This week's devotional may prove to be challenging to you so I urge you to prepare yourself in prayer.
Let's pray together.
Holy Father, you are God almighty. I would never know what pleases you if you hadn't revealed it from heaven through your word. Let your Spirit work in me as I read your word and open my eyes so I can see where I have let the traditions of men separate me from you and from your people. I want to know God and I want to live by His Word alone, help me to do this oh Lord...........Open your Bibles to Mark 6, and read verses 53 - 7:13, Read it over again until you comprehend the issues in the text.
In Christ's Name Amen
Since Mark 3:6, the Pharisees have been plotting Jesus' death. When they come to hear Jesus, it is only to find fault with his actions and words so they can accuse him before the people.
During the time of the Babylonian captivity, pious Jews had realized that God demanded obedience to The Law of Moses. They determined to provide a safeguard to insure the no one would chance to break The Law, by developing a collection of rules that would form a protective "hedge" around The Law. Now since it is always easier to keep rules than it is to have a living obedient relationship with God, the list of rules began to grow both in length and in esteem until it filled volummes (the Talmud), and came to be regarded as equal in authority with The Law of Moses.
After 400 years, to many people, the rules took precedent over The Law of Moses, and by keeping the rules, even a wicked man could look pious. It became commonly accepted that a rule keeper (a Pharisee), was holy and righteous in his observance of The Law, and even if he did wrong, he could always excuse it, by citing a rule that seemed to put his conduct in the right with God.
Now if the Pharisees could generate such a system in 400 years, what do you think The Church could do in 2000 years?
I remember when I first began to seek God. I determined that I would know The Truth, and that I would only attend THE TRUE CHURCH. To accomplish this, I read the New Testament with the single purpose of obtaining a list of Scriptures that would identify THE TRUE CHURCH by it's doctrine, worship, and activities, so I would know it when I saw it.
When I finished my research, I was astonished to find that that there was only the briefest description of what happened in a Biblical worship service, and as for activities, everything looks good on paper, so how could I know that these people were truly Christians and not just "members of a church-like organization?" Really, there was no way I could check out the official teaching of the some 600 denominations in the U.S.A., and I realized that I was asking the wrong question and using The Bible in the wrong way.
My first priority was to BE a true Christian, and regard God's Word as a revelation of Him, and not a jumbled up book of rules that I had to sort out and get strait in order to know what He wanted of me.
Do you put your faith in the correctness of your Church?, or in your own relationship with God? Do you regard your salvation to be based on the blood of Christ and your living viable faith in His grace?, or is it based on your willingness to "follow the rules?"
In our text today, the Pharisees publicly accuse Jesus, followers of being unclean before God because they didn't observe "THE TRADITIONAL RULES" about washing before eating. Jesus, knowing that these rules did NOT come from God, and that keeping them DIDN'T make one right with God, openly exposes their unrighteousness by citing Isaiah 29:13. If you have time, go ahead and read Isaiah 29 and see the depth of the rebuke Jesus gives them.
The words "They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.", are sobering because they state that when men hold to their own rules rather then keeping the requirements of Scripture, even their sincere worship is useless and unacceptable to God. Oh brothers and sisters, here the words of Jesus,
Mt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Jesus illustrates the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by citing "THE RULE OF CORBAN", to show how they set aside the law of God to follow the traditions of the elders. To understand corban think of somebody watching a horse race. He has a heavy bet on a certain horse. As the horses approach the finish line his horse is neck and neck with another to win first place. Overcome with anticipation and excitement over the desire to win big, he cries out "OH GOD, I PROMISE HALF MY WINNINGS TO THE CHURCH!!"
Now, he doesn't really have any intention of giving God any of his winnings even though he may be a Godly man. The vow was made without thinking, in the heat of excitement, and without thought or real commitment. Under other circumstances such a vow may have been uttered in anger, or in fear, or desperation.
The Pharisees considered such a rash vow binding, even if it caused great hardship on the part of a needy family member. Some Pharisees had even learned ways of twisting these rules to serve their greed. Jesus showed that keeping the commandment of God to "Honor your father and mother....", was a higher obligation than the commandment to "do everything he said", (Numbers 30:2).
In the same way we must strive to keep the most important things of Christ first.
1 Co 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
I challenge you in your desire to please God to examine your faith in the light of God's Word and to hold fast to all that is true. Don't allow your relationship with God to be hindered by traditions that are in conflict with the plain teaching of Scripture.