Friday, January 25, 2019

The "Woes" Continue

Jesus is powerfully listing the qualities found on a false teacher's resume. While false teachers and leaders do not advertise their intentions, we must be discerning as followers of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 23, Jesus denounces the Pharisees with a list of seven "woes." It is interesting that He uses the number seven, for I am sure their egregious failure to lead God's people exceeded that number. One article commented, "Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things." (https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/the-number-7-in-the-bible/)

I surmise that Jesus deliberately choose the number because it rang of the seven days of creation, and how His Father's design was "good."  Yet, the Pharisees have, with their teachings, defiled the beauty of the Creator.  How?  By leading people into a world of works, duty, obligation, hypocrisy and lies.  In essence, they have re-created the world in their image.  

The word "woe" is aimed at the Pharisees, because it is in the dative case, according to Strong's. Jesus is not, as I understand it, saying "woe" to everyone listening.  It means "alas" and carries with it a denunciation along with grief.  

It is clear why Jesus said, "woe" and then showed them to error of their ways:  in the future, the very Temple they claim to represent will be destroyed.  In the near future, the very Torah they uphold will be twisted to kill the Messiah.  In the near future, they very Gentiles they despise with all their ungodly ways will become partners in crime, and the King of Glory will be killed in a very Roman way.  

Let's listen in, and apply His words to our study of false teachers:  

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matt. 23: 13-14)

You, church leaders, are actors, who wear a mask and claim to be someone you are not. The very meaning of the Greek word "hypocrite" (hupokrit├ęs--"stage player") is played out in what you teach and do. Your followers see you from a distance, as they sit in your “theater” and you seem real to them. But behind the scenes, where your followers will never be allowed to go, you are fake. When you leave the stage, and your mask comes down, you are committed to deception for personal gain. You prepare your followers for hell and despise anyone who tries to remind you of the Truth.  You will be held accountable for leading people into the abyss of false teaching. 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (Matt. 23:15)

You want to have people follow YOU, to reinforce your belief that you teach the truth. If you have followers that means you can’t be wrong. But Satan has more followers than you can imagine. Does that make him right?
“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.” (Matt. 23:16-22)

You hand out pledge cards, donation buckets, request credit card numbers and promise people that if they donate to you, and do so abundantly, they will be blessed. It’s as if you teach I am compelled by your followers’ faith to enrich your ministry. But I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I have deep riches in My Son. I do not need anyone’s faith to release My goodness; My unfailing love and mercies are new every morning, long before you utter a word. My Son is the greatest gift I offer mankind. But you want money placed on your altar, into your temple, into your life. But I give a far greater gift, My Son and His salvation, Who calls forth dead souls and brings them to life. 

Gold disappears.

Altars decay.

Temples fall.

But My Word is eternal.

You forget that in your frenetic grab for temporal things. 

Jesus is not just denouncing the false leaders of His day; He grieves for them as well: "Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’" (Ezek. 33:11)

God wants His children to see the error of their ways and return to Him: “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!" (Ezek. 18:30-32) 

This is the beauty of what Jesus is offering. In Ezekiel, God promises a heart of flesh for a heart of stone: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezek. 36:26)

The New Covenant, one of grace and sacrifice of God's own So, stands before the false teachers of every generation and says, "Repent and live."  

The Pharisees desperately needed to hear it.

Our false teachers desperately need to hear it.  The days are darkening and time is running short. 

We will continue with the next verses soon.  Bless you!

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