- Matthew 15:14 “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
- Matthew 23:24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”
- Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
BLIND GUIDES, WHO STRAIN OUT A GNAT AND SWALLOW A CAMEL
What’s the point?” I get this question a lot as I work with college students. “What purpose does this even serve?” Frankly, I ask these same questions as I walk through life. They are simple questions trying to cut to the core of a situation.
On one particular day, I met with a student who was upset because a Christian organization was expecting him to fulfill his commitment to following the code of conduct. His argument was that one of the things in the code was not actually straight from the Bible, therefore, he shouldn’t have to follow it. He argued that it was his legal right to do that and the organization did not have the right to put limits on his behavior.
He was missing the point. As our discussion continued, he was seeking for me to justify the organization’s stance. I wouldn’t do it because the issue wasn’t policy. The issue was two-fold: 1) doing what he said he would do; and 2) rebellion against God. He said he would follow the policies, so the organization expected that from him. Second, his refusal to change this one behavior was not a blanket refusal. He had stopped the behavior in the past when a girlfriend would ask it of him, but he wouldn’t do it for God.
We could have debated policy all day. And he had been in those arguments with others, the final result consistently being and administrator’s response of “I don’t know, just do what you’re told.” That response served to bolster his feeling of needing to prove a point. It was only when the discussion was pulled away from the policy and to the core of the real struggle in his life that we were able to make progress in the discussion.
Arguing the wrong point results in circular arguments and continually rising frustrations.
Consider Job. We have missed the point in many ways. The folklore of the church says that nobody spoke with wisdom to Job and that Job faithfully trusted God without question. Oh, how wrong we are! Yes, God called Job faithful. But we have missed so much more in this story.
Staring in chapter 27 of the book, Job starts blaming God for the situations in his life. Job 27:2 reads: “And God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty who has embittered my soul…” Though his words throughout are sprinkled with the truth of God, so much of his discourse in chapters 27 through 31 speak of Job’s own work.
We are familiar with God answering Job beginning in chapter 38, which leads off with “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!'”
We know God inserts Himself into the conversation. What we have so often missed are the words of Elihu in chapters 32-37. Elihu, young compared to Job and the men condemning Job, begins by setting a foundation of respecting their elder-status. It is Elihu that lays into both Job and the men who condemn him. Elihu throws down the gauntlet to both sides, demanding to know which of them instructs God.
Elihu stepped outside the argument about whether Job was righteous and God was judging him. Elihu stepped outside of conventions to speak against all of them though he was young. And by doing so, he brought the discussion to the core of the issue.
Read Job 37:14-24. What stands out to you?
In what areas of your life are you demanding an answer from God and possibly missing the point?
Read Job 36:22 through Job 37:13. List out all the things God does.
If He does all these things, might He have a plan that is beyond your understanding for those issues with which you struggle?
When we limit God to our own understanding, we limit our lives to human standards. To think that God is doing something for one reason or another is to limit what we can see of the work of His hand. If I believe God brought me to a certain place to teach me, I will miss the elements where He brought me there to comfort me, to set foundations for the future, and to show me His love. And still, those are human understandings. There is so much more I cannot possibly imagine. Accepting that is hard. Accepting that God is bigger and there are things I cannot understand or control is vulnerable. But doing so will bring the trembling of heart Elihu describes in Job 37:1. Letting go of trying to explain God and thinking I have covered it all allows my heart and spirit to go wherever He leads without the bounds put in place by my limited human understanding.
So, what does this have to do with the Pharisees of whom Jesus speaks, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel?
They didn’t always do this. At one point, their faith understood the preeminence of God. But in trying to explain God, to put limitations on the commandments, they slowly began to limit what their hearts and minds could glimpse of the work of God. IN trying to define the ten commandments given through Moses, the Israelite people created over six hundred more! And one result of doing so was to limit the righteousness of God to the actions of man.
In what areas are you adding to the Word of God, trying to explain God through human rules?
In discussions around these issues, we have lost the point. The point is to glorify God. And the point is that we are each, individually, seeking God. We get so wrapped up in the conventions of man that we forget the point is all about the glory of God. God is not glorified by arguments. He is glorified when the people of God search out the Word of God and put it into practice. He is glorified when these seeking people encourage others to seek God too, not as we seek, but as that person best seeks God.
And such freedom scares us. And such freedom releases our souls from the bonds of men.
What is God telling you right now?
What is He asking you to do?
What commitments do you need to make?
FOR YOU ARE LIKE WHITEWASHED TOMBS
Being a whitewashed tomb is more than merely slapping a coat of paint on something nasty and calling it clean. Yes, this is a very obvious and accurate description. But hypocrisy can lay more insidious in our hearts in ways we may not immediately identify or comprehend.
Read Psalm chapter 73. What stands out to you?
Part of the hypocrisy that the world sees in Christians is when we say Jesus is all we ever need and yet are jealous of the same things the world is jealous of, who seek the same things and get upset over the same things. Calling yourself a Christian and yet not behaving any differently than the world creates this image that all you have to do is give it a different name and everything will be okay.
Yet Asaph, in this Psalm catches himself.
Review verses 16-17. When was Asaph able to see the situation as it really was?
We are human. We have the same longings and desires as those who do not believe in Christ. Yet, we have a way to re-focus and get our eyes back to seeing things from God’s perspective.
And the beauty of it all is that Jesus doesn’t ask us to come to Him having already has to perspective figured out. As Asaph says in verse 17: “until I came into the sanctuary of God…” He came to the sanctuary first, then his perspective was changed.
Read verses 21-24. In what ways is your heart embittered?
In what ways are you pierced within?
Read the promises in verses 23-24. Jesus does not leave us to figure it out on our own. He is there every step of the way.
Read verse 25 again. What things have you allowed between yourself and Christ?
Allow Him to fill you, to take those desires, and fill them in a way beyond anything you can imagine.
Spend some time today meditating on verses 26-27.