Today I am reviewing Matthew 23 , it is late in the evening but my Father works and I work and I must press on. Matthew 23 is perhaps one of the most damning of Jesus’ view of those who should know better, in the house, in the family. Here he speaks against self righteousness, self adulation, self aggrandizement of the Scribes and Pharisees . He could be speaking about you and me. Behaviors and attitudes amongst the status quo of a religious sect described by Hayford in his own summary as ‘zealous missionaries of evil, habitual liars’, straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
Brood of vipers, white washed sepulchres – all very negative metaphors that Jesus used to bring the message home of how far they were away from God. The word is for us too. It highlights the dangers and perils if we continue to stiffen our necks away from the Truth. Here Jesus saw and perceived that there was much rendering of the garments, beautiful bordered garments they were – looking good on the outside but no sincerity of the heart. Lips were flapping and making sounds, but there was a disconnect with the heart of God. What should have depicted holiness and righteousness was instead a broken down temple, broken down walls , a religious den with men full of pride. Lazy sanctimonious miseries, fighting for position, prominence and power, but no real relationship with God. Religious men they were, stealing from widows and putting obstacles in the way of those who would desire to be free , be delivered and draw closer to God. Spawning and seeding cursed children modelling habits and behaviours much worst than what they had come to know or had been taught. This ought not to have been so.
Jesus lambasted those who sought grandeur and those who loved to sit in prominent places. As I am writing I reviewed my own behavior and asked the Lord to shine his light on it.
I am clear that Jesus wasn’t saying to sit at the front or the back of the church was how one judged or measured a man, but rather He is more worried about the reason behind any outward work, or decision making ie what is in the heart of that man or that woman. Is what they do for me or is it for men ? You can sit at the back of a church in a corner looking pious and still be a child of hell or on your way there.
In reprimanding and counselling Jesus was also not saying that his children should be stifled or silenced or not seek to advance . He says in his word to desire the best gifts and to excel in your gifting, but it is what is in your heart that matters. It is He (our God) who tries the heart and reins.
Jesus knew their hearts as they stood before him reading the word. He knew that knowing that the word was not enough, it was not finding any place in their hearts. There was no evidence of change. These were men who set up road blocks, traps; men who got in the way of others. Spreading their deadly poison they kept others stuck, prevented them from repenting or opening up , preventing others to grow or come to the knowledge of the one true son of God. Jesus was walking amongst them how he grieved he had wanted to do so much more but they refused and remained both deaf and blind.
These men were forked tongue hypocrites. On one hand kept the feast and ordinances, for big out crocodile tears – lamenting on how the former prophets had been killed, but doing their best to get rid of the blessed son of God. Jesus’ light shone and exposed their darkness and they couldn’t bear it – the scripture tells us they beat their chest and tore their clothes at the Truth.
That was the world then, sadly there are signs of this operative now across the collective of what should be the Body of Christ ; lets pray that the Lord brings us conviction where there is a need for same both on the individual and collective sense and across his Body.
Lord, all have sinned and come short of your glory and righteousness. For indeed your word declares that all our righteousness is as filthy rags before you. We can’t be made holy by our dress, our works our long prayers or our sayings.
Lord if there be any self willed or wicked way in us continue to reveal to us by the light of your word and by your Truth. Teach us to walk not as fools but as wise knowing the days are evil. Help us to set our affections on the things above rather than the things of this world. May our gaze be on you not for filthy lucre or on widows houses. Teach us how to clean out the cup so that you can come near to us and pour out your manifold blessings. Lord often you have longed to gather us, but we remain stiffnecked cold and hard hearted. Break down the idols of our hearts and homes. Get us out of the way. Remove the road blocks and traps we have set to manipulate , catch , slander or label others. Help us to be ministers of divine love , those that bring peace and joy rather than misery. Help us to be ministers that lift burdens rather than ones piling on more than others can bear.
Help us to be doers of the word rather than hearers or prescribers. Take away pride, self rule and pomposity. Stamp your own image your precepts and your laws, deep on our hearts.