Tradition of the Elders

Matthew 15  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Matthew 15
In the commencement of this chapter, we have the self-satisfaction of poor blind opposers of blessing, seeing no source of blessing higher than " the elders," and no need deeper than external washing. They knew not that the source is in God, and the need in our hearts, and that worship must spring from hearts where blessing has been received. If the commandments of the elders are set up, then the commandments of God will be made vain; and if cleansing is in externals, then the heart is left filthy, and is far from God. Here, in religious zeal itself, the character of the ungodly is manifested; " God is not in all their thoughts." It is not, 'Why do you transgress the commandment of God?' but 'Why do you transgress the tradition of the elders?' These very traditions make void the commands of God; but because they are their own, His commands are set aside for them.
" You have made void the commandment of God through your own tradition." What is obedience to the tradition of the elders, will be transgression of the commandments of God.
Once let in the principle of the maintenance of that which is our own, and it will be the maintenance of that which is opposed to that which is of God.
If the eye looks to the elders, the commands of God will not be seen. " If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light, but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. The principle of hypocrisy is in this; for while they appear to worship God, it is not so indeed, it is in vain; for men's commandments are taught. But the worship of God and the commandments of God must be found in company with each other. If the heart is with the tradition of the elders, it is with the mouth only He will be approached, and with the lips only He will be honored. The purpose of our hearts must be to maintain the glory of the Lord, not of the elders-" Them that honor me I will honor."
(Ver. 10.) We now see the compassion of the Lord toward the poor deluded ignorant multitude. The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus to tempt. Him: (ver. 1;) but He now turns to the multitude to teach them that the root of defilement lay within in an unclean heart. When God searches, He searches the heart, but when Satan deceives, he blinds by thoughts of evil in the outside, to which man looks, and then man, and not God, is trusted in.
(Ver. 12.) if we are in the way of the Lord, what comes from Him to us will not stumble us, but help us on our way, because it is His way, made plain and easy to us. in that which comes from Himself. us, the Pharisees were stumbled by the saying of our Lord, because they were not plants of His heavenly Father's planting: and so this will ever be. The Church and the world cannot at all go on together: the one will stumble the other. He who is the chief corner-stone, elect, precious, is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to them that stumble at the word; but a sure foundation to them that believe. Thus, while all the builders of the great Babel shall be put to confusion, he that believeth in Him shall not be confounded. The ways of the Lord come in at once to deny the ways of man; and he who tries to hold man's ways will find those of the Lord confounding him. " They are of the therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us. He that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." The wise man of this world knows the things of this world. But "we have an unction from the Holy One and we know all things." The truth is "the truth that is after godliness;" and he Who walks after his own lusts is willingly ignorant.
(Ver. 10, 11.) The Lord pitied the poor ignorant multitude whom their teachers were blinding to the real power of sin, as occupied with thoughts of external contact, and not a root of evil within. But the seat of defilement is in a corrupt heart; and the evil of the heart was allowed, if the traditions of the elders were observed, and real defilement passed over unobserved and unremedied. Defilement comes from an evil spring known unto God, though men may see it not. But this was not the teaching of the Pharisees, nor their own experience; for all their works they did to be seen of men: and this teaching they could not stand.
(Ver. 12.) Accordingly the disciples come to Him and say, Master, "knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying?" The words of the Lord will not stumble those who are in His ways. But he who walks in a path that is not the Lord's, will get no help from him to proceed in that path. Christ stumbled the Pharisees. These Pharisees had not become as little children to enter into the kingdom of heaven. If they had, the words of Christ would build them up, and nourish their hearts before God, putting nothing away from them, but that which would hinder them in the kingdom. But Christ's words stumbled the Pharisees-and why? Because they were not plants of his heavenly Father's planting, and he could not cultivate them. They must be rooted up. Precious is it to be in that way which Christ's words will help us in; and woe be to the man who would stumble a little one who belongs to Him! A wise master builder in God's building would stumble a builder of Babel: but woe be to the Babel builder who stumbles God's laborers; and here the Church and world cannot go together. The voice from heaven said, " Come out of her, my people." The voices of the earth said, Stay in her. They are of the world, and they speak of the world, and the world heareth them; but the voice from heaven said, " Come out of her, my people," because the city of our God is the heavenly Jerusalem, composed of those first brought up to heaven, from earth, and then coming down out of heaven. The stone set at naught of the builders here, is there become the head of the corner. Coming to Him as a living stone, the lively stones are built up; and in this are the saints separated from the world: and here is their faith and their patience.
(Ver. 21.) Here we see the Lord in another scene. In the estimation of man, of much less value, but not so to Him who seeth not as man seeth. Many boast in their place and their people: God would make us ashamed of both; but value His grace which puts the shame away.
When the Apostle Paul was called out, the Lord led him into Arabia, (not to Jerusalem,) and amongst the heathen. (Gal. 1) Little of interest in either the place or the people: they were the worthless objects of the grace of God; but in this of all interest to Him and to those that are His, for His sake.
Men might boast in Jerusalem, in contrast with Tire and Sidon, and Speak well of scribes and Pharisees, as contrasted with a poor woman of Canaan, with her house under manifested judgment, because her daughter was possessed of a devil. But all this was the more occasion to draw out the sympathies of Jesus. She could not be worse than the chief of sinners, and such He came to save. And if her daughter was possessed of a devil, for this cause was He, the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. But there was that in her which He could estimate-the understanding of her heart of the grace that was in -Him, that if her daughter was grievously vexed with a devil, this was a case for the mercy of the Son of David. Poor to her was " the washing of cups and pots;" little to her was " the washing of hands." Her trouble lay too deep. Nothing but the mercy of the Son of David could meet her case, because it was the grievous vexation of her daughter; possessed by a devil. This was very precious in the sight of the Lord. She had faith in Him; and that it was great faith He proves by trial; for nothing could lessen the power of it in her soul. She had herself no character to lose. Anything might be said to her, but it came not with surprise. This she knew before; but mercy was in the Son of David, and nothing could lower her soul's estimate of this. Jesus might be silent and not answer her a word; the disciples might say, " Send her away, for she crieth after us; nothing that could be said could check her. Help was in Him, and she wanted help. If she could not take the place of a child to get the children's bread, she was satisfied to be a dog to get the crumbs of that bread. But now her trial is over. " O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." How many does this poor woman of Canaan put to shame, because of their poor thoughts of the riches of Christ's grace.