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Daily Devotion for April 15, 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.
A Prayer of Entreaty by Jane Austen
Compassionate Lord, give us a thankful sense of the Blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by Discontent or Indifference.
Be gracious to our Necessities, and guard us, and all we love, from Evil this day. May the sick and afflicted, be now, and ever thy care; and heartily do we pray for the safety of all that travel by Land or by Sea, for the comfort & protection of the Orphan and Widow and that thy pity may be shewn upon all Captives and Prisoners.
Above all other blessings Oh! God, for ourselves, and our fellow-creatures, we implore Thee to quicken our sense of thy Mercy in the redemption of the World, of the Value of that Holy Religion in which we have been brought up, that we may not, by our own neglect, throw away the salvation thou hast given us, nor be Christians only in name. Hear us Almighty God, for His sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray.
Prayer of Thanks
Thank you, oh source of all abundance, for surrounding me with good things. But help me to remember that nothing of earthly value owns timeless truth. Let your immeasurable blessings transform how I perceive material benefits. Teach me to appreciate unchanging treasures: the wealth of your compassion, the grandeur of your wisdom, and the richness of reconciliation. Lighten my selfishness with simple faith. Help me to reveal your love more joyously. And strengthen me in grace, oh God, always to give the best that serves you most in humble gratitude.
Dedication to Service
Now, oh heavenly Father, I ask to be called as a witness to your love by the love I extend to others; a precursor of your justice by my unfailing commitment to what is right and good; a lamp set on a hill, reflecting the light of Christ in my forgiveness, mercy and compassion; and a harvester of souls through my humble and dedicated servanthood. In Jesus' name, I pray,
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.
“You must believe in God in spite of what the clergy say.”
~ Benjamin Jowett
Exodus 20:4-6 (NKJV)
The Second Commandment
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Notes on the Scripture
This is by far the most difficult of the commandments given by God at Mt. Sinai. It can be construed in several different ways. Strictly construed, most Christian churches flaunt it; Jews and Arabs, in fact, follow it more literally than we do. Jews will not depict a person or object in their temples and synagogues, and strict Muslims will not make such a depiction anywhere at any time! They do not make statues or paintings at all, and their beautiful artwork is either purely ornamentation or calligraphy.
The issues of interpretation drove a huge wedge between Catholic/Orthodox churches, on the one hand, and the extreme Protestant sects, such as Puritans and Anabaptists, on the other. During the Cromwell era in England, "Roundheads" — the Puritanical and anti-monarchist faction — would raid Catholic churches, burning paintings of saints and the Virgin, busting up statues and breaking stained glass windows.
The first cause of these difficulties is that God did not say: "Here are ten commandments: Number 1, 'Thou shalt not . . . " Dividing His laws into ten parts, even dividing the Bible into verses, was done by humans. These words can more logically be read as a continuation of the words preceding them, and we might get a more accurate picture if we call it the Nine Commandments.
Four Baal idols
Put the words "You shall have no other gods before Me" in the same paragraph preceding today's text and a more accurate picture emerges. God is talking about idol worship: building statues of Baal and sacrificing to them, building great Molochs with furnaces in the belly, building Asharoth poles, etc. This was a huge issue in the Old Testament, and the next 1500 years of Judaism would center on the struggle against such gods. For the Hebrews would constantly continue to lapse into actual idolatry up until the time of Christ; hundreds and hundreds of pages of the Old Testament are, at their core, the history of this struggle.
Compounding the difficulty of interpreting these words correctly is that, with the coming of Christ, the basis of faith changes radically; we are not bound by the letter of the Mosaic law, but have a duty to follow its spirit just as stringently as the Jews.
Thus, Christ would allow violations of the literal law; but, at the same time, He extended the scope of the prohibition in ways that would have astounded Moses. Primarily, Christianity has extended the general spirit of anti-idolatry to mean the primacy of serving God over serving the visible world. In a word, anti-materialism: "You cannot serve two masters . . . You cannot serve both God and money."
He had a greater reward in mind, eventually, the reward of victory over the material world and victory over death. But mankind could not make the leap directly. First, God had to train us to worship Him, and it was a supremely difficult task that took many centuries.
(Note: We will examine the issues here in more depth soon, as we read other versions of the ten commandments.)