Daily Devotion for February 26, 2015
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
Oh God, who has created all things, seen and unseen, this day is your creation and I give thanks to live in it. I pray that I will not shut you out of the day you have made, blinded by the petty concerns of life, but that I may be always open to your presence.
I open my body to you, for it is your breath that fills and warms the lifeless clay.
I open my eyes and ears to you, thankful for the light of your Word, which has brought me out of the shadow of ignorance.
I open my heart to you, aglow with thanks for your love, filling me with compassion, understanding, and peace.
I open my soul to you, grateful for your Spirit, who fills me with wisdom when I take a moment to listen.
All that I am, I open to you and I return to you, giving thanks every moment of my life for the blessings that fill this day. Through Christ I pray.
A Prayer for Lent
Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of Your Son's death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Prayer for Eternal Life
Almighty God, with whom abide the spirits of those who depart hence in the love of Christ, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; I give you hearty thanks for the good examples of all your servants, who, having finished their course in faith, now rest from their labors. And I pray to you that I, with all those who are departed in the true faith of your holy Name, may have my own perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[The meaning of Christ’s resurrection.]
Now, to God the Father, who first loved us, and made us accepted in the Beloved; to God the Son, who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; to God the Holy Ghost, who sheddeth the love of God abroad in our hearts, be all love and all glory in time and to all eternity.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Proverbs 4:23-24 (NASB)
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth
And put devious speech far from you.
Matthew 12:9-14 (ESV)
Jesus, the Scribes, and the Law 
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.
Matthew 23:23-24 (ESV)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV)
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Notes on the Scripture
The second Scripture quote above may seem to make very little sense, but it is sensible enough once explained. Jews were required to tithe in kind. A herdman with cattle, for example, would be required to give a percentage of his new calves to the Temple; a wheat farmer, a percentage of his wheat crop. Jesus here refers to the fact that the Pharisees would go to the ridiculous technical extreme of pulling ten percent of the leaves from a little herb bush (cumin or dill) in their garden, as part of their tithe. Yet they (or at least some of them) would turn a blind eye to frauds and mistreatment of the poor and weak.
Similarly, they criticize Christ for healing a human being on the Sabbath, because it violates their oral laws interpreting the Sabbath commandment; yet they will pull their own sheep out of a ditch.
Jesus was not contradicting the law of Moses when He did and said these things; He was contradicting the manmade law of the Pharisees. Christ did not abolish or relax an “iota” (the tiniest bit) of the Law.
So, keeping as our starting point that Christ did not abolish the law, why are we not sacrificing sheep or building temples? For certainly, the Law of Moses requires it.
The answer lies in the word “fulfill”; one might also say that much of the Law was “satisfied” or “completed” by Christ.
The easiest example are the laws regarding sacrifice to atone for sin. Christ was the perfect sacrifice, final and sufficient to atone for the sins of the entire world. (Hebrews 10:1-10) The laws about sacrifice have been satisfied or fulfilled, not abolished.
The other way in which we do not follow the letter of the Law of Moses is when Christ transformed it. For example, the law requiring the death penalty for adultery is “still on the books,” as they say. So why do we not execute adulterers? Because part of the gift of grace from God, the forgiveness of our own sins, was that we forgive the sins of others. (Matthew 6:22) It is for God, not us, to judge adultery, and He will impose the penalty or grant mercy.
Another set of laws was transformed by Christ; the most notable example is the Jewish law regarding impurity. Rather than being made unclean by what we touch or eat, we are now made unclean by what we do or say: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11)
This brings us to the primary reason for our discussion of Christianity and the Law of Moses. The lightning rod for the transformed aspects of the Law was circumcision. It visibly marked a Jewish man as one obedient to God and a participant in the covenant of Moses. Christ did not abolish the law of circumcision. But instead of undergoing minor surgery, being marked where other people can see it, Christian men (and women) must be “circumcised in their heart” where God can see it:
It is impossible to appreciate, or even understand, the Pauline epistles without a grasp of these concepts, so don't gloss over this. Paul's greatest doctrinal moments involve intense discussion of law and circumcision, and unless one grasps the meaning and significance of it, it makes utterly no sense.