Daily Devotion for August 14, 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.
With my head bowed low,
In the darkness as black as could be.
And my heart felt alone
and I cried, oh Lord,
Don't hide your face from me.
Hold my hand all the way,
every hour every day,
From here to the great unknown.
Take my hand, let me stand,
Where no one stands alone.
Like a king I may live in a palace so tall,
With great riches to call my own;
But I don't know a thing
In this whole wide world
That's worse than being alone.
Music and Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong,
Frank E Wright, III, and Michael Pritchard.
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 of Trust When We Feel Lost
Lord God, sometimes I feel like a lost child, alone in the woods or on a strange street. I cannot see the road ahead of me. I fear what lies in the shadows.
I have no idea where I am going. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself. And even though I am trying to follow your will, sometimes I can't be sure whether I am or not. Sometimes, I think, I am fooling myself. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and that you will direct me, even if sometimes I get it wrong.
I hope and pray that I will at least not do anything today that I am certain will displease you, and I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always. Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my troubles alone.
Now, oh Lord, I pray that you may lift up the light of your countenance upon me, and give me peace; in my going out and in my coming in; in my sitting down and my rising up; in my work and in my play; in my joy and in my sorrow, in my laughter and in my tears; until that day comes which is without dawn and without dark.
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.
Psalm 8 (New King James Version)
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen —
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Matthew 5:33-37 (ESV)
Sermon on the Mount - Oaths
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Notes on the Scripture
The meaning of the passage is straightforward; however, some background in the formalism that had developed from the law of Moses really helps us understand why we cannot take oaths.
Originally, the law was stated: “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word.” (Numbers 30:2) This is, in a way, an extension of not taking the name of the Lord in vain; for to tell a lie, while invoking the name of God as your surety, is as terrible a sin as idolatry.
But problems arose. Really, the law teaches that we should not lie at all. If we invoke God's name to emphasize that we are telling the truth, it implies that we are dishonest when we do not. This leads to a gradual devaluation of our expectations of honesty as a way of life, not to mention diminishing the dignity of God's name.
When a parent says, “I swear to God, if you don’t stop crying/go to bed/clean your room . . .”, what exactly is he saying? The oath is a cheap rhetorical device. It implies that the parent does not demand respect for himself, and, even worse, that he feels little reverence for God.
If we are honest people, we must insist that others recognize the fact. The early Jews used an oath to God in order to make Him a partner to a promise. But as Christians, Christ challenges us to live in His presence every second of our lives. He is a partner to everything we say and do.
The latter part of the teaching, concerning oaths on one’s head, for example, is a commentary on the emptiness of Jewish legalism. Swearing oaths to God had led to “evasive swearing”, the practice of trying to fool someone into thinking that an oath was made before God when it actually was not.
A Jewish merchant might, for example, swear that an article was genuine “or may I never see Jerusalem.” This made it sound similar to an oath to God, but because God's name is not mentioned, it was meaningless. And so, the merchant would think he was clever; he was lying but convinced himself that he was able, by trickery, to retain formal compliance with the law of Moses — the equivalent of a child crossing his fingers when lying. This is why legal formalism had become so corrupt, for the only real usefulness of such oaths is to deceive.
So: don't do it. Instead of speaking easy words, examine your conscience and then tell the truth. If there are fools who will not believe you, and instead believe a liar who makes an oath, that is their problem. Our fundamental goal, as Christians, is to correct our own conduct and leave Christ in control of the outcome.
The bottom line is that Christ Himself has told us to do something quite specific, and if you believe in Him, you will realize that if you do what He says, both you and the world will ultimately be better off.