January 7th Devotional (2021)

January 7, 2021
Epiphanytide

Today’s Readings: Psalm 29; 1 Samuel 3:1-21; Acts 9:10-19a


Nations shall come to your light, 
and kings to the brightness
of your rising.   
 Isaiah 60:3

Invocation

The Lord has shown forth his glory: 

     Come let us adore him.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [1]

Hymn

“All Praise to You, O Lord”

By Hyde W. Beadon

Lyrics

All praise to you, O Lord, 

Who by your mighty power 

Did manifest your glory forth 

In Cana’s marriage hour. 

You speak, and it is done; 

Obedient to your word, 

The water reddening into wine 

Proclaims the present Lord. 

Oh, may this grace be ours: 

In you always to live 

And drink of those refreshing streams 

Which you alone can give. 

So, led from strength to strength, 

Grant us, O Lord, to see 

The marriage supper of the Lamb, 

The great epiphany. [2]

Short Verse

Search for the LORD and his strength;* 

continually seek his face. 

Psalm 105:4
“The Baptism of Christ” ( 1486-90) 
By Domenico Ghirlandaio 
The picture above typifies Baptism of Christ iconography. Jesus stands in the Jordan while angels hold his garment on one side and John pours water on his head. A dove (the Holy Spirit) descends from on high. Above the dove, especially in later images, there may be a human figure or hand representing the Father. 
(source)

Morning Reading: Psalm 29

The voice of God upon the waters

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;

worship the Lord in holy splendor.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord, over mighty waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

6 And shall reduce them to pieces, 

as a calf of Libanus, 

and as the beloved son of unicorns.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,

and strips the forest bare;

and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

11 May the Lord give strength to his people!

May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Morning Lesson

Christ’s Baptism is prophesied

Psalm 29 “is a prophecy of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, celebrated in the services of Theophany (Epiphanytide). Both words, epiphany and theophany, mean ‘manifestation’ or ‘revelation,’ and Theophany has the additional meaning, ‘revelation of God.’ The God who is revealed in Christ’s Baptism is God the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus this event also reveals that Jesus Christ (the Son) is one of the Trinity.” [3]

This psalm “reveals the Father as the voice speaking from heaven at Jesus’s Baptism (vv. 3-5, 7-9; see also Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22). It also reveals the Son (His beloved v. 6) and the Holy Spirit (fiery flames, v. 7). Unicorns (v. 6) are often symbols of purity.” [4]

Morning Prayer

O Lord, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day: defend us by thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. [5]

Blessing

May God, who sent the Holy Spirit to rest upon the Only- begotten at his baptism in the Jordan River, pour out that Spirit on you who have come to the waters of new birth. Amen. [6]


I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may
reach to the end of the earth.   
 Isaiah 49:6b

Short Verse

Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;* 

have mercy on me and answer me. 

You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”* 

Your face, LORD, will I seek. 

Hide not your face from me,* 

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

Psalm 27:10–12
“Samuel Called by God” 
By  Marc Chagall 
(source)

Midday Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21

Samuel called by God as a prophet

1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.

4 Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

6 And the LORD called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”

19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. 21 And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

Midday Lesson

Proclaiming God’s word – even when it’s uncomfortable to do so

In verse 1, we read, “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” This provides us important historical context for our reading. While God had spoken directly (and audibly) with Moses and with Joshua, during the three centuries of rule by judges this precious direct revelation became a rare occurrence. “By Eli’s time, no prophets were speaking God’s messages to Israel. Why? Look at the attitude of Eli’s sons. They either refused to listen to God or allowed greed to get in the way of any communication with Him.” [7] Therefore, “God’s word had become very precious because of the absence of a clear, concise, and distinct vision from Him.” [8]

Did you know that listening is a vital part of your relationship with others, including your relationship with the Lord? In order for us to receive His messages, we must be willing to listen. The best avenue for this is through dedicating moments of each and every day to Him who sent His Son for our salvation: through prayer, and through reading and meditating on His holy Scriptures.

“Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli” (c. 1665) 
By Gerbrand van den Eeckhout 
(source)

The setting of today’s (especially verses 4-14) is inside the temple.  Remember, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had dedicated Samuel to the Lord and brought him to the temple to live (see the linked midday reading containing 1 Samuel 1:1-28 and the accompanying lesson). Let’s explore the setting of the temple for better understanding of today’s passage…

“The Ark of God was kept in the most holy place, the innermost room of the Tabernacle where only the high priest could enter once a year. In front of the Most Holy Place was the Holy Place, a small room where the other sacred furniture of the Tabernacle was kept (the incense altar, the Bread of the Presence, the lampstand). Just outside the Holy Place was a court with small rooms where the priests were to stay. Samuel probably slept here with the other priests, only a few yards away from the Ark.” [9]

[10]
[11]

In today’s reading, Samuel repeatedly mistook God’s voice for that of Eli’s. Though Samuel had been dedicated to the Lord, he did not yet know God in an intimate, personal way. Samuel also “did not have experience receiving direct revelation from God up to that point. But his quick response each time showed his willingness to serve the Lord—whether the one calling for him was Eli or God Himself.” [12]

Furthermore, one might “naturally expect an audible message to God to be given to the priest Eli and not to the child [Samuel]. Eli was older and more experienced, and he held the proper position [as priest]. But God’s chain of command is based on faith, not on age or position. In finding faithful followers, God may use unexpected channels [including children].” [13]

In a Theophany, the Lord appeared before Samuel (v. 10) to establish Samuel as a prophet of the Lord. “God reveal[ed] to Samuel what He had already revealed to Eli through another man of God, confirming Samual as a true prophet.” [14]

Although Eli had spent his entire life in service to God, he failed as a father. Because of this, no descendants of Eli would serve as priest. Eli’s sons “were supposed to be the esteemed priests of God, but they [had] turned their privilege into disaster” because Eli had not restrained them. [15] 

“Eli and his sons were guilty of presumptuous sin (see Num 15:30, 31). For such a sin, there was no atoning sacrifice.” [16] “Realizing that he had failed in his responsibility as father and high priest, [Eli] accepted that the day of reckoning had finally come,” even though it meant his destruction. [17] And yet, astonishingly, “Eli still did nothing to correct his sons’ behavior.” [18]

“Samuel was confirmed as God’s prophet not merely because he heard God’s voice, but because he was willing to proclaim God’s word even when it was unpleasant or uncomfortable.” [19]

Midday Prayer

Grant me, I beseech thee, O merciful God, prudently to study, rightly to understand and perfectly to fulfill that which is pleasing to thee, to the praise and glory of thy name. Amen. 

~ St. Thomas Aquinas [20]


From the rising of the sun to its setting my Name shall be great
among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered
to my Name, and a pure offering: for my Name shall be great
among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.    
Malachi 1:11

Short Verse

Let us bless the LORD, 

from this time forth for evermore. 

Hallelujah!

based on Psalm 115:18
“The Conversion of Saint Paul” 
a 1600 painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio.
(source)

Evensong Reading: Acts 9:10-19a

Saul is baptized

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

“Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul” (c.1631) 
by Pietro da Cortona.
(source)

Evensong Lesson

Saul’s “Enlightenment”

The events in our reading took place as the Christian faith was beginning to spread and the Church was being established beyond Jerusalem. Ananias was told by God to “go to the street called Straight,” in Damascus (in what is modern-day Syria), to find Saul (Saint Paul the Apostle). Today, the Orthodox Church of Antioch is headquartered there on “the street called Straight.”

Saul, a Jew with Roman citizenship, had been a merciless persecutor of Christians. He was even present when Saint Stephen was stoned; Scripture tells us the Saul “approved the stoning of Stephen” (Acts 8:1). In fact, Ananias was likely one of Saul’s targets for arrest, as he served as the first bishop of Damascus. This certainly explains the initial trepidation shown by Ananias upon the Lord instructing him to go to Saul.

Tonight’s passage follows the initial conversation of Saul on the road to Damascus, where Christ appeared to him and asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

This Theophany of Christ left Saul blinded, illustrating Christ’s teaching on spiritual blindness (John 9:39). “As long as Saul saw things from his own perspective, he was spiritually blind. Only by having his earthly vision taken away does Saul become capable of truly seeing Christ in glory and truth. This action also [drove] Saul to submit to the Church for baptism,” through which he was washed of his sins and became a member of Christ’s body, the Church. [21]

In verse 15, God identified Saul as “a chosen instrument” to carry the Lord’s name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” “That Saul was God’s chosen vessel does not mean that [Saul] had no free will in the matter. Rather, it indicates that God had selected Saul, knowing that [Saul] would freely accept and be capable of doing the work set before him.” [22] This illustrates how well God knows each and every one of us. He is our attentive Father. 

