“Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58)
Reading: John 8:48-58
Dear gracious and eternal God, we come before You, acknowledging Your eternal wisdom in planning to save us through your son, Jesus, who was there in the eternal past. Jesus openly stated that, “before Abraham was, I am.” Sometimes we are preoccupied in our little worlds and ignore the truth of the Gospel. We are concerned about now, about here and about ourselves. Lord Jesus, free us from our preoccupations and bestow upon us the freedom of the Gospel. The Gospel frees us to not to be bound by the here and now but to connect with the eternal past and eternal future.
Lord Jesus, help us to remove ourselves from making our own lives the center of our universe so that we may center our lives on Christ. In this season of Lent, help us to repent of self-centeredness and renew our commitment to Christ-centered living.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
The season of Lent has typically held a special place in the life of the Church. Beginning with Ash Wednesday and culminating in the events of Holy Week, Lent is an invitation to focus on what is central to our faith. It has also become a time for personal and spiritual reflection on who we are as God’s people and on what God has given us so graciously in Christ.
In earlier times, Lent was a time to prepare for receiving Baptism. More recently it has become a time to lift up in worship and education the core teachings of our faith or to explore some of the major personalities who surround Jesus on His journey to the cross.
This devotional booklet is meant to enhance and enrich our Lenten observance. We have chosen two themes. One is a selection of biblical passages in which God is addressed as the “Great I Am.” The other is a selection of passages in which we are addressed as God’s people, “You are…”
It is our hope that, as we reflect on these passages from God’s Word, our faith in God may be strengthened and our commitment to His Word renewed.
It is also our prayer that, as we move from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week, we may join the two disciples of Jesus as they cried out, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 ESV).
The Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, Assistant to the Bishop for Missions
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked (CEV) are from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission. Scripture quotations designated NASB or NASB95 are from the New American Standard Bible, © the Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Scripture quotations designated ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Samuel 14:1–17 (ESV)
Absalom Returns to Jerusalem
14 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart went out to Absalom. 2 And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner and put on mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 3 Go to the king and speak thus to him.” So Joab put the words in her mouth.
4 When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and paid homage and said, “Save me, O king.” 5 And the king said to her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 And your servant had two sons, and they quarreled with one another in the field. There was no one to separate them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7 And now the whole clan has risen against your servant, and they say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed.’ And so they would destroy the heir also. Thus they would quench my coal that is left and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
8 Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9 And the woman of Tekoa said to the king, “On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.” 10 The king said, “If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.” 11 Then she said, “Please let the king invoke the Lord your God, that the avenger of blood kill no more, and my son be not destroyed.” He said, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”
12 Then the woman said, “Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” He said, “Speak.” 13 And the woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. 15 Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid, and your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. 16 For the king will hear and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together from the heritage of God.’ 17 And your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest,’ for my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!”
Psalm 79 (ESV)
How Long, O Lord?
79 A Psalm of Asaph.
1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2 They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those around us.
5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call upon your name!
7 For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.
8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
2 Timothy 2:14–26 (ESV)
A Worker Approved by God
14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Scripture is the primum principium; it is [Luther writes] “in itself the most certain, the most accessible, the most readily understandable (book) which interprets itself and approves, judges, and illumines all (words) of all.” It must “reign as queen.” (18)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.