August 29

Matthew 11-12, Psalm 86

Preconceived ideas blind us and are deadly if we want to walk with God. A little over a year ago I had a long discussion with a Rabbi who presides over one of the large Yeshivas in Lakewood, while his wife was in early labor. Interestingly, she cupped her hands over her ears the entire time not wanting to hear anything that was said. When I told him that I was going to study my Bible and prepare for my discussion with my son he began to ask me questions. During the course of the discussion he opened my eyes to something I never realized. He said that once an orthodox Jewish boy has his Bar Mitzvah at age 13, he stops reading the Tanakh (the actual Bible, Hebrew Scriptures) and only reads the Talmud (man's commentary on the Tanakh). A few months later another orthodox patient went so far as to state that it is believed that the Tanakh is for women and children, but the Talmud is for men (she was elevating the Talmud over the Tanakh). I asked her if she agreed that the Tanakh is from God, and the Talmud is from man. She did. Then I asked her if it made any sense why she would elevate the word of man over the Word of God. Besides commentary, traditions are elevated over God's Word, especially in this Biblically illiterate society that we find ourselves in. This is true of many mainstream Christian faiths where preconceived ideas about God derived from man-made traditions blind those adherents to opening their eyes to the truth and exclusivity of God's salvation through a true relationship with Jesus Christ.

Though John the Baptist is described by Jesus in Matthew 11:11as being greater than any man born of women up to that time, we see him falling victim of a preconceived idea of what the Messiah was to do. Expecting the Messiah to make things right, and expecting to be freed from prison, and expecting a Messiah on fire who would destroy all evil and reign over the world, he is confused by Jesus, who is meek, loving, healing and shows no signs of overthrowing anyone (he did not understand a first and second coming). So knowing that Jesus was Messiah, he sends two of his disciples to Jesus in Matthew 11:2 and has them ask, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Often God doesn't act according to our timetable; He acts according to His eternal plan, and that confuses us if we have preconceived thoughts. Though John the Baptist and Jesus were the greatest 1-2 punch in history, they were largely missed by that generation as we read in Matthew 11:18-19 that neither one measured up to what they were expecting. 

How do we prevent ourselves from this blindness?  We must approach God's Word with a freshness and openness daily, refusing preconceived thoughts to render us deaf and blind. We read in Matthew 12:18 concerning Jesus, and prophesied by Isaiah, "Behold! My servant whom I have chosen,...". This means we don't approach Jesus with a casual glance, but we approach Him and His Word studying carefully and diligently. These preconceived thoughts which elevate ourselves and our thoughts in our own minds are revealed for what they are in Matthew 11:25, "At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes." Paul expanded on this thought in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, "...not many wise according to the flesh,..., are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty;...". The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is clear and exclusive (John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life. no one comes to the Father except through Me.", 1 Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,"). Preconceived ideas, Biblical illiteracy, and man-made traditions destroy clarity of His clear message. As we continue in the One Year Bible Challenge, no matter how many years we have been in God's Word, may we approach it with fear and trembling and allow God to open our minds with freshness and clarity.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster