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Sabbath Lord vs. Religious Nitpickers, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2021 7:05 am

Sabbath Lord vs. Religious Nitpickers, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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May 31, 2021 7:05 am

The King’s Kingdom: A Study of Matthew 8–13

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Today, Chuck Swindoll describes a colorful clash between Jesus and his legalistic critics. Anytime you confront a Pharisaic legalist, you're going to offend them, because they don't want to ever be told they're wrong.

And I'll tell you, you do your best to do it in love. You try your best to say it in a way that's kind and gracious, but before long you realize you're standing toe to toe with a religious nitpicker who cannot even hear that kind of confrontation. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were consumed with following the Ten Commandments and other Jewish traditions to the nth degree. They went overboard on religious performance.

In addition, the Pharisees looked down their noses at anyone who ignored their strict Jewish laws, shaming them into obedience. Well today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll points to a classic showdown between Jesus and these first century fanatics. In this encounter, Jesus exposed the folly of their presumption.

Our study takes us to Matthew chapter 12. Chuck titled today's message – Sabbath Lord vs Religious Nitpickers. The Pharisees never knew what to do with Jesus. He absolutely drove them up a wall. They came up with all the rules and restrictions and regulations and he ignored most of them. Sometimes he deliberately went against them so that they might, if possible, learn the error of putting together their own truths as though they were on a level with God's truths.

They never got it. As a matter of fact, their hostility only grew as time passed. Think about the things he did that they hated. He was a friend of sinners and he even ate with them.

They wanted nothing to do with sinners, forgetting that they were the worst of the group. He defended a woman who was taken in adultery. They wanted a stoner. He invited a tax gatherer to join his band of disciples, a man named Matthew. In fact, he became one of the twelve.

They wanted nothing to do with tax gatherers. He ignored the stigma of leprosy as he spent time with a man whose name became Simon the Leper. He enjoyed eating with outcasts and people with bad reputations. They too enjoyed being with him.

Don't forget that. Actually he was in a place where a woman who had come from a very disreputable background in her life, she entered a room of men which was not viewed with kindness and on top of that she brought with her the most expensive perfume of the day and covered his head with it. He not only allowed it, he defended it.

One man writes, Jesus hardly made for a soothing dinner guest. The list goes on. He kept breaking all of their expectations and never gave it a second thought.

They never forgot it. We may find those traits intriguing and even attractive. The legalistic Pharisees found them shocking and sometimes revolting. What began as an idle curiosity on their part led to a spirit of suspicion and the suspicion led to investigation.

The investigation resulted in blind prejudice and then a malignant sense of hostility followed by a determination to do what the Nazis hoped to do with the Jews, exterminate him, kill him, which gives you some idea of the motive behind those religious nitpickers. In fact, you can appreciate Matthew 12 where we want to go by first looking at Matthew 15. Turn in your Bibles, I'm using the New Living translation as my text but you will follow along with similar words. We read of these Pharisees and some scribes who come and they've come from Jerusalem again to see Jesus.

Make no mistake, they came to check him out. They ask him, why do your disciples disobey our age old traditions? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.

Stop right there. You must understand that for several hundred years the Pharisees and others like them had compiled a list of rules and restrictions and regulations that were designed, in their opinion, to interpret the law. God gave the law to Moses in the tablets. The law is concise, simple and clear.

It is also exacting. When God gave the law, these Pharisees later felt that they needed to be explained or clarified or amplified is a better word and they went to work in doing so and they had their list, believe me. I'll get to it in a moment regarding the Sabbath but let me jump ahead and say in the Talmud, one of their works that has lived on, there are 24 chapters dedicated to nothing other than the laws regarding the Sabbath to give you some idea. God simply wrote, keep the Sabbath holy. It's a day of rest. As we'll see, the Sabbath was a Saturday, a time when they were to no longer do their trade or their farming or their work. They were to rest.

They were to relax. They turned that into such a list of rules and regulations. One writer says they worked harder on the Sabbath to keep the rules than they did at their job through the week.

It went on and on and on. If you've ever been around legalists, you know what I'm talking about. Here we're going to see legalism exposed as it rarely is. Why do your disciples disobey our tradition? Their rules are called the traditions. God's rule is called his law. But they put it on the level of the law and said because your disciples don't wash ceremonially as we require, you wouldn't believe those requirements. They are breaking God's law. In fact, their requirements had little to do with God's law as it relates to washing. They ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat. Look at Jesus, unintimidating.

I love this about him as much as anything. Why do you by your traditions violate the direct commandments of God? Your Bible may read invalidate. In other words, you put together your books, your lists, your papers, your pages, your requirements, and you've lifted them to a level with the law of God.

How wrong, in many ways, how absurd of you to do that. For instance, God says, verse 4, honor your father and mother. Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death. But you say it's all right for people to say to their parents, sorry, I can't help you.

For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you. In other words, they compromised what God wrote clearly in his concise moral law and they made it possible for people to go around it. In this way, you say they don't need to honor their parents. And so you get this, you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. Don't miss that.

