Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: Jesus Broke Rules and Traditions Matthew 15:1-20

Leading a Rebellion:
Jesus Broke Rules and Traditions
Matthew 15:1-20

Intro: How many of you know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that you are smarter than your parents? I realize this is a dangerous question for some of you. How many of you do things that your parents tell you not to do, but do it anyways and get away with it? Ok, everyone needs to tell me those things right now. Just kidding. When I was in the fifth grade or so, my brother and I would get grounded from the TV, but we rode the bus and usually got home before my parents. We lived down this really long driveway, and our television was hooked up to one of those light switches that controls the top plug of an electrical outlet. We’d sit on the couch and watch whatever stupid show came on after school, see mom or dad pull into the lane, reach back and flip the light switch. The best part was if you flipped the switch again, it wouldn’t even turn the TV back on. But then I met Jesus and put aside all of my sinful, rebellious ways. Some of you know my parents pretty well and if any of you rat me out, I will rat you out so hard to your parents.
            Next question: How many of you ever did or didn’t do something and you got caught and were completely baffled as to how you got caught? There was no way you parents could have known what you did and didn’t do, and yet you still got caught. When my dad was in school he had a study hall teacher who would get to the room, prop his feet up on the desk and relax the hour away. At the end of the period he would get up and write out detention slips for the misbehaving students. How did he know who was misbehaving? He was asleep the whole time. He would get to class early and arrange all of the windows and glass doors in a certain way to see the entire class without moving from his supposed asleep position. Parents and teachers are a lot smarter than what we get credit for. Everyone thinks they have their parents fooled, but we have a bunch of tricks up our sleeves. For instance, I can tell if you washed your hands after going to the bathroom at my house without inspecting hands, sinks, towels, or soaps. Wanna know how I do it? I’m not telling.

The Story So Far: What does this have to do with anything? Open up your Bibles to Matthew Chapters 14 and 15. In chapter 14 we have Jesus just finding out His cousin, friend, and ministry partner was beheaded and wanted to spend some time alone in prayer. So He got on a boat and headed for a deserted shore. When He got there He found that the word had spread that Jesus was going to be there and a huge crowd gathered. Unable to get the rest He wanted, He spent the entire day ministering to them and eventually fed 5,000 men plus women and children. After dinner Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him on a boat and He stayed behind to pray. A few hours later Jesus strolled up to the boat walking on water as if on dry ground. Even Peter got to try walking on the water. It wasn’t a public miracle, but still very impressive. When they reached their destination Jesus got out of the boat and began healing many of the local people’s sick and demon possessed.
            Jesus was doing a lot of good things in a matter of a day or two, despite having a heavy heart. And then the scribes and Pharisees showed up—The Holy Party Poopers.

The Rebellion:
Matthew 15:1-2
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”
After all of the things that Jesus just did and went through and they had the audacity to begin their complaints with “Why do your disciples not wash their hands before they eat?”
            Jesus rebelled against the religious culture of the day because all of the rules and traditions they established were so far from the heart of God that it made Him sick. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. There were more, but those were the ones everyone is familiar with. The Jews then made up laws and traditions on top of those to avoid breaking any of the commandments on accident. For instance: The Fourth Commandment says to keep the Sabbath day holy. What does that mean? Can you work on the Sabbath? What constitutes work? Is cooking work? What about re-heating food in a microwave? Can you go for a walk? Can you start a fire? The Jews made thousands and thousands of rules and traditions to protect themselves from breaking the commandments. Imagine that you have something very beautiful and precious that you want to protect, so you build a fence around it. Well someone still may throw something over the fence, so you make another fence around that one that is higher. But there are still some holes in the fence so you put a third fence around the first two. This goes on and on until there are so many fences that it is impossible to even see the beautiful precious item you first sought to protect. By the time Jesus came around the Jews had a whole system of religion based on the keeping of the traditions and rules, so much so, that if you broke one of the traditions or rules, it was as bad for you as if you broke one of the commandments. The Pharisees were the best of the best at keeping the rules.
            Jesus’s friends were not just accused of having dirty hands when they ate, they were accused of breaking the tradition of not washing their hands in the proper ceremonially way. Here is a video on how to wash your hands correctly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozOPl8A3Qxk.
            Jesus had more issues with the religious leaders and their system of rules and traditions than He did with anything else. This was the ultimate reason why the leaders feared Him and demanded that He be put to death. He was threatening their source of power, wealth, and influence.
            Jesus answered the scribes and Pharisees complaints in Matthew 15:3-9.
He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”[a] he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word[b] of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

