Daily Devotional for July 19-25
1 Peter: Dearly beloved: Be ye all of one mind, having compassion
one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise
blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should in-
herit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let
him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no
guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and
ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and
his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is
against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye
be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righ-
teousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror,
neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.
We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee for by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
(Practical Commentary this week) 1 Esdras:
THE prophet Jeremias had foretold that the captivity of Babylon would not last longer than seventy years, and that the Jews would then return to their own country. Daniel had renewed this consoling promise, and had added another prophecy of greater importance; namely, that from the day on which the order should be given to rebuild Jerusalem till the death of the Messias, there would remain only seventy weeks of years; that is, 490 years, so that the Jews knew not only the family from which the Saviour would spring, but also the city where He would be born, and the year in which He would die.
The severe sufferings of the captivity in Babylon, together with the exhortations of the prophets, particularly those of Daniel and Ezechiel, had brought the Jewish people to a sense of their duty. Wherefore it happened that in the seventieth year of their sad captivity, Cyrus, king of Persia, by a divine inspiration, issued an edict that all the Jews who were in his kingdom should go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the Lord.
He also restored to them the sacred vessels which Nabuchodonozor had carried away. Thereupon more than forty thousand Israelites, under the leadership of Prince Zorobabel and of the High Priest Josue, returned to Judæa, the name thenceforward given to the ancient kingdom of Juda, together with the remnants of the other ten tribes, which had joined themselves to Juda and Benjamin before the downfall of Israel. They immediately built an altar, and offered sacrifice every morning and evening.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer,
Cont. 1 Esdras:
One year after the return from captivity, the foundations of the new Temple were laid in Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites were there with their trumpets and cymbals, as of old, singing to the Lord canticles of praise and thanksgiving, while the people all rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when, after many years, the Temple was completed, it was consecrated and dedicated with great solemnity.
Many of the old people who remembered the former Temple, wept to see that the new one did not equal the old in magnificence.
But the prophet Aggeus consoled them with the assurance that the second Temple would be more glorious than the first, because the Messias, the Desired of all nations, would be seen in it, and would honour it with His presence. The same prediction was made by the prophet Zacharias.
About eighty years after their return from captivity, the Jews, by command of the king of Persia, commenced to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The Samaritans opposed them and tried even by violence to prevent the people from rebuilding their city. But the Jews prayed to God to assist them, and in order to prevent surprise from the Samaritans, divided themselves into two great bodies.
Those who were most brave and courageous they placed on the outposts of the city, well armed, in order to keep off the enemy, while those who were skilled in masonry and other mechanical arts carried on the work. At the end of fifty-two days all the walls and ramparts were completed. The Samaritans, seeing that the hand of God was there, ceased to trouble their neighbours.
The Jews, understanding that they had been successful in rebuilding the Temple and walls of Jerusalem in spite of so many obstacles, returned sincere thanks to God. And Esdras, the High Priest, having publicly read the law of the Lord, they all promised, with tears, to be faithful to it. For they had received a new and strong proof that God had forgiven their own sins and the ingratitude of their fathers.
O Lord come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me.
Commentary on the return of the Jews:
God’s Mercy to the people of Israel was very great. This faithless people had broken the covenant made with God, and had given themselves over to idolatry and a pagan way of living. God sent prophet after prophet to move them to repent, but the prophets were despised and persecuted, and Israel remained impenitent. At last the judgments threatened by God overtook His people. He punished them by letting them be carried off into captivity, but He punished them only for the purpose of converting them. When the Jews, full of mourning and sorrow, left their home, God gave them the comforting assurance: “When seventy years shall be accomplished, I will bring you again to this place. I think towards you thoughts of peace and not of affliction.” And after the Jews were converted to Him, and had renounced idolatry for good and all, He restored everything to them, their country, their temple, their worship, and their hope in the coming of the Messias. The whole history of the people of Israel is one continuous proof of God’s infinite goodness and mercy, one long chain of divine favours bestowed on a sinful nation, one long fight between divine mercy and human obduracy.
