Messages from Pastor Raddatz
August 22, 2021, Mt. Olive Lutheran Houston TX, Texts for the day: Isaiah 29:11-19 and Ephesians 5:22-33
CLEAN HANDS and FAR HEARTS are CLEANSED BY GOD’S ACTION
“Wait for the Lord, Act Bravely, Have Courage” – Thomas a Kempis
Specifically vss. 6 and following: Jesus said to the Pharisees and some scribes, “…Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “’This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear People of God,
All of us are very familiar with the importance of hand washing, specially after the last year of fighting the covid virus. You have probably seen the signs in public bathrooms which go something like this, “All employees are required by law to wash their hands at least twenty seconds to prevent the spread of bacteria and germs.” When I see this sign I am reminded of guidelines that are important for all to follow, but just because someone’s hands are clean they can still harbor evil in their heart.
CLEAN HANDS or JUDGEMENTAL WORDS
Jesus is approached by the Pharisees (Mark 7:1). They want to point out his shortcomings. According to their opinion Jesus and his followers are not following tradition. They are not washing their hands like they should.
Jesus quotes Isaiah (see above) which points out the easy road of honoring God with only lip service and not with actions. Ylvisaker writes: The Talmud is a work in two parts, the Mishnah, containing the traditional legal enactments, and Gemara, with the corresponding interpretative annotations. In the 'tradition of the elders' there was one to the effect that a person should not eat with unwashed hands, in accordance with Leviticus 15:11 . . . One Rabbi contended that it was just as sinful to eat with unwashed hands as to commit adultery. -Bul’s Notes
In Judaism of that time they honored the written law. But there was also the oral law, which was written down, but was man’s tradition and interpretation on top of the written law. Many Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time honored the oral law even more than the written law. -David Guzik, Blueletterbible.org (BLB)
It happens to us today when someone gives an opinion or a judgement about someone. Such a person does not usually know all the facts. An observation is different than a judgement. An observation is what you see. A judgement is what you think or feel about what you see. Today, it seems that an opinion and a judgement about someone else, is so easy.
You probably had your mother or father, grandmother or grandfather reminding you to go wash your hands before you eat. It is a good habit because most germs get transferred through touch. But Jesus wants us to have more than clean hands, he wants us to have clean hearts.
So Jesus calls them hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who is fake, who wears a mask or is simply not real. In ancient Rome a hypocrite was someone who was an actor or a pretender. The Pharisees worried about human traditions while their hearts were far from God.
The religious leaders honored God with their words, while their hearts were far from God. Mark 7:21 reminds us, “For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, (Buls: . . .. "You see, from within, out of the heart of man come forth evil reasonings, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,). All sins begin with evil thoughts. The word here denotes the carefully thought through reasonings of the mind. The twelve nouns which follow are examples of these. This is the classic doctrinal location for the total depravity of human nature.
Mark 7:22 continues the list: “out of men’s hearts come greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” (Buls says these sins are covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lack of self-control, an evil eye, slander against God and man, arrogance, foolishness.)
Would God say something similar to us?
· They attend church, but their heart is far from Me.
· They read their Bible, but their heart is far from Me.
· They pray eloquently, but their heart is far from Me.
· They contribute money, but their heart is far from Me.
· They do ministry, but their heart is far from Me.
· They love to sing, but their heart is far from Me.
· They talk to others about Jesus, but their heart is far from Me.
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men: This is one of the pillars of legalism. Taking a commandment or opinion of men and teaching or promoting it as a doctrine from God is what supports legalism. It gives man’s word the same weight as God’s word. -Guzik, BLB
Verses 20-23 present a somber picture of mankind, Christians included. Christians still have a flesh. How often must not a Christian confess with Paul: "I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing." Romans 7:18
There are those in our society who believe that the primary way to improve man is to cleanse his environment and the pollution which enters man. But Christianity teaches that God purifies all hearts by faith (Acts 15:9). -Buls
Have you ever painted a house or a room? If you use Latex paint you can clean your brush and your hands with everyday soap and water, but if you use oil-based paint soap and water will not help you clean your hands or your brush and your spills. When you use oil-based paint products you need to have turpentine or mineral spirits (paint thinner) to clean your hands and your painting supplies.
In much the same way we cannot cleanse our heart using our human opinions and judgements. To clean our souls the blood of Christ was shed, to cleanse us from all our sins, 1 John 1:7.
THE CLEANSING ACTIONS OF GOD FOR OUR HEART
Jesus draws our attention away from human traditions, which cannot save us, to focus on God’s Word, which can. God’s words, spoken to us and for us, expose the “dirt behind our ears,” the “dirt” we’ve been hiding in the hope no one would see, the “dirt” that gets in our eyes and blinds us to the needs of those around us, the “dirt” that clogs our hearts and shuts them down, the “dirt” that kills. But the point of all this is not so God can say, “Look, you’re dirty!” Rather,
OUR LORD CALLS US FROM HUMAN TRADITION TO GOD’S WORD AND HIS PRIORITIES AND LETTING HIS VOICE DECLARE US CLEAN, so that he can say, by his death on the cross, “Come to me, and I will make you clean.” Amen. Rev. Jeffrey A. Oschwald, PhD
The Christian must often pray: "Create in me a clean heart, Oh God." (Psalm 51:10) LET’S SING HYMN 956.
May this peace of the God, through Christ, keep your heart and your mind in the one true faith, now and till life everlasting, Amen.
To God Be the Glory=Soli Deo Gloria
Pastor John Raddatz
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