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Daily Devotion for December 12, 2013

<i>By the Waters of Babylon</i> by Evelyn de Morgan, ca. 1883.
By the Waters of Babylon by Evelyn de Morgan, ca. 1883. This Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece depicts the sorrow of the Hebrews who have been deported as slaves to Babylon.



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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.


For Perseverance Today

If things get tough today, Lord — and in all hard times — let me stay motivated and calm. Let me look at how far I have come rather than how far I still have to go. Let me continue counting my blessings, not what I've been missing. May every day bring new chances to grow, new beautiful things to see, new plans to do, and new goals to pursue, as every new day is Your miracle day.


Prayer for Christmas Shopping

Dear God, as I look through my gift shopping list, I hold up to you each person listed on it. Slowly, one by one, I ask that the fire of your abundant love burn within each of them. I pray that the gift I find for each person will bring joy into that life.

But, help me to keep a balance this season, Lord. Let me keep my buying in perspective, not to spend more than I need to or can afford. Let me not give in to the pressures of this world and not equate love with money spent. Let me always remember the many, many people who have so much less in material things. Help me to buy wisely, so that my choices will not burden those in other countries who are so deeply affected by this country's economy.

And finally, loving God, help me to find time in the frantic moments of each day to become centered on you. Walking through a store, riding on the bus, hurrying down a street: let each of these times be moments when I can remember your incredible love for me and rejoice in it.


Closing Prayer

And finally, grant me O Lord, I pray, the lamp of charity which never fails, that it may burn in me and shed its light on those around me, and that by its brightness I may share a vision of that holy City, where dwells the true and never-failing Light, Jesus Christ our Lord.


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.

<i>The Prophet Isaiah (detail)</i>, Raphael ca. 1512.
The Prophet Isaiah (detail), Raphael ca. 1512.

Psalm 72:1-4 (ESV)

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!

Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!

Blue Latin Cross

Isaiah 32:1-8 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

A King Shall Reign in Justice

Behold a king shall reign in justice, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as when one is hid from the wind, and hideth himself from a storm, as rivers of waters in drought, and the shadow of a rock that standeth out in a desert land.

The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken diligently. And the heart of fools shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of stammerers shall speak readily and plain. The fool shall no more be called prince: neither shall the deceitful be called great.

For the fool will speak foolish things, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and speak to the Lord deceitfully, and to make empty the soul of the hungry, and take away drink from the thirsty.

The vessels of the deceitful are most wicked: for he hath framed devices to destroy the meek, with lying words, when the poor man speaketh judgment. But the prince will devise such things as are worthy of a prince, and he shall stand above the rulers.

Notes on the Scripture

In this passage, Isaiah once more devises an elaborate poem filled with rich metaphor, in order to tell of the time when the wrongs of the world will be righted by a king yet to come. Anyone who has seen injustice in the world immediately recognizes what Isaiah means, when he says that deceitful rulers have “framed devices to destroy the meek ” — that is, have set up ways to use and impoverish others who are weaker, poorer, or not as smart, and to silence them even when they speak the truth.

But Christ will stand above the fools who work iniquity and practice hypocrisy, those who “take away drink from the thirsty.” Although they will still be present, they will no more be called princes or be great.

The passage is typical of Isaiah, who would often prophesy in response to a specific contemporary issue, but whose prophecy would simultaneously find more general application. Specifically, he is addressing the future attempts of King Hezekiah, who would become one of Judah's great kings, to abolish idolatry, bring justice, and restore the proper worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem and throughout his kingdom.

We know now that this prophecy will not actually be fulfilled until Christ comes to reign. After Hezekiah, Judah lost contact with what was left of the conquered northern Kingdom of Israel. Although there were several more kings who tried to enforce the law of Moses, Judah gradually deteriorated in power until the fall of Jerusalem and deportation of the Jews to Babylon in 597 B.C.

The second paragraph has special significance to our recent readings in Matthew. “The ears of them that hear” is identical to the phrase used by Christ in Matthew 13, repeatedly, to describe those who will understand the meaning of his parables. So Isaiah is, in a general sense, referring to the people who will hear Christ's words and understand them; which means — in even a more general sense — us! For we have “hearkened diligently to the parables.

The phrase “the heart of fools shall understand knowledge” is a concept we find much more in Paul's letters than in the Gospels themselves. Reading the Bible, we have to be watchful because the words “foolish” and “wise” are sometimes used in a straightforward manner, and sometimes ironically. Jesus, and the wisdom literatureThere is a major exception to this in Proverbs 2:7, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise”. of the Old Testament, tend to use them only with a strong straightforward significance. Wisdom is the product of true knowledge of God; foolishness leads to sin and death.

Isaiah arguably means that fools will be proven wise; the line can be read two ways. But it is Paul who unmistakably brings the ironic use of “wise” and “wisdom” to its peak.

Paul, remember, actually debated with stoic and epicurean philosophers in Athens, in their public debate center, the Areopagus. (Acts 17:16-34) (And he actually landed a couple of converts!) He began to use the word wisdom, at times, to refer to the futile intellectual exercise of the Greeks, in their attempt to find truth using nothing but their ability to reason and their sense. In fact, the entire second half of 1 Corinthians 1 is a tirade against Greek philosophy. “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

endless knot

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Today in Daily Prayer

With the Christmas season upon us, Daily Prayer has shifted to Scripture appropriate to the season. We will resume our study of the second half of Matthew in early January.

Memory Verse

Matthew 12:6:

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”

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