Daily Devotion for December 3, 2023
Only 20 Praying Days Left Until Christmas
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.
Selah is a contemporary Christian vocal trio consisting of Todd Smith, Allan Hall, and Amy Perry. They do a terrific job updating this old British hymn.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end...
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Music by Jean Sibelius
Lyrics by Catharina von Schlegel, @ 1740
Matins (Morning Prayer)
Word of God, as the Most High, our one hope,
Everlasting light of heaven and earth,
We break the silence of the peaceful night;
Saviour Divine, cast thine eyes upon us!
Pour on us the fire of thy mighty grace,
That all hell may flee at the sound of the voice;
Banish the slumber of a weary soul,
That brings forgetfulness of thy laws!
O Christ, look with favour upon thy faithful people
Now gathered here to praise thee;
Receive their hymns offered to thy endless glory;
May they go forth filled with thy gifts.
Prayer Not to Judge Others (by Jane Austen)
Heavenly Father, give me grace to endeavor after a truly Christian spirit to seek to attain that temper of forbearance and patience of which my blessed savior has set me the highest example, and which, while it prepares me for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure the best enjoyment of what the world can give. Incline me, O God, to think humbly of myself, to be severe only in the examination of my own conduct, to consider my fellow creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity that I would desire from them myself. In Christ's name I pray,
Christian living is not so much about getting out of our mess in order to find God, but more about bringing God into our mess.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
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.
Observance or Experience?
“Christmas has lost its meaning for us because we have lost the spirit of expectancy. We cannot prepare for an observance. We must prepare for an experience.”
~ Handel Brown
Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV)
The Young Woman is with Child
gain the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”
And Isaiah said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Notes on the Scripture
Ahaz, a descendant of David, was the King of Judah. He reigned from roughly 735 BC to 715 BC. I would say he was king “during a difficult period,” but pretty much the entire history of Israel is a “difficult period,” in one way or another.
When Isaiah was active, Judah and Israel were separate kingdoms and, during Ahaz’s reign, at odds with each other. Ahaz was a wicked and idolatrous king, and the King of Israel (Pekah) was not much better. Ahaz was so warped that he made his son walk through the fire of Moloch, a god who was generally a large statue with an oven in his belly; often, infants were sacrificed in Moloch by being roasted alive.
These two kings made foreign alliances to fight each other, which backfired, as Israel was conquered and Judah subjugated by Assyria. Ahaz repeatedly ignored the counsel of major prophets: Hosea and Micah, as well as Isaiah. The Bible teaches a causal connection between the idolatry of Judah and its decline and subjugation under Ahaz, and nobody is more outspoken about the connection than Isaiah.
But the primary importance of today’s Scripture is not yet another warning to Ahaz from Isaiah, or yet another instance of Ahaz ignoring God’s Word. Rather, it is Isaiah’s prophecy of Christ. He looks past the coming destruction of Israel and Judah to a time when a child called “Immanuel”will be born to a woman.
This unusual name, like many Hebrew names, comes from a title. In Hebrew, Immanuel means “God with us.” (There is a term for this: Immanuel is a “theophoric” name, that is, a name that embodies the name of God or the name of a god. Christopher, which means “bearer of Christ,” is a well-known Christian theophoric name. Most names containing “el” — Elizabeth, Joel, Michael, etc. — are theophoric, because “el” was Hebrew for “god.”)
Thus, Isaiah here predicts Christmas itself. Some Bible scholars (especially anti-Christian scholars) quibble over the wording, because the Hebrew word for “virgin” can also refer to a young woman in a consummated marriage. So, such scholars argue that Matthew mistranslated Isaiah in Matthew 1:23. It is a stupid argument, though. Matthew was inspired. His translation of Isaiah is God’s translation of Isaiah.
Such nonsense from Bible-bashers should not distract us from the irreducible, profound, and mystical truth of Isaiah’s prophecy. He foretells, 700 years before the fact, that a child will embody God, a child born to a human woman, and will become the salvation of God’s people. And where Moloch bore destruction in its belly, Mary will bear eternal life in hers.