“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” (Matthew 23:29-30)
This final “woe” in Matthew 23 is the most awful of all eight of them. Although this builds from verse 25, the conclusion demonstrates the result of such duplicitous behavior—ultimate and eternal separation from the Creator God and His holiness. “Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:31-33).
Here is the principle: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). This is no small issue. Our speech is a direct reflection of what is important to us. So much so that we will be held accountable, for “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
Those passages ought to give all of us pause. Just what is it that consumes our conversation throughout the day? Is it sports, movies, shopping, gossip, slander, or sowing “discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19)? Or is it “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” (Philippians 4:8).
Our mouths are connected to our hearts (Matthew 15:18). What we talk about most of the time is a definite indicator of where our hearts are. Perhaps we should listen to ourselves. That is a pretty good marker of what we love most. “Stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:8). HMM III
I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
Some misguided Christian leaders feel that they must preserve harmony at any cost, so they do everything possible to reduce friction. They should remember that there is no friction in a machine that has been shut down for the night. Turn off the power, and you will have no problem with moving parts. Also remember that there is a human society where there are no problems—the cemetery. The dead have no differences of opinion. They generate no heat, because they have no energy and no motion. But their penalty is sterility and complete lack of achievement.
What then is the conclusion of the matter? That problems are the price of progress, that friction is the concomitant of motion, that a live and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties as a result of its life and activity. A Spirit-filled church will invite the anger of the enemy. TWP112-113
Lord, thank You for the many signs that we are alive! Satan must see real life, and I guess that’s a good sign. Give us victory though, that we might not succumb to his attacks. Amen.
I have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways.—Isaiah 45:12, 13.
He who suns and worlds upholdeth
Lends us His upholding hand,
He the ages who unfoldeth
Doth our times and ways command.
God is for us,
In His strength and stay we stand.
Thomas H. Gill.
You have trusted Him in a few things, and He has not failed you. Trust Him now for everything, and see if He does not do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you could ever have asked or thought, not according to your power or capacity, but according to His own mighty power, that will work in you all the good pleasure of His most blessed will. You find no difficulty in trusting the Lord with the management of the universe and all the outward creation, and can your case be any more complex or difficult than these, that you need to be anxious or troubled about His management of it?
Hannah Whitall Smith.
“He hath cast out thine enemy.” Zeph. 3:15
What a casting out was that! Satan has lost his throne in our nature even as he lost his seat in Heaven. Our Lord Jesus has destroyed the enemy’s reigning power over us. He may worry us, but he cannot claim us as his own. His bonds are no longer upon our spirits: the Son has made us free, and we are free indeed.
Still is the arch-enemy the accuser of the brethren; but even from this position our Lord has driven him. Our advocate silences our accuser. The Lord rebukes our enemies, and pleads the causes of our soul, so that no harm comes of all the devil’s revilings.
As a tempter, the evil spirit still assails us, and insinuates himself into our minds; but thence also is he cast out as to his former preeminence. He wriggles about like a serpent, but he cannot rule like a sovereign. He hurls in blasphemous thoughts when he has opportunity; but what a relief it is when he is told to be quiet, and is made to slink off like a whipped cur! Lord, do this for any who are at this time worried and wearied by his barkings. Cast out their enemy, and be thou glorious in their eyes. Thou hast cast him down, Lord cast him out. Oh that thou wouldst banish him from the world!
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end. Hebrews 6:11
Those raised in the English village with William Carey (1761–1834) probably thought he wouldn’t accomplish much, but today he’s known as the father of modern missions. Born to parents who were weavers, he became a not-too-successful teacher and cobbler while teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. After many years, he realized his dream of becoming a missionary to India. But he faced hardship, including his child’s death, his wife’s mental-health problems, and for many years the lack of response from those he served.
What kept him serving amid difficulties as he translated the entire Bible into six languages and parts of it into twenty-nine others? “I can plod,” he said. “I can persevere in any definite pursuit.” He committed to serving God no matter what trials he encountered.
