God’s People, part 127: Scribes

Read Matthew 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”  (Matthew 7:22-23, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Scribes_at_Tomb_of_EzekielPart 127: Scribes. In today’s time, most of us are both keenly aware and yet ignorant of what a scribe is. It is language we simply do not use anymore, yet the function of the ancient scribe still carries on in our world. When we think of scribes, we probably imagine a monk passed out at his desk after countless hours of transferring the holy writ (the Bible) from old pages to new ones in order to preserve the holy Scriptures. Indeed, that would be on function of a scribe.

Yet the scribe was more than just a preserver of ancient texts. A scribe in the ancient Jewish world functioned as lawyers, journalists, government ministers, judges and/or financiers. While some scribes copied documents for sure, that was not necessarily a part of their job description. This, then, helps us to get a better understanding of the scribes in Jesus’ day and why he ended up confronting them so vehemently.

The scribes were professionals who were, no doubt, weighing in on the “legality” of what Jesus was teaching. Did it hold up to the first century Jewish understanding of the Torah and the prophets? Did Jesus have the authority to teach in ways that contradicted, and humiliated, the professionals? Just who is this Jesus anyway. Who died and left him the expert in such matters. THEY WERE THE EXPERTS!!!

Thus, the scribes were among the Jewish groups that pushed back against Jesus’ teachings, especially when it came to matters of the law, of taxes and money, and other such matters. This Jesus was stepping on their toes, stepping into their space, and assuming their role in authoritative ways. As a result, he and his teachings were a threat to their livelihoods and they, no doubt, took his resistance of their authority as a personal affront to them.

The challenge for us is to reflect on the ways we are the scribes of today. Do we hold up our interpretation of the law, of what is right and wrong, over and above what Jesus taught and commanded? Does Jesus threaten us and our way of thinking? Does he pose a threat to our political worldviews and agendas? Does he rudely burst in our lives, into our space and step on all of our toes?

If so, then we need to consider how much of a follower of Jesus we really are. We need to reflect on our loyalty, our faithfulness to Jesus. If we are not aligned with him, but are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will divinely strengthened and guided to make the adjustments needed so that we become more like Christ. To not do so not only separates us from Christ, but it most definitely brings others down along with us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The Holy Spirit works within us the changes that God sees necessary in our lives.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from becoming like the scribes and seeing you as a threat, for you are my Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.

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