Tag Archives: obey

Matthew 23 – Pharisees (Conclusion)

This appears to be the third and final chapter explaining and critiquing the Pharisees and Jesus wrath on them.

It’s interesting because after spending the past two chapters criticizing the Pharisees and their many problems, in the first part of this chapter Jesus strikes a different kind of tone.  He had been telling the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and He had been comparing them to disobedient sons, wicked men who lease a vineyard, subjects of a king who refuse to obey the king, and more.  Now however, Jesus instructs His disciples differently.  “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”  So even though the Pharisees have been evil in so many different ways, the disciples are still to have obedience towards them (to some extent).  They have been placed in a place of leadership.  The disciples are still to observe them and obey them, but they are to disregard their actions and life application.  That’s kind of a surprising thing to hear from Jesus after so much lambasting.  However, it does parallel Old Testament commands to obey the leaders of the people, but that we should obey God / YHWH over them.

Jesus then continues on to speak eight woe’s to the scribes and Pharisees (hypocrites): Woe to you…

  1. … you prevent others from entering the kingdom of heaven, and you refuse to enter yourself.
  2. …”you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers
  3. … you travel all over to make one disciple and make them twice the son of Satan as you are.
  4. … you make a big deal about the treasures of the temple and the sacrifices (that give them wealth), and you disregard the purpose and reason for it.
  5. … you focus on the minuscule details of the law, but you ignore the major points like justice, mercy, & faithfulness.
  6. … you clean and make pretty the outside of the cup, but you ignore what is important inside.
  7. … (directly related) you appear / act righteously, but you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
  8. … you build the tombs of the prophets and honor them saying, “If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.“, but you are going to do exactly as you say you would not do!

There is such a contrast here!  Christ says to follow the law and the leaders of the law, yet in the very next breath He is condemning the very same people!  I don’t know how well most American’s in today’s world can understand and relate to this principle.  Too often we feel that if the leader is unjust we should not have listen to them or  to do what they say.  That somehow the leader’s obedience / disobedience to the law or even our own expectations some how precludes our loyalty or obedience.  That does not fit with what Christ is saying here.

What do you think?

John J. Camiolo Jr.

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Leviticus – Conclusion

After having gone through the book of Leviticus chapter by chapter, i see this book much as i did before.  It is YHWH’s rules and regulation for the nation of Israel.  It is a defining of His covenant with them.  God both issues directives to obey the rules and promises to help and allow the people to obey and prosper.

Leviticus is an important book in that it sets the tone and direction for the expectations for the nation of Israel.  It is the measuring rod by which  the actions and motive of the nation are defined.  Without Leviticus, there is no understanding of YHWH’s interactions with the nation of Israel.  Without understanding that there are rules and what the rules are, we have no ground by which to judge the sin or righteousness of man.  As such, we have no foundation for understanding sin and the need for salvation and a savior.  While rules and laws may seem constricting and confining at times, they are actually more boundaries that when understood and followed allow us freedom to live happy, healthy, and satisfying lives without fear and stress of the aftereffects of our actions.

I really like C.S. Lewis’ quote from The Pilgrim’s Regress “When everything you eat is more or less poison, you need very strict rules to stay healthy” (rough quote).  The point is that when sin abounds in the world, understanding where the rules and limitations are gives you the freedom to live life within those limitations and without fear of their destruction.

That is the beauty of Leviticus, or that should have been the beauty of Leviticus for the Israelite people.

Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.

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Exodus 13 – Ownership

Looking at the chapter and trying to sum up the themes and basic concepts in one word brings me to the idea of ownership.  Verses 1-16 are an intermingling of two ideas that most of us would consider separate.  There are these very different and distinct concepts.  The first is that YHWH spared the firstborn of Israel, and as such they belong to the Lord.  Form here on out the firstborn, the one to open the womb, belongs to God.  They must be given to God, or they must be redeemed.  The second concept is that every year the people of Israel are to have seven days of unleavened bread and a feast at the end.  This is in celebration of the Lord passing-over the Israelite’s, destroying the Egyptians, and rescuing the people from slavery.  In honor of that event, Passover must be celebrated every year.  The people of Israel are to take ownership of the acknowledgment and remembrance of this event.  This should be something that they not only acknowledge and understand, but that they also celebrate.  The Israelite people must take ownership of the remembrance of this event.

