Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament book. WHEN GRACE SPEAKS TO THE MULTITUDES ABOUT LEGALISM! WHEN TRUTH SPEAKS TO THE MULTITUDES ABOUT HYPOCRISY! WHEN JESUS INDICTS RELIGION! WHEN JESUS INDICTS THE SCRIBES AND THE PHARISEES! WHEN JESUS SPEAKS ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS ELITE! JESUS SPEAKS TO THE MULTITUDES ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM OF HIS DAY! JESUS SPEAKS TO THE MULTITUDES ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM OF HIS DAY! “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou does is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will gave thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rules of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land” (Exodus 18:13-27).
MOSES SAT TO JUDGE THE PEOPLE! THE PEOPLE STOOD BY MOSES FROM THE MORNING UNTO THE EVENING! WHY SITTEST THOU THYSELF ALONE, AND ALL THE PEOPLE STAND BY THEE FROM MORNING UNTO EVEN? THE PEOPLE COME UNTO ME TO INQUIRE OF God! WHEN THEY HAVE A MATTER, THEY COME UNTO ME; AND I JUDGE BETWEEN ONE AND ANOTHER, AND I DO MAKE THEM KNOW THE STATUTES OF GOD, AND HIS LAWS! THE THING THAT THOU DOEST IS NOT GOOD! THOU WILT SURELY WEAR AWAY, BOTH THOU, AND THIS PEOPLE THAT IS WITH THEE! THIS THING IS TOO HEAVY FOR THEE! THOU ART NOT ABLE TO PERFORM IT THYSELF ALONE! BE THOU FOR THE PEOPLE TO GOD-WARD, THAT THOU MAYEST BRING THE CAUSES UNTO GOD! THOU SHALT TEACH THEM ORDINANCES AND LAWS, AND SHALT SHEW THEM THE WAY WHEREIN THEY MUST WALK, AND THE WORK THAT THEY MUST DO!
When you come to the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus having just engaged Himself in distinct confrontations and altercations with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In order to truly understand the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close and careful attention to that which precedes it in the twenty-second chapter. I have to admit that in all the years I have read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew I have never considered it in light of the words which are found in the preceding chapter. If there is one thing we must needs learn and understand about Scripture it’s that Scripture interprets Scripture and that context is absolutely everything when seeking to understand that which is found within Scripture. There are countless men and women who have tried and who are trying to understand Scripture without and apart from considering it in light of the context that surrounds chapters and verses within the Word of God. There are and there have been countless men and women who have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about and considering the words which are found within Scripture and yet they don’t take the time to truly understand the context surrounding a particular verse and/or a specific chapter. It is this reality and concept concerning context I am absolutely and completely convinced must needs be recognized and understood when reading the words found in the twenty-third chapter, for Jesus’ words concerning the scribes and the Pharisees come directly on the heels of specific interactions Jesus had with the religious elite of that day. What’s important to note is that beginning with the ninth chapter of this gospel we find Jesus beginning to find Himself at odds with the scribes, with the Pharisees, and with the elders of Israel because the words which He spoke, as well as the works which He wrought in the midst of the earth.
From the time the ninth chapter begins within this New Testament gospel until this particular passage we find Jesus being at odds with the religious elite during those days—and not only at odds with them, but at odds with them because of the words which He spoke, because of the works which He wrought, and even because of the actions which He and His disciples did. It should be noted that the scribes and the Pharisees took offense to Jesus’ disciples when they were walking through the field and not only picked ears of corn from the stalks, but also began eating them on the Sabbath day. It must also be pointed out that almost around this same time the Pharisees would seek to cast judgment and condemnation upon Jesus for being a man who ate, drank and fellowshipped with publicans and sinners. What’s more, is that later on within this gospel narrative you will again find the Pharisees being offended with the disciples of Jesus because they did not wash their hands before eating—that which they viewed as being a clear violation of the tradition of the elders. Perhaps one of the single greatest condemnations, accusations and judgments the religious elite passed and cast upon Jesus and His disciples was their apparent disregard and seemingly blatant opposition to the tradition of the elders. Time and time again within and throughout the life and ministry of Jesus we find Him at odds with the scribes and the Pharisees because of the offense they had with Him. More often than not we find the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the religious elite of that day seeking to cast judgment upon Jesus and His disciples because of an offense they had with their actions during those days. There were specific times when the religious elite took great offense with Jesus and His disciples because they viewed their actions as being a clear and blatant disregard for the traditions of the elders of Israel—that which they attempted to use to govern the people during those days.
What makes the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Moses so incredible powerful and unique when you take the time to think about it is that when Jesus began speaking unto the multitudes concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, He spoke to them as those who sat in Moses’ seat. In order to understand Moses’ seat and what it represented it is necessary to consider the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus. It is in this particular chapter found within the Old Testament we are brought face to face with the children of Israel having not only been delivered out of the slavery, bondage and oppression of Egypt, but also passing through the waters of the Red Sea. It is in this particular chapter where we find the children of Israel having experienced the supernatural and miraculous provision of God to give unto them water to drink—and not only water to drink, but also giving them great victory over the Amalekites who came out against them in the midst of the wilderness. By the time we come to the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus we are brought face to face with Moses’ father-in-law Jethro coming unto Moses with his wife and two sons. Upon visiting Moses, Aaron, Miriam and the children of Israel in the wilderness Jethro would look upon and behold something which he perceived as being detrimental to both Moses and the children of Israel. It would be during this time when Jethro had come unto Moses after hearing about all the LORD had done in the land of Egypt unto the people and land of Egypt, as well as what the LORD did to the Egyptians and the Red Sea. Jethro—having heard everything the LORD had done for Moses and the children of Israel—would not only bring unto Moses his wife, but also the two sons which were born unto them. IT would be here in the wilderness Jethro would look upon and behold Moses’ interaction with and among the people—something that greatly troubled him.
If and as you take the time to read the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will encounter Moses sitting in the midst of and before the people to judge them. What’s more, is that not only would Moses sit in the midst of the people to judge them, but the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. Scripture is unclear how long this would actually take place, nor even how long Jethro had witnessed and beheld such activity, however, we must needs realize and recognize that Jethro looked upon this and sought to provide counsel and wisdom unto Moses regarding this matter. What makes this interesting is that Jethro would initially ask Moses why he did this thing to the people, and why he sat alone while all the people stood by him from morning unto the evening. Moses would respond by declaring unto Jethro how the people came unto him to inquire of God, and how when they had a matter, they came unto him, and He judged between one and another, and made them know the statutes of God, as well as His law. This takes on an entirely different meaning when you think about and consider the fact that this took place prior to the living and eternal God descending upon the mountain of God there in the midst of the wilderness. The Decalogue, which has commonly been known as “The Ten Commandments” hadn’t yet been given unto Moses atop mount Sinai there in the wilderness. At this particular time the Law—and what we have known to be the Law of Moses and that which was given unto him there in the wilderness—had not yet been given. The LORD God had not yet descended upon the mountain of God in the wilderness with a consuming fire, surrounded by a storm, and shrouded by thick clouds and darkness. That which we find and read within this passage is truly unique when you think about the fact that Moses was causing the children of Israel to know the statutes of God and his laws—this given the fact that the Law hadn’t yet been given.
This reality of Moses making know unto the children of Israel the statutes of God, and his laws is truly something that warrants strong consideration—particularly and especially when we think about and consider the fact that the Law hadn’t yet been given. If the Law which Scripture refers to as “the Law of Moses” hadn’t yet been given, and if Moses was making known unto the people the statutes of God and His laws—what was it that Moses was actually teaching the people during this time? What was it that Moses was actually speaking unto the children of Israel, and what was he using as the basis and form of the commands, the statutes and the commands of God? This question is actually one that is quite profound when you take the time to think about it, for I would dare contend that the answer is actually found in the first chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome. What’s more, is I would dare say that this matter can be further understood when reading the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia. If we want to truly understand that which Moses sought to teach and expound unto the children of Israel there in the wilderness prior to the living and eternal God descending upon the mountain of God and giving the Law we must needs recognize and understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first and seventh chapters of this New Testament epistle—not only concerning the Law of Moses, but also concerning the law of God which is found and written upon our hearts. Not only this, but I would even dare say that in order to understand this we must needs think about and consider the words which are found in the epistle written unto the saints which were of the churches of Galatia concerning the law. Consider if you will the following words which are found in these particular chapters and portions of Scripture:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did no t like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:18-31).
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? OR despises thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteousns judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:1-16).
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it, slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God: but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:7-25).
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgression, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe> but before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 2:19-29).
These passages are actually quite astounding and quite remarkable when you take the time to truly consider them, for with these passages we learn and discover that there was indeed a law that was written upon and placed within the hearts of men. There was indeed a law that was present within the hearts and minds of men and women, which would have been present during the time of the children of Israel after they had come forth from the land of Egypt and after they had passed through the waters of the Red Sea. When you come to the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find Moses sitting in a seat of judgment before and among the people. Not only will you find Moses sitting in the seat of judgment, but you will find him sitting in that place which had its origination in a tree which was present in the garden of Eden. If you journey back to the second and third chapters of the Old Testament book of Genesis you will find the LORD God giving Adam a specific command—the command that he must not partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of the fruit of all the other trees in the garden Adam could freely eat—including the fruit of the tree of life—yet of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam could not eat of it lest he die. It is in the third chapter of this Old Testament book where we not only find sin entering into the world, and not only do we find the knowledge of good and evil entering into the world, but you will also find the law of God being written within and upon the hearts of man. From that time on—in addition to the sin nature being present within the hearts and lives of the seed of Adam, so also would the law of God be written within and upon the hearts of men. From that time on—not only would the sin nature be passed down through the generations, but so also would a knowledge of good and evil which would be manifested in the law which was written upon the hearts of men. Undoubtedly there would have been some sort of foundation and basis of this which would serve Moses as he sat in the seat of judgment among the people as he taught them the statutes of God, and his laws.
It is truly something remarkable and astonishing when you think about and consider these words, for these words bring us face to face with the tremendous and powerful truth that when Moses sat in the seat of judgment he did so judging between the people. Not only would Moses judge between the people of Israel, but Moses would also inquire of God for them, and would teach them the statutes of God and the law. When Jesus speaks of Moses’ seat in this particular portion of Scripture concerning the scribes and Pharisees we must needs realize and understand that this seat of judgment is found in the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus. What’s more, is that I would dare say that the seat of Moses can also be understood in that aspect and element of his teaching the children of Israel the Law which he had received from the living, eternal and holy God atop the mountain in the wilderness. This seat of Moses would initially be found in the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus when Moses would sit within and among the people judging between them from morning until evening. It wouldn’t be until Jethro his father-in-law would come and witness this that Moses’ seat would shift in its nature and scope. What would originally begin with Moses sitting by himself judging between six million men among the children of Israel—this not including women and children—would eventually shift to Moses appointing seventy elders among the children of Israel who would be over five, over ten, over twenties, and over fifties. These seventy men would be given a portion and measure of the spirit that was upon Moses, and they would also serve as those who would judge the children of Israel and would teach them the statutes of God and His law. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading these words found in the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus, for they bring us face to face with just what Moses’ seat actually looked like.
This seat of judgment which Moses would sit upon was not only his judging between men and women and the matters they brought before and unto him, but it would also include his teaching them the statutes of God and his laws. Oh I am completely and utterly fascinated with and by this fact, for Moses would teach the people the statutes of God and His law before the physical Law would actually be given. Oh please don’t miss this, for I would dare say there is a drastic difference between the statutes and law Moses taught the children of Israel prior to and leading up to the encounter at Sinai, and that which the living God would give unto him atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. This isn’t to say that there is any shifting or changing in God, but rather that the law which was given unto Moses atop the mountain in the wilderness would be those means of demonstrating and showing the children of Israel how to obey Him, and how to walk before Him in a manner that pleases the living God. It would be while Moses was atop the mountain of God in the wilderness that the pattern for the Tabernacle would be given as the children of Israel would be shown how they were to worship and approach the living God. When we think about and consider Moses’ seat we must needs recognize it in terms of judging among and judging between the people—and not only this, but also teaching them the statutes of God and his law. Eventually, however, there would come the actual Law, which would be given unto Moses while he was atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. Eventually there would be two stone tablets which would be hewn out from the mountain, and upon which the Law of God would be written. That which was written upon these stone tablets would be God’s word, God’s standards, and God’s law unto and among His people—that which would set them apart, and that which would distinguish them from the nations and peoples round about them. Oh it is truly astonishing when we think about and consider this concept of Moses’ seat, for when we come to the days and times of Jesus we find Him speaking of and declaring how the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat—thus indicating that they sat in that seat of judgment as they would not only judge between and among people, but would judge men and women themselves. For Jesus to speak of and describe the scribes and Pharisees to sit in the seat of Moses would speak of and reveal how they were those who were responsible for teaching the statutes, the decrees and commands of God unto and among the people.
