Third Sunday in Lent

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon


We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect Commentary

The verb, "to beseech", is more appropriate than the verb, "to ask", when addressing Almighty God, our Creator and Judge, because it presents us as his loyal subjects and servants. After all he is the King of all kings and Head of all presidents and we speak in this prayer of "thy Majesty".

Before praying this prayer we need to be spiritually prepared to address God. We call ourselves "thy humble servants" and humility is not a normal characteristic of our souls. It comes after due self-examination and penitence before God. Further "hearty desires" (praying with earnestness, fervour and sincerity) only arise when we are bowed before God in the right spirit.

The petition is for the omnipotent Lord God to defend us against all our enemies. While this always has reference to some human enemies, it also covers the spiritual enemies (Satan and his assistants - Ephesians 6:12) who seek to damage our covenantal relation of grace with God the Father through Jesus Christ. "The right hand of thy Majesty" echoes various petitions in the Psalter (see Psalm 138:7 & 74:10-11); but, it also refers to the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is One with the Father; and it is, of course, in the Name of this same Jesus that we pray, for he is our Mediator before God the Father Almighty.

Let us in Lent celebrate the power of God to bring us into his kingdom of grace and save us from our enemies. "Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power; thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemyÖThou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them" (Exodus 15:6,12). As this Collect is fulfilled in us we shall walk in love (Ephesians 5: 1-14) and we shall be preserved from Satan and Beelzebul (Luke 11:14-28).


Epistle Ephesians 5.1-14

BE ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish-talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks: for this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them: for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light; (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them: for it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.


Gospel St Luke 11.14-28

JESUS was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say, that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in, and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.