Tuesday, February 14, 2012

S120214 - Matthew 23 - Blessings for the humble; woes for the proud

Tuesday SOAP: Jesus' view of the religious leaders' offenses and rationalizations. Hard work, the appearance of virtue and self-denial, even the celebration of righteousness: they don't serve to absolve secret guilt. Standing between the people and God robs both the religious leader and the people of a real relationship with God.

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S: Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Mt 23:34-37).

O: Notice that Jesus says, "I send unto you prophets..." "....how often would I have gathered thy children together..." They probably think Jesus is simply being critical, responding to their attempts to make Him make a mistake. But He was laying out the charges He held against them and their kind. As there are 8 Beatitudes in chapter 5 describing the character of which God approves and how He will bless those found in that disposition, in this chapter there are 8 "woes" describing things that especially offend God and how they are responsible:

  1. They shut people out from God's Kingdom - and will not go in themselves.
  2. They devour the houses of widows and pray pretentiously - so they will receive greater damnation.
  3. They travel far and work hard to convert others to their ways - but they are children of hell.
  4. They swear and bind oaths by the gold and gifts of the temple - and so become guilty of swearing by God Himself.
  5. They scrupulously obey the laws they pride themselves in - but ignore the whole point of the Law.
  6. They require cleanness according to the Law on the outside of utensils and vessels, but are themselves without restraint regarding what goes into those things - robbing from worshippers and living in excess.
  7. They themselves similarly appear upright but are hypocritical and lawless on the inside.
  8. They honor the ancient prophets their forefathers killed for bringing them the very truth for which they wanted to kill Jesus Himself.

A: David understood the truth very well when he said, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." (Psalm 51:4) He wasn't really discounting his offense to Bathsheba and Uriah - he was confessing to a greater sin; offending God Himself. These are the grievances God brought before the scribes and Pharisees, who styled themselves champions of God's Word. Detailed defense of God's Word is not the problem, as v.23 demonstrates; the problem was making themselves the middleman between the people and God. This resulted in a form of idolatry which, ironically, ended up excluding the very God they claimed to be so zealous for -- and long before He came in the flesh.

P: Father, let the attitude of David's repentance permeate me: no defense, no justification. Running to you, confessing the worst possible version of an offense, but confident that you are still there with outstretched wings.

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