26 November 2013

Nearsighted, much?

Scripture: Matthew 23:11-13, 16-24, 34-35

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,  but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar.

Observation: The Pharisees occupied themselves with and focused so tightly on minutiae, their spiritual and intellectual eyes grown so nearsighted, that they could no longer comprehend the full context of God's work and will because they had lost His Spirit.  They knew the religious law and they lived the religious law so others could see . . . but paid little or no attention to what was inside. They wholly missed the point.  It's very much like the three blind men asked to described an elephant, which they describe in terms of the tiny bit of the creature that they can feel, the first bit they each ran into, whether it was the ear, foot, or trunk.  And none of them knew what an elephant was truly like, because they did not take the time really find out. Comfortable in their blindness and in their portion of discovery, they each had their own answer to the character and attributes of an elephant, and each knew himself to be right, because he had firsthand experience. And they were all horribly, grotesquely wrong.

Application: How do I do this? How diligently do I search the scriptures, not to find single verses or phrases to support what I already believe, but to find further insight into the Truth that lives and breathes and loves me? How well do I stay aware of the overarching meaning and importance of God's law and will, as well as the principles taught in scripture? Is my heart open enough to His voice to be able to hear and obey completely what He tells me to do, even if it doesn't mesh with my own understanding, or those phrases and single verses whose context have been ignored, their meaning wrested and broken beyond recognition?

Prayer: Lord God of Heaven, open my mind.  Help me see Your will and Your work as fully as possible, to understand the context and full intent of your Word. Show me things the way You see them--give me that sanity that is founded on Jesus, and none other. I so want to be done forging my own path, following my own will.  Show me how to submit more fully, to follow without hesitation, to act without fear. Of anyone.  Let me trust You completely, and know for myself that You are on my right hand and on my left, my advance guard and rearward.  Thank You for showing me the way . . . for blazing the trail, if I would only just get on it already. ;o)  I love you, God of mine. Just, . . . thanks. So much. In Jesus' name, amen.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!