            Jesus was referring to the practice of Corban. Many of the religious leaders instead of helping their mothers and fathers in their times of need as they grew older, would dedicate their money to God. They would say, “Whatever money I had to give you is dedicated to God. I can’t help you.” How it worked was the person dedicated their possessions to God, and then got to live the rest of their lives off of it, helping no one, and then whatever was left over was given to the temple.
            These were the traditions and rules that infuriated Jesus so much because the heart of the rule and tradition was so far from the heart of God. God said to honor your father and mother, but these leaders ignored God’s commandment to practice a man made, God dishonoring rule.

Matthew 15:10-20
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides.[a] And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?[b] 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

            Jesus isn’t interested in you following the rules and traditions of man. This may come as a shock to you, but He isn’t really even interested in you following the Ten Commandments. He is really interested in having a relationship with you. This is the reason the Father cracked open the piggy bank of Heaven and sent His son to die a humiliating, and excruciatingly painful death. Am I saying all rules and traditions are bad and you shouldn’t follow the Ten Commandments? No, of course not. Christ died because we are sinners and are unable to keep the Law. No one has ever kept the Law perfectly, except Jesus. We get to go to Heaven because of Jesus’ once for all atoning sacrifice, not because of our ability to impress Him with our Law abiding. What makes grace grace is that we didn’t do anything to earn it. We get to go to Heaven off of the back of Jesus and not our own merit.
            Now once you are a born again believer, I would recommend following as close as you can to the teachings of Jesus concerning the commandments. Adultery is so much more than having an affair. Murder is so much more than killing someone. What does it mean in today’s society to have other gods? How should we keep the Sabbath day holy? How should we honor our father and mother?
            If you do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, I do not expect you to act any differently than the rest of the world does. If you do claim to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and you act the way the rest of the world does, then we have a problem.
            If you’re here tonight and are saying “I know I don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus,” then congratulations. You’re in the right room. We can walk you through the process of how you can know without a doubt that you will go to heaven when you die, and let me tell you that there is no better feeling than that.
            If you are here tonight and are saying, “I’m a born again believer in Jesus and trust Him as my Lord and savior but I have X, Y, and Z going on in my life and I want to get rid of it.” Congratulations. You’re in the right room. We can help you with that, too. After salvation there comes a long and painful at times period of growth where God is chiseling off everything that doesn’t resemble Christ.         

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Leah and Rachel: The Original Sister Wives

