Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 28, Jeremiah 4, Matthew 15
The Jews had strict laws to ensure cleanliness and in some ways these had become, in the time of Jesus, a ritual – their original purpose had been swamped, had been lost sight of. However, these laws were ignored by the world in general until about 200 years ago; illness and death were high as a result. However there was one good thing in those days – moral cleanliness was high – a state of things caused by the widespread reading of and respect for – the Bible.
Strangely, today the opposite now occurs! Physical cleanliness is all important while moral cleanliness counts for little except when there is some scandal in high places, such as in business practice: then the law is applied and those involved feel self-righteous.
Our thoughts along these lines were triggered by today’s words of Jesus in Matthew Ch. 15. He scolded the leaders, “You hypocrites … this people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me; teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” [v.7-9] You may recognise he is quoting words we read last month in Isaiah [29 v.13]
Jesus then told them a parable (v.11) about how defilement is caused by what came out of human mouths. This causes Peter to ask, “explain the parable to us.” Jesus replies, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” [v.18-20]
The world is full of ghis kind of defilement today; indeed, it is even ‘glorified’ in movies and TV shows. It is remarkable that so many “enjoy” being defiled in this way and we are going to read in Jeremiah how, without the encouragement of TV and the like, this kind of defilement was around when he lived – and which he was told to condemn.