Orthodox Daily Devotional for February 10-16
- This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
- For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
- These things command and teach.
- Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
- Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
- Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
- Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
SAINT FOCUS: Onesimus (Feb .15) was the focus of the Book of Philemon who was his master. Onesimus ran away from Philemon due to an offense, fearing punishment. The Apostle Paul sent him back with a letter asking that Philemon forgive him which he did. At times we are faced with doing something that causes us fear and concern and not necessarily when we are at fault. Onesimus was hopeful but knew the outcome could go either way and he was willing to accept severe punishment and return to bondage if needed. We need to have that same attitude in our trials and be willing to accept the result the Lord wants. It is always what is best for us even through we may not think so at the time.
**Practical Commentary cont. [Gen. 17–18]
AFTER these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying: “Fear not, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great.” On a certain night, Abram was called by a voice from heaven which said: “Look up to the heaven and number the stars, if thou canst. So shall thy seed be.” Abram believed, and his faith justified him before God. Again, in the 99th year of his age, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him: “I am the Almighty God. Walk before Me and be perfect. Neither shall thy name be called any more Abram [a high father], but Abraham [father of a multitude], because I have made thee a father of many nations. I will establish my covenant between thee and Me. And this is my covenant which you shall observe between me and you and thy seed after thee: All the male kind of you shall be circumcised. Sarai [my princess], thy wife, shall be called Sara [princess], and she shall bear thee a son whose name thou shalt call Isaac.”
Again when Abraham was one day, about noon, sitting at the door of his tent in the vale of Mambre, he saw three men approaching. He ran to meet them, bowed down before them, and invited them to rest in his tent and partake of some refreshment. Calling Sara, his wife, he told her to make some cakes of the finest flour. He caused the best calf of his herds to be killed for the entertainment of the unknown visitors. Butter, milk and honey were also placed before them, Abraham himself waiting upon his guests. After the meal, when they were about to depart, one of the strangers said to Abraham that after a year he would return, and that Sara, his wife, would have a son. Then Abraham understood that the Lord God Himself, accompanied by angels, was his guest.
APPLICATION. Almighty God is near each one of us, and yet how little we think about Him! Do not ever again be so forgetful of God, but put yourself in His presence several times each day. Whenever any one whose opinion you respect is looking at you, you gather yourself together, and are careful to do nothing wrong. Should you not have much more respect for God’s presence?
You were put into this world to love and serve God. How have you served Him hitherto? Could you not serve Him better? Renew your baptismal vows to be faithful to Him unto death.
ABRAHAM went part of the way with the strangers, who were going to Sodom. As they journeyed along together, the Lord said to Abraham: “The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous.” He told him that He would destroy the two cities. Abraham was struck with fear; for, although the men amongst whom he lived were wicked, he loved them as neighbours. At last, drawing near to the Lord, he said: “Wilt Thou destroy the just with the wicked? If there be fifty just men in the city, shall they perish withal? and wilt Thou not spare that place for the sake of the fifty just, if they be therein?” The Lord replied: “If I find in Sodom fifty just men within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” And Abraham said: “Seeing I have once begun, I will speak again to my Lord, whereas I am but dust and ashes. If there be five less than fifty just persons in the city, wilt Thou destroy it?” And the Lord said to Abraham: “I will not destroy it, if I find five and forty.” Abraham continued to plead in this manner, till at last the Lord said to him: “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” Then the Lord disappeared, and Abraham returned to his tent.
The ten just men were not found in Sodom, and the two angels were sent to destroy it. They reached Sodom in the evening, and found Lot sitting at the gate of the city. Lot invited them into his house, and the angels said to him: “Arise, get you out of this place, for the Lord will destroy it. Lot went that night to two young men who were to marry his daughters, and told them to arise and go forth, for the Lord would destroy the city. But they thought that he spoke in jest. At the first dawn of day the angels pressed Lot to depart, saying: “Take thy wife and thy two daughters, lest you also perish in the wicked city.” And, as Lot still lingered, they took him by the hand, and, as it were against his will, led him and his family out of the city, warning them all not to look back, under pain of death. Lot’s wife, however, looked back, and was instantly changed into a pillar of salt. The sun had just risen, when Lot entered the neighbouring city of Segor. Then the Lord rained down from heaven fire and brimstone, and utterly destroyed those two wicked cities, with all their inhabitants.
