Tag Archives: right

Only Following the Rules that Suit

I guess we can all have selective hearing and remembering when it comes to rules.  Some seem so much more important that others.  Some more relevant, some we just don’t like…

Mark 7:1-23

The Teaching of the Ancestors

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper  way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me
with your words,
but you never really
think about me.
It is useless for you
to worship me,
when you teach rules
made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10 Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12 You won’t let those people help their parents. 13 And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

What Really Makes People Unclean

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

17 After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18 He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19 It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20 Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

The Teachers of the Law decide to pick a fight with Jesus about his disciples washing their hands – or not, that becomes about something much bigger.

The teachers of the law always washed their hands before eating, as well as all the utensils they were going to us.  Quite sensible advice, but they were using their advice to control others, and miss the point – again.

So, Jesus turns it around to them

why are you so careful about what you put in your mouth, yet care so little about what comes out?

They were so concerned about the minutiae of the laws, jumping on people if they got the tiniest thing wrong, yet didn’t worry about the bigger picture of their own behaviour.  Not washing your hand or your pot right seemed important to them, yet they didn’t worry so much about the things coming from their own hearts – evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness – they are the things that really upset God.

Like in the James reading – it’s important to be angry about things that are really wrong, to worry about the right kind of thing  – not to try to pull people up on things that don’t matter, or aren’t what worry God.

  • What are the important thing?
  • What rules matter and what are less important?

Forgive me Lord

for the times I get my priorities wrong,

worry about the wrong things,

not the things that trouble you.

May I not focus on small things,

and leave big matters unchallenged.

May my focus be on what pleases you.

False Prophets?

Have you ever had one of those letters, or an email claiming that you’ve won an amazing prize?  And “all you have to do” to get your prize is ring a phone number that is on an extortionate tariff, or supply your bank details!

They turn out to be “prizes” that cost you way more than you ever get.

It seems the adage is true – if something sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

Micah, or perhaps more correctly God, is having trouble with false prophets. They seemed to be telling people what they wanted to hear – especially those who were paying them!  A nice payment produced a good prophecy, no payment meant a bad prophecy – not really what prophecy is meant to be about!

But God has had enough – they will no longer have any prophecies to proclaim. Chasing after false promises will no longer work.  They are despising justice and distorting what is right – but no more.

Micah points them to the true message from God.  Hating justice and turning right to wrong are not the right foundations to build on.

Seeking justice and following God’s true way is the right foundation – strong and firm.

Prophecy for money or favour is never going to be that reliable – they need to seek God’s true word.  It might not be so comfortable, but it will be the word that helps and strengthens.

We need to listen to what God is really saying, not what we’d like to hear.  We need to take the time to stop and really listen.

I love the simple words of this song:

Let God Speak Lyrics – lan Smale (Praise and Worship Lyrics & Chords by Higher Praise).

Let God speak and I will listen

Let God speak, there’s things I’m needing to put right

Let God speak and I will obey what He says

Please God, I want to hear Your voice tonight

Lord I want to hear Your voice

Lord I want to hear Your voice

Lord I want to hear Your voice Tonight, tonight

© 1982 Kingsway�s Thankyou Music

As we listen to God, do we hear what we want to, or what he’s really saying?

O Lord,

I long to hear your voice,

I need to know what it is you want to say to me.

Help me to truly listen,

with ears attuned only to you,

and your voice.

Getting it wrong…

… and Jesus putting it right

Whenever I try and write something out by hand, it reminds me how much easier it is to type it on the computer.  Any mistakes rather than being crossed out, overwritten, or just having to throw the page away and start again; just need the pressing of the delete key and they are gone and no one need ever know they were there.  And that’s certainly all much easier than the palaver it was to correct things when I first learnt to type when Noah was a lad!

Anyway, this Sunday’s readings from Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; and Luke 24:36b-48 show us how  that can happen in our lives.  We’re still in the resurrection appearances, and as Jesus appears again to the disciples, and brings his peace, he reminds them of the message of repentance and forgiveness – and that it must be preached.  He knows that they know they’d done things wrong, and the beginning of peace is knowing that Jesus forgives those wrong moves, and replaces them with a new right task.

In Acts Peter reminds the people that they had killed the one who leads to life, at the same time as letting a murderer go loose! – but God had raised him  from death.  They had got something very wrong – God had made it right.  If they turned to him, he would forgive them.  And in 1 John, God’s love for us is so great that we are called his children – and Jesus came to take away the wrong things and their rule in our lives.

So the message for us?  We may have got things wrong – maybe stupendously, hiddeously wrong – but God can and will put them right if we give him a chance – and replace guilt and despair, pain and frustration, fear and hate – with his great peace, love and hope.