It’s so easy to let hypocritical attitudes creep into our hearts and allow ourselves to become religious pretenders. We may look good on the outside, but have hearts full of envy, greed, anger, worry, and self-righteousness. In the process we lose the joy of our salvation and find ourselves just going through the motions of the Christian life.
Exodus 23 & 24
Straining Gnats & Swallowing Camels
Beginning in yesterday’s reading, Jesus, in talking to the scribes and Pharisees, uses the phrase “woe to you” eight times. He calls them hypocrites, religious pretenders who attempted to look good on the outside with all their religious deeds. But he said they were full of spiritual death inside. They lacked love and mercy, justice and faith. They believed their religious activities and long public prayers made them better than everyone else. They refused to see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior.
They loved themselves instead of the poor and needy. They legalistically carried out the law against others without mercy. In verse 24 He called them “blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” They not only couldn’t see where they were going, but were leading others astray also. They couldn’t or wouldn’t see their own sinful hearts. Because of their knowledge of the law and pretending to live it, He said they would receive a “greater condemnation.”
The law designated certain things as clean and others as unclean, including animals. Unclean animals, like camels, could be used as beasts of burden, etc., but were not to be eaten or used as sacrifices. This was a picture to them, and us, of God’s desire to have a people set apart for Himself with clean hearts—a holy people.
Gnats were the smallest of the unclean animals and camels the largest. Some of the Pharisees would strain their drinks through cloth to keep from inadvertently swallowing a gnat. They focused on all the religious “minors,” while ignoring the “majors”—the attitudes of the heart.
But God always looks beyond the outward behavior to the heart.
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
“See! Your house is left to you desolate” (v. 38). Religion is an empty shell. It’s only by coming into a right relationship with Christ that we can be saved and made whole.
Romans 10.9-13 says:
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
Do you have that relationship with Him? Are you a true child of God? And if so, could you be straining out gnats and swallowing camels in any area of your life?
The Joy of Your Salvation
Even as sons and daughters, unless we keep growing spiritually with a Matthew 7.5 mindset, we run the risk of falling into the same attitudes as the Pharisees, demanding perfection from others without love, mercy, justice and faith, and thinking we can hang on to our sins of the heart. If we are genuinely His children, we don’t lose our salvation, but we do lose its joy and vibrancy.
King David, in committing adultery with Bathsheba, must have come to believe that since he was “the king,” God’s anointed, he could live his life any way he pleased without consequence. But his unconfessed sin only brought him misery (Ps. 38).
After he confessed his sin he prayed:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation …” (Ps. 51.10-12).
Do you have any Pharisaical attitudes of which you need to repent? Any secret sin that is keeping you from a joyful, vibrant relationship with God? Bring them into the light, confess them, repent, and ask God to restore the joy of His salvation to you.
Today’s Other Readings:
Chapter 24.9-11 contains some incredible statements:
9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. 11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
All of them saw God in some form. So incredible was what they saw that even the pavement beneath His feet appeared to be like heaven itself! Though we may never see God in the same way these Israelites did, we can behold Him in the person of Jesus Christ! The more we come to know Him through His Word, the more we see Him!
And if that isn’t enough, we can look around at all of creation and see His handiwork, “The heavens declare the glory of God … (v. 1).
30 People do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.
31 Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold;
He may have to give up all the substance of his house.
As sinful human beings we can easily justify sin, like the hungry thief in these two verses. But God has promised that He will never allow anything in our lives that will force us to sin (1 Cor. 10.13. Instead, we’re to rely on God and respond in ways that glorify Him.
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