Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 20 January 2023:
2 Chronicles 18:1 — Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab.
Jehoshaphat maked a big mistake: The Bible says that His people are not to be unequally yoked and partner with the world. Jehoshaphat got himself entangled in ungodly affairs for sake of friendship. You cannot befriend the ungodly and remain faithful to God.
2 Chronicles 18:5 — The king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.”
The church has always been tempted to compromise God’s word to please government. Here all but one prophet had become false prophets. Where do you stand when the majority of God’s people agree with sinful policy?
2 Chronicles 18:6 – But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?”
Ahab surrounded himself with religious leaders who said what he wanted to hear. All agreed and claimed to speak on behalf of God. Perhaps the most unattended church in your community is really the most successful in the eyes of God.
2 Chronicles 18:13 — But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak.”
Micaiah was hated and ostracized because he refused to speak anything but the word of God. Are you a Micaiah? Are you willing to boldly proclaim what no one, including other church goers, want to hear?
Chronicles 18:26 — Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him with meager rations of bread and water until I return in peace.”
God did not keep Micaiah from prison but did vindicate him in the end.
Your measure of success is not how people respond to your message but rather how faithful you are as Christ’s Ambassador.
2 Chronicles 18:29 – And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” And the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.
Man can do nothing to thwart God’s plan.
2 Chronicles 18:33 — But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.
God’s activity seems random to those who do not have Holy Spirit vision. Nothing is random with God. God uses all circumstances to accomplish His will.
Matthew 15:1-20 – Religiously sincere may defend theological tradition and miss the mark on love for God and for others, the Greatest Commandments of all.
Matthew 15:7-9 — You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
In today’s readings, Jesus calls the Pharisees “hypocrites,” a word used quite often today by many unbelievers to describe Christians. So what does the word mean? Hypocrite (ὑποκριτής hupokritēs) is what the Greeks called an actor on a stage, pretending to be someone they are not. The stage and the arena where the primary modes of entertainment during that time (no TV, mobile devices, or XBOX back then), so when Jesus called the Pharisees “actors,” pretending to be lovers of God and men, everyone who heard his words knew exactly what he meant. Jesus elaborates: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.” Their religiosity wasn’t really about love for God, it was about pride and self-justification. Their worship was in vain because in reality they were worshippers of self – idolaters (see Colossians 3:5). 2 Timothy 3 describes their condition: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” Based on this verse from Timothy, isn’t it interesting the Jesus uses how the Pharisees treated their parents (disobedience with a religious bow tied around it) as an example of who they really were?
Remember in Genesis, Judah was a hypocrite because he played the role of a righteous judge when in fact he was wholly guilty and unjust. Having just sold his innocent brother into slavery and having just slept with his daughter-in-law, believing her to be a shrine (yes, shrine) prostitute, he then condemned Tamar to execution for her prostitution (with him). It is interesting to me too that this occured in the land of the Canaanites where Jacob’s family slaughtered all of the Hivites — “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute (Genesis 34)?” When the real Judah was revealed, when the mask was pulled off, Judah was exposed publicly and forces to admit the truth – “She is more righteous than I (Matthew 38:26).”
Hypocrites are not those admittedly guilty sinners who, in their sinful condition, point out the truth of sin to other sinners and reveal everyone’s need of salvation through Christ. When Paul said, “I am the worst” of sinners, he meant it; and from his guilty position he exhorted many to repent, not as a “judge” (in a condemning way) but rather as a juror, a peer armed with the Word of God. When Lot pleaded with the people of Sodom and Gomorra, “Don’t do this wicked thing,” their response was similar to what we would here today: “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge (Genesis 19:6-9)!” However, Lot was not pretending to be a righteous judge, he was revealing truth out of compassion for everyone involved, a tough position in which to find oneself. As the preacher says, “We are all beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.” Of course Jesus reminds us all — “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
Matthew 15:8, 18-20 — Their heart is far from me…. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.
The heart of man’s problem is the problem with man’s heart. While we tend to focus on actions; God looks at the heart behind those actions – “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) The Lord searches the heart, tests the heart, weighs the heart, and judges the heart (Jeremiah 17:10, Proverbs 17:3, Proverbs 21:2). Fundamentally, our ‘heart’ is what we love. The “upright in heart”, the “wholehearted” have been given the First Commandment and Great Commandment upon which every other commandment rests: “You shall have no other gods before me…. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Exodus 20:3; Luke 10:27) Well before sinful deeds are exposed to people, our sinful hearts are exposed wide open to God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Our problem is “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, we cannot even honestly critique our own motives – “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) We are totally dependent on God. First, it is God, and God alone, who gives us a heart that even can love and to obey Him:
- Jeremiah 24:7 -- I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. - Ezekiel 11:19 -- And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…. - Jeremiah 32:39 -- I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. - Jeremiah 32:40 -- And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. - Mark 6:52 -- for they did not understand… their hearts were hardened. - Psalm 119:32 -- I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
Then, only God can reveal to us, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the truth of our hearts:
- Psalm 139:23 -- Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
But we must remain receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirt, and act on that conviction. It starts with a humble and contrite heart:
- Psalm 51:17 -- The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. - Lamentations 1:20 -- Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. - Isaiah 57:15 -- For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. - Joel 2:12 -- “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Then, in complete reliance on God, we must diligently, relentlessly pursue love, holiness, righteousness, mercy, justice, obedience, purity, unity with God:
- Psalm 119:112 -- I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. - Ezekiel 18:31 -- Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? - King Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 12:14 -- And he [king Rehoboam] did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. - Ezra 7:10 -- For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
The Bible says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23) We must put all of our effort into ‘keeping’ our hearts because everything flows from the heart. An important part of keeping our hearts is continually examining our hearts (again, empowered by the Holy Spirit). Today, Jesus points out again that the tongue is a great revealer of the condition of our hearts. Of course, the relationship between heart and tongue is repeated throughout the Bible. We are held accountable by God for every careless word that comes out of our mouths. Today, ask God to show you what your words say about the true condition of your heart.
Matthew 15:12-14 – Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Religious activities and good deeds that were not commanded by God are worthless.
Matthew 15:27-28 – She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Though focused on His mission, Jesus stopped to make time to minister to the needs of people not directly tied to His ultimate objective.
Matthew 15:32-34 – Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”
The disciples seem unable to learn from what they have already experienced with Jesus. Has your faith grown from what you have already experienced with Jesus? Can you trust Him because you know Him to be trustworthy?
The disciples seem unable to learn from what they have already experienced with Jesus. Has your faith grown from what you have already experienced with Jesus? Can you trust Him because you personally and powerfully know Him to be trustworthy from your real experiences with Him, not just from what you have read about Him or heard about Him from others? You cannot grow in faith if you don’t walk in faith. Walking in faith requires walking beyond your own knowledge and capabilities that you might see Him work the impossible in your life, all for His glory rather than your desires.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 January 2023: Today, be people focused rather than task focused. (See Matthew 15:27-28)