A PILGRIM’S JOURNEY
Most Illustrations from Pilgrim’s Progress and Dorè’s woodcuts
In our Lenten devotionals this year, we want to look at the whole idea of life as a pilgrim journey. So often in the Scriptures, the writers speak of the journey of faith and use images of travel to the Festivals in Jerusalem. One of the greatest classics in all of literature is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, having been translated into more than seventy languages and never having been out of print in more than 300 years! It is often the first book translated by missionaries after the Bible. Let me encourage you to read or re-read this great allegory during this season as a companion to these daily devotionals. (I love to read and re-read it in the old language because of the words and manners of description. It’s an education in the English language!)
The Christian observance of the season of Lent first appears in the fourth century, though fasting and prayer were a part of the exercise of faith throughout the First Testament. Since Sundays were never fast days, the forty-two days of the six weeks period had only thirty-six actual fast days. The result was four additional days were added to make the forty days. That is why the season of Lent always begins on a Wednesday. Since Easter Sunday was the primary time for baptisms in the early church, the catechumens, or those who were learning the Christian faith and preparing to be baptized, completed these forty days as the culmination of several years of preparation.
We began our reading in the Lenten season with passages in Genesis because we gain context as to why these days are even necessary. The Lenten season is about God’s Great Story of healing and redemption through Jesus’ journey to the cross. In the readings for the following days, we’ll be looking at various passages in Scripture that can give us insight into our own journey both toward the cross of Christ at Easter and our eventual “crossing” of the Jordan into the Promised Land (heaven). This will be a wonderful forty-six day journey and it’s my prayer that the Holy Spirit may be our Teacher and Guide as we pilgrims move through these intriguing days, along this most interesting path called faith. (We have devotionals on the six Sundays.)
Devotional overview: Each day has a passage of Scripture and a short commentary on that passage. There is a YouTube link with music related to the Lenten theme as well as a concluding prayer. Sometimes there is continuity in passages and discussions from day to day or during a whole week in an effort to give context to a passage of Scripture. C.S. Lewis warns us, “Do not live these days for things in your life that will end when you do.” That’s our prayer
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Ó Copyright Ó1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Ó Daniel Sharp 2023
Ash Wednesday – February 22 “Did God say?”
Scripture: Genesis 3:1-7
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Among other things, the season of Lent, which begins today with what is known as Ash Wednesday, brings us to a bold confrontation with human mortality, specifically your mortality and mine. As has been said, you and I are part the ultimate statistic, one in one die. On this cheery note we look at how we got into this situation because it wasn’t always this way. In God’s plan, people were to live forever . . . and we do.
We’d like to start this Lenten season with the question, “How did this business of human mortality come about?” Our passage contains the first question in the Bible by guess who? Right, the serpent, the ever-lying Satan. His words, “Did God really say?” And Eve’s and Adam’s response to that question is the beginning of the human problem that ended in our earthly mortality. But it is this same question from the serpent which comes to every person who has ever lived, sometimes in a slightly different version, but the bottom line is the same, “Can you trust God’s word?” Did you notice that the devil tempted Jesus with the same question at the conclusion of the Savior’s forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness? Can you trust God’s word? Satan comes at us with the same question. In appealing to people’s pride, it has been a very effective question since creation!
Can you think of a time when you asked yourself that infamous question? “If God is really God, then why does he allow . . .” Or “God promised to . . . but I surely don’t see any evidence of . . .” One thing is true about the serpent, he lies . . . always.
Music: “Lord, Hear My Prayer” Henry Purcell
Prayer: Lord God, our Creator, we thank you for your mercy in pursuing us when we chose our own path. Help us to see the truth when we are tempted to doubt your word, your character, or your promises. May we learn to know you and hear your voice better so that we may not be so easily deceived. Guard us with your Holy Spirit so that we may recognize the first inklings of deceit and lies about you. This we pray in the name of the Second Adam, who did not fall for the lie, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. –Daniel Sharp