Thursday, March 19th

Thursday, March 19th

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition" Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition .... And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. Mark 7:6-9, 13A

Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on .... What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering." Luke 11:39-44, 52

Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him .... “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows." “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool." Isaiah 1:4, 11-18

God is very serious about his people entering into the fullness of all he has called them to. The Isaiah passage shows God speaking through Isaiah against his people and their religious practices in Old Testament times. The Mark and Luke passages show Jesus speaking against his people and their religious practices when he was here on earth between Old Testament and New Testament times. What would be heard if God were to speak now on the overall state of his people and their religious practices today (still New Testament times)? Very likely, it would be quite similar. What is it that happens to God's people along the way on their journey towards fulfilling what God calls them to? First, they move from trusting in God to trusting in their religious practices (much of it is rooted in things to which God called his people originally). Second, they no longer see their need for God's redemptive provision. And third, they live however they want as long as they appear (to other adherents) to be what they need to be in terms of the system of religious practices to which they adhere (look for these things in the passages above).

What happens with God when his people take this track? First, he dispises their religious practices because they become empty and superficial. Second, he cannot get near to his people because their hearts are far from him. Third, he condemns (judges) the hidden evil practices of his people while offering redemption to those who are on the outside looking in (look for these things in the passages above). This is exaxtly what was happening in the story of Levi (Matthew) from Luke chapter 5.  How easily God's people settle for religious practice and the downward spiral of all the goes with it. Thankfully, God is calling to himself a people who will simply and genuinely love him and other people (Sound familiar? - Luke 10:27). God is merciful and we are benficiaries of that mercy. He has called us to himself and he is extracting us from all (legalism or license) that would keep us from the simplicity of love for him and others. And we are entering into the fullness of all that he has called us to.

Thank you Lord, for your mercy and patience. Thank you that we are neither those on the inside looking out (Pharisees and teachers of religious law) or those on the outside looking in (sinners/scum). We are redeemed! We are in Christ! We are lovers of God and lovers of people! You have delivered us from ourselves and religious systems. Dear Lord, cast out from our lives all vestiges of anything outside of your precious love and marvelous grace.

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