Learning From the Pharisees

     The law was originally given to the Israelites prior to their entering the promised land of Canaan.  Approximately a millennium after their Babylonian captivity, two major sects emerged within the Jewish people.  One of the sects was the Pharisees.
     The Pharisees arbitrarily added numerous traditions to the basic Mosaic Law which they considered carried the same weight as the original law delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.
     Jesus exposed the Pharisees during His earthly ministry for the hypocrites that they were.  Their self-serving traditions were in reality ways to avoid or nullify the actual Jewish law given by God.
     In Matthew’s gospel Jesus was quickly confronted by local Pharisees and when they didn’t prevail other Pharisees from Jerusalem confronted Jesus attempting to stop Him and discredit His message.
     “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread’.”  Matthew 15:1-2
     The conversation began with the Pharisees asking Jesus why His disciples didn’t obey their (Pharisees) self-imposed traditions.  Jesus’ response was quick.
     “He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition’?  For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who cursed father or mother, let him be put to death’.  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God’ – then he need not honor his father or mother.”  Matthew 15:3-6a
     Jesus confronted the Pharisees with the basic truth that they had devised a self-serving law, i.e. a traditional loophole that relieved them from obeying the original fifth commandment of honoring one’s parents.
     “…Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”  Matthew 15:6b
     In today’s environment it is the same as passing legislation that seeks to protect a woman’s right to choose as a means to bypass the sixth commandment, i.e. ‘Thou shall not murder’.  The motives are the same and the result will be the same.
     Jesus continued his discourse with the Pharisees.
     “Hypocrites!  Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:  ‘These people…honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandment of men’.”  Matthew 15:7-9
     Jesus’ disciples were concerned that His lack of political correctness may have offended the Pharisees.
     “Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying’?”  Matthew 15:12
     Jesus’ response to them stands even more relevant today.
     “But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone.  They are blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch’.”  Matthew 15:13-14
     Note that ‘every plant’ which has not been planted by God will be uprooted.  That very clearly defines the future of any such contemporary traditions devised by man that are contradictory to God’s words.
     Also note the words that follow.  Jesus said to let them alone.  That describes the type of God’s wrath entitled ‘abandonment’.  In other words, God says to let them suffer the consequences of their disobedience.  And the consequences would also apply to those others who would be led astray by their influence.
     “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”  Matthew 23:13
     The Pharisees were/are without excuse.  The Jews were specifically instructed not to add to God’s word.
     “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe.  You shall not add to the word…nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God…”  Deuteronomy 4:1-2
     The instructions were exceedingly clear, i.e. the law was complete and there were to be no additions or subtractions from that law.  God had given the law and man was to obey it.

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