Monday, May 30, 2016

Day 78: Mark 7:1-23 & Psalm 79 - How Does Human Tradition Undermine God's Word?

Today's Reading: Mark 7:1-23 & Psalm 79

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How Does Human Tradition Undermine God's Word? 

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God
in order to establish your tradition! - Mark 7:9, ESV

Jesus had many run-ins with the religious leaders of His day. It is rather troubling to stop and realize that the people who knew the Scriptures the best and who taught others the ways of God were the very people who most opposed Jesus and sought to have Him killed. Many people have taken this as a call to oppose "organized religion" of any kind. But the same Jesus who opposed the religious leaders of the Jewish people also established His church and appointed leaders for it.

So, what was the real problem? The heart of the conflict seems to come out clearly in today's passage: The religious leaders had elevated their traditions to the same status as Scripture, which practically meant that their religious traditions replaced and overruled Scripture. Whenever human traditions - even good and sincere ones - are given the same kind of emphasis and weight as God's word, problems arise and multiply.

Here are some of the consequences of the exaltation of human tradition we can see in today's passage:

1. People begin to judge others on the basis of their adherence to the tradition and not to God's word. Suddenly, people can be condemned because they don't wash their hands properly, according to the ceremonial procedures of the religious community.

2. People begin to shape their lives by traditions instead of by Scripture. The conception of what should and should not be done becomes guided by tradition, even when the tradition conflicts with Scripture. 

3. In cases of conflict, one standard reigns supreme, and that almost always becomes the tradition. Jesus' harshest criticism was over the rejection of the commandment of God in favor of the tradition of men. This is really the test of our traditions: Are we willing to abandon them if they a situation arises where they conflict with Scripture?

4. People lose sight of what sin is and what makes us acceptable or unacceptable before God. In this case, dietary laws replaced righteous speech as the standard for being "clean" or "unclean." In other cases, we can begin to think that the type of clothing we wear, the way we style our hair, the kind of worship service we have, etc. all determine whether we are acceptable to God or not. In this, we lose sight of the definition of sin and the way of salvation.

The problem with human beings is that we are very prone to traditionalism. But how can we avoid it? Simply, we must commit to the Bible as the standard and to holding each other accountable to being Biblical in all that we teach and practice. Together, standing on God's word, we can stand against the encroaching temptation of traditionalism.

Prayer Based on Psalm 79:

O God, the nations have oppressed and persecuted Your people;
    they have defied Your word and mocked Your servants;
    they have burned churches and imprisoned pastors.
They have executed Your people
    or denied them the mist basic human rights,
    seeking to ridicule, suppress, oppress and oppose Your kingdom.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
    mocked and derided by those around us.

How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?
    Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out Your anger on the deceiver of nations
    that do not know You,
and on the fallen kingdom
    of the evil one, who leads astray those who do not call upon Your name!

Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
    let Your compassion come speedily to meet us,
    for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name's sake!
Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”

Let the groans of the prisoners come before You;
    according to Your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
And we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture,
    will give thanks to You forever;

    from generation to generation we will recount Your praise.

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