Saturday, January 25, 2020

2020.01.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 15:1-20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who came to Jesus from where (Matthew 15:1)? What do they accuse his disciples of transgressing (Matthew 15:2)? Why—what were they doing? What does Jesus accuse them of transgressing (Matthew 15:3)? Why were they transgressing? What had God commanded (Matthew 15:4a)? What penalty showed God’s seriousness about this (verse 4b)? But what did they say one could do with something—thereby making it unavailable for honoring father or mother (Matthew 15:5)? What does the tradition end up doing to the commandment (Matthew 15:6)? What does Jesus call them in Matthew 15:7? Who had prophesied about something similar? With what had God said they were near to Him and honored Him (Matthew 15:8)? In what way were they far from Him? What did He say about their worship (Matthew 15:9a)? What made their worship empty (verse 9b)? Whom did Jesus call to Himself in Matthew 15:10? What did He say did not defile a man (even though the old tradition said so, Matthew 15:11a)? With what Scriptural teaching was this idea in competition (verse 11b)? What is the eternal problem with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:12-13)? What is their situational problem (Matthew 15:14)? Who else doesn’t see very well for the moment (Matthew 15:15-16)? What doesn’t defile a man (Matthew 15:17)? What does defile a man (Matthew 15:18-20)?
Only one standard can decide what defiles a man. Only one standard can decide what is morally good. Only one standard can decide how to worship. That’s the logic of these eleven verses.

The Pharisees were sure that the disciples were defiled, because they didn’t wash their hands because they ate. But they were fools. They thought that the “tradition of the elders” was an appropriate way of deciding what defiles a man. Jesus is going to give the Bible answer for what defiles a man—those things of which He lists examples in Matthew 15:18-20, things to which the laws for ceremonial cleanness pointed.

But before getting there in response to Peter’s question, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question of His own to expose their great mistake (Matthew 15:3)—setting up their own standards as equal to God’s. God’s standards are in perfect consistency and harmony with one another. Adding our own standards to His corrupts them and throws them out of balance. This was the problem with something that seemed very sincere: the idea that you could devote all that you did not need for yourself as a gift (probably to the temple, though Matthew 15:5 does not actually say). But their sincere idea conflicted with God’s moral law and the duty required unto parents.

And this was not the only place that they did this. Because they had added the standards of men to how to worship (Matthew 15:9b), they had rendered all of their worship vain (verse 9a), Why? Because when the heart honors God as God, it leaves the place of worship construction to God—to Whom it alone belongs. Their lips said words that sounded like honor, but by coming in their own way, they had failed to cede unto Him the place of true honor. And God declared a terrible verdict: “Their heart is far from Me.”

In Leviticus 10:3, God had described worship as drawing near to Him. How terrible a thing, then, to draw near in mouth but be far from Him in heart! When we understand what the Lord is saying here, we too will distrust all our own desires for worship, and resolve to follow only the Lord’s instructions, and as closely and simply as possible!
By what actions may your heart draw near to God in worship? What attitude is needed to match these actions? How does one prepare for or maintain such an attitude?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, LORD” or TPH131B “Not Haught Is My Heart”

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