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Friday, October 28, 2016

Daily Devotion for August 6, 2013

<i>Salt of the Earth - The Ace of Potholders</i> by Susan Shie, ca. 2008.
Salt of the Earth - The Ace of Potholders by Susan Shie, ca. 2008.



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

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.


Prayer for the Morning (Jane Austen)

Compassionate Lord, Your mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge; ripen for spiritual harvest. Let me this day know You as You are, love You supremely, serve You completely, admire You fully.

Through grace let my will respond to You, knowing that power to obey is not in me, but that Your free love alone enables me to serve You. Here then is my empty heart, overflow it with Your choice gifts; here is my blind understanding, chase away its mists of ignorance.


Penitential Prayer

O  blessed Christ, my teacher, my savior, my God: You have commanded me to love others as myself. Yet it is so often easy to see the faults in others, for I see their outside and compare it against what is inside me. I have inflated my goodness and importance in my own mind, but have judged others for the smallest shortcoming, and I am filled by foolish pride.

I vow by this prayer that I will strive to follow your Word, to forgive all who have injured me, to turn loose the petty resentments and grudges that poison the world with hatred, and to overlook the faults of others; and I ask to be pardoned wherever I have done injury to my brothers and sisters, who are your beloved children even though they, like me, are sinners. And I vow, when I fall short of your commandment, to seek out and confess my wrongdoing. Forgive me, Holy Christ, and help me to ever amend my life; this I pray, with faith in the grace you have promised to the penitent sinner.



Now unto him that is able to keep me from falling, and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

<i>Jesus Preaching</i>, tinted etching by Gustave Dore, ca. 1875.
Jesus Preaching, tinted etching by Gustave Dore, ca. 1875.

Proverbs 11:21 (ESV)

Though they join hand in hand, the wicked will not go unpunished;
But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 5:13 (ESV)

Sermon on the Mount - Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.”

Notes on the Scripture

Standard Christian theology, and Paul himself (2 Timothy 3:16), inform us that the Bible is “inspired”, but “inspired” means something very different than its everyday usage. It is a technical term, a translation of a Greek word that means, literally, the breath of God. The Bible is not a human work. The author is God; the function of Matthew, Paul, et al., is not authorial at all, but secretarial.

At no point is this clearer than in Matthew 5, where Matthew has recorded the words of Jesus; not the figurative breath of God, but the literal breath of Christ, God made human.

But there is a rub. As previously discussed, what we are reading has been translated at least twice. We may credit Matthew's own translation of Christ's Aramaic words into Hebrew as inspired Scripture, but the later translations from Hebrew to Greek, and then Greek to English, create problems.

First, they are the work of human beings — very smart, pious, educated human beings who often dedicated their lives to making the translations; but nevertheless, fallible humans. Second, the languages involved are very different from each other, and even worse, the Hebrew and Greek are ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek. There are, literally, words in the Bible that nobody alive knows what they mean.

And third, some of the Bible is written in idiom. If you have ever studied another language, you will know how difficult it can be to translate an idiomatic expression. It is impossible to both translate the words and also convey the gut-level meaning, the impact that the expression would have on a speaker of the original language. You might tell a non-English speaker that “Paul hit a home run” means “Paul did very well”, but it loses something in the translation.

Today we have a perfect example. The metaphor would have been powerful and struck an immediate chord to the Jewish listener 2,000 years ago. But to us, it is awkward-sounding; we have to work at it to get as much of the meaning as we can.

Salt has two primary functions. It makes food taste better; most kitchens today have salt in them for that reason alone. But even more important, to people who have neither cans nor refrigerators, is its power to preserve food from spoiling. The significance of salt to ancient peoples was enormous. It could mean be the difference between life and starvation. And knowing this, when we also consider who it is that Christ is addressing, the meaning becomes clear.

At the time, the salt of the earth would be the Hebrews, for it is they who preserve the word of God for the benefit of humanity. But they have lost their love of God in their hearts, and Judaism has become a formalistic religion where love of God has largely been lost to politics, greed, and personal ambition. Christ is telling the crowd that Judaism has become worthless. It is form without substance, salt without saltiness.

John the Baptist used a similar metaphor in his angry speech to the Pharisees: “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10)

The law of Moses, without love of God in one's heart, has no value and needs to be discarded. It has proven incapable of performing its function. And this leaves the rhetorical question: How is its saltiness to be restored? How can a religion that has lost its Godliness be renewed? The answer, as we know, will not be given simply in words, for the answer is standing before them in flesh and blood.

endless knot

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Today in Daily Prayer

Memory Verse

Matthew 6:3-4: When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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