This continued devotion to Christ is what the writer to the Hebrews counseled. He called for those reading his letter to not “become lazy” (Hebrews 6:12), but to “show this same diligence to the very end” (v. 11) as they sought to honor God. He reassured them that God “will not forget your work and the love you have shown” (v. 10).
During William Carey’s later years, he reflected on how God consistently supplied his needs. “He has never failed in His promise, so I cannot fail in my service to Him.” May God also empower us to serve Him day by day.
Reflect & Pray
How has God helped you to keep on going in your service for Him? In what way can you help someone else in their struggles?
Lord God, help me to follow You—when I face challenges and enjoy good times. May I know the assurance that You are always with me.
Is your belief system so ingrained that it guards you against temptation? If so, then certain issues have already been settled in your heart. Think about how beneficial that is: When you face certain situations in which you must choose whether to obey God, you don’t have to struggle. Why? Because that decision has already been made.
A settled mindset makes decisions easy because you don’t have to debate the pros and cons of submitting to temptation. Because your mind is already committed to obeying God, it won’t matter whether yielding is more convenient or profitable.
We find this in the example of Peter and John. Threats would not stop them from doing what the Lord had commanded. That’s the kind of commitment we should have. Living according to our convictions requires:
Commitment to a cause greater than ourselves—namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Peter and John, we need to have a love for Christ that surpasses any self-protection or self-interest.
Clarity regarding our beliefs. We should not only be fully convinced that God’s Word is true; we should also be able to handle it accurately in order to properly handle temptations and deceptions.
Expectation of conflict. Others may respond negatively to our obedience.
Trust in God’s sovereignty. He is in absolute control of the situation and working for our good.
When you are committed to living by your convictions, God will both strengthen you to stand firm and comfort you in any suffering that results.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
“Beauty is only skin deep” seems to be the modern secular equivalent of this “woe” in Matthew 23. The corresponding Old Testament statement is probably this: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” (Proverbs 11:22). This principle has lasted for millennia simply because it is easily observed in all cultures. Our Lord’s application to the scribes and Pharisees was particularly pointed: “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). God is not interested in the “pretty outside” but in what’s on the inside. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Hypocrisy and iniquity are the two attributes of “uncleanness” identified by Christ. The core of hypocrisy is the intent to deceive others, either with actions or words. And the core of the biblical teaching about deception is the false teacher—those who look like and talk like God’s people, “but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Iniquity is the biblical term for “without law.” Such a person has no desire to submit to authority, and is both willing to do evil and is dangerous to be around. Cain murdered Abel, the Bible insists, “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Such a condition should never plague us. Jesus “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). HMM III
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
—1 Peter 4:8
Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be….
There is much that is imperfect about us, and it is fitting that we recognize it and call upon God for charity to put up with one another. The perfect church is not on this earth. The most spiritual church is sure to have in it some who are still bothered by the flesh.
An old Italian proverb says, “He that will have none but a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.” However earnestly we may desire that our Christian brother go on toward perfection, we must accept him as he is and learn to get along with him. To treat an imperfect brother impatiently is to advertise our own imperfections. WTA055
Give me patience and grace today in dealing with others’ imperfections. And give them the same grace in dealing with mine! Amen.
Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.—Psalm 145:16.
There ‘s not a craving in the mind
Thou dost not meet and still;
There’s not a wish the heart can have
Which Thou dost not fulfill.
Frederick W. Faber.
You will see the truth about the eternal life soon; I don’t think it is possible to live up to the highest point of duty and of happiness without this, I know one can go on doing one’s duty thoroughly under clouds of doubt, and even in complete unbelief; there are many who do, and they are dear to God, but the duty is done sadly, without the spring of life and joy that we are meant to have. That fountain of life and strength is hid in God. Christ showed us the way to it, and we get it into our souls when we utterly trust Him and give up our hearts, and our lives, and our aspirations to Him as to a faithful Creator, who will not leave unsatisfied any of the longings of the souls He has made; who will not let love die, or disappoint finally the cravings for joy, for perfection, for light and knowledge that He has implanted, and that are parts of Himself, immortal as He is.