Daily Reflection

Daily Devotion for Tuesday 27th October

by Rev Jo Sweeney


Based on Romans 4: 9-17.

It used to be that I was never sure what a rhetorical question was. I did get a reasonable grade at GCE English (yes GCE! That what it was in my day) but there were a few things I still had to sort out for myself later on. The rhetorical question was one of them. That’s why I’m quoting verbatim from The Message. Right at the start of the passage we have perfect examples of a number of rhetorical questions, one after the other; questions posed by Paul when he knows perfectly well that his readers already know the answers. Paul is still trying to get across the fact that we enter into a closer relationship with God, not because we have accomplished anything of significance but because God wants to bestow on us his grace and favour. Eugene Peterson puts it infinitely better than I can so please read on.

9 Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don’t we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?

10-11 Now think: Was that declaration made before or after he was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision? That’s right, before he was marked. That means that he underwent circumcision as evidence and confirmation of what God had done long before to bring him into this acceptable standing with himself, an act of God he had embraced with his whole life.

12 And it means further that Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God does for them while they are still on the “outs” with God, as yet unidentified as God’s, in an “uncircumcised” condition. It is precisely these people in this condition who are called “set right by God and with God”! Abraham is also, of course, father of those who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision not just because of the ritual but because they were willing to live in the risky faith-embrace of God’s action for them, the way Abraham lived long before he was marked by circumcision.

13-15 That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.

16 This is why the fulfilment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.


As we’ve already learned from the devotions from Acts, this subject of circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law would mean Paul would have to speak out many times, stating clearly that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. So why then the need for Abraham to have to endure this awkward medical procedure if as verses 10 and 11 state that he was justified by faith before he ‘was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision’? Matthew Henry says ‘God was pleased to appoint a sealing ordinance, and Abraham received it as a special favour, the sign of circumcision’. Matthew Henry reminds us of the sacraments of which we partake. ‘They are signs of absolute grace and favour; they are seals of the conditional promises’. These are the promises we read of verses 13-15.

How blessed we are that we do not have ‘fill out the right forms’ to get close to God. Here’s a rhetorical question! Do you not think it is sad that so many people have never yet availed of God’s blessing of justification by faith?



Forgive us O Lord for trying to depend on our own achievements and accomplishments as a means of gaining your favour. Help us to learn from the example of Abraham who when he was told by you to move away from his homeland and go to an unknown destination he simply obeyed by faith. Lead us to those people who have never heard or who, up to now have paid no regard to the Good News that God loves them and Jesus died for them.   Amen


(Hardly a contemporary piece but I hope you’ll like it!!!)



O what a wonderful, wonderful day

Day I will never forget

After I'd wandered in darkness away

Jesus my Saviour I met

O what a tender, compassionate friend

He met the need of my heart

Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling

He made all the darkness depart


Heaven came down and glory filled my soul (filled my soul)

When at the cross my Saviour made me whole (made me whole)

My sins were washed away

And my night was turned to day

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul


Born of the Spirit with life from above

Into God's fam'ly divine

Justified fully thru Calvary's love

O what a standing is mine

And the transaction so quickly was made

When as a sinner I came

Took of the offer of grace He did proffer

He saved me, O praise His dear name


Now I've a hope that will surely endure

After the passing of time

I have a future in heaven for sure

There in those mansions sublime

And it's because of that wonderful day

When at the cross I believed

Riches eternal and blessings supernal

From His precious hand I received