Modern Day Pharisees

The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why don't your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?" He answered them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men'the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things. He said to them, Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition." Mark 7:5'9 WEB.

I grew up in the Bible Belt, and the first time that I read the Bible all the way through, I was amazed at what was not in there. I'd been told that the Bible says this, and the Bible tells us that, only to find later that it didn't. Apparently, they hadn't read it either. So I found reading the Bible for myself quite liberating. What I had mostly been taught were the traditions of men (Mark 7:7). They had been passed down verbally through the generations.

The Pharisees in the scripture above were a strict religious sect in Judaism. They followed the written law of Moses, but also an oral law called the "Oral Torah," the "traditions of the elders." Some smart people believed that the written law of God was incomplete. So unwritten traditions were debated, refined, and expanded on. Rules were created to prevent Jews from breaking the law of Moses. Then their new commandments became taught alongside the Word of God as if they were the Word of God. These new laws began to be passed down through the generations as the Word from God. Yet, it was a mixture of God's Word and the traditions of men. Few knew the difference, but Jesus Christ did.

For example, the Pharisees developed an extremely elaborate tradition for handwashing from a single verse, Leviticus 15:11. This verse speaks of washing your hands after a bodily discharge, which I happen to agree with. Soon they had laws about the purity and color of the water, the type of vessel it should be poured from, and how high the pitcher should be held above the hands. It also required washing each hand several times up to the elbow.

The Pharisees condemned the disciples of Jesus for not practicing this type of handwashing, the "tradition of the elders." Jesus knew the Word, for He is called the Word of God (John 1:1). When Jesus had to face satan, His weapon was "It is written." The Word is our weapon, yet it is only as powerful as your knowledge of the Word. Jesus Christ, who knew the Word better than anyone, called these Pharisees "hypocrites," meaning actors. Jesus' point was that no amount of external washing would ever make them clean, for their defilement came from the inside. Also, what they were teaching and practicing was "not written."

Fast forward two thousand years, and we have our own "oral law" to accompany the written scripture. Somehow, we know how people should dress, style their hair, the music they should listen to, and the Bible translation they should read. As well as the holidays that they should or shouldn't observe. In summary, we want them to be a reflection of us. We can completely ignore "Love your neighbor" and then tell them how to dress appropriately, which would be like us. We would remake them in our image, no matter how distorted and bent that is. For if they are like us, they must be alright. Do you see the problem?

Try to read the Word for yourself when you can, or listen to it on audio. Don't trust what other people tell you without first checking it for yourself (Acts 17:11). As the Word soaks into your spirit, it will come back to your remembrance later when you need it. If you have never heard it, then how can it help you? You have to first know what is written and what is not to use the Word effectively.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please wash me from the inside out, and reveal what I should change. Help me correct the areas that I am misled in and let me see the differences between scripture and the traditions handed down. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen!

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