If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when considering the words which Jesus spoke unto the multitudes concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, it’s that although the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat, they wouldn’t teach the statutes, the decrees, the commands, and the Law of God. According to the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the ninth chapter of the same New Testament gospel we find Jesus pointing out concerning the scribes and the Pharisees how they would also incorporate their own traditions, their own rules, and their own regulations among the people. In fact, it would be Jesus Himself who when speaking unto the Pharisees would ask them why they transgressed the commandment of God by, with and according to their own traditions. Not only this, but Jesus would also quote the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah spoke concerning those who attempted to pass off the commandments of men as doctrine, and those who would attempt to add their own interpretation and their own understanding of that which was written. Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs recognize and acknowledge that which is found within the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for it is within this chapter we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous fact that while the scribes and the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat, they would indeed attempt to pass off the commandments of men, the traditions of men, and the like as doctrine and as that which had been commanded and ordained by the living God. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words which are found in the following passage of Scripture found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do yet also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, I tis a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).
WHY DO YE ALSO TRANSGRESS THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD BY YOUR TRADITION? TEACHING FOR DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN! It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for it helps serve as a foundation and backdrop for the words we find written in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel written by the apostle Matthew. Within this passage of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous challenge the scribes and Pharisees faced with Jesus when He not only asked them why they transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition, but also quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah to declare unto them how they had taught for doctrine the commandments of men. When we read the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto the multitude concerning the scribes and the Pharisees we must needs realize that although they sat in the seat of Moses—although they sat in the seat of judgment among the people—those who walked with and followed Jesus were to do whatsoever they bid them to do, however, they were not to do after their works. These words are absolutely necessary to understand when seeking to discuss and dialogue concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, for not only did they teach the commandments of men as doctrine, but there was also this apparent disconnect and disparity which existed between that which they spoke and that which they did. There is a clear and present disconnect between the words which were spoken by the Pharisees and that which they taught and their actions, for more often than not their actions contradicted the very words which they were speaking. That which Jesus is speaking in this particular passage of Scripture is quite astonishing when you take the time to think about it because it shows and demonstrates the tremendous hypocrisy that existed between the words which the Pharisees spoke, that which the Pharisees taught, and their actions among the people. Earlier on Jesus instructed His disciples to beware of the “leaven” or teaching of the Pharisees, and now we find Him speaking unto the multitude concerning the actions of the Pharisees.
If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when reading the words which are found within the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew it’s that Jesus would warn His disciples and His followers—not only to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees, but also the actions of the Pharisees. This is absolutely critical for us to understand the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for within it we find Jesus indicting the scribes and the Pharisees—this after Jesus would have three distinct encounters with them in the previous chapter. There are within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew numerous narratives and numerous examples and accounts of Jesus and these encounters with the scribes and the Pharisees when they would not only accuse and pass judgment upon both He and His disciples, but would also seek to tempt and trap Him in His words that they might find reason to accuse Him. Even in the previous chapter we find a lawyer among the Pharisees coming unto Jesus tempting Him with the question of which was the greatest commandment—a question to which Jesus responded by declaring the first and greatest commandment is to love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and the second was likened unto it, namely, loving your neighbor as yourself. Within the previous chapter you will also find the scribes and Pharisees seeking ensnare and trap Jesus in matters of submission to Roman law and custom during those days, for they would ask Him whether or not it was lawful to pay tribute unto Caesar. In response to their hypocrisy and their question Jesus would ask them for a penny—upon which after receiving it would ask them whose inscription was on the penny. When they responded by describing Caesar’s inscription on the penny Jesus would then declare unto them that they ought to render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar’s and render unto God those things which are God’s. Oh how absolutely necessary and imperative it is that we recognize and understand the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for the words we find within it bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth concerning the hypocrisy, the judgment and the accusation of the Pharisees.
When you come to the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus taking His earlier statement to beware of the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees to an entirely different level by instructing them to observe and do whatsoever they commanded and taught them, but do not do what they did. The reason for this is actually explained and spelled out by the Lord Jesus Christ, for He would make one simple statement that would summarize their hypocrisy—“for they say, and do not.” Please don’t miss and lose sight of just how absolutely vital and necessary these words actually are, for they call and draw our attention into the tremendous world of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees and how although they taught the people during those days one thing, they themselves would do something entirely different. The scribes and the Pharisees would engage in a tremendous amount of legalism as they would place the expectation upon the people to adhere to the commandments and traditions of men which they passed and pawned off as doctrine. It’s actually quite interesting when you read the encounters which Jesus had between the scribes and the Pharisees, for there would be times when the scribes and Pharisees would be offended because of their traditions, and there would be times when they would attempt to use the Law of Moses to ensnare and entrap Moses. If we would seek to understand the nature of the scribes and the Pharisees we must needs recognize that their offense was not only directly linked to their traditions, but their offense was also directly linked to the Law of Moses. Within this gospel narrative you will find the scribes and Pharisees being offended when they felt their traditions were being ignored and violated, and they would use the Law of Moses to tempt Jesus and find reason to accuse Him. OFFENDED BECAUSE OF TRADITION AND JUDGING ACCORDING TO THE LAW! OFFENDED BECAUSE OF TRADITION AND ACCUSING ACCORDING TO THE LAW! It’s truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading these words, for they bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the scribes and Pharisees not only sought to judge according to their traditions, but they also sought to accuse according to the Law of Moses.
I sit here thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture—and not only that which is found here, but also that which is found in the previous chapters written within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew—and I can’t help but think and consider how the scribes and the Pharisees would seek to judge both Jesus and His disciples according to their traditions, and they would seek to accuse them based on the Law of Moses. In the previous chapter we find the scribes and Pharisees seeking to accuse Jesus based on the Law of Moses concerning divorce, as well as concerning that which was the greatest commandment. This doesn’t even take into account and consideration the fact that they also sought to find reason to accuse Him based on paying tribute to Caesar. When you come to the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative you will find and read how Jesus would declare of the Pharisees that with sitting in the seat of Moses they were very much concerned about their appearance and how they looked before and unto men. As you read the words which are found and presented before us in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus making it very clear that they were very concerned with external and outward appearance as directly juxtaposed to inward transformation. You cannot read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the scribes and Pharisees were those who were more concerned with their outward and external appearance before and unto men then they were how they appeared before and unto the living God. This reality can be clearly seen in the fifth and sixth chapters of this New Testament when we find the Lord Jesus Christ not only declaring unto His disciples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that you also get the strong sense of this concern and fixation with their outward appearance in the sixth chapter when you read Jesus’ words concerning giving, fasting and praying. Consider if you will the following words which are found within this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter:
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth ins secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).
It is absolutely obvious when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture that the scribes and the Pharisees were those who sought after and desired to be seen—not only with their giving, but also with their fasting and their praying. Jesus described and declared how their desire to be seen of men—and not only their desire to be seen of men, but also their desire to receive glory of men—presented them with their reward hear upon the earth. When and as you come to the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus building upon this fixation with outward and external appearances even further when speaking about the very garments which the scribes and the Pharisees wore. Before doing this, however, Jesus would go on to further describe how the Pharisees bound heavy burdens which were grievous to be borne, and laid them on men’s shoulders. What makes this so incredibly tragic, alarming and dangerous is that not only did they place heavy burdens which were grievous to be borne upon the shoulders of men, but they were unwilling to do a single thing to help lift them from them. Essentially what we must realize and understand concerning the scribes and Pharisees is that they were essentially religious taskmasters—much like the task masters which were found within the land of Egypt under Pharaoh king of Egypt. In the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find how the task masters cruelly oppressed the children of Israel, and did so even beyond their slavery and bondage. The children of Israel were enslaved in the land of Egypt and were forced to help build up the land and the kingdom of Egypt, and there would eventually come a point in time when the taskmasters whom Pharaoh would appoint over them would begin oppressing them—not only with their demands, but also with their whips and lashes. If you read the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus you will encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth that the task masters which were present within the land of Egypt would cruelly oppress and violently oppress the children of Israel—not only with their words and demands, but also with the lashes from their whips. So great would their oppression be that the children of Israel would cry out before and unto the living God—a cry which would ultimately reach the ears of the living God who not only heard, but also saw their affliction and oppression.
The more I think about the scribes and the Pharisees the more I am brought face to face with the awesome truth that they were those who essentially ruled over the people of the land with cruel oppression and with tremendous and heavy burdens which could not be borne by any man. It has been said of the Law that it was absolutely and utterly impossible to keep every commandment in the law, and that the Law itself was designed to bring men and women into the place where they were entirely and altogether dependent upon the living God. In all reality the Law and the altar of burnt offering were intrinsically connected to each other, for more often than not that which was presented upon the altar was in direct relation to the sin offering and a violation of the commandments and statutes of God presented and laid out in the Law of Moses. WE must needs realize and understand this, for the scribes and the Pharisees would not only use the traditions of men to cruelly oppress the people, but they would also use the very Law of Moses—that which the apostle Paul referred to as a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ—as a means to crush others under the tremendous weight of it. As if the commandments, decrees and statutes found and contained within the law weren’t enough for men to realize their need for the living God, they would also have to contend with the cruel oppression of the religious taskmasters among them which were known as the scribes and the Pharisees. The men and women which were present within the land of Judaea during those days and during those times not only had to contend with that which the Law of Moses required, but they also had to contend with the scribes and the Pharisees using the law to oppress them—and not only the Law, but also their own traditions which they would pass off as doctrine and commandments of the living God.
We must needs realize and understand that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for that which we find here within this passage brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that during the days of Jesus—not only did the people of that generation have to contend with that which was required in the Law of Moses, but they also had to contend with the tradition of the elders, and the oppression of the scribes and the Pharisees. During the days of Jesus we find the scribes and Pharisees using the Law of Moses as a means to accuse, as a means to judge, but also as a means to oppress those who were present among them. What we find within this passage is a powerful picture of the scribes and the Pharisees using the Law of Moses and their own traditions to cruelly oppress the people during those days. What makes this incredibly interesting when you think about it is that just as the Law of Moses was designed to thrust men and women unto and upon the grace of God during the days of Moses and the Old Covenant, so also would the oppression of the scribes and Pharisees cause men and women to gravitate toward the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be Jesus the Christ who would speak unto those who were weary and heavy laden, and would offer them rest. It would be Jesus who would emphatically declare unto and among them that His yoke was easy and His burden was light. Oh we have great need to pay attention to these words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto the multitudes which gathered themselves before and unto Him, for not only would Jesus deliver men and women from the Law through that which was required in the kingdom of heaven—namely, loving God and loving people—but Jesus also sought to deliver men and women from the oppression of the scribes and the Pharisees. Undoubtedly Jesus recognized and understood that much like the children of Israel during the days of their slavery, bondage and oppression cried out because of the oppression of their taskmasters, so also would the people during those days cry out under the tremendous weight and burden of the oppression that was placed upon them.
In all reality, I would dare say that the days in which Moses appeared to deliver the children of Israel from their slavery, bondage and oppression were much like those days in which Jesus the Christ came unto the earth. I would dare say that just as Moses was sent by God to deliver the children of Israel from the cruel and violent oppression of the Egyptian taskmasters, so also would Jesus be sent from the LORD to deliver the people from the burden and oppression of the religious taskmasters—namely, the scribes and the Pharisees. We know that Jesus did indeed and did in fact come to deliver men and women from their sin, however, I would also dare say that Jesus came to deliver men and women from the burden and bondage of religion as well. The more you read the four gospel narratives the more you will encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the days in which Jesus came to the earth were much like the days in which Moses the servant of God came unto the children of Israel within the land of Egypt. Moses would be sent by the living God to deliver the children of Israel out of their bondage and slavery, but also to deliver them out of the hands of their cruel and violent taskmasters. When Jesus the Christ would step on to the scene—not only would He deliver men and women from sickness and disease, not only would Jesus deliver men and women from demonic oppression, not only would Jesus deliver men and women from uncleanness, but Jesus would also deliver men and women from the oppression of religion, legalism and hypocrisy. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus the Christ came unto the earth during those days—not only did He come to turn the Law on its head by calling men to love the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their strength, and to love their neighbor as themselves, but Jesus would also come to offer grace and truth.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, and one of the greatest truths I can’t help but be directly confronted with is the fact that the scribes and Pharisees could never and would never be able to oppress the Lord Jesus Christ with their traditions, nor even with their commandments, nor with their doctrines, nor even with the Law of Moses. Although the scribes and the Pharisees sat in the seat of Moses and placed grievous burdens upon the shoulders of men which were heavy to bear, they would never and could never find or have any place within the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be Jesus who declared that He came not to abolish the Law, nor the prophets, but rather to fulfill the Law and the prophets. What makes this all the more interesting is when you consider the transfiguration of Jesus atop the mountain when the disciples Peter, James and John would behold Him in a form and measure of the glory He had with the Father. Not only this, but they would see Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah—Moses who would represent the Law, and Elijah who would represent the prophets. In all reality, I would dare say that during those days Moses and Elijah were essentially and basically synonymous with much of what was taking place, for the scribes and the Pharisees were those who would use the Law of Moses as a means to oppress, accuse, and judge men, while John the Baptist would come in the spirt and power of Elijah. Stop and consider that the two greatest names during those days—Moses and Elijah—would both appear with Jesus atop the mountain when He was transfigured before them and appeared in His glory. Not only this, but a cloud would overshadow them all and a voice would speak from heaven emphatically declaring that Jesus was the beloved Son of the Father in whom He was well pleased. What’s more, is that the voice which would speak from heaven would also instruct them to listen to the Son—the Son who was greater than the Law and the Son who was greater than the prophets. During those days the names Moses and Elijah would be synonymous with much of what took place, for the scribes and the Pharisees would teach according to the Law of Moses, and there were many who believed that John the Baptist and Jesus were Elijah come again.