Leah and Rachel:
The Original Sister Wives

            The Bible is filled with beautiful love stories. This is one of the more strange ones. We’re going to be covering a lot of ground in scripture tonight so we are going to read a little and then break it down piece by piece.
Genesis 29:1-10
Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well's mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.
            Notice how Jacob suddenly rose to the occasion and rolled the large stone away from the mouth of the well when he saw the beautiful Rachel walking his way. It’s interesting how down through the ages men have always felt the need to show off their strength in front pretty women. “Oh, hi Rachel! I didn’t see you standing there. Did you see how I moved that large rock? I move large rocks all of the time.”
            After Jacob flexed his muscles for Rachel, she ran home and told her father Laban that their relative Jacob was in town. Jacob stayed at Laban’s house for a month. We’ll pick up the story from there.
Genesis 29:15-17
Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah's eyes were weak,[a] but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.
            Laban had two daughters the oldest was named Leah, which means “Wild Cow.” The younger was named Rachel which mean “Ewe Lamb.” Which name would you rather have? As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bible goes on to say that “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” There is a little debate amongst translators as to what exactly the author meant by “weak eyes” when he wrote this passage, but because he used the contrasting conjunction “but” to compare that Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance, most likely the term “weak eyes” was meant as a euphemism to say that the “Wild Cow” wasn’t as pretty as the “Ewe Lamb.”
Genesis 29:18-20
Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
            That’s very romantic. Seven years is a long time, though. What grade were you in seven years ago? Who did you like then? Do you still like them now?
            This is where is gets weird, though.
Genesis 29:21-25
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave[a] his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”
            Just two chapters earlier Jacob deceived his father into giving him the blessing over his older brother Esau, and now he has been deceived himself. The deceiver has been deceived. I imagine at the wedding feast that there was probably some wine being drunk, and I know that this was before electric lighting, but I still cannot imagine how Jacob didn’t realize that he was marrying the wrong woman.
            Apart from that there is something equally upsetting. Leah, the weak eyed Wild Cow, is going through what I consider to be the most humiliating passage of scripture. Imagine what it must have felt like for Leah to know that her father could not marry her off to someone who might love her, so he had to trick Jacob into marrying her. On top of that, she was forced to play along. Were there no words spoken to each other the whole night? What did she think would happen when the sun rose in the morning? Imagine how unworthy and unloved she must have felt. First from her family for giving her a name like Wild Cow, second from the rest of the town because her father had seven years to marry her off and couldn’t. And finally by the man her father tricked into marrying her. Once she was married to this man, who didn’t even want to be married to her, she really had no other chance at love. Once she was married to him that was it unless he died. Everyone knew the story of Jacob and Rachel. How he was working for seven full years to marry her. There was no doubt that Jacob loved Rachel. Now she was trapped in a loveless marriage.
Genesis 29:26-30 
 Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.
            Jacob finished off his honeymoon to Leah as a duty to Laban, not for love of Leah. Not exactly what every little girl dreams of. Then Laban got another seven years of work out of Jacob for his second daughter. This time, however, Jacob married Rachel prior to the second set of seven years. So Jacob married two women and had two honeymoons within a month.
Genesis 29:31-35
When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben,[a] for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” 33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.[b] 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.[c] 35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah.[d] Then she ceased bearing.
            In Biblical times it was of utmost importance for a wife to bear her husband children and more specifically baby boys, and when the LORD saw that Leah was hated by her husband he opened up her womb and left Rachel barren. This is a very important verse because it shows who controls conception—God controls when life is created. I have heard stories and stories about families who go to fertility specialists to have babies and are unsuccessful and as soon as they stop trying, they get pregnant. Why? Because God controls when life is created. We also hear people say I’m against abortions except in the case of rape. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to carry the child of the man who raped you, but if God controls when life is created then He must have a reason for that baby to be conceived.
            Have you ever gone out with friends who were dating and you felt like a third wheel? The two of them wanted to be alone and couldn’t because you were there? They talked to each other and you tried unsuccessfully to jump into the conversation? This is how Leah felt all of the time. It wasn’t just one terrible time out for dinner and a movie, it was her entire existence. Jacob was Ken, Rachel was Barbie, and Leah was like the Bride of Chuckie that never went away.
            God saw that Leah was hated and mistreated so He blessed her in the most important way in Biblical times, by giving her children. But the names she gives her children shows how painful her life was.
