Matthew 15:7-9 – “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” NKJV
The Pharisees accosted Jesus over the issue of ceremonial washing of the hands before eating. The Pharisees religiously adhered to the Mosaic Law and the addendums added to that law by the religious leaders. They kept not only the Law but the fences that had been erected to keep people from getting close enough to the law to break it.
They were following commandments of men not directives of God. Jesus, as was his manner, did not let that slip but turned the tables on them pointing out the hypocrisy of following the commandments of men, in contrast to the Law of God. He addressed numerous things and then quoted Isaiah, as is seen in our text which addressed the critical issue, the heart, and the mouth.
We have all seen situations where people proclaim something, but their lives negate their words. It is one thing to proclaim or claim something and quite another to validate that proclamation through actions. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone who called Him Lord would enter heaven. He identified the problem was their lives did not back up their proclamations.
In 1 John 2:9 we are warned that one can say they are a Christian but if their heart is filled with hate their lives and condition of heart negate their declaration. In James 1:26 we are told that if any person considers themselves to be religious but are unable to control their tongue they are living in deception. Titus 1:16 informs us that it is possible to claim to know God but live in such a manner as to deny Him. That is what Jesus was speaking of where people make a claim, but their words are negated by their lives. Following the Commandments of Men produces a false sense of righteousness because it allows one to “keep a list” and compare ourselves with others and have a false sense of security and righteousness.
Later in Jesus’ dealing with the Pharisees and teaching those following Him, said in verse 10, “…Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Couple that with His declaration in Matthew 12:34, “Brood of vipers! How can you being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Then in the next verse, He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Words are important, but they must be Heart Words and Life Words not merely lip service.
We can go through the motions and make all the proclamations we desire, but if it is not from the heart and directed by the Spirit of God it will be nothing more than tinkling symbols and sounding brass or as we would say in East Texas, “rain on a tin barn.” Noise and nothing more! I have no desire to pretend anything in life and especially not in matters of faith. I want to be genuine, having a genuine relationship with the LORD, and manifest Him to the world in my words, my walk, and my warfare. Jesus said in John 4 that God’s desire and demand is for men and women to worship Him “in spirit and truth.”
The Pharisees were challenged by the LORD, on more than one occasion, for their “teaching the commandments of men and their placing demands on people that they themselves were not willing to do.” Jesus called the doctrine and philosophy of the Pharisees as “leaven” and identified that it would permeate good doctrine and pollute or pervert it making it other than the directive of God.
We need to guard against following the commandments of men and strive to find the Heart and Precepts of God in all things and at all times. Purity of heart will reject corruption and the very appearance of evil. Purity of heart will place no burdens on men that God has not place. Purity of heart will exhibit love and longsuffering demonstrating patience and forgiveness. We should all be careful as to what we say and seeking to ensure that our words match our lives.
God bless you as you go through this day in Jesus!