Worship: What it is all about

As Jesus is teaching the people, He is taking to task the way the Pharisees and scribes have been enforcing man-made rules in the life of believers. He has discussed the ceremonial hand washing and the given of all possessions to God, just to keep everything to ourselves. Now He adds some depth to His lesson as He adds in the prophecy of Isaiah 29:13~The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they’ve been taught. (NIV) Matthew 15:8~You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. (ESV) Who among us is able to carry the weight of salvation, of living before God

What Isaiah said about people of his own day applies to hypocrites of Jesus’ day, and ours as well. Remember the Greek word (ὑποκριτής hypokritēs) rendered hypocrites originally meant actors or people who hide behind masks. When we claim to honor God but our hearts are far from Him we are hypocrites. There’s nothing Christ Jesus despises more than people hiding in plain sight. His harshest words are always directed toward hypocrites. Many today are like the Pharisees and scribes, they knew a lot about God, even quote His Word, but they don’t know God in a personal way. They’ve never truly lived exposed before Him. Thus, they worship Him in vain. Matthew 15:9~and he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! (ESV) 

Christ Jesus describes the only way God wants to be worshipped in John4:24~ God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (NIV) Every believer ought to commit that to memory. Because worshipping God in spirit means that worship is not external, rather it is an internal act with outward manifestation. It is to begin in our hearts and radiate out of our lives. Worship’s neither ceremony nor rituals adapted over time. It does not begin at 11 AM or end at 12 noon. 

Of the Psalms, only Psalm 90 claims Ole Mo’s pen, though tradition gives him credit for 11 Psalms, 90-100. and its Psalm 100 that helps us formulate a method of worship. Psalm 100~Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV) Worshiping God in truth is to worship Him in a way that is consistent with His Word, which is truth. John 17:17~Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (NIV) Traditions are not necessarily bad. But, when traditions are honored above the Word of God, they are an offense to God, a barrier to worship and fellowship with God, and they hinder our spiritual growth in Christ our Lord. Can you carry your weight? 

Perhaps today is a day of release, where you take time to release to God what seems to weigh you down as you exchange it for the garment of praise. Isaiah 61:3~To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. (KJ21) You, my friend, are a tree of righteousness, sure you may feel, at times, like a little sapling, but you are still a tree. Take time to give God the praise He deserves, worship Him today and joy will flood and fill your life. Try it for yourself!

The Promise

Yesterday, we contemplated the first command with a promise. It is #5 on the top 10 list and is found in Exodus 20:12~Honor (כָּבַד kabad) your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (NIV) Now the penalty for breaking this command is truly severe and it is found in Exodus 21:17~Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. (NIV) Boy, now that is tough to hear after the holiday gathering some of us just had? So, in a good spiritual exercise, today will take place after our devotional time together. Where we will answer why our stones are tossed at us in the driveways of our homes. We will gather to cast, lob, and hurl stones in an act of penance. Or perhaps we will pray and ask God to forgive and then call as we make amends. 

Now the Pharisees and scribes know these commands well. We read in Matthew 15:5-6~If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father. So for the sake of tradition you’ve made void the word of God. Christ Jesus reminds them, just because you say it is ok, doesn’t make it right. These were telling mom and dad, I can’t help because I gave to God. Hear me, honoring parents included financial support and care in old age, if necessary. The Scribes and Pharisees were eliminating their financial obligation to parents.

Jewish tradition permitted people to declare what they owned as Corban Mark 7:10-11~Moses said, Honor your father and mother…But you say, If a man tells his father or his mother…Corban (κορβᾶν korban) (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by tradition…(κορβᾶν korban) was an irrevocable oath, thus money and property were exempt from God’s command to honor parents. This claimed their wealth could only be used for spiritual purposes, though they still benefited from it. 

Jesus says, for the sake of tradition, they’ve revoked God’s Word, and He calls them hypocrites. Have you been a hypocrite recently? No, you say, perhaps it is the fact that we are standing in a shiny new year. A wonderfully wise mentor once told me that when starting a new year it was best to lay to rest those things that trapped and tripped me up in the previous year. Today, take time to let go of last year and embrace the year you have been given by God. A lot can happen in a year, so don’t be afraid if it takes a little bit of time.

Truth or dare?

What matters more to you, truth or tradition? As we arrive at the 15th chapel of Matthew’s gospel, we are met by that very question. Do we revere truth over tradition (15:1-9). The people pressed to touch the tassel, but the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to confront. When you come to Christ Jesus, why do you come? Is it for truth or tradition? Many have just celebrated some of the deepest traditions of our family or our in-laws. Perhaps one tradition is dry turkey. Why do we celebrate with dry turkey? Because they, do you have a “they” in your family? They cook it every year, it is tradition. Maybe the current cook would serve better as a wrapper? But alas it is tradition. 

Matthew 15:1-2~Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands…(ESV) I mean come on, sounds like a perfectly fine tradition. Anyone here today against washing hands? Yeah, a good 30 seconds of sudsing and rinsing. So, what is the big problem? Scribes and Pharisees aren’t talking hand washing, but hand washing. Ceremonial hand washing wasn’t a hygienic need or even part of Ole Mo’s Law. No, it’s a man-made tradition. Good men who loved God, develop a new process that became a cumbersome part of daily law. Where one was required to have water be poured on both hands with the fingers pointing up. A symbol of recognition that we need cleansing from above. Then the whole process got repeated with fingers pointing down, signifying humility.

In the New Testament, Paul writes about such traditions saying I was an up and comer. Galatians 1:14~I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for tradition (NIV). Not the Father who is our Heavenly Father, but those who taught him as fatherly figures in the faith. The Pharisees and scribes had more reverence for man-made traditions and give them precedence over God’s Word. Therefore, Christ Jesus responds by asking, why do you break Ole # 5? 

Matthew 15:5~He answered them, And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? (ESV) Well, what is the 5th command? You have: 1) No other before God, 2) No idols, 3) No name using or calling, 4) Keep my day holy, 5) is found in Exodus 20:12~Honor (כָּבַד kabad) your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (NIV) Christ continues in Matthew 15:4-5~…Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die. But you say, If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, (ESV) This command does not just apply to young children, but also to anyone whose parents are still living. The Hebrew (כָּבַד kabad) translated honor includes speaking respectfully to parents and showing care for them as long as they live. 

Is there anything that you need to say to your parents. For those of us who have lost one or both, we have lots of things we would like to say or hear them say. The Bible not only teaches us to respect them, but it also teaches us that we are not to leave things undone. Take time to pray today and ask God if there is something you need to say to someone or if you need to ask for forgiveness. Today is a great day to do just that, do you know why? It is the last day of 2019 and you can leave it and the whole situation behind you in the last year (2019), just by doing it today and starting truly fresh tomorrow, in a brand new year. Happy New Year to you.