1) Reuben—Literally: “See? A Son”; Added statement: “The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now, therefore, my husband will love me.”
2) Simeon—Literally: “Heard”; added statement: “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has, therefore, given me this son also.”
3) Levi—Literally: “Attached”; added statement: “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have born him three sons.”
4) Judah—Literally: “Praise”; Added statement: “Now I will praise the LORD.”
            We see that Leah bore Jacob three sons, all with the expectancy that now he will love her. It wasn’t until the fourth child that she changed her perspective. She stopped focusing on trying to win Jacob and started focusing on God. She said “Now I will praise the Lord.”
            Sometimes we look at beautiful women or handsome guys and we assume that they have it all together and that they must live an incredible life. The next passage reveals that life is not a bowl full of cherries for the beauty queen who has the love of her husband.
Genesis 30:1-8
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf,[a] that even I may have children[b] through her.” So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan.[c] Rachel's servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings[d] I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.[e]
            Rachel looks pretty on the outside but on the inside she is stirring with envy over her sister’s childbearing. What Leah wants more than anything is love—specifically the love of her husband. Rachel has the love of her husband, but wants children more than anything else because she feels that Jacob won’t love her as much as he will eventually love Leah if she can’t give him children. So Rachel gives her maidservant to Jacob as a proxy-wife. Girls can you ever imagine giving your husbands to another woman? Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah bore Jacob two sons.
5) Dan—Literally: “Judge”; Added statement: “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.”
6) Naphtali—Literally: “My Wrestling”; Added statement: “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.”
            Rachel feels that she has prevailed because she has two sons that she can claim as her own, and she has the love of Jacob. She has finally arrived. The only problem is that we never get to the peak in this lifetime. There is always more.
            The soap opera continues.
Genesis 30:9-13
When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Then Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, “Good fortune has come!” so she called his name Gad.[a] 12 Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher.
            Not to be outdone, Leah gave Jacob her maidservant as a proxy-wife and bore two more sons.
7) Gad—Literally: “Troop or Fortune”; Added statement: “A troop comes!”
8) Asher—Literally: “Happy”; Added statement: “I am happy for the daughters will call me blessed.”
            Leah went from a bitter, unloved Wild Cow to a happy woman who praised God for her children.
            A bargain was struck.
Genesis 30:14-21
In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.” 15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son's mandrakes.” 16 When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son's mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. 17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.[a 119 And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun.[b] 21 Afterward she bore a daughter and called her name Dinah.
            The rivalry between these two sisters is so intense that they had to bargain with each other over time spent with Jacob—he became a time-share husband. Leah bore two more sons.
9) Issachar—Literally: “Wages”; Added statement: “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.”
10) Zebulun—Literally: “Dwelling”; Added statement: “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me because I have borne him six sons.”
Genesis 30:22-24
Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24 And she called his name Joseph,[a] saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”
11) Joseph—Literally: “He will add”; Added statement: “The Lord shall add to me another son.”
            The LORD did add to her another son. In Genesis 35:16-22 we read that Rachel died giving birth to her second son.
12) Ben-Oni—Literally: “Son of my sorrow”; but Jacob renamed him Benjamin which literally means “Son of the Right Hand.”

What’s the point and how does it all end?
            In the beginning of this story we find Leah, an unloved woman who tries to use her body to earn the love of a man—first by physical relations and then through child bearing. She doesn’t feel worthy of love unless she gives her husband what he wants: Sex, and an heir to his property, a.k.a. baby boys. We also find Rachel, a beautiful woman involved in a very romantic relationship but lets the cares and stresses of this world make her bitter and angry.
            Is it more spiritual to be ugly? No, of course not, but one of the two women shifted her focus from what she didn’t have to what she did have, and the other shifted her focus from what she did have to what she didn’t. One went from sorrow and loneliness to being blessed and the other went from having it all, according to the world’s standards, to being bitter and sorrowful.
            When Jacob’s life was coming to an end, he chose to rest his earthly body next to his first wife Leah, rather than Rachel, in the burial tomb where Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah were buried.
            I would love to go back in time and ask Jacob, Leah, and Rachel each what they learned about life through their marriage. One thing I do believe we can take from the story of their lives is that 1) young ladies: You are more than a body, and you’re worth more than what you can do for, and give to someone else; And 2) It’s not how you start a race that matters. It’s how you finish the race that counts. Leah finished strong with the proper perspective. Rachel started strong but never gained the proper perspective.