The sin of Sodom. The Sodomites committed horrible and unnatural sins of impurity which called down the judgment of God. They are, therefore, counted among the sins which cry to heaven for vengeance.
APPLICATION. How can you imitate Lot’s steadfastness? A just man is wounded by the sins of his fellow-men. He laments their wickedness, and prays for their conversion. How have you behaved hitherto in this respect? How will you behave in future? At the end of this lesson we will say three Our Fathers for the conversion of sinners.
Detest and fear sin, especially sins of impurity. Set hell before your eyes, think of its horrible torments, and carefully avoid all temptations to such sins. Say thus: “What will the whole world profit me, if I follow my own inclinations, and suffer eternally in hell!”
SARA gave birth to a son, as the Lord had promised. He was named Isaac, and circumcised on the eighth day. Abraham loved this son very tenderly, and the Lord wished to see whether he loved his son more than God. When the boy had grown up, the Lord said to Abraham: “Take thy only-begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision, and there thou shalt offer him for a holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee.” Abraham instantly arose, and by night saddled his ass, taking with him two young men, and Isaac, his son. And when he had cut the wood for the holocaust, he went to the place which God had shown him. On the third day he came in sight of Mount Moria, where he was to sacrifice his son; and he said to the servants: “Stay you here with the ass; I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and, after we have worshipped, will return to you.” Then he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon the shoulders of Isaac. He himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. As they went along, Isaac said: “My father.” And Abraham answered: “What wilt thou, son?” “Behold”, said the son, “fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust?” Abraham replied: “God will provide Himself a victim for the holocaust, my son.” So they went on together.
When they reached the top of the mountain, Abraham erected an altar, placed the wood upon it, bound his son, and laid him on the altar. Then he put forth his hand and took the sword to sacrifice his son. And behold! an angel from heaven cried out to him, saying: “Abraham, Abraham!” And he answered: “Here I am.” And the angel said: “Lay not thy hand on the boy, neither do thou anything to him! Now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for My sake.” Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw behind him a ram, sticking fast by his horns in the bushes; him he took and offered, instead of his son. The angel of the Lord spoke again unto Abraham, saying: “By My own self have I sworn, saith the Lord; because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for My sake, I will bless thee, and will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea-shore. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed My voice.” And Abraham returned home with his son.
APPLICATION. Abraham obeyed without any questioning, when God demanded of him the hardest of sacrifices. God asks nothing very hard of you, and yet you are often disobedient, and transgress those commandments which, by the help of His grace, you might very easily keep. When you disobey your parents, you disobey God, for it is His will that you should obey your parents and superiors.
Abraham practised the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity in a most perfect way. Try to kindle them in your own heart. Let us conclude this lesson by making acts of faith, hope and charity.
NOW Abraham was advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in all things. He, however, wished, before his death, to see his son wedded to a virtuous wife. But as the daughters of the land were wicked, he said to his old servant Eliezer: “Go to my own country and kindred, and take a wife thence for my son Isaac, but beware lest thou take one of the daughters of the Chanaanites, among whom I dwell.” The servant promised faithfully all that Abraham had commanded him. He then took ten camels of his master’s herd, loaded them with rich presents, and set out for Haran, where Nachor, the brother of Abraham, dwelt. Arriving there, he let his camels rest near a well outside the city. It was in the evening, the time when the young women were wont to come out to draw water from the well. Then he prayed fervently within himself that heaven might prosper his undertaking: “O Lord, I beseech Thee, show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I stand nigh the spring, and the daughters of the inhabitants of the city will come out to draw water. Now, therefore, the maid to whom I shall say: ‘Let down thy pitcher that I may drink’, and she shall answer: ‘Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also’, let it be the same whom Thou hast provided for thy servant Isaac; and by this I shall understand that Thou hast shown kindness to my master.”
