Daily Devotion for April 13, 2013
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
This beautiful quiet intermezzo is taken from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, in a scene where a troubled woman hears music coming from a church. It makes a calming and appropriate background for prayer or meditation.
Prayer for the Day
Holy God, you have given me another day. Bring your Holy Spirit into my mind and my life, so that I may walk this day in your presence. Let me feel your presence throughout the day, remembering always that you sent your Spirit that you might be a living force in all I see and all I do. When I feel temptation or begin to stray, show me your path. Correct me, comfort me, let me live your will; that I may be happy in this life and blessed in the life to come. This I pray in the name of Christ, my Lord.
For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human race, O Lord; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth.
That, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
May the Passion of Christ be ever in my heart. May your law and your goodness guide my every thought, O Lord. And may the power of your Holy Spirit flow through my words and my actions today, and always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Proverbs 20:22 (The Message)
Don’t ever say, “I’ll get you for that!”
Wait for God; he’ll settle the score.
Exodus 20:1-3 (NKJV)
The Ten Commandments - Prologue and First Commandment
And God spoke all these words, saying:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.’
Notes on the Scripture
The word "covenant" is almost identical to the word "contract". The ten laws spoken by God to the Israelites at Mount Sinai are covenantal; the term "commandments" does not fully express the nature of the relationship they imply, for God's relationship with the Hebrews was a covenant. He does not impose commandments on the Hebrews; He has not freed them from involuntary servitude in Egypt, only to bring them into involuntary servitude under Himself. They must agree willingly, as we saw in Exodus 19.
Most people skim over the first words of today's Scripture, but they have real significance. When you write a contract, the first thing you do is identify the parties, and that is the first thing God does here: He formally recites who He is, and the "you" is unmistakable, in light of the previous chapter. There is nobody in hearing range except those Hebrews who have consented to enter into the covenant.
After identifying the parties, the second thing one must do to form a contract is to state what is called "consideration". The crux of a covenant is that both parties must give, or promise to give, something of value. "I promise to give you $500" is not a contract and a court will not enforce it, because it is entirely one-sided. It becomes a contract only when the recipient also makes a promise, e.g. to paint the first person's house.
And thus, the second thing God does is to mention His own side of the bargain. In exchange for the assent of the Hebrews to follow His laws, God has made promises to them. So the phrase, "who brought you out of the land of Egypt" has a specific purpose: to show that God has both the ability and the intention of keeping His promises.
God allows people to live without honoring His laws. The voluntary aspect of the ten commandments is difficult to see in Exodus 20, but clearly seen in Exodus (and Genesis) as a whole. Compare this to His treatment of the Egyptians, to whom he gave unilateral orders: Let my people go, or I will kill your first-born sons.
But God has not told the Egyptians "thou shalt not steal" or "keep the Sabbath holy", etc. Once they cease their enslavement of the Hebrews, He leaves them alone. They are allowed to live in such peace as they may find, worshipping myriad idols. Why does God tell the Hebrews they cannot commit murder and can have no other gods before Him, but not the Egyptians? It is because He has chosen the Hebrews, because He loves them in a special way. Why them? Nobody knows.
What we do know is that mankind has lived in sin, alienated from its Creator, since the time of Adam. For whatever reason, God chose this time to start a long-term project, the reconciliation of humanity to Himself. But it is covenantal, not unilateral: if Christ is the bridegroom, we must say "I do." If we want to have a relationship with God, we have to make an effort.