Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (February 16):  "Whoever does and teaches the commandments shall be called great”

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-37

17 "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away,not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does  them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of  fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison;  26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

27 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body  be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole  body go into hell.  31 "It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'  32 But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 "Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.'  34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply `Yes' or `No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

Meditation: Why do people tend to view the “law of God” negatively rather than positively? Jesus’ attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: “Oh, how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.” For the people of Israel the “law” could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The “law” also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus’ time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law. It placed burdens on people which God had not intended. Jesus, however, made it very clear that the essence of God’s law – his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled. The law of God is truth and when we live according to that truth it produces the fruits of righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy.

Reverence and respect
Jesus taught reverence for God’s law – reverence for God himself, for the Lord’s Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person’s good name, respect for oneself and for one’s neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master us. Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love – love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to men and women is possible to God and those who have faith in God. God gives us the grace to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think as he thinks, and to act as he acts. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin. Do you love the commands of the Lord?

Are you ever driven by anger, rage, or revenge? The first person to hate his brother was Cain. God warned Cain: ‘Why are you angry? ..Sin in couching at the door; it’s desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:6-7). Sin doesn’t just happen to us; it first grows as a tiny seed in our heart. Unless it is uprooted, by God’s grace, it grows like a weed and chokes the vine and all its fruit. Jesus addressed the issue of keeping the commandments with his disciples. The scribes and Pharisees equated righteousness with satisfying the outward observance of the law. Jesus showed them how short they had come. Jesus points to the heart as the seat of desire and choice. Unless evil and forbidden desires are eradicated, the heart will be corrupted. Jesus points to forbidden anger with one's brother. This is a selfish anger that broods and is long-lived, that nurses a grudge and keeps wrath warm, and that refuses to die. Harboring anger in the heart as well as anger in speech and action are equally forbidden by God.

Antitdote to anger and malice
What is the antidote to anger and rage? Mercy, kindness, and forbearance spring from a heart full of love and forgiveness. God has forgiven us and he calls us to extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief and harm. In the cross of Jesus we see the supreme example of love and forgiveness and the power of goodness for overcoming evil. Only God’s love and grace can set our hearts and minds free from the tyranny of wounded pride and spiteful revenge. Do you harbor any anger towards another person? And are you quick to be reconciled when a rupture has been caused in your relationships? Ask God to set you free and to fill your heart and mind with his love and goodness. Paul the Apostle reminds us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit we can overcome malice with good, hatred with kindness, and injury with pardon.

What does Jesus mean when he says “pluck out your eye “ or “cut off your hand and throw it away” if it leads you to sin? Is he exaggerating here? Jesus used forceful language to urge his disciples to choose for life – an enduring life of joy and happiness with God – rather than for death – an ongoing death to life itself and a total separation from a community of love, peace, joy and friendship with God. Jesus set before his disciples the one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is the conformity of our own will with God and what he desires for our well-being and happiness with him. Just as a doctor might remove some part of the body, such as a diseased limb, in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin  – to do what is wrong and harmful  – which brings corruption and inevitable destruction to heart, mind, body, and soul.

Jesus warns us of the terrible responsibility that we must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin – to do what is wrong and harmful. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Jesus teaches that righteousness involves responding to every situation in life in a way that fulfill's God's law, not just externally but internally as well. Jesus says that evil desires spring from the heart. That is why the sin of adultery must first be dealt with in the heart, the place not only of the emotions, but the mind, will, thought, and intention as well.

God’s intention and ideal from the beginning was for man and woman to be indissolubly united in marriage as “one flesh” (see Genesis 2:23-24). That ideal is found in the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve. They were created for each other and for no one else. They are the pattern and symbol for all who were to come. Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal (see Mark 10:2-9). Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus gives the grace and power of his Holy Spirit to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life – whether married or single.

If we want to live righteously as God desires for us, then we must know and understand the intention of God's commands for us, and decide in our heart to obey the Lord. Through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit, the Lord writes his law on our hearts and gives us his power to live his way of righteousness and holiness. Do you trust in God’s love and allow his Holy Spirit to fill you with a thirst for holiness and righteousness in every area of your life?

“Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words and deeds may be according to your Father’s law and thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help.”

Psalm 119:1--5,17-18,33-34

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 you have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
17 Deal bountifully withyour servant, that I may live and observeyour word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keepyour law and observe it with my whole heart.


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