Keep the Gods Happy, Day 1

Today’s reading is drawn from Leviticus 2:9 and Deuteronomy 8:18

In the ancient Near Eastern world, people believed that the gods were initially quite content to live without human beings. The gods had created the cosmos for themselves, built cities and lived together in community. As time went on, however, they grew tired of feeding themselves, making clothes for themselves and building houses for themselves. Digging ditches for irrigation to grow crops was heavy labor.

They therefore decided to create humans as a slave labor force. The responsibility of humans was to care for the gods in every way. Rituals provided food and drink for the gods. Temples provided housing. The gods then became dependent on people to provide the luxury to which they were accustomed and which they deserved. In turn, the gods would provide for the people (so the people could provide for them) and protect the people who were caring for them. This defined the codependent relationship between the gods and humans in the ancient world. It was a need-based system and comprised the religious responsibilities that people had.

Besides the rituals and the temple building, the gods were interested in maintaining justice among the people, but not because the gods were inherently just or because of any sense of ethical right and wrong. Rather, the gods understood that if society was plagued by lawlessness, violence and disorder, the people would not be at liberty to carry out their ritual obligations. Thus there was a symbiotic relationship between gods and people (which may be called the “Great Symbiosis”), which was maintained for a smoothly operating ritual system, designed to keep the gods happy.

The difference in Israel was that even though they offered sacrifices to Yahweh, Yahweh did not need these sacrifices as food. In his covenant with Israel he promised to provide for his people and to take care of them, much like other gods did. However, what he required of them was not care and feeding, but covenant fidelity. We could therefore say that the Great Symbiosis was replaced in Israel by the Covenant Symbiosis.

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Angels We Have Heard on High Hymn Story:

 

The French carol “Les anges dans nos campagnes,” now known as “Angels We Have Heard on High,” is completely anonymous. It has always been printed with no known lyricist or composer. The beautiful carol tells the story of Christ’s birth, when the angel choir told the good news to nearby shepherds. The chorus, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” reflects the chorus of the angel choir that long-ago Christmas night.

Many years ago shepherds in the hills of southern France had a Christmas Eve custom of calling to one another, singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” each from his own hillside. The traditional tune that the shepherds used may have been from a late Medieval Latin chorale. It became the magnificent chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

The carol seems to be of eighteenth-century origin, since it was known in England by 1816. At that time James Montgomery wrote his carol “Angels From the Realms of Glory”, originally basing it on the tune of “Les anges dans nos campagnes.” “Angels From the Realms of Glory” was sung to the French tune until Henry Tomas Smart wrote a new tune for it in 1967.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” was first published in France in 1855. The English translation came seven years later, in Henri Frederick’s Crown of Jesus Music. This 1862 translation differed from the form we use now. The version we use today was first printed in a 1916 American carol collection entitled Carols Old and Carols New.

Devotional:

Sheep scattered around, the shepherds settled in for another quiet night, probably swapping stories as they watched the flocks. Then, in a divine moment, God burst into the night. Angels appeared, singing songs and speaking of the Savior’s birth. And suddenly, the shepherds’ ordinary lives were transformed-becoming part of a story that’s lived for thousands of years.

Angels We Have Heard on High” reminds us of this amazing night. In the beautiful strains of its chorus, this carol helps us experience a taste of what that angel chorus might have sounded like as it proclaimed the “good news.”

Christ’s birth certainly was good news to those simple shepherds. The Savior changed their lives forever. And God still loves to speak to ordinary people and transform their lives into something extraordinary through his grace.

As we sing of the angels’ great announcement, let’s remember that God still wants to announce the “good news” today, using people like you and me. Helping a family in need, sharing the gospel story with a prisoner, encouraging a friend who’s going through tough times-in these and countless other ways we can announce Jesus’ birth to the “shepherds” of our day.

Through our words and actions, we can show that Jesus still lives in the hearts of man. So in this Christmas season, and all through the coming year, let’s continue the angel song. Let’s tell the world all about Jesus, and how he’s changed our lives forever.

Facts:

Lyrics: Traditional French Carol
Lyrics Date: 18th Century
Translator: James Chadwick, Crown of Jesus Music
Translation Date: 1862
Theme: Christmas
Music: Traditional French Melody
Music Date: 18th Century
Tune Name: GLORIA
Arranger: Edward S. Barnes
Arranged Date: 1937
Key: F
Meter: 7.7.7.7.REF.
Scripture: Luke 2:14

Copyright © 2011 Center for Church Music

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Just For Dads

Listen up, boys, Day 1

Today’s reading is drawn from Deuteronomy 4:25-31.

Did you ever go to summer camp as a kid? And if you did, do you remember the first night when the Camp Director — I think those guys slept and showered with whistles around their necks and clipboards under their arms — stood up and announced the camp rules? On and on he would drone about not swimming alone, not leaving the camp grounds without permission, mess hall “etiquette” — something about how to scrape excess food off plates into coffee cans — and of course, the most important rule . . . no boys in the girls’ cabins. And it seemed like all the rules were for the boys and not for the girls. Remember?

The last thing the director said really sounded crazy. “If you follow these rules, you will have a great time here at camp.”

By the time the director was finished, you sat there thinking, “Hey, this doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. They’ve got way too many rules at this camp. Is this prison or summer camp? And what could he possibly mean about having a “good time by following the rules?”

Now, try to remember how you felt about the camp the day you were leaving. You were saying goodbye to guys you had met. You were telling each other that this was the best week of your life. You were remembering the great times you had had together. You were promising to stay in contact with each other . . . oh, sure you would!

Anyway, you had completely forgotten how you felt after the Camp Director’s rules on opening night. Only a few guys had actually disobeyed, and sure enough, they had experienced the pleasure of having their parents drive up to take them home a little earlier than planned. Following rules, you concluded, does make for good experiences. What a great lesson to learn as a youngster.

The Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land. Before they did, Moses put on his whistle and tucked his clipboard under his arm for a little speech. He warned them what would happen to them if they disobeyed God’s laws — much worse than being sent home from camp. And then he gave them an incredible promise. If, in your new home, you decide to truly seek God, you’ll find Him (see verse 29).

Can there be a higher goal for our families than enjoying God’s presence? Can there be a greater reward for following God’s rules? I don’t think so.

Don’t let the laws bog you down. The rewards of obeying them — living in a home where God lives — are well worth it.

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