Daily Devotion for November 7, 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.
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.
To Be Free of Mental Distress
Lord Jesus, I find myself sometimes filled with depression and negativity over what I see as my failures in life; shame, guilt and anxiety beset me, and I grow sorrowful that I am not more, that I have wasted opportunities in my life. I sometimes feel worthless and helpless.
Help me, sweet Jesus, to turn my eyes upon you. Give me the hope I need, and help me face life with the courage of faith in you. You told your disciples to be anxious for nothing. I give to you my anxiety, Lord Christ, and lay my troubles upon your mighty back; and I pick up your burden, for you have promised that it is light, and that you are gentle and kind. Let me work for your glory and not my own, putting an end to the pain of my vanity, that I may serve you in joy and peace all my days.
Lord, in utter humility I thank you and glorify you, that you might hear the prayer of one so small as myself, amidst the billions of souls among billions of stars in one of billions of galaxies in your universe. Let me go forth in your peace, keeping your Spirit always in my mind; and bless me, I pray, that I might always follow your will and live in the radiance of your blessing.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Psalm 121:1-2 (KJV)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
Matthew 12:9-14 (ESV)
A Man with a Withered Hand
He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” — so that they might accuse him.
He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Notes on the Scripture
Matthew 12 starts with two successive stories about Christ transgressing the Jewish Sabbath laws, but this incident is quite different from the first, where his disciples were gathering corn to eat. Christ's defense in the former case was that men doing holy work were exempt. The Pharisees' interpretation of the law was correct, but they failed to realize that Christ fit under an exception. The theme of Matthew 12:1-8 was Christ bringing people to understand that he was the Son of God.
Here, the lesson is quite different. His reply is that the Pharisees are wrong in their interpretation and enforcement of the law. There is nothing evil or wrong with keeping the Sabbath; to the contrary, the fourth commandment is repeatedly and powerfully required by God in Exodus. Moreover, Christ has affirmed that the law is to be followed. As we saw in Matthew 5:
Jesus' crime, to the Pharisees, is that he claims not only a right to interpret the fourth commandment, but also, a right superior to theirs; and, he tells them, they have got it wrong. The Pharisees were not purposefully evil; they were dedicated to finding righteousness before God by following his laws.
They had, however, become strictly legalistic to the point of the tiniest distinctions. In the area of healing, Mosaic law allowed a person to prevent an injury from getting worse on the Sabbath, but not try to make it better. A bandage could be applied to a wound, but not a medicated bandage.
Christ tells them that these petty distinctions have blinded them to the greater messages of the law. But the Pharisees (or at least most of them) were also blind to something much more important: Jesus was the Messiah. Because they refused to recognize the signs, they conspired to destroy Jesus. Their cardinal mistake was failing to recognize Christ for who he was.
God knew they would not. God the Father, and Christ himself, knew that Christ would be executed by the Jews. One might fairly say that the opposition of the Pharisees was part of God's plan. He had given them the law, knowing that they would not follow it, to show them the sin of their actions; now he has given them a Messiah, knowing that they will reject and ultimately kill him, to show them the sin of their hearts.
On a more practical note, while Christ did not abolish the law, he certainly teaches a new way to interpret and enforce it. Love of our fellow man and service to others must be our guide when we read the law of Moses, second only to love of God. Christ will teach this explicitly later in his ministry, e.g. Matthew 22:34-40.