As you continue reading the words which are found within this particular portion of Scripture you will undoubtedly be brought face to face with the tremendous truth that the days of Jesus were indeed and were in fact much like the days of Moses, for Jesus did more than deliver men and women from the bondage of sin, as He would deliver men and women from the bondage of religion. While the wages of sin is death, and through the sin of one man death has reigned in the earth since the time of Adam, we must needs realize and understand that there is also a bondage and oppression of religion and of legalism. There is not a doubt in my mind that just as much as sin cruelly oppresses men and women and forces them into bondage, so also does religion cruelly oppress men and women—regardless of whether it’s others imposing religion upon them, or themselves imposing religion unto them. WE must needs realize and understand just how incredibly powerful this truth and reality truly is, for the days of Jesus were days in which He would deliver men and women from the grasp and clutches of religious oppression and bondage before He would hang and die upon the cross to deliver men from the oppression and bondage of sin. Oh how absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think and consider that not only would Jesus deliver men and women from the curse of the Law, but He would also deliver men and women from the burden of the Law. During those days the Law of Moses would be used as a tool and instrument of judgment, accusation and condemnation of men and women whom the scribes and Pharisees felt did not adhere to and obey what was contained therein. When Jesus came to the earth He did so that He might set men and women free from that which would violently and cruelly oppress them—regardless of whether it was sin, or whether it was the Law of Moses being used to accuse and condemn them, or whether it was demonic oppression, or whether it was infirmity, sickness and disease.
The words which we find written in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew are actually quite astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to think about it, for Jesus would right off the bat expose the hypocrisy and oppression of the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus would initially expose their hypocrisy by instructing His disciples and followers to do not do after the works of the scribes and the Pharisees, for they say and do not. Jesus then goes on to address the oppression of the scribes and the Pharisees by describing how they bound and placed heavy burdens which were grievous to be borne and laid them on the shoulders of men without being willing to move a single one with one of their fingers. Jesus would then go on to expose their fascination and fixation with outward and external appearances as He would declare all their works which were done to be seen of men. These words are in direct alignment with that which we find and read in the sixth chapter of this same New Testament gospel and brings us face to face with the fact that within that chapter we find Jesus referring to “the hypocrites” as the scribes and the Pharisees. While the words written and recorded in the sixth chapter deal with fasting, giving and prayer—the words which are found within this chapter deal with the outward appearance of the scribes and the Pharisees. All the works they did were to be seen of men, and they would even go to great lengths and measures to present themselves as those who were prestigious, and holy, and righteous, and obedient in the eyes of men. Jesus would go on to speak of the scribes and the Pharisees as being those who would “make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,” and how they “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” WE dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found here, for Jesus takes this fixation and fascination with being seen of men even further when speaking of that which the scribes and the Pharisees desired among men—namely, the praise, the glory and the honor of men. Oh that we would truly allow ourselves to encounter and come face to face with the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture, for they further add to an compound that which the Lord Jesus had previously spoken concerning the hypocrites and those who gave, those who prayed, and those who fasted that they might be seen of men—and not only be seen of men, but also receive the praise and glory from men.
