by Christopher Harbin

Obedience to Tradition
Christopher B. Harbin
Deut. 4:1-9; Psalm 45:1-9; Mark 7:1-23; James 1:17-27

It is very easy to say we serve God. The problem is that while we may desire to serve God we are faced with traditions that constantly interfere and confuse us in recognizing and doing God's will. Certain things are clear, but applying the principles of God's will and purpose often conflicts with the patterns of life in our society. Without even recognizing it, we put aside the ways of God in favor of the ways of men.

Israel had the right words in their tradition. Every Jew memorized the words of the Shema ("Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength") and many other important passages of the Torah. They were duty bound to remember and follow to the letter the commandments of these passages. At least after the Babylonian exile, they understood the seriousness they should give to obeying the instructions of Yahweh. They acknowledged that their way of life was linked to Yahweh's reputation among the nations. Their ties to their very land were a reflection of their religious commitment.

With one voice they defended Yahweh's uniqueness and universal sovereignty. They fell short, however, in implementing the ethics and morality with which Yahweh was concerned. They well understand issues of power and force, but not the weightier matters of mercy, justice and grace. Their love of neighbor was restrained by their hatred of enemies. They focused on their special position as a nation without worrying about Yahweh's love for others. They protected their own interests at the expense of others without even acknowledging the violence of their decisions--without acknowledging the conflict between their traditions and God's will.

It has been said that it is with the loose ends with which men most often hang themselves. The people had firmly established the issues ...

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