Traditions of Men

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unclean hands?”
So he said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far, far away from me.
And they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Mark 7:5–7 (LEB)

We applaud Jesus when He upbraids the Pharisees for doing various acts that made Him very angry. Why do we not realize we have followed the footsteps of the Pharisees today? What did the Pharisees do that was so bad? Modern Christianity will likely say “they made people follow that outdated Mosaic law“; but did they really?

Matthew 23:1–9 (LEB): 23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses. 3 Therefore do and observe everything that they tell you, but do not do as they do, for they tell others to do something and do not do it themselves. 4 And they tie up heavy burdens and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing with their finger to move them. 5 And they do all their deeds in order to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries broad and make their tassels long. 6 And they love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and the greetings in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people. 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ because one is your teacher, and you are all brothers, 9 And do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your heavenly Father.

Jesus, or Yeshua in His native tongue, told us to do what the Pharisees tell us. What? What does that mean? When they sat in the seat of Moses they read the Torah; therefore, giving us instructions to live by. They also had many traditions they added to the word of God and they taught people that it was necessary to follow all these traditions. Yeshua told us to do what they said when they sat on the seat of Moses reading the Torah, but not to do it the way they did. He then specifically told us not to call any man “father” or “Rabbi”. Why do messianic believers call their leaders “Rabbi” and some Christian faiths call their priests “father”? These are traditions that were happening in front of Yeshua that are carried on today. He specifically said not to do it!

Acts 3:19–23 (LEB): 19 Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be blotted out, 20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and he may send the Christ appointed for you—Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things, about which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from earliest times. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You will listen to him in everything that he says to you. 23 And it will be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet will be destroyed utterly from the people.’

There are many traditions that we have today which render the commandments of God useless. Many denominations believe that church tradition is to be taken at a higher regard than the word of God and they use verses from Paul’s instructions to Timothy to make their case. Not many Christians think about this, they only accept what they are told believing they will not be held responsible for their own actions so long as they show up for church services every Sunday.

Mark 7:8–13 (LEB): 8 Abandoning the commandment of God, you hold fast to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You splendidly ignore the commandment of God so that you can keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother must certainly die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or to his mother, “Whatever benefit you would have received from me is corban” (that is, a gift to God), 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down, and you do many similar things such as this.”

Yeshua is using the example of a tradition they must have had in first century Judaism where the person would give the resources needed to take care of their elderly parents to the temple, thus releasing them from the commandment “honor your mother and father”. Yeshua picked one of the ten commandments, written by the finger of God and given to the people, to use as an example of them making the commandment void by their actions. Can we think of another one of the ten commandments that has been made void by the tradition of men teaching their own ideas as doctrine?

Hebrews 4:6–13 (LEB): Since therefore it remains for some to enter into it, and the ones to whom the good news was proclaimed previously did not enter because of disobedience, again he ordains a certain day, today, speaking by David after so long a time, just as had been said before, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had caused them to rest, he would not have spoken about another day after these things. Consequently a sabbath rest remains for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered into his rest has also himself rested from his works, just as God did from his own works. 11 Therefore, let us make every effort to enter into that rest, in order that no one may fall in the same pattern of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, both joints and marrow, and able to judge the reflections and thoughts of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden in the sight of him, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of him to whom we must give our account.

The writer of Hebrews is quoting Psalms chapter ninety-five which is discussing the time when the Israelites put God to the test by being disobedient at Massah. Their punishment was that they would not enter the promised land. These verses in Hebrews and Psalms have been used to teach people we no longer have to be concerned with the commandment to rest on the Sabbath. How can verses talking about punishment for disobedience and giving an account to God for our actions be so successfully used to teach people to be disobedient? ” Consequently a sabbath rest remains for the people of God.” It is a trick of the enemy to rob us of the Sabbath blessing and there are many accomplices to this crime.

Psalm 95:7–11 (LEB): 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Today if you will hear his voice: 8 “Do not harden your heart as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your ancestors tried me. They put me to the test, even though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation, and said, ‘They are a people whose heart wanders. And my ways they do not know.’ 11 Therefore I swore in my anger, ‘They shall surely not enter into my rest.’ ”

Ignoring the Sabbath and honoring Sunday instead is an example of “You splendidly ignore the commandment of God so that you can keep your tradition“, and it shows we still don’t know the Creator’s ways. No where is scripture did anyone ever say the Sabbath day was no longer a commandment or unimportant. Even if first century Christians met on the first day of the week, it does not mean they were replacing the Sabbath with a new day. Many of the references to “first day of the week” are translated wrong by inserting the word “day” when it is not in the text. In some cases it should be translated as “first Sabbath”, meaning the first Sabbath after Passover in the counting of the fifty days to Pentecost. The Sabbath is a very important day that has been made void by the traditions of men.

Another tradition, which I recently wrote about in a blog post, is hiding the name of the Father God, Yod Heh Waw Heh, Yahweh or Yahuah. The name has been hidden and substituted with titles such as “LORD”, “Hashem” (the name) and “Adonai”, and anyone trying to declare the name is belittled, ridiculed and labeled a “sacred namer”.

