Thursday, August 07, 2008

Let's Ignore God's Word, 'kay?

I keep hearing the words of Yahshua to the Pharisees and scribes:
'They worship Me in vain,
teaching as doctrines the commands of men.'

"Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men."

He also said to them, "You completely invalidate God's command in order to maintain your tradition!"
-- Mark 7:8-9
We, at least in my church culture, have tended to think of the Pharisees and the scribes as a group of people who have completely disregarded the scriptures in favor of their particular doctrines. We do this because in the 20th Century, one of the dominant emphases of the Church of Christ was to highlight how the different denominations had adopted denominational creeds and statements that carried more weight for their members than did the actual scriptures, whereas the Church of Christ was focused on using the Bible only as its source of religious authority. We have thus tended to think that the Pharisees and scribes were doing the same thing as our modern denominations.

But the Pharisees and scribes had great reverence for the scriptures. The problem is that the scriptures didn't always agree with one another. For example, one scripture might say, "Do no work on the Sabbath", while another might say "Circumcise your male child on the eighth day, even if that falls on a Sabbath". So the quandary arises: do you keep the law to avoid working on the Sabbath, or do you keep the law of doing the work of circumcision?

So the Jews, over the centuries, had developed an oral tradition to decide how to apply these conflicting scriptures. It was on the fine points of these arguments that Yahshua got in trouble with the Pharisees: "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4).

It was in the context of one of these disagreements that Yahshua made the claim that the Jewish religious leaders were invalidating God's command in order to maintain their tradition. The Pharisees and scribes were trying to be scriptural, but in so doing, they had elevated their logical conclusions to a level that actually superseded the intentions of scripture.

In conjunction with these thoughts, I keep thinking also of church leaders who have elevated their logical conclusions to the point where they insist that their members refrain from doing things that are "out of the ordinary", even if those things are Biblical. I'm thinking in particular of raising hands in worship (I found yet another example of this last night in Psalm 134:2). This practice is very Biblical, found in both the Tanakh ("Old Testament") and the New Testament, even commanded of men in 1 Tim 2:8. But our "traditions" have relegated that to a cultural practice that should be set aside in the 21st century:
Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.
That scares me.

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