Daily Devotion for February 28, 2014
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.
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.
Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.
At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.
Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.
Music and Lyrics by Robert Lowry, 1864
Prayer for the Morning
Blessed are you, O Lord my God, King of the universe, who removes sleep from my eyes, that I may see the returning light of the your day. I thank you for all that you have done while I was asleep, watching over me and all your children while we slept unaware, and I pray that my thoughts and acts this day may show forth my love and thanks for you and all you have done for me.
Help me through your Holy Spirit, that I may remember what you have taught me in the Bible and it may show forth in my every deed. Let me not wander into the hands of sin, nor into the hands of pride or perversity, nor into the hands of temptation, nor into the hands of shame, but steer my inclinations towards goodness and charity this morning and all the day. In the name of Christ I pray.
[Steer my inclinations towards goodness.]
Prayer for Strength
Holy Lord God, I truly want to carry your truth into the world as you have commanded us to do, and to live every moment of my life in your Holy Spirit. But sometimes I feel weak and discouraged, like it is too much for me.
Let me always remember your words, that we should put on your armor and be strong, not in our own power, but in the strength of your might. Help me to stop calling on my own power and learn to call upon the power of your Spirit, that dwells always within me and loves me, and waits only to be called. For I am weak, but your strength know no limit, and it is mine to have in your service. Embolden and empower me to fight evil wherever I may find it, and to tell the world of your grace in Christ Jesus.
May the God of hope fill me and all of us with the joy and peace that comes from believing, so that we may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
The Danger of Knowledge
You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.
~ William Wilberforce
Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
John 2:13–16 (ESV)
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.”
Notes on the Scripture
This scene takes place in all four Gospels. But in John, it occurs in the first year of Jesus' ministry, whereas in the Synoptics it occurs shortly before the crucifixion. John, though, is unusual in many ways, and it is beyond the scope of today's commentary to get into all the differences. But we have seen how Matthew focuses heavily on Jesus' ministry in Galilee. The adult Jesus does not come to Jerusalem until Chapter 20 (of 28), whereas John is set almost entirely in Jerusalem.
One might conclude either that John intentionally reset the cleansing of the Temple to an earlier time, to fit his gospel's unique structure, or that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice. Both John and Matthew were eyewitnesses, so it is not likely that either of them did not remember when such an attention-grabbing event occurred. My personal thought is that John relocated it to emphasize a thematic truth — that this was primarily a sign of Jesus' divinity rather than a cause of his crucifixion — and he considered the chronology irrelevant.
The broad meaning of the events is immediately apparent to even a first-time reader. The house of God is not a house of trade; it is a house of prayer. Profit-making enterprise should not be allowed, as it tends to corrupt the purpose of the building. “You cannot serve both God and money (mammon).”
As to the specifics of the event, the Temple had many courtyards, which decreased in size and increased in importance until one reached the Temple building and the Holy of Holies, a small room where only the high priest entered once a year. The largest was the Court of the Gentiles, open to the public, and it was there that the trade booths were set up. But people prayed there, and, in fact, it was the only place that Gentiles could pray to the God of Moses.
You might remember that Mary and Joseph sacrificed two pigeons or doves at the Temple when Jesus was an infant. (Luke 2:22-24) The trade in sacrificial animals was enormous, and although one was assured of getting a blemish-free animal, prices were up to 15 times higher than they were on the outside.
Money changers had an even better racket, because the Temple refused to accept many forms of currency, including the animal vendors and the temple tax collectors. Commission rates were high. Some of the profits were kept by the individual businessmen, and some given to the Temple itself. But worst of all, some of all the money went straight to Annas, the high priest and power broker of the Sanhedrin.
This is the only time we see Christ resort to any sort of violence in the entire New Testament. He will not raise a hand to protect his own life; he will not protest paying a tax he does not owe; he will not so much as speak against the civil authorities. But when the purity of worship is corrupted, he becomes vehement. He will not allow it to be desecrated by trade.