He had not yet ended his prayer when Rebecca, a beautiful and modest maiden, came out, carrying a pitcher. She went down to the well, filled the pitcher, and was returning, when Eliezer ran to meet her and said: “Give me a little water to drink out of thy pitcher.” She answered him kindly: “Drink, my lord.” And quickly she let down the pitcher upon her arm, and gave him to drink. And when he had drunk, she said: “I will draw water for thy camels also till they all drink.” Then, pouring water into the troughs, she let the camels drink. After they had drunk, the servant presented her with golden ear-rings and bracelets, saying to her: “Whose daughter art thou? Tell me, is there any place in thy father’s house to lodge?” She answered: “I am the daughter of Bathuel, the son of Nachor. We have a good store of both straw and hay, and a large place to lodge in.” Then Eliezer bowed down and adored the Lord, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Abraham, who hath not taken away His mercy and truth from him, and hath brought me the straight way into the house of my master’s brother!”
He was then invited to the house, and bread was set before him, but he refused to eat, until he had delivered his message. When he had stated the object of his coming, Laban, the brother of Rebecca, and Bathuel, her father, answered: “The word hath proceeded from the Lord: we cannot speak any other thing but His pleasure. Behold! Rebecca is before thee: take her and go thy way, and let her be the wife of thy master’s son, as the Lord hath spoken.” Then the servant bowed down to the ground, adored the Lord and, bringing forth vessels of gold and silver, with garments of the finest texture, presented them to Rebecca. He also presented rich gifts to her brother and mother. Then, full of joy, he partook of the refreshments offered to him. Next morning, after Rebecca had received the blessing of her parents and brother, she set out with her maidens for her destined home, and on arriving there became the wife of Isaac. Abraham lived many years after Isaac’s marriage. He died, aged one hundred and seventy-five years, and was buried by his son at Hebron, where Sara, his wife, had been buried before.
APPLICATION. Begin and end each day, or any important undertaking, with a prayer for God’s blessing. Begin with God and end with God; that is the best rule of life.
Are you obliging to your friends, and to strangers, as Rebecca was? Think in what way you can help others, whether brothers, companions, friends, or strangers, and resolve to make use of your opportunities. God will reward each little service you perform.
ISAAC and Rebecca remained twenty years without children. At length God heard their prayer, and gave them two sons. The first-born, Esau, was red and hairy, and of a rough, harsh temper. Jacob, the second, was smooth in appearance and gentle in his bearing. Esau became a skilful hunter and husbandman. Jacob was a plain man, and dwelt in tents. Isaac loved Esau, and ate with pleasure the game that he had killed. Rebecca, on the other hand, loved the mild and gentle Jacob. She loved him the more, because she knew by God’s revelation (Gen. 25:23) that he, instead of Esau, had found favour with God. One day Jacob was cooking a mess of pottage, when Esau, coming home from the field, faint with hunger, said to his brother: “Give me of this pottage, for I am hungry.” Jacob said to him: “Sell me thy first birthright.” Esau replied: “Lo, I die of hunger: what will the first birthright avail me?” Jacob answered: “Swear, therefore, to me.” Esau swore and sold his birthright. And taking bread and the mess of pottage, he ate and drank and went away, making little account of having sold his birthright.
Now Isaac was old and had lost his eyesight. One day he called Esau, his son, and said to him: “My son, thou seest I am old, and I know not the day of my death. Take thy arms, thy quiver and bow, and go abroad; and when thou hast taken something by hunting, make me savoury meat thereof, as thou knowest I like, and bring it that I may eat, and my soul may bless thee before I die.” Esau promptly obeyed the command of his father, and went to the fields to hunt. Rebecca had overheard the words of Isaac, and fearing that, contrary to the will of God, Esau might be preferred to Jacob, she said to him: “Now, my son, follow my counsel. Go to the flock and bring me two of the best kids, that I may make of them meat for thy father, such as he gladly eateth; so that, after having eaten it, he may bless thee before he die.” Jacob hastened to the flock and brought two kids. Rebecca prepared them as though they were game, and then clothed Jacob in Esau’s best garments, and covered his neck and hands with the skin of the kids, and sent him to his father with the meats she had prepared. Isaac asked: “Who art thou, my son?” Jacob answered: “I am Esau, thy first-born; I have done as thou hast commanded; arise, sit, and eat of my venison that thy soul may bless me.” Isaac said again: “Come hither that I may feel thee, my son, and may prove whether thou be my son Esau or no.” Jacob then drew near to his father, and Isaac touching him said: “The voice, indeed, is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he gave him his blessing.
