Bearable Burdens

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Wednesday, December 30, 2015
(Matthew 23:4) For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. In this chapter, the Lord Jesus Christ exposed and upbraided the scribes and the Pharisees for their vain religion. They were nothing but an outward form of godliness who had not the power thereof inwardly (c/w 2TI 3:5). As our text sets forth, they specialized in burdening others with unbearable requirements but exempted themselves from the same. They were prone to “...say, and do not” (MAT 23:3) which included telling others to “Do not” what they themselves did (ROM 2:21-22). The Law of Moses had hundreds of laws for a Jew to keep: circumcision, laws for worship and sacrifices, sabbath days, holy days, seasonal appearances at the tabernacle, dietary laws, tithing and tribute laws, interpersonal and collective laws, personal holiness laws, ceremonial purification laws, atonement laws, etc. Overarching all of these laws was the hopelessly unattainable (for sinners) righteousness of the Law: “...That the man which doeth these things shall live by them” (ROM 10:5), to which Paul adds, “...Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (GAL 3:10). Further, unlike the scribes and Pharisees who would “pick and choose” which laws they would keep, Jesus said, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven...” (MAT 5:19). The Apostle Peter frankly declared that Moses' Law was “...a yoke...which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (ACT 15:10). As if the Law of Moses as given by God was not heavy enough, the scribes and Pharisees (since they exempted themselves from doing them) bound many other laws upon the people, governing every aspect of their lives down to (as Jesus said), “...the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do” (MAR 7:8). They were the spiritual counterparts to Solomon's son, Rehoboam, the foolish young king who, instead of lessening the unbearable burden of Solomon's policies, said to Israel: “...My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1KI 12:14). People put under unbearable burdens lose hope (a dreadful condition, since there is salvation in hope, ROM 8:24) or they revolt (especially when their superiors consider themselves a special exempted class). Ten of the tribes of Israel chose to revolt and secede, and stoned the tax collector which Rehoboam sent to them (1KI 12:16-18). History, even sacred history, is full of lessons. Inadequate laws breed anarchy; superfluous laws breed futility and disobedience; onerous laws breed rebellion. In contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, when a decision had to be made as to what laws of Moses should be bound upon the Gentile Christians, the apostles (who were scribes of Christ, MAT 23:34; MAT 13:52) thought it good to lay upon them a minimum of Moses: “...no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication...” (ACT 15:28-29). The Apostle Paul, to make a point to Corinth, would not oblige them to support him financially when he had a right to do so (1CO 9:14), saying, “...I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you...” (2CO 11:9). He did likewise for the Thessalonians (1TH 2:6). How different was his spirit from that of the scribes and Pharisees who had no qualms about devouring widows' houses while keeping up a pretence of long prayer (MAT 23:14). When his preference was that believers not marry in order to serve Christ without marital cares, he made it clear, “But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned...” How sparingly did he deal with believers in this major area of life, knowing that “...marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled...” (HEB 13:4). He was wholly unlike the spiritual heirs of the scribes and Pharisees among professing Christendom who, under the influence of a seducing spirit, have burdened men by “...Forbidding to marry...” (1TI 4:1-3). The thinking of these apostles was in the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose yoke is easy and His burden light (MAT 11:30). Whereas scribes and Pharisees bound burdens grievous to be borne (our text), Christ's “...commandments are not grievous” (1JO 5:3). He flawlessly kept all of God's law for righteousness for His elect, relieving them of that impossible burden. He abolished Moses' Law with all its ordinances by His death (EPH 2:15; COL 2:14), taking away that complex burden and leaving believers with the simplicity of the gospel He and His apostles taught. That is burden enough. Let believers “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (GAL 5:1), i.e., the Law of Moses. Neither let us add to Christ's yoke by forbidding believers to do and enjoy the things which He has provided for them or by heaping expectations and traditions upon them which are not theirs to bear.

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