In verse 18, the scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could once again see. “The scales falling from Saul’s eyes illustrates that those under the law remain ultimately blind until they encounter and receive Jesus Christ.” [23] Furthermore, “his blindness and recovery of sight are an apt symbol of the effect of baptism, which was often referred to as ‘Enlightenment.’” [24]

The dramatic story of Saul’s conversion “follows more or less what Paul himself tells us in Galatians (Gal 1:11–24) about his persecution of the Church and his conversion. Luke does not, however, include all the information given by Paul and adds important details that are not in Galatians.” [25]

“Saul’s conversion [was] completed by his incorporation into a community, through the ministry of Ananias, who [laid] hands on Saul, to give him back his sight, to confer the holy Spirit and to appoint him for mission. His baptism is preceded by a three-day fast and followed by a meal, which may allude to the pre-baptismal fast and post-baptismal Eucharist of the early Church.” [26]

“Immediately after his conversion, Saul begins to preach in the synagogues, that ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’ Jews at Damascus react against Paul’s preaching and want to put him out of the way; the disciples help him escape. In Jerusalem, the same sequence recurs and Paul goes to Tarsus.” [27]

From a homily by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329 – 25 January 390) entitled “Oration 40” [30]:

…to know the power of this Sacrament is itself Enlightenment… Therefore since you have heard these words, come forward to it, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed through missing the Grace. Receive then the Enlightenment in due season, that darkness pursue you not, and catch you, and sever you from the Illumining…. 

Illumination [Enlightenment] is the splendour of souls, the conversion of the life, the question put to the Godward conscience. It is the aid to our weakness, the renunciation of the flesh, the following of the Spirit, the fellowship of the Word, the improvement of the creature, the overwhelming of sin, the participation of light, the dissolution of darkness. It is the carriage to God, the dying with Christ, the perfecting of the mind, the bulwark of Faith, the key of the Kingdom of heaven, the change of life, the removal of slavery, the loosing of chains, the remodelling of the whole man. Why should I go into further detail? Illumination is the greatest and most magnificent of the Gifts of God. For just as we speak of the Holy of Holies, and the Song of Songs, as more comprehensive and more excellent than others, so is this called Illumination, as being more holy than any other illumination which we possess…

Do not shut your ears to the Instruction of the Lord, and to His Counsel, like the adder to charms. If you are blind and unenlightened, lighten your eyes that you sleep not in death. In God’s Light see light, and in the Spirit of God be enlightened by the Son, That Threefold and Undivided Light. If you receive all the Word, you will bring therewith upon your own soul all the healing powers of Christ, with which separately these individuals were healed…


Let us cleanse every member, Brethren, let us purify every sense; let nothing in us be imperfect or of our first birth; let us leave nothing unilluminated. Let us enlighten our eyes, Proverbs 4:25 that we may look straight on, and not bear in ourselves any harlot idol through curious and busy sight; for even though we might not worship lust, yet our soul would be defiled. If there be beam or mote, Matthew 7:2 let us purge it away, that we may be able to see those of others also. Let us be enlightened in our ears; let us be enlightened in our tongue, that we may hearken what the Lord God will speak, and that He may cause us to hear His lovingkindness in the morning, and that we may be made to hear of joy and gladness, spoken into godly ears, that we may not be a sharp sword, nor a whetted razor, nor turn under our tongue labour and toil, but that we may speak the Wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden Wisdom, 1 Corinthians 2:7 reverencing the fiery tongues. Acts 2:3 Let us be healed also in the smell, that we be not effeminate; and be sprinkled with dust instead of sweet perfumes, Isaiah 3:34 but may smell the Ointment that was poured out for us, Song of Songs 1:3 spiritually receiving it; and so formed and transformed by it, that from us too a sweet odour may be smelled. Let us cleanse our touch, our taste, our throat, not touching them over gently, nor delighting in smooth things, but handling them as is worthy of Him, the Word That was made flesh for us; and so far following the example of Thomas, John 20:28 not pampering them with dainties and sauces, those brethren of a more baleful pampering, but tasting and learning that the Lord is good, with the better and abiding taste; and not for a short while refreshing that baneful and thankless dust, which lets pass and does not hold that which is given to it; but delighting it with the words which are sweeter than honey…

Evensong Prayer

Show us your mercy, O Lord;

     And grant us your salvation.

