Devotion for December 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Seven Seals

Disturbing Imagery

DECEMBER 18, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 34:1-2, 8-35:10

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

Revelation 6:1-17


Isaiah 34 tells the destruction of Edom, a traditional foe of Judah.  Then, in Isaiah 35, we read of the return of exiles from Judah.  There is bad news for some, but it is good news for others.

The reading from Revelation contains part of a vision in progress.  To read the chapter in isolation is to miss what precedes and succeeds it.  The Lamb (Jesus), worthy to break the seals on the scroll, does so.  War, pestilence, and death dominate much of the world.  The martyrs wonder when God will avenge their deaths.  And nature itself seems to come apart.

The imagery, which is disturbing, draws heavily from the Hebrew Scriptures and recent (for the initial audience) events.  The eruption of Mount Vesuvius might have informed the chapter, for example.  And pestilence and death were contemporary in the Roman Empire.  Revolutions erupted in Roman Palestine from time to time, so violence was a recent memory.

How do we interpret disturbing recent events?  Often we seek to see divine wrath in them.  Sometimes we are correct; at other times we are imagining things or adding two and two, arriving at the sum of five.  Yet some timeless lessons persist.  Among them are:

  1. God is in charge, and
  2. Perpetual disobedience to God will not go unpunished.

Especially violent imagery might appeal most to those experiencing oppression, for such imagery tells them that God will avenge them.  That analysis applies to the readings from Isaiah and Revelation.  Yet there is more.  All we need to do to find it is to continue reading.  May we do so.







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