A month has passed since we last met the ladies and children for Moms Bible Study Fellowship (MBSF). We missed one lesson on 18 September 2014 due to our wedding anniversary celebration. It is so good to be back for MBSF!
Left E with Lang and the children: Isaac, Hannah, Ruth and Caleb, while I attended the bible study in the adjacent room with Cheryl and Asher, Hazel, Linh, Pearl and Aunty Judy. I was relieved and glad to see that E was so comfortable playing with them when I peeped into the room before the bible study started.
Bible Study on Matthew 15:1-9
To reap the benefits of what Jesus is teaching us in this passage, we need to get behind the text to learn about the culture in which Jesus ministered, particularly the traditions of the elders on the subject of washing or purifying the hands in early Judaism, as well as on the issue of “Korban” that Jesus discusses here: of how they got out of supporting parents by making a dedicatory offering.
1. Jesus being questioned (verses 1-2)
These Pharisees and teachers of the law, who came from Jerusalem, meant that they were the best trained and most highly respected teachers in the land of that time. “Holier than thou” they have became, the elders of that culture and era have developed their own ceremonial tradition of hand washing prior to eating. As explained in Mark 7:3-4, the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they first wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.
Upon seeing Jesus’ disciples eating food without first washing their hands, they asked Jesus why so. In their question, we see them challenging Jesus’ authority, because they thought since He was addressed as a rabbi, He should be as holy and righteous as them. As a rabbi, He should know their laws.
As if those traditions were now authoritative and could be sinned against, these men had elevated the man-made traditions to the status of Scripture, so that one could be guilty of violating them. It is good to note traditions may not be bad in themselves, we Chinese also have many traditions, be they religious or merely racial, they serve to add meaning to life. However, they should not be elevated to the level of Scripture. Regardless of how comprehensive or logically-sounding they may be, man-made traditions must not contradict or confuse us by adding to or subtracting from what God has given us in His Word. The following verses warn us of this:
“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 4:2 NIV)
“So be careful to obey all the commands I give you. You must not add anything to them or subtract anything from them.” (Deuteronomy 12:32 NLT)
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6 NKJV)
“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV)
2. Jesus answers (verses 3-9)
In His reply to their question, Jesus rebukes them for breaking the commands of God in order to keep their traditions. These people used the concept of “Korban” to completely sidestep the 5th commandment i.e. to honor parents.
“Korban” is a kind of offering where a Jew can make a vow to dedicate his property or money to God. People abused this vow to use it to not look after their parents. Whatever that is dedicated to God is considered “frozen”, so they could tell their parents they could not give them money, or spend time with them, or let their parents stay with them in the same house (depending on what they dedicated as Korban e.g. money, time, house respectively). They would then find a way of nullifying the vow later, so that they could end up keeping the money. This tradition of swearing or taking oaths became a scheming way to get around a clear cut teaching of the word of God.
Hence, Jesus convicts them of sinning because they had broken God’s commands and not just some teachings of elders, of which they were trying to accuse Jesus and His disciples for (not washing their hands prior to eating).
Here, Jesus called them hypocrites, and thus they fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. By quoting Isaiah 29:13, Jesus showed us that His generation was doing the same thing as Isaiah’s generation, and it is clear that His words are also addressed to our generation of this era. In both contexts, found in Isaiah 29 and Matthew 15, the people spoken to were Jews from Jerusalem who were exposed to pagan traditions that used the doctrines of men, following the directions of idolatrous kings. As teachers of the laws, these Pharisees know a lot about God but they do not know God and has no personal relationship with God. Their worship was vain because they were far from God in their hearts. They were capable in saying the right things, giving the impression they were pious; but their hearts and wills were not obedient to God (they would not honor father and mother, for one example). They had a religious form, but not the reality that goes with it. So their teaching was in vain because as what Isaiah has prophesied: “These people honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. They worship God in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (verses 8-9)
Thoughts and Applications
- When we claim we honour God, are we merely just all-talk but our hearts are not right with God? Is my heart also far from God? Where is my heart with God?
- Who or what replaces God in our hearts? Our children, career, property, money, etc. can be elevated to the level of God and become our idols.
- Self awareness is important. It can guard ourselves from sliding away from God.
- When we are complacent and very comfortable with our life, it can be a symptom that we are far from God.
I am reminded that my priority is God and it always should be God first, followed by J, then E. In the hustle of life, sometimes, my priorities get all jumbled up, and it goes the other way round. O’ gracious Lord, I pray that You will keep me and bless me with clarity of mind and give me a clean and pure heart that is tuned to Your guidance and leading. You searched my heart and know me through and through. May You remove any wicked and presumptuous sin within me, let them not have dominion over me, and lead me in Your way everlasting. Thou hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes. I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous judgments. Your name be blessed forever and ever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
After the study, I went to check on E, and she was so happy roaming around the room in her froggy headband. She loves it so much she wasn’t willing to have it taken down and returned to the box where it came from.
So we let her wear it and she was more than eager to strut about with her newfound ability.
… Out of the playroom while Isaac cheered her on… Then Isaac wanted to show her how to climb the railing… and she watched on carefully…
We all went down together to continue fellowshipping with Linh and her children who were waiting for Ps Lawrence. The children played in the fellowship hall. I love how children are always so innovative to come up with games to play with… never getting tired… They just go on and on…
That was the piggyback race where Hannah piggybacked Caleb, and Ruth piggybacked Isaac and raced to and fro… The hall was filled with their laughter! How lovely!
It’s ok.. Next time Asher shall piggyback you and race too…!
Then everyone gathered on the bench to rest and play with and talk to the littlies.
That was E asking Ruth to carry her to the hall to play again… and as usual, Ruth sweetly obliged…
I’ll end with a picture of our little ones being so happy and blessed in church on a Thursday afternoon. If you are a mother who desires to study on the Word of God and would like to fellowship with us, you are welcome to join us!
Moms Bible Study Fellowship is held at Zion Bible Presbyterian Church at 3 & 5 Tavistock Avenue. We meet on alternate Thursdays at 12:15 pm for lunch in the Fellowship Hall, followed by Bible Study at 1:00 pm. We are currently studying the Gospel book of Matthew. Our next meeting date is on 16 October 2014. We hope to see you and looking forward to welcoming you into our group!