Clothe your ministers with righteousness;

     Let your people sing with joy.

Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;

     For only in you can we live in safety.

Lord, keep this nation under your care;

     And guide us in the way of justice and truth.

Let your way be known upon earth;

     Your saving health among all nations.

Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;

     Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Create in us clean hearts, O God;

     And sustain us by your Holy Spirit. [28]

Compline Prayer

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. [29]


Devotionals compiled/written by S.P. Rogers

Citations:

[1] Episcopal Church. (1979). Daily Office: Daily Morning Prayers Rite II. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 100). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

[2] Tickle, P. (2006). January. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 521). New York, NY: Image Books.

[3] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). Psalms. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 730). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Ibid. 3

[5] Bellarmine, G. (2020). January 6: Prime. In The Roman Breviary in English, in Order, Every Day for October, November, December 2020 (Kindle ed., p. 313). Christian Books Today.

[6] The Episcopal Church. (2018). Seasonal Blessings: Christmas. In The Book of Occasional Services (PDF ed., p. 9). Then Episcopal Church. Retrieved November December 15, 2020, from https://episcopalchurch.org/files/lm_book_of_occasional_services_2018.pdf

[7] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 1 Samuel. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 421). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[8] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). 1 Kingdoms. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 383). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 1 Samuel. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 421). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[10] House, C. P. (2009). The Tabernacle [Image]. In HOLY BIBLE: The lutheran study bible (p. 139). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing HSE.

[11] House, C. P. (2009). The Materials of the Tabernacle [Image]. In HOLY BIBLE: The lutheran study bible (p. 141). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing HSE.

[12] Palmer, W. (2019). 1 Samuel 3:1-10. In Books of the Bible Study Questions: 1 Samuel (PDF ed., pp. 5). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. Retrieved at: https://communication.cph.org/hubfs/_cph/2019/01/publicity-book-of-the-bible-study-questions/581902_601%201Samuel.pdf?hsCtaTracking=c8ef80b0-e5e8-4628-bfac-91d9fd918a1d%7C75a5cf8d-11f6-4268-8a31-8ad6fcd8c72e

[13] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 1 Samuel. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 422). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[14] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). 1 Kingdoms. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 383). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[15] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (2007). 1 Samuel. In NKJV study Bible: New King James Version (Second ed., p. 423). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[16] Ibid. 15, P. 424

[17] Palmer, W. (2019). 1 Samuel 3:1-10. In Books of the Bible Study Questions: 1 Samuel (PDF ed., pp. 6). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. Retrieved at: https://communication.cph.org/hubfs/_cph/2019/01/publicity-book-of-the-bible-study-questions/581902_601%201Samuel.pdf?hsCtaTracking=c8ef80b0-e5e8-4628-bfac-91d9fd918a1d%7C75a5cf8d-11f6-4268-8a31-8ad6fcd8c72e

[18] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). 1 Kingdoms. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 383). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[19] Ibid. 18

[20] Tickle, P. (2006). January. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 508). New York, NY: Image Books.

[21] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). Acts. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1515). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[22] Ibid. 21

[23] Ibid. 21

[24] Senior, D., Collins, J. J., & Getty-Sullivan, M. A. (2016). Acts. In The Catholic study Bible: The New American Bible, revised edition, translated from the original languages with critical use of all the ancient sources (Third ed., p. 926). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[25] Ibid. 24

[26] Ibid. 24

[27] Ibid. 24

[28] Episcopal Church. (1979). Daily Office: Daily Evening Prayers Rite II. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 121-122). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

[29] Episcopal Church. (1979). Daily Office: Daily Evening Prayers Rite II. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 123). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

[30] Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. (2020). Oration 40. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310240.htm

2 thoughts on “January 7th Devotional (2021)

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