Week 3, Part 1: Lessons From The Pharisees Cont’d
Day 1: Eating with Dirty Hands – Matthew 15:1-20; Isaiah 9 (15-17); Mark 7:1-23 Isaiah 29
It seems the disciples were always disappointing the Pharisees. They just had a knack for doing exactly the wrong thing. It makes me laugh because, honestly, I have a feeling I would have been right there with them! Never quite measuring up to their standard. But that’s just the thing, the Pharisees were using the wrong standard, over and over again.
In Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23 we find that, not unlike many an orphan, the disciples occasionally ate – you guessed it – with dirty hands! Gasp!
The Pharisees were truly offended by this. They came to Jesus and said, “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” Matthew 15:2
Wait a minute. What did they transgress? It wasn’t the law of God, it was the tradition of the elders! Jesus didn’t let them get away with this. His immediate response was, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3) He goes on to explain how they had manipulated and altered the command to honor father and mother with the addition of tradition that pretty much let a son or daughter get away with all kinds of disrespect, and in turn the parent was to regard it as a gift! (Sadly, our culture is not void of that sentiment today.)
Jesus went on to point out the real problem, “Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” (See Isaiah 29:13)
Throughout the book of Isaiah, God addressed the problem of the elders of the land leading the people astray. In Isaiah 9:13-17 God states what the problem is and what the result will be – the fatherless and the widows will suffer:
“For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts. Therefore the Lord will cut off form Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and honorable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed. Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for everyone is a hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”
OH, how grievous! Tears come to my eyes as I think about this passage. Why? Because it has so clearly happened in our own nation! We get so caught up in all the trappings: the music, the programs, the numbers, the standards… Oh, the standards. How often do we turn away a dirty-fingered child, when we have an opportunity to reach their heart! I am all for godly standards. If you know me, you know that. But when dress and music and even childlike behavior cause us to either turn away those who are seeking and in need of a Savior, or to avoid them, we have stepped onto dangerous ground. How quickly we forget that we were once that dirty-fingered little child. Dirty fingered. Dirty toed. How quickly we forget that Jesus stooped down and washed the disciples’ feet. That He actually wore the towel that he used to wipe the dust away. That He bled and died to wash away our sins.
Jesus went on to say to the people, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” He was trying to get the people to understand that while the elders were focusing on traditions that would clean the outside up, God was focused on cleaning up the inside.
In Ezekiel 33:31-32, God tells Ezekiel how the people will respond to the message God gives him, “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”
The whole issue comes down to this: They honor God with their lips and their mouth, but not their heart. They love to hear God’s Word. It’s like a beautiful song to them. But they don’t want to do it… Many in our world today are the same. We go to church, we read our Bibles, we KNOW what God has commanded us to do and yet we do not do it. The result is that He turns His mercies away.
We as Christians for the most part have turned our responsibility to care for the fatherless over to the government, and we see the result. Instead of their eyes being turned to God they are turned to the agencies that have provided for them. How sad. How grievous.
What will we do about it? Some will read this series of blogs and simply turn away. Others will enjoy them, and still, they will turn away and do nothing. They are busy washing their hands and their cups and their tables, but what about the fatherless and the widows and the strangers. Who will hear and act? Will it be you?
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption