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Jewish Religious Degeneration
6 July 2013
In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites lots of detailed instructions about how they were to worship Him — the various types of offerings they were supposed to make, the festivals they were supposed to celebrate, and many other details. And even though the Israelites were often wayward in their hearts, they were just as often still able to perform these external religious rituals which God Himself had commanded. But do such external observances really please God when they are performed without the corresponding internal reality? In various passages of the Old Testament, God Himself tells us how He feels about this:
These verses are very illuminating. During the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert after being delivered from slavery in Egypt, they thought that they were worshipping God. They were following His instructions. They were God's people — the very ones He had rescued from Egypt. But from God's perspective — which is the only TRUE perspective — they were worshipping pagan gods — idols — and NOT God, no matter how much THEY though they were worshipping God.
I hate all your show and pretense — the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Was it really to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, Israel? No, you served your pagan gods, the idols you made for yourselves. (Amos 5:21-23,25,26)
In the New Testament, Paul clearly states that sacrifices offered to idols are actually offered to demons:
Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don't want you to participate with demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19-20)Therefore, what God is saying in the above passage from Amos is that although the Israelites claimed that they were worshipping God, in God's eyes they were actually worshipping demons. Any outside observers would also have claimed that the Israelites were worshipping God based upon the external evidence. But external evidence is not enough, because God looks at the inward reality (see 1 Samuel 16:7). In another passage from the Old Testament, God says:
But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations. (Isaiah 66:3)As before, it appears that the Israelites were following God's commands: offering bulls and lambs as sacrifices, making grain offerings and burning incense to God. But again, God sees a huge difference between outward ritual and inward reality. For God, their outward appearance of worshipping Him, not corresponding to their inward reality of having "chosen their own ways", was equal to murder and idolatry. And God has even more to say on this subject:
The people of Israel act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. "We have fasted before you!" they say. "Why aren't you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don't even notice it!" Yahweh responds, "I will tell you why! It's because you are fasting to please yourselves.... This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please Yahweh?" (Isaiah 58:2-5)
God even goes so far as to beg the Israelites to stop offering the very sacrifices He commanded:
"How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you," says Yahweh of Heaven's Armies, "and I will not accept your offerings. But My name will be honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they will offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of My name. For My name will be great among the nations," says Yahweh of Heaven's Armies. (Malachi 1:10,11)Then, a couple of chapters later, God gives this prophetic warning, which gives me goose bumps every time I hear it sung in Handel's Messiah:
"The Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to His Temple. The Messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming," says Yahweh of Heaven's Armies. "But who will be able to endure it when He comes? Who will be able to stand and face Him when He appears? For He will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to Yahweh. Then once more Yahweh will accept the offerings brought to Him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as He did in the past. At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars." (Malachi 3:1b-5a)This prophecy was fulfilled about 400 years later, when, literally and physically, "the Lord you are seeking suddenly came to His Temple" in the person of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, God's Messenger, although the Jewish religious leaders did not recognize Him as God's Messenger.
In the scathing last half of John chapter 8 in the New Testament, Yeshua (Jesus) confronts the religious Pharisees head on. The passage above from Malachi seems like an accurate and potent description of Yeshua in this passage from John: "Who will be able to stand and face Him when He appears? For He will be like a blazing fire ... burning away the dross." Things were definitely getting hot and blazing as Yeshua addressed these religious leaders!
Before continuing with this article, be sure to read my previous article Yeshua and the Islamic Leaders which lays a foundation for what I will be discussing here. That article quotes the passage from John 8 in full, while here we will just be considering a very small portion of it:
Yeshua told them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on My own, but He sent Me. Why can't you understand what I am saying? It's because you can't even hear Me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does." (John 8:42-44)Even after all of God's reproaches in the Old Testament, this blistering rebuke of the Jewish religious leaders by Yeshua — God in the flesh — still takes one's breath away! Imagine ... these men, who claimed Abraham, and even God, as their father ... who were seen by the common people of Israel as the ultimate followers of God and His instructions in the Bible — these very men are revealed by God the Son to be children of the devil! The implications are astounding!
If anyone could claim to be worshipping the God of the Old Testament, the God of Adam and Abraham, it would be these Jewish leaders living in the Bible times. If anyone could claim that a certain group of people were truly worshipping the God of the Old Testament, the God of Adam and Abraham, it would be the ordinary Jews who would claim that their leaders are doing so.
But Yeshua — God in the flesh — is not taken in or impressed by mere appearances. No, He looks past claims and appearances to the very heart of the matter. And what He saw in the Jewish leaders of His day — just as He saw in the entire Jewish nation during the Old Testament times — was that they were not children of Father God nor following Him, but they were children of the devil and following him!
Because of these deep-seated problems, Yeshua came to establish a new way of relating with the God of the Bible — through relationship with Himself, rather than by performing external religious rituals. This is what was prophesied in the passage from Malachi above:
"My name will be honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they will offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of My name. For My name will be great among the nations."
The real test of who we are worshipping is not by what we claim but by what we do. As Yeshua Himself said:
You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.Well, these stern words of Yeshua leave both Christians and Jews in the same precarious place! We all have to watch ourselves and make sure that our hearts are in intimate relationship with Yeshua.
Not everyone who calls out to me, "Master! Master!" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to Me, "Master! Master! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name." But I will reply, "I never knew you. Get away from Me, you evildoers who break God's laws." (Matthew 7:16-23)
As we can clearly see from the Bible verses quoted in this article, even a religious system established by God Himself, which starts off so right, can quickly and easily turn so wrong. So incredibly wrong that God hates it and refuses to bless or accept it, even though He is the One who originally started it.
Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to the Jewish religion, or to events thousands of years ago. Throughout the past 2,000 years of Christianity, even up to this very day, the same sad scenario distresses the heart of God. But that's a subject for my next article....
This article is 18th a series of articles on this Web site related to Modern Christianity and the Church which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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