A total of 8 moms and 13 children attended Moms Bible Study Fellowship (MBSF) last week! We were delighted to see so many children (ages range from 10 mo to 9 yo) playing together, girls and boys taking care of each other.
To accommodate the horde, we had to move to Chapel 1 at level 3 today for our bible study. Some sisterly tender loving care from Hannah, Ruth, Cadence and Kayla, showered upon E, as they sat cuddled up in the centre-front of the chapel.
Jude was serenading us with beautiful melodies from the piano, with Hannah joining him… while Kayla was running around the chapel, distributing animal headbands to the children, coercing the little ones to put them on…
Then came the toy box from Judah room brought up by Lang and Mayette. Once the lid was pried opened, Cadence, Ariel, Caleb and E just wanted to be near the toy box, to fish out all sorts of toys to play with. As for the mothers…?
We set up a study table for ourselves and “cordoned” off our cosy study corner by pulling close the folding doors to separate the children’s play area from us.
Study Notes from Matthew 15:10-20
Examine the Word of God (v 10)
When Jesus had called the multitude to Himelf, He said to them, “Hear and understand” (v 10). The words “hear and understand” simply means pay attention. These words apply to us in the current era too: we must make it a point to attend and understand the Word of God. Be not satisfied only through attending church and fellowship classes. Having the word of God with us, we must know how to examine it ourselves to understand what God wants to teach us. Not only do we need to hear the Word of God, we ought to go back to the bible to see what was taught by ministers of the Word is correct, because there remains a high possibility that humans may quote verses out of context.
“Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The way we worship God and the way we live should be questioned and corrected if need be. Man’s traditions have no part in the life of those who want to live by the word. It was condemned by Jesus when he walked on this earth (Matthew 15:1-14), and it stands condemned today.
A Sinful Heart is the Source of Uncleanness (v 11)
Jesus explained to the crowd that what went into a man’s mouth did not make him unclean, but what came forth (v 11). Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the doctrine that was teaching them is wrong and came forth not from God. In the Old Testament, many things were classified as either clean or unclean, and what was unclean was not allowed in the temple e.g. defilements, diseases, sins, contaminations, discharges etc. made a person unclean. The Pharisees were rigid in observing the laws of cleanness as well as the sabbath observances and the tithes. In the process, they were so concerned with the outward observance of these defilements and contacts with things unclean that they failed to realize that the real defilement was sin. The diseases, discharges, and defilements that made a person unclean were things in life that were the result of the presence of sin and death. The great source of pollution is the heart. It is not the external things that defileth a man, it is within the core – our heart that is sinful and defileth a man. The human heart produced sin, and sin brought the curse, and the curse brought disease, defilement and death. God legislated rituals to deal with the defilements and death as a way of reminding Israel of the fact that they were defiled by sin. And Jesus often healed people as a way of showing that He could deal with the cause of the sickness, sin, as well as the consequences. However, the Pharisees were obsessed in observing the outward rituals, while missing the connection with sin, not understanding the real source of uncleanness was actually the human heart. They were holding to externals and missed the real spirit of the law and the reason for the washing. To harbor sin (such as hatred and murder for Jesus) and wash hands with ritual washing was hypocritical.
The Significance of Israel’s Dietary Laws
God covenanted with Abraham that He will bless his descendants. The covenant on Israelites is to proclaim God and to be set apart for God. Through their observance of the dietary laws, they were to point the pagans to the One and only true God. The ceremonial laws, including the dietary laws, were given to keep Israel distinct from the nations, such that in the coming of the Messiah, the believers from the nations would be united with the believers in Israel in the new covenant.
In the Old Testament, Leviticus 11 states down what food Israelites can and cannot eat. Jesus the Messiah is the new covenant. He has come! His coming abolishes the ceremonial and dietary laws. With the coming of the Messiah, our new covenant in Jesus Christ, nothing is deemed unclean, anything that is good for the body to consume can be eaten. Jesus teaches us that external things or the food we consume cannot pollute us, for these things do not pollute our souls. Rather, what comes out of the mouth shows what is from within, from an unregenerated heart. What comes out of our mouth is a true reflection of what our heart is truly thinking. Matthew 12:36 reminds us that all of us have to give account of every careless word we speak. Learning how to speak edifying words is very important. May we find grace from God to be an encourager.
