I heard from the Lord this morning about the commandments of God and the traditions of men. They're not always opposites. Traditions can be useful in helping us develop habits to remember the commandments of God. In communion we remember Jesus. There is Joshua and the memorial stones (Joshua 4). Priestly traditions were developed out of obedience to God to help them remember them and in so doing honoring Him.
Even though traditions are meant to help us, we have to revisit God and His Word regularly, so our traditions don't get off track. Traditions can help us or hurt us. If we stray away from the original Word or command of God that the tradition was meant to remind us of, adding, adjusting, etc. then we move away from the intentions of His commands. Traditions done out of supposed obedience to God, without knowing Him is not going to do any good and may even be dangerous. We read what Jesus said about this in Mark 7:
1 The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”Jesus gave this example to show that they were taking one part of the Word--that you should give offerings to God--and violating another part which says to honor your father and mother. They had a tradition which caused people to feel so compelled to give offerings that anything extra they had couldn't be used to help their parents. They would have to tell them, "Mom, Dad, sorry I can't help you out because any extra I have I need to give to God." Jesus wasn't happy with the traditions replacing the commandments of God.
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” Mark 7:1-13
Traditions are not meant as a replacement to the commands of God. If we don't stay close to the heart of God, knowing Him, and remembering Him, then we'll get away from His desires and our traditions will eventually replace His commands.
Father God, this time of year is a time of great traditions. I pray that everyone here in this community remembers the birth of Your Son Jesus during this Christmas season and all that it means. That they are not too busy to remember this. I pray that their family or church traditions are not meaningless, not something that takes them away from Your heart, Your Word, or commands. I pray that all of Your people, Your churches, who are celebrating the birth of Your Son, that their traditions are based out of wanting to honor You and stay close to You. That they draw close to Your heart and press in to know You and Your commands so they can keep them. So their traditions don't cause them to violate Your Word.
Move upon Your people in this community and beyond. Let them remember You and draw close to You, maintain a desire to honor you, and not just be stuck in habits and traditions with no meaning. I pray they draw close to You the entire season--You who are the reason for the season. Let it begin now and continue throughout the year. Move upon Your people to examine their hearts, fill them with a desire to want to see where they've fallen into traditions, ruts, and habits that have side-tracked them from You. So they ask themselves, "Why am I doing this?" Lord, we want to remember Your commands, draw close to You, seek Your face, know Your Word, and obey it from the heart without getting sidetracked by traditions which have been ordained and modified by man, taking all the life out of Your Word.
Lord as people partake of communion, remind them of the purpose of it--to remember You and honor You. May we examine ourselves and draw close to You, thank and worship you. We desire to identify where we are in the body--Your body--and find our place in You and among Your people. Let communion come alive and become real to Your people. So it doesn't become routine or a ritual without meaning.
The priests had a certain way they would break the bread. I heard a Jewish person once say they did three pieces in a certain order. They represented Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He always wondered why poor Isaac, the second one, was always getting ripped in half. Then, he became a Christian and realized that it was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and it was Jesus who was ripped in half for us. This tradition actually held a meaning that revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Traditions can be established on God-given patterns that serve a purpose and give a revelation.
The memorial stones were set up so that when the next generation asked why they were there, they would be used as an opportunity to teach. Traditions and memorials are not bad, its just not to replace a relationship with God, or the Word of God. We need both the written and spoken word of God. We need to know His Word and keep it, as well as be able to hear His voice fresh every day.
Lord, draw people close to You, to Your spoken Word and Your voice. We don't want to just honor You with our lips or actions, but want our heart to be close to You. We don't want to worship You in vain, or teach as doctrine the precepts of men. We don't want to neglect Your commands in order to hold on to our tradition. We want to keep Your Word and honor you in everything we feel, say, and do.