URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 20th December 2023

Wednesday 20th December 2023
O Clavis David (O Key of David)

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah 42: 1 – 9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
    until he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
    a light to the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord, that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
    I tell you of them.


Whose keys?

Every evening, at the Tower of London, which over the years has functioned as royal palace, prison, fortress, and tourist attraction, one of the Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters), escorted by a small group of guardsmen, proceeds to lock up for the night. They carry a set of keys to the outer gates for this purpose. En route, as part of a centuries-old “Ceremony of the Keys,” and using words that change only as monarchs do so, a sentry challenges the Warder and escort:

“Halt!“ “Who comes there?“
“The Keys“ replies the Warder.
“Whose Keys?“
“King Charles’s Keys.”
“Pass King Charles’s Keys. All’s well.”

The one who owns the keys is “King of the Castle.” And “king” who owns the castle decides who may enter and who may leave. When the Tower of London functioned as a royal prison some who were incarcerated there never left, or at least not alive. The one who held the keys dictated the fate of those imprisoned.

“O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open.”

As we look forward to celebrating Christmas, we’re invited to think of Jesus, God with us, Immanuel, as the one who comes to release prisoners. Like a monarch (such as David) Christ comes with the authority to open the doors and gates of the prison so that people can go free. To employ words from Isaiah, Christ comes, ‘to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.’ (42:7)

Today then, is a good day to remember those who are imprisoned:

  • Physically
  • Psychologically
  • Spiritually
  • Through difficult life circumstances

With the hopeful prospect that God works for their freedom and for ours.

He comes the prisoners to release in Satan’s bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst, the iron fetters yield.
                             Charles Doddridge (1702-1751)
Immanuel, God with us,
We pray for all who are imprisoned.
May they and we know freedom,
and may we all use it well so that “All’s well.”


Today’s writer

The Revd Dr Trevor Jamison, Minister at Saint Columba’s URC, North Shields


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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