Old Testament Reading: Genesis 7 & 8
Psalm Reading: Psalm 6
New Testament Reading: Matthew 5
I bet on more than one occasion you’ve heard the famous English proverb, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from making his bread.” or more likely the abbreviated version, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” More than one study confirms that people who consistently eat apples are more likely to be heart healthy, but in its literal application, adding one apple to your diet, even before bedtime, won’t do much. Sure, the fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants will benefit your body, but the dose within a single apple is far less than what your body requires to maintain peak performance. Additionally, the method of which you take your apple provides an important caveat. If you are eating an entire apple within a cobbler or pie, you might be doing more harm than good to your body. Those who consume whole raw apples are far more than likely to ingest other vitamin rich foods that collectively are making an impact on their overall health. In this way, we follow the spirit of this wisdom, more so than the verbatim message, so we can truly benefit from the richness of adages.
Jesus addresses the rules given to man in the Old Testament in a similar fashion in the second half of the Sermon on the Mount. While God’s law never changed, Jesus points out problematic observances of rule-following, apple-pie-eating, ill-intentioned Jewish culture of His time. Simply fulfilling the letter of the law is no longer the bar. God demands we go further than what has been said, or maybe “heard”. You shouldn’t murder, but likewise, you shouldn’t wish your enemy dead. You shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage, but lust shouldn’t find a home in your eyes and heart. You only have permission to divorce out of marital infidelity, not simply because it is no longer convenient. Additionally, keeping oaths, giving consequences, and loving your neighbor, all are presented in a new light.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. – Matthew 5:22
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. – Matthew 5:32
But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. – Matthew 5:34, 35
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. – Matthew 5:39, 40
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44
If our intention is the Kingdom of God, then the motives for our actions are equal to the actions themselves. Being “good” receives us the praise of men, but the battle that matters to God is the one happening within. As stated previously in this week’s devotions, we do not serve a God of chaos, but of intention and order. We stick out like a sore thumb when our purpose differs from our action. He knows the motivation of our heart, and he can easily identify whether it is ego or altruism that is guiding the course. He is not looking for us to consume a few bushels of apples. God is looking for the holistic, sacrificial worship of handing our lives over to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He is asking we look beyond the letters and the adages, and take on the fullness of His diet. Consuming God in every moment will lead to fulfilling the law (no murder, no adultery, no vanity), but truly I tell you, fully filling the spirit of them means we love our neighbors and enemies, our word is our bond to others and God, and we go the extra mile for the opportunity to speak Christ in word and deed, increasing the company traveling along the straight and narrow.
- What were the problems with how the Old Testament law had come to be interpreted and lived out? Do you see any of those problems in your own actions and heart?
- Jesus clearly states he didn’t come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17-19) – how would you describe what Jesus did instead? And why?
- Which of the new updates poses the biggest challenge to you? Why do you think Jesus included it?
- In your Bible reading today what does God (who gave the law to Moses, and also gave authority and ministry to His Son Jesus) reveal about Himself?