Advent Devotionals - December 13th

Gradual
“Show thyself, O Lord, thou that sittest upon the Cherubim: stir up thy strength and come.  Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep.”

In 722BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire and went into captivity.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah watched what happened and prayed for deliverance.  Psalm 80, from which these words come, records that prayer.

There are two things that stand out in these two verses of Psalm 80.  First, the Lord is described as the Shepherd of Israel.  Second, the Lord is the One who dwells in the midst of His people.

Why do these things stand out?

Because they form two foundations for prayer!

“Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep.”  The Lord is their Shepherd.  Even though the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria, God is still their Shepherd.  As a Shepherd, He protects, provides, and guides.  But sometimes, when the sheep go astray, guidance doesn’t feel good.  Guidance comes in the form of correction and punishment, pulling wandering sheep back from a dangerous course in order to keep them safe.

Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).  

Jesus promises to protect, provide and guide us as we know and follow Him.  As our Shepherd, He will guide us in that lifelong process of becoming like our Shepherd until, at last, we are home, “before the throne of God” (Revelation 7:15).  In that day, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  

When we pray, we pray to the Good Shepherd who protects, provides and guides us, even as He lays down His life for us.  We can pray with confidence that God is always working for our good.

But how does He protect and guide us?

By being near us!  “Show thyself, O Lord, thou that sittest upon the Cherubim.”  In the Temple, the Lord was said to be seated over the cherubim whose wings were spread over the Ark of the Covenant that sat in the Holy of Holies.  The Lord dwelt in the midst of His people in the Temple as the One who made, and kept, His covenant with His people.

We do not pray to a God who is far off, unable to hear us, and uninterested in our lives.  We pray to a God who delights to dwell in our midst.  In the Old Testament, He dwelt in the Temple in Jerusalem.  But with the coming of Jesus, the Church is now the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  God not only dwells in our midst, God dwells within every believer.

We do not pray to a God who is far off, but One who said “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).  

As you pray, remind yourself of these two strong pillars for prayer!  God is your loving Shepherd who promises to protect, provide and guide, and He is “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Fr. Karl Dietze

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