What’s interesting to me, is that these two very distinct and separate concepts are so intermingled in these first 16 verses that as much as it seems like they should be different, it becomes clear that they are interconnected and dependent upon one another.  I can’t say that i fully understand it.  To me they seem like two very different concepts, but God seems to say otherwise.  How and why?

The final concept of ownership in this chapter goes from vs. 17 through the end of the chapter.  In this section God takes responsibility / ownership for the people of Israel.  He doesn’t just tell Moses to lead them to the Mountain of God; He leads them.  He goes before them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  He does not leave this to someone else.  He takes ownership and does it himself.

We serve a God of words and actions.  He doesn’t just tell us to do something.  He makes it happen.  As a result He is also a God that expects action and ownership from us.  We are to take ownership of the tasks that He gives us to do.

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Exodus 12-2 – Obedience

I split this chapter at the end of verse 27 due to the length of chapter overall.  Thus the first verse in today’s work was 28; “Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD (YHWH) had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.”  (NASB)  Opening this section with this verse really struck me.  If there is one thing that i have learned about the Hebrew people through most of  the old testament, it’s that they didn’t like doing what they were told.  They tended to be very stubborn people who took a whole lot of convincing to get them to follow simple instructions sometimes.  Even when they did follow directions, many times it also involved grumbling and complaining.  This was especially true of this particular generation.  Once they go out into the wilderness, Moses has all kinds of problems with them.  So much so that, apart from two people, none of them is allowed to actually enter the promised land.

Yet here we see a simple statement of profound importance.  “Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD (YHWH) had commanded…”  This and similar statements are made three times in this second half of Exodus 12 (vs. 28, 35, & 50).  Why is simple obedience such a difficult thing to do?  I know that the Hebrew people are not the only ones that have that difficulty.  Pharaoh had the same problem… and so do I.  I know that it would be better to do things God’s way.  I know that it would make my life better and easier.  I know that i can trust Him even when i don’t understand.  Yet time and time again the choice i make is the wrong one.  Then, i have the gall to get upset when things don’t go the way i expect them to.  I just don’t get it sometimes.

This section is where the exodus of the Hebrew people really begins.  The final miracle occurs; the firstborn of everyone from Pharaoh’s household to the prisoners in the dungeon lost their lives.  Pharaoh and the people of Egypt “urged” the Israelites to leave.  So exactly 430 years to the day after Israel and his family came to Egypt, the LORD (YHWH) brings them out again.

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Exodus 6 – YHWH

I am so glad that I do not have to do God’s work for Him.  I am so glad that all He requires of me is obedience.  I don’t think that i could handle the stress of the work that God does… that certainly is a silly statement isn’t it.  The point is, God was the one who did the work of hardening and softening Pharaoh’s heart.  God is the one who did the miracles in Pharaoh’s presence.  God is the one who fulfilled His promises to the people of Israel.  It wasn’t Moses, it had to be God, Himself.

There have been times in my life where God has told me what He was going to do in my life, and then i have attempted to make it happen on my own.  One guess as to the result… yup!  I failed miserably!  Months later, God did it.  You would think that after that i would learn my lesson.  Nope, i continue trying to do YHWH’s work for Him.

One thing i did want to make sure that i touch on is vs. 2-3 “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.”  The word LORD is the Hebrew word יהוה which is JHWH / YHWH / JHVH / YHVH.   This includes only consonants.  Traditionally, with vowels this word has been pronounced as Jehovah.  However, as time has gone by, there has been mounting evidence that there is a mix of words here.  It is believed that while the consonants are natural to the word, the vowels are not.  The vowels come from Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) meaning “my lord” making יהוה (YHVH) into יְהֹוָה (Yehovah).  The concept here is that in the 10 commandments YHWH says not to use His name in vain.  As such the priests who would read the law to the people would protect them from using His name in vain by not even saying the revered name of God out loud to them.  So whenever they came to the word YHWH, the priests would say Adonai instead.  As a result, over the millennia the true vowels to the name YHWH were lost.