Psalm 22:22–23 (LEB): 22 I will tell your name to my brothers; inside the assembly I will praise you. 23 You who revere Yahweh, praise him! Glorify him, all you seed of Jacob, and be in awe of him, all you seed of Israel

Exodus 3:16 (LEB): 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, appeared to me, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “I have carefully attended to you and what has been done to you in Egypt.”

Something else I will call tradition is keeping the Sabbath Friday night. Even though this is the practice in Judaism, there is no place that commands us to start keeping the Sabbath on the sixth evening. The Day of Atonement is the only Sabbath that we are told to start on the evening of the night prior, which should be a clue that it was not done every Sabbath.

Leviticus 23:32 (LEB): 32 It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall deny yourselves on the ninth day of the month in the evening—from evening to evening you must observe your extraordinary Sabbath.”

If the evening of the ninth day is still the ninth day, then how can it be the next day? I am not saying starting the Sabbath on the evening of the sixth day is a bad thing to do, it is just not part of the commandment. Nehemiah closed the gates to the city after dark before the Sabbath as part of his Sabbath reform when people were coming in to the city and selling on the actual Sabbath day.

Nehemiah 13:18–19 (LEB): 18 Did not your ancestors do this also, and our God brought on us all of this disaster and on this city too? Now you are adding fierce wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath!” 19 So when it became dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors be shut and said that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I appointed some of my young men over the gates to prevent any goods being brought in on the day of the Sabbath.

When God gave the Israelites manna they were to gather twice as much on the sixth day so they would not have to gather on the seventh day.

Exodus 16:23–30 (LEB):23 And he said to them, “This is what Yahweh has said. Tomorrow is a rest period, a holy Sabbath for Yahweh. Bake what you want to bake, and boil what you want to boil. Put aside all the surplus for yourselves for safekeeping until the morning.” 24 And they put it aside until the morning, as Moses had commanded, and it did not make a stench, and not a maggot was in it. 25 And Moses said, “Eat it today, because today is a Sabbath for Yahweh. Today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, it will not be present on it.” 27 And on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find any. 28 And Yahweh said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep my commands and my laws? 29 See, because Yahweh has given to you the Sabbath, therefore he is giving to you on the sixth day bread for two days. Stay, each in his location; let no one go from his place on the seventh day.” 30 And the people rested on the seventh day.

It is a contentious subject, but it is clear in these verses in Exodus that it was the seventh day that they rested, not the evening of the sixth day. That is a tradition. I am not saying it is a bad tradition, it is just a tradition.

One of the most heinous traditions of men, that has become wide spread in these last days, is the tradition of forsaking all the commandments of God for a new lawless religion. This is the tradition that says to “believe in Jesus” yet does not require repentance or a change in lifestyle. It is a tradition of “other gods” where people simply “believe what they believe”.

Deuteronomy 13:1–4 (LEB): “If a prophet stands up in your midst or a dreamer of dreams and he gives to you a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes about that he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (those whom you have not known), and let us serve them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer, for Yahweh your God is testing you to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all of your heart and with all of your inner self. You shall go after Yahweh your God, and him you shall revere, and his commandment you shall keep, and to his voice you shall listen, and him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast.

Teaching that Christians do not have to do what the Father commanded is the worst case of making the commandments of God void through the traditions of men. The Father told us that He would test us to see if we really loved Him by sending boatloads of people to tell us to do things contrary to His ways. Of course they come as priests, pastors and Godly leaders because why would anyone supposedly walking as Jesus walked listen to someone who did not regard God? Yet these leaders telling people to forsake God’s ways for their traditions are not regarding God at all. “Come to church on ‘the Lord’s day’, give us your tithe, say this prayer and be saved”, they say.

Jeremiah 23:16–22 (LEB): 16 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “You must not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are deluding you with visions of their mind, They do not speak from the mouth of Yahweh. 17 They are continually saying to those who disregard the word of Yahweh, ‘Peace it will be to you,’ and to each one who walks in the stubbornness of his heart they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ 18 For who has stood in the council of Yahweh, that he has seen and heard his word? Who has listened attentively to his word and heard it? 19 Look, the storm of Yahweh has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest. It will whirl upon the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of Yahweh will not turn back until his doing and until his keeping the plans of his mind. In latter days you will look closely at it with understanding. 21 I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have caused them to turn from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.

This is serious business. Do not be deluded by someone saying, “‘Peace it will be to you,’ and to each one who walks in the stubbornness of his heart they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ ” because these warnings are all through the scriptures. Once a person sees this, it cannot be unseen and people must be told. These are the people Yeshua will tell to depart and go to the outer darkness. They are building on sand by forsaking the commandments of the Rock.

Matthew 7:21–23 (LEB): 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name?’ 23 And then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Not all traditions are bad. It is when they are being forced on people as commandments of God that make them burdensome. Moreover, when traditions take priority over God’s commandments then the situation must change. We don’t want to be guilty of usurping the commandments of God for our man-made traditions.

Featured photo was provided by Emma Vail Photography.

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