Scarcely had Jacob gone out when Esau came with the game he had taken and cooked for his father. “Arise, my father, and eat,” said he. Isaac, in surprise, asked him: “Who art thou?” and he answered: “I am thy first-born son Esau.” And Isaac saw that Jacob had deceived him. Then Esau roared out with a great cry, saying: “He hath already taken from me my birthright, and now he hath robbed me of my father’s blessing.” Then he said to his father: “Hast thou kept no blessing for me?” And as he continued to cry out and lament, Isaac, moved with compassion, said to him: “In the fat of the earth, and in the dew of heaven from above, shall thy blessing be. Thou shalt live by the sword, and shalt serve thy brother; but the time shall come when thou shalt shake off and loose his yoke from thy neck.” From this time Esau hated his brother.
APPLICATION. Esau sinned through his greedy desire for the pottage. Have you never sinned by gluttony? Try for the future to overcome your greedy desires. Bear hunger and thirst for a short time with cheerfulness; and be not dainty about your food. He who does not tame his appetites, and deny himself, cannot be virtuous or happy.
Jacob ought to have given the mess willingly to his hungry brother. Have you never been selfish towards your brothers and sisters, and wished to keep everything for yourself, or chosen the best or largest portion for yourself? Do you ever tell lies? Some day you must make satisfaction for every lie. God hates lies, because He is the very truth. If you wish to be a child of God, always tell the truth. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 12:22).
ESAU was very angry, because he had lost the blessing. He resolved to kill Jacob. Rebecca knew the evil intentions of Esau, and saw that the life of Jacob was in danger. She therefore called Jacob and said to him: “My son, flee to Laban, my brother, and dwell with him, till the wrath of thy brother hath passed away.” Jacob at once set out. As he went on, it happened that night overtook him in an open plain. Being tired from the journey, he lay down on the ground and slept, having a stone for a pillow. In his sleep he saw a ladder standing upon the earth, the top touching heaven; and by it the angels of God ascended and descended. The Lord was leaning upon the ladder and said to him: “I am the Lord God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land wherein thou sleepest I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and in thee and thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed.”
And when Jacob awoke from sleep, he said: “Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. How terrible is this place! This is no other but the house of God and the gate of heaven.” As soon as morning dawned, he took the stone upon which his head had lain during the vision, and set it up as a monument; he also poured oil upon it, in honour of God, and changed the name of the place from Luza to Bethel, that is to say, the house of God. He also made a vow, saying: “If God shall be with me, and I shall return prosperously to my father’s house, the Lord shall be my God; and of all things that Thou shalt give me I will offer tithes to Thee.”
This being done, he continued his journey, and having come to a well near which three flocks of sheep were lying, he addressed the shepherds who were tending their flocks, saying: “Brethren, whence are you?” They answered: “Of Haran.” He then asked them if they knew Laban, the son of Nachor. They replied: “We know him: and behold! Rachel, his daughter cometh with his flock.” When Rachel drew near, Jacob met her in a friendly manner, and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well so that her flock might drink. He informed Rachel that he was the son of Rebecca, her father’s sister. She joyfully ran home and announced the glad tidings to her father who, coming out, embraced Jacob and then conducted him to his house. Jacob remained twenty years with Laban, tending his flocks with great care and fidelity. But Laban tried, by various unjust means, to withhold from Jacob a part of the hire to which he was justly entitled. Nevertheless, God blessed Jacob, and he became rich in flocks, and herds, and servants.