Some would say that that is not the case, that those vowels are actually the correct vowels for the name, but even with a very limited understanding of the history and tendencies of the Israelite people and the legalism of the Pharisees of Jesus time, i’m much more inclined to go with the vast majority of scholars and say YHWH.

Either way, i find it interesting that YHWH first tells His true name not to Abraham, Isaac, & Israel, but rather to Moses and His people in Egypt.

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Exodus 5 – Trouble

Well, things changed as a result of God’s referendum to Pharaoh alright.  God said, “Let my go!”  Pharaoh said, “What?  You want me to do what with your people?  …you want me to make their work harder?  OK, I can arrange that.”

Wow, this overarching concept and idea feels very familiar for some reason.  The LORD gives a command to do something.  In obedience it is carried out.  Life gets harder, not easier as a result of the obedience.  You would think that when the God of the universe instructs you to take a stand and obediently place yourself at risk before everyone, He would come through when you expect him to.  But, that’s not necessarily how He works.  Taking that step of faith sometimes means getting your toes run over by a steamroller.

The question is, knowing that that is the case, are we willing to be obedient?  Are we willing to step out in faith?  Are we being obedient to get something out of it, or is our obedience because He is LORD of our life?  Can He trust us  to obey even when it means more trouble for ourselves?

That’s a difficult problem for most of us Americans.  Many times our outlook is; “What’s in it for me?”  If we aren’t getting something out of it, we aren’t willing to put anything into it.  God doesn’t work that way though.  He’s not a direct “If…then…” God.  “If you do this for Me, then I will do that for you.”  If that’s what you are looking for in a god, then you are looking in the wrong place.  Yes, God will bless you amazingly and  abundantly when you obey Him.  Yes, you will find peace in your life.  Yes, you can trust Him, but you cannot count on Him to do what you want Him to do, or even anywhere close to when you want Him to do it.  He works on His terms not ours.  However, we are still responsible for obeying Him.  The benefits will be amazing, but so will the troubles.

So what’s the LORD calling YOU to be obedient to today?

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Genesis 40 – Hidden Blessing

Here we go again.  Joseph is still in his bind.  He still doesn’t know what he’s doing there or why.  He’s still a prisoner, working as a servant to the chief prison guard.  He continues to obey God and not get angry and reject the right thing because of his situation that is out of his control.  He doesn’t like being in this situation.  He knows it’s not his fault, but he also knows that it’s not right and wants out.

So, what’s a young man to do?  He does his job faithfully.  He works hard.  He cares for those he is responsible for.  As a result, God blesses him and his master trusts and relies on him.  He continues to work, grow, and excel, and God continues to prepare him.

So one day in doing his duty, he sees two under his care in confinement that appear visibly disturbed.  So he tries to reconcile the problem.  First off, why should anyone care about how two lowly prisoners feel?  Isn’t prison supposed to be miserable?  …especially confinement?  Isn’t the point to make it so that people don’t WANT to be there?  Yet here Joseph is, treating these prisoners like they are children under his care.

In probing he finds out that they both had unusual dreams that are bothering them.  So Joseph, being the man that he is, tells them, “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell it to me, please.”  He then proceeds to listen and explain their dreams to them.  He tells the cup-bearer that in three days he will be back at his old post, and he asks him to remember him in prison because he has been imprisoned unjustly.  He tells the baker that within three days he will be hung up by his neck and the birds would eat his flesh.  He does NOT ask the baker to remember him in his situation when he meets with Pharaoh.

So, their dreams are fulfilled, and as soon as the cup-bearer is back in his position, he immediately proceeds to forget about Joseph entirely.  Isn’t that the way it seems to be sometimes?  I can definitely feel for Joseph in this situation.  I’ve never been imprisoned on false charges.  I’ve never been sold into slavery.  But, I have been in situations where it seems like it doesn’t matter that i’m doing the right thing.  It seems like no matter what i do, my situation keeps getting worse and worse.  It seems like even when i try to get out of the situation, i just keep getting more and more stuck and people just forget me.

But you know what?  That doesn’t matter.  God knows what He is doing.  Even when we feel like He has forgotten about us, He hasn’t.  Even when we feel like there is no hope, God is in control.  He brings us through when we least expect it.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.

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