Tag Archives: statutes of the Lord

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: Loving God with All Your Heart

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Reading from today’s Gospel:

So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”   ()

How did the scribes and Pharisees get so far away from the commandments of God with their rituals and traditions? What was missing? They really did not know or understand God. The Apostle John understood who Jesus was and what he was about. Reading from his First Epistle:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.   (1 John 4:7-11)

The scribes and Pharisees did not know the love of God. Thus, they did not know God because God is love. Why should rules, doctrines, and traditions take the place of love?

The Pharisees must have known deep down that they did not measure up to what God required. Thus, they laid heavy burdens on others. In that way, they could at least say to themselves that they were better than other people. Why? Because they followed the rules better? In fact, they made up the rules, but Jesus told them that they did not even follow their own rules.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.   (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

For the rules keepers, perhaps it it time to get to know God. The psalmist wrote:

You are the fairest of men;
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.

Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity.   (Psalm 45:2,7)

And the Book of James:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.   (James 1:17-18)

God made us to shower his love upon us. Can we simply accept his love and love him back? God is wooing us.He wants fellowship with us. Jesus is the bridegroom and we are his bride. Jesus speaks to us: these words:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.”   (Song of Solomon 2:13)

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Mose cautions the Israelites not to add to or distract anything from God’s commandments:

Moses said: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.   ()

This is exactly what the Pharisees did. Jesus said of them:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”   (Mark 7:6-8)

Do we do that today?

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Third Sunday in Lent

The Wisdom of God

In order for us to grasp God’s plan for our salvation we need to understand his wisdom. Worldly wisdom will never understand his plan. The Apostle Paul wrote:

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”   (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

The key to understanding God’s plan is the cross. It it the very foundation of God’s wisdom. The Pharisees did not understand this. They relied on their own wisdom. They held on to their interpretation of Mosaic Law. But they failed to understand even the law.

The very essence of the Law is that God must be first in our lives. In Exoodus we read

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.   (Exodus 20:1-2)

The Pharisees replaced God with their own gods. They understood that they must obey the law, but deep now they must have realized that they failed. So they redefined the to be set of rules that they thought they could follow. They made up the rules which they used to judge whether or not someone else was following their rules properly. What they failed to understand was the purpose of why the law was given by God.

The law was powerless to produce righteousness. The Apostle Paul wrote:

 as it is written:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
    there is no one who has understanding,
        there is no one who seeks God.   (Romans 3:10-11)

The law was given so that we might understand what sin is. Again, Paul wrote:

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.   (Galatians 3:23-26)

The law was our schoolmaster. It pointed out the problem. It could not solve the problem. The fulfillment of the law came only through Jesus. Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.   (Matthew 5:17-18)

Jesus fulfilled the law by the cross. He lived the righteous life that God, the Father, required of us. And he bore our sins upon the cross and took the punishment for them which we deserved. He became our Temple by making a sacrifice for our sins once and for all. In today’s Gospel we find Jesus cleansing the Temple by throwing out the money changers:

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:18-22)

The cross was and is both the wisdom and power of God. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.   (1 Corinthians 1:20-24)

The Pharisees were governed by a “worldly” wisdom, which was not a wisdom at all. It is a wisdom promised to us by Satan. He told Eve that if she ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge she would be wise, like God. This was a lie. The Apostle Paul contrasted the wisdom of God and of the world.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.   (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)

The best that the worldly wisdom could do was to “crucify the Lord of glory.”

Which wisdom are we operating from today? The world’s or God’s? We need to ask ourselves: Are we attempting to lesson the requirements of God’s law? We need the law to help us grasp the wisdom of God’s plan. In Proverbs we read:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.   (Proverbs 9:10)

We need to take sin seriously. The law teaches us that much.

Are we keeping score on others as did the Pharisees? This is a sure sign that we are missing the meaning of the cross. The cross was for Jesus to bear. But if we are to fully understand the power of the cross to defeat sin, we must understand that we have a cross to bear as well. Jesus said:

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.   (Luke 9:23-24)

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