The Faithfulness of God is the ground of all our hope. He promised, through Jeremias, that His people should return to Jerusalem after a captivity of seventy years, and this promise was most literally fulfilled; for by a miracle God inclined the heart of king Cyrus towards the Jews, filling him with the fear of God, so that he issued an edict for the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the Temple. This instance of the faithful fulfilment of God’s promises ought to give us a great confidence that He will perform everything that He has said.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
Commentary on the Promises given by Haggai the Prophet (Aggeus) and Malachi:
The thirteenth promise of the Messias (through Aggeus) foretells the speedy coming of the Desired of all nations, and gives the assurance that on account of His Presence in it, the new Temple would be made more glorious than the splendid Temple of Solomon. Jesus Christ, God made Man, was presented in that Temple as a Child, stayed behind in it as a Boy of twelve years; and as a Man, He prayed and taught and worked miracles therein.
The fourteenth promise of the Messias. It might have been gathered from the prophecy of Aggeus about the glory which the Messias would shed on the Temple, that He would come with great majesty and pomp; but the prophecy of Zacharias made it plain, that, though the long-desired One would indeed be a king, He would not wield an earthly power, but would enter Jerusalem in poverty and simplicity (New Test. LX).
The fifteenth and last promise of the Messias is that of Malachias (2:11), where he prophesies that Christ shall be offered as a sacrifice and a clean oblation among the Gentiles in every place of the earth.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with Thy Glory.
As the government of the kings of Persia was exceedingly mild, many of the Jews remained in the kingdom of Babylon. God permitted this for the spiritual good of the Gentiles, so that the latter, being brought into daily contact with the Jews, might more easily arrive at the knowledge of the true God, and be instructed in the promises made concerning a Saviour to come.
It happened, by a special dispensation of God, that many of the Jews, like Daniel and his companions in former years, were in high favour with the kings of Persia, and made use of their influence to protect their countrymen and to propagate the true faith. At a certain time it pleased Divine Providence to employ in this way a pious Jewess, named Esther.
She lived in the reign of Assuerus, in the house of Mardochai, her uncle, who had brought her up from her infancy. Assuerus, having seen her, was pleased with her beauty and virtue, placed the crown upon her head, and made her his queen. But she, by Mardochai’s advice, left the king in ignorance concerning her nation. And Mardochai who loved Esther as his own child, came every day and sat at the gate of the palace (Fig. 58, p. 352).
Now it came to pass that two officials of the palace had conspired together to kill the king. Mardochai, having discovered the plot, revealed it to Esther, who immediately told the king. The affair being examined, Mardochai’s statement was found to be true. The two conspirators were hanged, and the facts recorded in the annals of the kingdom.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
(St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer excerpt)
Some time after, Assuerus raised a certain Aman to the highest dignity in the empire. All the king’s servants bent the knee before Aman and worshipped him. Mardochai alone did not bend the knee before Aman, as he would not give to man the honour due to God alone. Aman, perceiving this, and learning that Mardochai was a Jew, became very angry. To be revenged on Mardochai, he told Assuerus that the Jews were planning a revolt, and prevailed upon the king to publish an edict commanding all the Jews in his empire to be put to death, and their property to be taken away.
The Jews were terrified and began to weep and lament. But Mardochai told Esther of the edict, so that she might intercede with the king for her own people.
Then Esther said: “All the provinces know that whosoever cometh into the king’s inner court, who is not called for, is immediately put to death. How then can I go in to the king, not being called?” To these words Mardochai replied: “Who knoweth whether thou art not therefore come to the kingdom that thou mightest be ready for such a time as this?” Esther, therefore, praying fervently, and abstaining from food and drink for three days, resolved against the law, to go in to the king without being called, and thus expose herself to the danger of death.
O Come let us worship and fall down before Christ, O Son of God, Who didst rise from the dead, save us who chant unto Thee, Alleluia.