Sidenote: There is an account in Acts 10:9-16 which showed Peter actually forgot what Jesus taught here. It serves as a reminder to us that it is common for us to forget God’s word. Hence, find time to read the bible everyday so that we do not forget what God teaches us.
Jesus Answers (v 12 – 20)
The Pharisees were obsessed in the outward show of their pious acts. Upon hearing Jesus’ rebuke, they became outraged and were offended. This showed that they understood what Jesus had said and hence had taken offence at it. The Pharisees were highly influential and the people held these teachers in high regard, Jesus’ disciples were thus concerned that He has publicly shamed his influential interlocutors instead of reaching out to them (v. 12). Jesus is interested in speaking God’s truth, not in winning influential allies. The basic issue was their misunderstanding of the Law → The Pharisees dwelt on the externals as the source of uncleanness and did not realize that the source of the defilements was sin in the world, so uncleanness originated in the human heart.
Here, we see that the disciples asked to be better taught as to this matter. Where a weak head doubts concerning any word of Christ, an upright heart and a willing mind seek for instruction. It is the heart that is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) for there is no sin in word or deed, which was not first in the heart. Evil thoughts precede evil acts. They all come out of the man, and are fruits of that wickedness which is in the heart, and is wrought there. When Christ teaches, he will show us the deceitfulness and wickedness of our own hearts; he will teach us to humble ourselves, and to seek to be cleansed from our sinful wrongdoings in Him.
Jesus answers the disciples’ question about His treatment of the Pharisees by stating that they were blind guides of the blind (15:12-20). The ceremonial traditions of the elders that the Pharisees were teaching would not stand, for these things came not from God but from men. Hence, they would be rooted up because they were not of God. When someone who is blinded by his own doctrine teaches someone else that falsehood, he has led that individual into the dark. Both, being blinded, will fall into the pit because they cannot see the truth. Both are guilty, the teacher and the student.
Religious groups are likened to a plantation of trees. Jesus is proclaiming judgment on the Pharisees by telling the disciples that these false teachers will be rooted out. Here, Jesus was alluding back to the prophetic image of building or tearing down, and planting or uprooting people according to God’s message (compare Matthew 3:10; Jeremiah 42:10; 45:4).
Conclusions and Applications
It is not our dirty hands or what we put into our mouths that defiles us. These are just things outside the body that when taken into the body are broken down, nutrients will be absorbed, while anything that is not useful to the body will be expelled and eliminated from the body. These things are merely dirt and grime from the outside world that is temporal, finite and passing away. What truly defiles a man comes from what’s already within him. It is the evil things that reside in his evil heart that defiles him.
Christ’s rebuke points us to an even greater reality. There is no hope apart from God and there is no salvation apart from Christ. The faux salvation that is offered by the Pharisees’ strict rule-keeping is hollow and worthless. They are but dead rules created by sinful men in the vain attempt to teach other sinful men to rise to God’s perfection without ever asking for His help. But the heart within needs to be changed and transformed by God Himself. It must be transformed into a heart that loves as God loves, and is kind as God is kind. This new heart must also be peace-loving, gentle, faithful and pure. This heart must be the heart of Christ Himself.
New hearts can only come by faith in Jesus Christ, and this is why the Lord’s stern rebuke beckons the religious authorities to contemplate their hypocrisy in light of their motivations, and to turn to Christ from their dead rules.
Let us make it a point not to be a blind follower. Study God’s word and obey it with our eyes wide open.
After the Bible Study
We wrapped up our 1-hr study and discussion to find our children still going around with energetic vigour. My E looked like she knew how to play backhand stroke in pingpong…
… with Mayette as her coach…
Then there was Cadence and Ruth playing girly finger games in one corner, before they joined the other girls to make loom bands together…
After waiting for our children to finish their activities, we all went home with our spiritual hunger satisfied. Oh! And thanks too to Linh for preparing a very delicious home-cooked food for us all – and that satisfied our physical hunger too.