YOU MUST OBEY THEM AND DO EVERYTHING THEY TELL YOU:
"Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not
turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left" (Deu
All their efforts are bent toward making their brethren's
burdens heavier... but... they will make no effort to ease the burden, once it
Ct Moses, who held up both his hands all day, to ease the
burden of his people Israel (Exo 17:12).
THEY MAKE THEIR PHYLACTERIES WIDE: Cp Exo 13:3-16; Deu
Vv 13-31: 8 curses, here; 8 blessings: Mat 5:3-10. Cp Ebal and
Gerizim: Deu 27:12,13.
CONVERT: "Proselyte" in KJV.
Once placed upon the altar, the sacrifice was holy and could
not be removed and rendered common again, even if discovered to be
YOU GIVE A TENTH OF YOUR SPICES: Tractate Maaseroth
opens with a ruling on what is liable to the tithe, "all that which is food",
and then defines when that food is liable -- not in its early stage but in its
later stage (1:1). The determinations become more detailed in the eight mishnot
that follow: "figs" (1:2); "carabs" (1:3); "greens -- cucumbers, gourds,
melons..." (1:4); etc. The attention given every plant reflects the rabbinic
concern to legislate on every detail of life, to leave nothing unaddressed. The
Lord condemns the scribes and Pharisees as "hypocrites" because they tithed
"mint, dill, and cummin" but neglected the "more important requirements of the
Maaseroth 4:5 gives instruction on dill and seed. In the Law
of Moses none of these are listed for tithing, but evidently because these were
herbs and seed used as seasoning in food they were considered tithable. It may
be that the rabbis went beyond the intent of the law with such concern for
detail, but it was not their meticulous observance of tithing that Jesus
condemned but their lack of equal or greater attention to "justice and mercy and
faithfulness." In Maaseroth 5:7 the exact rulings reach the absurd with
legislation regarding ant-holes alongside a heap of corn. "The corn inside of
them is also liable" to be tithed.
YOU HAVE NEGLECTED THE MORE IMPORTANT MATTERS OF THE LAW --
JUSTICE, MERCY AND FAITHFULNESS: "The Pharisees were deliberately blind when
it came to ritual. They appear completely ignorant and insensitive to the
clear-sighted criticism of the Lord, who saw through the façade of their
deception and was moved to great indignation by their legalistic approach to the
worship of Yahweh. While they behaved correctly and were scrupulous in their
meticulous keeping of the Law in its smallest details, Christ was more
interested in testing their inward motives rather than merely observing their
"Sometimes we can put on a show, pretending good behaviour for
a while, but sadly the danger is that it can become an habitual, ritualistic
lifestyle without us even realising. We may regularly support our ecclesia,
assist weaker brethren and sisters, dress appropriately, partake of the emblems
each Sunday and be diligent in our attendance of study nights and special
events. Our level of service to god can be based on an evaluation of works and
deeds that we have done, so that we become so proud of our 'voluntary humility'
that we defend ourselves against any criticism concerning our lack of spiritual
attitude. Unless an outward expression of the responsive development of a
progressive relationship with God, the 'rite becomes wrong!'
"How thankful we should be that the weekly memorial meeting is
an opportunity to examine the heart and analyse our inward motives to see if we
are truly demonstrating a love for God -- or is ours simply a desire to impress
others? Ecc 10:2 says, 'A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's
heart at his left.' In this unusual expression (because, in fact, the heart is
positioned slightly to the left in the human body) is demonstrated that the
heart, emotion and intellect of a spiritually-minded individual has an
'unnatural' inclination! It is centrally positioned with harmonious desire to
give pleasure to Yahweh, rather than at a left-handed inclination to please
self. Let us have the courage to thoroughly examine our true motives so that our
service to Yahweh may not be 'rite' by 'right'!" (SJ Mansfield).
"After all that the prophets had said, Christ needed to
explain the law of justice again. His contemporaries were zealous for their
traditions but they neglected the weightier matters of the law of God, justice,
faith and love. They were eager to lade men with heavy and unnecessary burdens
but they could not apply the just balance and just measure to the affairs of
spiritual life. So has it been in later days. There has often been a passionate
zeal for rectitude in little matters of form and expression, resulting in bitter
criticism and often injustice to fellow labourers. We have a strong conviction
that when the Just One passes final judgment, some well-meaning but self-centred
men will be reproved because they have rigorously enforced so many rules of
their own and have been neglectful of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God"
(PrPr 186). See Lesson, Weightier matters.
THE MORE IMPORTANT MATTERS: "The weightier matters".
Herbs have a weight, although it is very little. Principles have no "weight",
literally, at all! Nevertheless, they are far more "weighty" than herbs! Cp Mic
YOU STRAIN OUT A GNAT: The KJV has "strain AT a gnat"
-- a printer's error that crept in after 1611, and remained!
INSIDE THEY ARE FULL OF GREED AND SELF-INDULGENCE: That
is, the food and drink put therein were obtained by greed and self-indulgence,
and in turn are enjoyed in more greed and self-indulgence.