That's how serious legalists are regarding their lists. The word of God, yeah, that's certainly significant, but don't miss what we have told you. We require of you in this fellowship or in this gathering or in this religious circle. Look at Jesus' response to them. You hypocrites. Let me ask you just before we go any further, when's the last time you said that to anybody?

See, we don't come across like that unless we look judgmental. Jesus goes, you hypocrites. You're like dead men's bones on the inside, but on the outside you try to look pious. He quotes from Isaiah and he ends the quotation, they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. I love the next verse.

Don't miss it. Then Jesus called the crowd to come and said, listen and try to understand it's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, you're defiled by the words that come out of your mouth. When will we ever learn that?

It's not what you eat or how you eat, it's what comes out of your heart that shows the defilement. And look at the next verse. The disciples came to him and asked, do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?

Really? I mean, Jesus is saying up there earlier, I want you to put this in your hook and smoke it. Don't forget it. It's kind of a loose paraphrase of what he's saying, but don't forget this.

Stop doing that kind of stuff. He confronts them with that. The disciples said, you realize that you offended them.

Let me tell you something. Anytime you confront a Pharisaic legalist, you're going to offend them because they don't want to ever be told they're wrong. They're the ones who tell you what to do. Their desire is to control you, not for you to confront them. And I'll tell you, you do your best to do it in love.

You try your best to say it in a way that's kind and gracious. But before long, you realize you're standing toe to toe with a religious nitpicker who cannot even hear that kind of confrontation because they are so bent on their own rules. Don't answer out loud, but were you raised with rules? Now, when you're little kids, you need rules of course, or you'd tear the world apart. But as you grow up, the rules don't apply.

But as you grow up in legalistic circles, they keep applying. Don't play cards. Don't dance. Don't wear leotards when you work out. Sometimes that's a good idea for some people. There should be no mixed bathing. I think they meant mixed swimming, but they said mixed bathing. Shouldn't bathe with each other. That's not good.

And on and on the list goes on. And you know, we chuckle about it today. But let me tell you, in legalistic circles, they're not laughing. Because to them, it's like what God would have you know and do. It isn't.

It isn't. You cannot find those statements in the scriptures. When we live by grace, we certainly ought to live in love and understanding of each other and as best we can get along. But trust me, legalists are not built to get along.

They're built to take charge and to keep you under their thumb. Some of the most dangerous people in religious circles are legalistic pastors who take advantage of congregations by pulling rank and making demands and holding the congregation under his own set of rules and regulations. Turn back to Matthew 12 and let me show you an example of legalism in action. At about that time, Jesus was walking through some grain fields on the Sabbath. Don't miss that. Seven times in 12 verses we read Sabbath.

See it? Verse 1, on the Sabbath. End of verse 2, on the Sabbath. End of verse 5, on the Sabbath. End of verse 8, over the Sabbath. A little later at verse 10, on the Sabbath. Verse 11, on the Sabbath. Verse 12 ends, it's all about the Sabbath.

Shavath means seven. It's the seventh day of the week. It was never Sunday. Never meant to be applied to Sunday. Nothing in the New Testament requires the keeping of the Sabbath for those who live in this wonderful era of grace. We worship on the first day of the week. We don't worship on the Shavath.

Now, believe me, when you go to Israel, you encounter the continuation of the keeping of the Sabbath because there are numerous Orthodox Jews who follow the law and they have their list. Maybe you don't know this if you've never been to Israel, but there is a Sabbath elevator. So when you get in that elevator, it stops at every floor. You need to take your lunch with you if you live on floor 25.

The reason is you can't punch the number or that would be work, honestly. But you see, if you're going to start to make your list and go to extremes, there is no extreme too far. There's nothing that is absurd in their minds because they're explaining rest on the Sabbath, which is far from it. Now, let's notice. They're on the Sabbath. They're walking through some grain fields and the disciples are starving. They're hungry. His disciples are hungry, so they decided or they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them.

Walking along, breaking off heads of grain. The law allowed that. Deuteronomy talks about it.

You may take some. It's not thievery. In fact, there were paths provided along the edges of crops so that you could do that. If you're hungry along the way, you could take some of the neighbor's grain like that. But, but, not the Pharisees because it's the Sabbath. So the Pharisees saw them do it.

I've got a question. What are the Pharisees doing out in the fields of grain on the Sabbath? Why are they there? They're spying them out.

Think. They're not taking a walk in the grain field enjoying the sunshine of the day. They're watching Jesus and this band of law breakers. So they show up and they see the disciples breaking off.

You know what else I noticed? The disciples don't ask Jesus for permission to eat the grain. They've been under his teaching long enough to know they were free to do it. So they break it off. They chomp into it or they push it around in their hands and they clear it up.

They eat it from there and it helps fill them up. So there's nothing wrong with that. They've been under Jesus' teaching. When you're under Jesus' teaching, you don't keep on asking permission. You're spiritually self-sustaining. His word guides us and you obey it. You follow. You don't need my permission. You don't need any religious leader's permission.

You're maturing and learning how to live on your own. So they're enjoying the grain until the Pharisees come and they saw it and they protested. They said, look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.

Stop. It's not the law they're breaking. It's your, now we know, it's your tradition. It's your teachings about the law. They were perfectly within their rights. Now, they are Pharisees. They are the ones who really knew the scriptures.

They were the conservatives among religious circles of that day. But look at Jesus' question. It's a little insulting. He says, haven't you read in the scriptures?

Whoa. Haven't you even read what the scriptures teach about David? David did when he and his companions were hungry.

He went into the house of God. He and his companions really broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests were allowed to eat. Again, that was allowed. That was provided because mercy trumps the rigid requirements. And in this case, there's a need that's great. And haven't you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the temple may work on the Sabbath? Think about it. If you're a priest and the Sabbath rolls around, you're involved in providing the cleanup from the sacrifices. You're there to keep the temple in order and all the things in place.

You're there to provide the showbread. There's work that goes on in the temple. The Lord has enough room in his law for that, and he made room for it. Aren't you aware of that? But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of the scripture.

Whoa. Feel the twisting of the knife? If you knew the meaning, the real meaning of the scriptures, you wouldn't be questioning my innocent disciples. I want to show you mercy, not offer sacrifices. That wasn't one of their favorite verses, by the way. That wasn't their favorite quotation because the Lord is the Lord of mercy, and mercy trumps rigid rules. For the Son of Man is Lord even over the Sabbath. Whoa.

Don't think they missed that. You know what he's saying? I'm Lord over the Sabbath. Matter of fact, if you check it out, you'll realize Jesus authored the law.

It's a part of the bloodhead. Before he came to this earth, he's engaged in these things. And he says to them, I will tell you, I'm the Lord of the Sabbath. That did it.

At that point, their hostility grew by leaps and bounds. But he doesn't stop. Look at what happens. Then Jesus went over to their synagogue where he noticed a man with a... Remember, it's still the Sabbath. And he goes into the synagogue and he finds a man with a deformed hand.

Look at this. The Pharisees asked Jesus, does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath? That is not a question without a hook. It's a question designed to nail him. In fact, Matthew says, they were hoping he would say yes so they could bring charges against him.

See it? They never examined their own motives. Pharisees are like that. They're so busy condemning and putting people on the spot, they don't stop to realize how hypocritical their words are, how deceptive, in many ways how unfair. Jesus threw down the gauntlet and revealed himself as Lord of the Sabbath.

The Pharisees didn't like it. And tomorrow, we'll hear more about their reaction. You're listening to Insight for Living. And we've reserved several minutes to hear Chuck Swindoll's closing comments, so please stay with us. And to learn more about this ministry, please visit us online at One of our major goals is to help you understand the Bible in new and fresh ways so you can integrate the truth of God's Word into your life. And if you're motivated by today's message to spend more time in personal Bible study, I'll remind you, Insight for Living offers the Swindoll Study Bible.

It's intentionally designed to help you grasp the meaning of passages like the one we're looking at today. With the Swindoll Study Bible open in your lap, you'll have access to decades of Chuck's personal study and insight laid side by side with the Scriptures. And it's written, of course, in the approachable style you've come to expect from Chuck. To purchase a copy of the Swindoll Study Bible, go to slash offer.

Or call us if you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. Chuck, Insight for Living Ministries operates on an annual cycle that culminates one month from now, June 30th. And all of us are praying God would continue to meet our needs through our listening family so that these daily studies will continue without interruption.

That's right, Dave. There's a lot at stake this month, and we know that when all of us band together, we can easily reach the June 30th goal. Our mission at Insight for Living Ministries is to make disciples, plain and simple. And that means we're equipping Christians here at home, as well as around the world, to think biblically so that Christians are prepared to act biblically. We want the truth of God's Word to flow through the veins of every listener, like healthy red blood pumping life into the hearts of every follower of Christ. I love the way Charles Haddon Spurgeon once put it. With a twinkle in his eyes, Spurgeon wrote this, It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until at last you come to talk in spiritual language, and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord so that your blood is bibbline. I love that line, so that your blood is bibbline. By the way, what's your blood type, Chuck? Next time they draw a sample from my arm, I'm going to tell the nurse, I'm bibbline.

By the way, what's yours? Here's the point. June 30th marks the end of our financial year. Our needs are enormous, no exaggeration. But really, it's not about money. It's about equipping clear-thinking Christians, day in and day out. I'm calling you to be part of something phenomenal. God will use your gift to cultivate bibbline Christians. By investing your charitable donation in Insight for Living Ministries, you're equipping others to think biblically so that they're prepared to act biblically. Take down this contact information and then please get back in touch with us today. Together, let's accomplish something phenomenal.

Yeah, that's right. And let me explain how you can respond today. Choose one of several ways to reach out to Insight for Living. The quickest and most convenient way to give is to follow the simple instructions at That's Or you can speak with one of our service representatives by calling us directly. If you're listening in the US, dial 1-800-772-8888. Tomorrow, Chuck Swindoll describes the dangers and pitfalls of religious nitpickers. Be sure to listen Tuesday to Insight for Living. The preceding message, Sabbath Lord vs Religious Nitpickers, was copyrighted in 2016 and 2021, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2021 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-11 23:44:33 / 2023-11-11 23:53:21 / 9

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