Daily Devotion for March 21, 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.
Our “Saturday Oldies” performer is the great John Hurt, doing his interpretation of a traditional spiritual.
Prayer to Conform to God’s Will
O Lord God, I am so lukewarm towards you so much of the time, in so much of my life. I try not to admit it to myself, but I read your Word and I can see the gap between what you want for me and what I do. I make excuses. You tell us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, imitating Him in all we do, but the lure of property, politics, entertainment — all of the matters of this world — is powerful. I concern myself with them constantly, ignoring the plain and simple message of the Bible. I live too much in the secular world, anxious for status and concerned about my future.
Have patience with me, mighty God, and forgive me. Do not spew me out, as you have warned you might do with the lukewarm. Fill my soul with the fire of your Word and help me grow, to put more and more confidence in you and less and less in the world before me; forgive me my sins and help me to live in them less and less today, and every day, that I might more perfectly follow your commandments. In Christ's name I pray,
Prayer to Relinquish Shame
Oh Lord Christ, by your death and resurrection you have made forgiveness for my sin possible; and having confessed and repented of my sin, let me have confidence in your forgiveness. Let me not be ashamed; for to feel shame at my sin is to doubt your power. Rather fill me with faith in my salvation, that I may boldly praise your name before all the world, and live in love and constant growth in your Spirit and holiness.
[You have to walk that lonesome valley; nobody else can walk it for you.]
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you direct my way unto you, and make me and all of us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end that we may establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before you, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Proverbs 20:3 (NKJV)
It is honorable for a man to stop striving,
Since any fool can start a quarrel.
Exodus 20:12 (NKJV)
The Fifth Commandment
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
Notes on the Scripture
What Importance Do the Commandment of Exodus 20 Have?
The first four of the ten commandments address the relationship between God and man; the remaining six (beginning with today's) address the relationship of people to one another. This division underlies Christ's famous summary of the Law into two great commandments, e.g. Matthew 22:37-40.
The fifth commandment (like the fourth, keeping the Sabbath holy) raises an important issue: As important as Exodus 20 is for understanding God's will, it is neither complete nor fully original and is, really, a sort of Cliff's Notes version of God's law given to the Hebrews.
The first, second and fourth commandments were certainly given to the Hebrews before the ten commandments were engraved at Mt. Sinai. See e.g. Exodus 16:22-30. More importantly, there already existed "commandments", equal in importance to these ten. For example, while they were in Egypt, God gave the Hebrews a strict set of rules requiring the observance of Passover. If it occurs to you that they are not as important as these ten, just consider: a person who eats leavened bread at Passover must be thrown out of the congregation of Israel. Exodus 12:19
More a propos of today's passage, at several prior points God has imposed obligations on parents to instruct their children. E.g. Exodus 12:24-27. Instruction and discipline of children is probably a more fundamental duty than any of the last six "commandments", for the continuation of the covenant would depend upon it.
When we think about such issues as "what were the laws of Moses" and "what obligation do they place upon Christians today", turning to the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 is a cop-out. Too much emphasis on them means that we have not read the Bible. People like them, though, because they aren't "Jewish" sounding. We want to put them in a nice clean category, "rules that still apply after the coming of Christ", as opposed to, say, laws detailing the burning of goat carcasses as a sacrifice.
Reading and studying the actual text of Exodus will give us a much more accurate and deeper understanding of Old Testament law and its application to modern Christians.
That Your Days May Be Long
The gloss at the end of the commandment, "that you days may be long upon the land . . ", might or might not be intended to be tied to the specific commandment. "Your days" does not refer to an individual's lifespan, but rather, to Israel's occupation of the promised land under the protection of Yahweh. By inference, a child who honors his parents will learn and follow the precepts of a monotheistic and God-centered life; he will inherit the knowledge needed to please God and, under his parents' watchful eyes, learn to behave correctly in the eyes of God.
As a general principle of Biblical interpretation, however, the first mention of a principle informs what is to follow. As J. Edwin Hartell puts it in Principles of Bible Hermeneutics (Zondervan, 1947): "The first time a thing is mentioned in Scripture it carries with it a meaning that will be carried all through the Word of God." There is, we must remember, only one speaker in the Bible, although there are many mouths.
Which put more plainly, means that the reward of living long in the Promised Land applies to all of God's commandments, not only to the obligation of honoring one's mother and father. There lies a critical message, not only for a struggling, scruffy Semitic tribe over 3000 years ago , but also for us today. If a society is to prosper, it needs to pay close attention to God's moral law.