As you continue progressing within the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus making powerful statements concerning one of the greatest contrasts to hypocrisy—namely, that of humility. In the eleventh verse of this chapter you will find Jesus declaring how those who would be the greatest among His disciples and followers would be their servant and would commit themselves to serving. Not only this, but Jesus would also declare that whosoever would exalt himself would be abased, and those who humbled themselves would be exalted. Thus, within this passage and portion of Scripture we find Jesus speaking both of humility, as well as being a servant unto and among those around us. These words were in and of themselves an indictment of the scribes and Pharisees, for these words would call and draw our attention to the fact that the scribes and Pharisees had absolutely no desire to be the least among those around them, and had absolutely no interest and/or desire to serve others. The scribes and the Pharisees would always focus on themselves, and would be those who would be self-seeking and self-serving. These words would be a terrifying indictment unto the scribes and the Pharisees, for Jesus would declare that their hypocrisy would prevent them from walking in humility, and how their need to be seen of men would prevent them from serving among men. Their hypocrisy would keep them from walking in humility, and their need for the praise of men would keep them from actually serving men. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—please make note of these words and mark them well within your heart and your spirit, for if you are one who desires the praise of men, and if you are one who desires to be seen of men, you can and will be one who is absolutely and entirely unable to walk among men as a servant. One thing you will notice about the scribes and the Pharisees is that not only were they unwilling to help men and women with the burdens they were forced to carry, but they were also unwilling to walk among them as servants and serve others before and around them.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the rest of the words which Jesus spoke within this passage of Scripture, for Jesus would go on to pronounce a series of “woes” concerning the scribes and the Pharisees—woes which would begin with the thirteenth verse. After exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, after exposing the oppression of the scribes and Pharisees, and after exposing the great pride and arrogance of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus would now proceed to indict them even further based on their actions among men. You cannot read the words which are found within the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not find Jesus definitively describing the scribes and the Pharisees even further by speaking of their actions among men and women during those days. Jesus would describe the scribes and Pharisees as being those who shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for they neither went in themselves, nor suffered those who would enter to go in. The scribes and the Pharisees would devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense made long prayers. Moreover, the scribes and the Pharisees would compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when that proselyte is made, they make them twofold more the child of hell than themselves. Stop right there and consider how damning and how indicting these words truly are, for these words powerfully described the fact that the scribes and Pharisees were not only those who shut the kingdom of heaven against men, but because they didn’t enter into it themselves they would not suffer others to enter. Essentially that which Jesus is speaking and declaring with these words is that aside from oppressing the people of that generation, the scribes and the Pharisees would also act as hindrances and barriers to the kingdom of heaven. They would not enter the kingdom of heaven themselves, and because they themselves would not enter the kingdom of heaven they would prevent as many people as they possible could from entering into it. What’s more, is that what they would do was travel far and wide to make proselytes after themselves, and when they had made them—essentially in their own image and likeness—they would make them twice the child of hell than themselves. Oh pause and consider how incredibly alarming these words truly are, for they describe how the scribes and Pharisees were themselves children of hell who would reproduce that hellish nature among men within the earth.
Taking this home concerning the scribes and the Pharisees we must needs realize and understand how Jesus would go on to describe them as those who paid tithe of mint and anise and cumin—essentially paying tithe on the smallest and seemingly minute things in this life—and yet they have completely omitted and ignored the weightier matters of the law which were judgment, mercy and faith. The scribes and the Pharisees focused on the smallest and most miniscule things in life they could pay tithe on, and yet directly connected to that they would ignore the weightier matters of the law which is what the living God truly desired and required. PAYING TITHE ON SPICES, BUT IGNORING JUDGMENT, MERCY AND FAITH! How absolutely alarming and damning these words truly are, for that which Jesus was essentially speaking unto the multitudes was that the scribes and the Pharisees would focus on those smaller and seemingly insignificant things they believed mattered in the sight of God, and yet they completely and utterly ignored that which the LORD truly required. It’s truthfully the same principle as when the LORD declared that burnt offering and sacrifice were not what He truly and ultimately desired, but rather a broken and a contrite heart and spirit. Essentially the scribes and Pharisees were those who would have focused on the blood of bulls and goats, and would have focused on burnt offerings and sacrifices during those days while completely and utterly ignoring the call which the LORD had made to possess a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In order to bring this writing to a close I feel it is absolutely necessary and imperative to leave you with the words which the prophet Micah spoke during this generation, as well as the words which David the psalmist spoke in his prayer of repentance, as well as the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke in his generation. I leave you with these words and call and invite you to think about and consider them in light of how you are living your life in the sight of God within this generation:
“Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give the firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy god?” (Micah 6:6-8).
“O LORD, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O god, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:15-17).
“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit. And trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:1-2).
“Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as the iniquity of idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).