaiah is a prophet of Christ, and the messages and prophesies of Isaiah often mix together the concepts of salvation under the old and new covenants.
The first part is written in the past tense; however, Isaiah uses the past tense to refer to a future event because, in effect, God's salvation existed before the earth was formed. The Gospel of John will take this idea and greatly expand upon it. (See John 1. )
Isaiah prophesies that God's salvation will bring out two kinds of people: prisoners and those in darkness. These are two of the great themes of the New Testament. We are prisoners of sin, and we cannot get rid of our sin any more than a convict can get rid of his chains. It weighs us down and makes us do things we do not want to do. But the day will come, the day has already been appointed, when our chains will be cast off by Christ and we will live as prisoners no more, but will live in freedom, the only true freedom, the freedom of truth and power that come from Christ.
The other image he gives us is people in darkness. This is also a frequent image in the New Testament; in fact, Christ is called "the Light", and again, the Gospel of John expands upon the idea, picturing Jesus as a light shining in the darkness, the "light of men".
Isaiah adds a twist here, because the prisoner is not freed, and those living in darkness do not have a light shined upon them. Instead, they are told "come out" and "show yourselves". In other words, these people are hiding away. They are like the adulterer or their or criminal, who will take any measure to keep his crime secret; or like a person with a disfigurement who is ashamed to be seen, or a person who does not want to be punished.
Atheists and agnostics hide from God. They deny Him and they hide, in the darkness, turning their eyes away from the light and delighting in their sinful ways. The more we have sinned, the more we tend to hide ourselves; for like Adam, we are ashamed. But there is no sin too great for God to forgive and no shame Christ cannot wash away.
Isaiah promises that this salvation will be given to the entire earth. Syene is the ancient name for Aswan; it was the first city in Egypt, in other words, the southernmost point of the known world.