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 WEB

I grew up 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. From hearsay, I had been told that the Bible says this, and the Bible tells us that, only to find later that it didn't. Apparently they had not read it either. I found reading the Bible for myself quite liberating. What I had mostly been taught were the traditions of men (Mark 7:7) that had been verbally passed down through the generations.

The Pharisees in the above scripture were a strict religious sect that followed the written law of Moses, but also an oral law called the 'Oral Torah.' They believed that the written law of God was incomplete, and so unwritten traditions were debated, refined, and expanded on. Rules were created to prevent Jews from breaking the law, and then that became taught alongside the word of God, as if it were the word of God. These new laws began to be passed down through the generations as the word from God. It was a mixture of God's word and the traditions of men, and few knew the difference.

The Pharisees developed an extremely elaborate tradition for hand washing 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, what it was to be poured from, how it was to be poured over the hands, how high the pitcher should be above the hands while pouring the water, and required washing each hand several times up to the elbow.

The Pharisees condemned the disciples of Jesus for not practicing this hand washing, the 'tradition of the elders.' Jesus knew the word of God, He was, and is the word of God (John 1:1). When Jesus had to face satan, His weapon was 'It is written.' The Word is our weapon and is only as powerful as your knowledge of the Word. Jesus, 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, and besides, 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, how they should style their hair, the music that they should listen to, the Bible translation they should read, the holidays that they should, or should not 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 re-make them in our image, no matter how distorted and bent that is. If they are like us, they must be alright.

Try to read the Word for yourself when you can or listen to it on audio. Do not trust what other people tell you without checking it 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, in order to use it effectively.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please reveal the areas in my life that need to be cleaned up and wash me from the inside out. Help me correct the areas that I am mislead in and let me see the differences between scripture and the traditions that have been handed down, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

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