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Daily Devotion for April 29, 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 pretty hymn is sung by the choir of the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School in Singapore.
Prayer for the Work of This Day
Almighty God, thank you for the work my hand may find this day. May I find gladness in all its toil and difficulty, its pleasure and success, and even in its failure and sorrow. I would look always away from myself, and behold the glory and the need of the world, that I may have the will and the strength to bring the gift of gladness to others; that with them I stand to bear the burden and heat of the day and offer you my work, as well as I may accomplish it, as praise.
Prayer for Goodness (based on Psalm 1)
Heavenly Father, who has given us the gift of your law, so that we might know our sin, and your Son, that we might be forgiven where we fall short: Give me the grace to remember your holy Word, when my surroundings tempt me to confusion and weakness, that I might more nearly approach true obedience to your will. Help me to resist the arguments of the ungodly; let me not be deceived by false beauty; and let me never replace the truth which you have put into my heart with the clever words of men. Through Christ I pray,
And now, as a little child, let me abide in you all this day, oh Christ, so that when you appear I may have confidence and not shrink from you in shame at your coming. For I know that you are righteous, and I am sure that I will be made righteous only by my life in you.
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.
Which Will You Feed?
Two natures beat within my breast
The one is foul, the one is blessed
The one I love, the one I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.
~ Tara Leigh Cobble
Exodus 34: 1, 10-21 (CEV)
The Versions of the Ten Commandments 
One day the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two flat stones like the first ones I made, and I will write on them the same commandments that were on the two you broke. . . .
I promise to perform miracles for you that have never been seen anywhere on earth. Neighboring nations will stand in fear and know that I was the one who did these marvelous things. I will force out the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, but you must do what I command you today.
Don’t make treaties with any of those people. If you do, it will be like falling into a trap. Instead, you must destroy their altars and tear down the sacred poles they use in the worship of the goddess Asherah.
I demand your complete loyalty — you must not worship any other god! Don’t make treaties with the people there, or you will soon find yourselves worshiping their gods and taking part in their sacrificial meals. Your men will even marry their women and be influenced to worship their gods.
Notes on the Scripture
The Exodus 34 Commandments
If you have not read the notes on the Scripture from yesterday, you might want to review them quickly as background, to better understand what we're talking about. Although we are reading through Exodus, we have taken a temporary tangent to explore the ten commandments more fully, because it will give us a deeper understanding of Exodus 20.
We saw yesterday that there are three, or possibly four, versions of the ten commandments, and that the Deuteronomy version is nearly identical to Exodus 20. But not the version in Exodus 34! These are substantially different, and furthermore, they are just as much the "Ten Commandments" as the Exodus 20 version. In today's Scripture, they are identified as the commandments written by God on the famous stone tablets. (See also Exodus 34:27-28.)
The laws given in the Exodus 34 version are more difficult to understand and apply to modern life than those in Exodus 20, which is why we never see them. In fact the Exodus 20 commandments seem so immediately understandable that too much weight is put on them. We do not live under the old covenant and our relationship to the laws of the Old Testament is different than it was for the Hebrews.
The First Commandment
The first commandment in Exodus 34 represents a considerable expansion of the "no other gods before me" rule. It is filled with practical and detailed rules of ways in which the Hebrews must ensure that they are not tempted into worshipping the fake gods of the tribes who inhabited Canaan at the time.
We can see immediately why this version is suppressed in favor of Exodus 20, for it is the antithesis of the modern notion of religious tolerance. It commands the Hebrews to destroy all physical signs of any false god. Yahweh intends that Canaan be exclusively Hebrew. Signs of other gods, persons who worshipped other gods, and all temptations to idol worship are prohibited.
Specifically, the first commandment forbids treaties with tribes who are engaged in idol worship, forbids eating meals with them, and prohibits Hebrew men from taking wives from among them. God does not want treaties, because having such idol worshippers living alongside the Jews would present a constant source of temptation. The two greatest of these temptations are — you guessed it — food and sex.
Sacrificial meals were huge banquets, where one might eat his fill of the best food available. If you have ever smelled the air when the neighbors were having a cook-out, you will appreciate how tempting it is, especially if you are hungry. God does not want His people to be tempted by food, when the temptation is a gateway to idol worship.
Even worse was the possibility of bringing heathen women into the heart of the Hebrew nation as wives. As experience has taught time and time again, a man seeing a beautiful and available woman every day creates an irresistible temptation.
The Hebrews had no racial barriers in marriage, but the religious barrier is here made absolute. An unconverted woman raised in the worship of Baal or Asherah might bring her idols and beliefs into a Hebrew household. The original Hebrew version of this verse actually uses the term "prostitution" to describe the idol worship that might result from such a union. Prostitution in this sense: In order to have a woman, a Hebrew man might be tempted to sell out his religious beliefs. As husband and wife, there would be pressure to compromise on religious observance.