WHITEWASHED TOMBS: "During the month of Adar, just
before Passover, it was customary to whitewash with lime graves or grave-sites
that might not be instantly identified as such, in order to warn pilgrims to
steer clear of the area and avoid ritual uncleanness from contact with corpses.
Such uncleanness would prevent participation in the Passover" (EBC).
Thus the Pharisaical traditions, like the whitewash, showed
them up for what they were -- sites of uncleanness. They might have a
superficial appearance of cleanness -- like the whitewash -- but inside they
were a very different story!
By contrast, in Luk 11:44, Jesus uses the same basic idea, and
applies it again to the Pharisees, but this time he compares them to UNMARKED
graves, "which men walk over without knowing it."
Vv 29-31: Cp Luk 11:47,48: "How? Why? Might not the Pharisees
have replied that, by honoring their remains and their memory, they condemned
their murderers? The greatest sin of Israel and of the world was and is,
apostasy from the true God and His worship by idolatry; and the most prevalent
mode of this apostasy is sacrilegious reverence for dead men's tombs and
bones... Now, it was for rebuking this and other kinds of idolatry, that 'the
fathers killed the prophets'; and those who built their tombs would, in like
manner, kill anyone who condemned their idolatrous reverence for these very
sepulchers. Thus the Pharisees, by the very act of building those tombs of the
prophets, and 'honoring' them as they did, showed plainly that they were
activated by the same spirit that led their fathers to kill them; and, to make
this matter self-evident, they very soon proceeded to crucify the Lord of the
prophets because of his faithful rebukes. Nor has this spirit changed in the
least during the subsequent eighteen hundred years. Now, here, in Jerusalem,
should the Savior reappear, and condemn with the same severity our modern
Pharisees, they would kill him upon his own reputed tomb. I say this not with a
faltering perhaps, but with a painful certainty. Alas! how many thousands of
God's people have been slaughtered because of their earnest and steadfast
protest against pilgrimages, idolatrous worship of saints, tombs, bones, images,
and pictures! And whenever I see people particularly zealous in building,
repairing, or serving those shrines, I know them to be the ones who allow the
deeds of those who killed the prophets, and who would do the same under like
circumstances" (LB 639,640).
Do we "build up" the "tombs" of our Christadelphian
"prophets"? If so, is there any danger in doing so?
Are dead "prophets" less threatening than living ones? Seems
to me that dead "prophets" (and I use the term loosely here -- whether referring
to Isaiah and Jeremiah, or John Thomas and Robert Roberts) can be shut up in
books, closed between the covers, and "controlled"... whereas living "prophets"
go walking around sticking their noses into our business when we least like it,
encouraging us more directly by word or deed to DO something when we would
rather do nothing, and generally kicking us out of our "comfort zones". They
can't be as easily "shut up" or "put on a shelf". Maybe that's why we don't care
for the living "prophets". Maybe that's why we sometimes hasten their demise!
Jesus also said, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house
is a prophet without honor" (Mar 6:4).
THE MEASURE OF THE SIN: Cp the ephah of Zec 5:6, filled
YOU BROOD OF VIPERS: "Brood" = "seed", pointing to Gen
3:15: the seed of the serpent. The same figure used by John the Baptist in Mat
3:7; cp Mat 12:34.
ABEL... ZECHARIAH: For Zechariah, see 2Ch 24:20,21.
Thus the first and last martyrdoms in OT. (By Jewish reckoning, Chronicles is
the last book of the Scriptures.)
This is probably Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (2Ch 24:20-22).
His murder took place in the courtyard of the temple and is related toward the
end of what was probably the last book in the Hebrew canon. The sweep runs (to
use Christian terms) "from Genesis to Revelation." The problem is the name of
his father. There is a possible solution -- that Jehoiada was the grandfather
(not father) of the Zechariah of 2Ch 24 -- a suggestion that Jehoiada's living
to be 130 years old (2Ch 24:15) makes more plausible, since Zechariah's ministry
immediately followed Jehoiada's death. An otherwise unknown Berekiah would
therefore have had time to sire Zechariah, live to a good age, and die before
the death of his own father gave him opportunity to serve as chief priest. That
would allow time for a father named Berekiah. But we cannot know for
YOU WHO KILL THE PROPHETS AND STONE THOSE SENT TO YOU:
Isa 49:5; Acts 7:59.
AS A HEN GATHERS HER CHICKS UNDER HER WINGS: Cp
thought, Isa 31:5: God "passing over" and sheltering Jerusalem.
YOUR HOUSE: Previously called "My Father's house" (Luk
2:49; John 2:16), but no more!
DESOLATE: "But if you do not obey these commands,
declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin" (Jer
22:5). As at Passover, when Egypt was left desolate of its firstborn. Now
Jerusalem is pictured as God's firstborn, but unsprinkled with the blood of
Christ the lamb of God. So, when the avenging Roman "angel" comes, he will not
spare her! Cp Eze 10:19; 11:23; Psa 69:22,25.
The blindness of israel will be the rule until the time of
Christ's return: Rom 11:25-27; Zec 12:10. A set time for Israel's punishment: