Daily Devotion for August 26, 2016
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.
The wonderful broad harmonies of Mennonite-style singing are perfect for this old hymn.
Lord, I come before you today and I thank You for all the blessings that You have given me. Many times my life is so full of busy work that I neglect my relationship with You: for that I am truly sorry. I know that You never neglect me, for if You did my very life would cease to be. Continue to pull me to Yourself, guide me in my journey, and hold me close in Your bosom until the day I come home to be with You forever. Be with me, and with those who pray with me, for although we are in different places around the world, we gather spiritually in Your name. May we feel your presence among us. In Jesus precious name I pray.
For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human race, O Lord; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth.
That, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Do I “see with my eyes, and hear with my ears”?]
May the God of peace, who declared victory over death by the resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ, make me perfect in every thought and act through His grace, that my life might be pleasing in his sight and that I might share the perfect peace that is only possible through Him, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
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.
One day you will wonder what was so important that you put off doing the most important things. ‘Someday’ can be a thief in the night.
~ Deborah Brown
Matthew 13:14-17 (ESV)
The Purpose of the Parables 
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Notes on the Scripture
. . . continued from yesterday.
I hope we didn't alienate too many people with all the big words and complicated history yesterday, but there is a point to it all. This passage from Matthew is a good illustration of some of the difficulties of Bible scholarship and interpretation.
The wording of the passage from Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-10) that Jesus cites in Matthew 13 is identical to the version of Isaiah in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint).
On the other hand, the more authoritative Hebrew version (the Masoretic Text) is different Whatever Bible you use will probably also contain the Masoretic Text version of Isaiah. Only Eastern Orthodox Churches still rely fully on the Septuagint. in a critical aspect, beginning:
Reading our Old Testament version of Isaiah, we might conclude that God tells Isaiah to make the hearts of the people fat and their ears heavy (or perhaps that God himself will do this) so that they will not see and hear God’s Word. God seems to have willed that people (at least at the time Isaiah prophesied) should not hear his Word, so that they might be punished. God always knew that the Hebrews would be unable to follow the law and would ultimately fail; it is a fundamental tenet of the doctrine of salvation by grace. (Galatians 3:22-24)
To complicate it even more, Mark describes this same incident differently, giving it the harsher tone consistent with Isaiah in the original Hebrew text. In Matthew, Christ appears to be reciting the Septuagint version, while in Mark, He appears to recite a more ancient Hebrew version (that would eventually appear in the Masoretic Text)! Thus, when we read this teaching in Mark, it appears that Christ speaks in parables precisely so that persons who are hard of heart will be unable to understand; while in Matthew, it appears that He creates parables, at least in part, to make the truth easier to understand for those with an open mind.
But as with all apparent contradictions in the Bible, the answer is that the contradiction does not defeat the truth of either statement. Mark and Matthew simply present different sides of the same coin. (This might also be seen as an antimonyFor people who are interested in such things, antinome or antinomy is a theological term used to describe an apparent incompatibility between two truths — two statements that are contradictory in terms of human logic and yet are both held to be true, because God's truth cannot be adequately explained by human logic.).
Christ was destined to be killed by those who refused to receive the Word; whether God foresaw that the Pharisees would be deaf to Jesus, or whether it was God's will that they be deaf, is one of those theological points that may be unresolvable to the human mind.
Matthew appears to allow the interpretation that Christ spoke parables so that those who were truly interested in finding God, those who had “ears to hear,” would find it easier to grasp; and at the same time, those who could not accept his divinity would not know what He was talking about. More specifically, at the time, those whose ears were closed were the Pharisees, people who could not release the concept that they would be made righteous by their compliance with the law, even though their hearts were corrupt and their lives full of hypocrisy.
And like so much of the Bible, Christ's words are as true of atheists and agnostics today as they were of Pharisees 2000 years ago. If you tell the Parable of the Sower to someone whose heart is closed to God, he will think it is nonsense. Most likely, though, anyone taking the trouble to read this page will find it illuminating and profound in its truth.