Have you ever considered how hard life must be for those under the “Law?” Following the 613 laws given by God in the Old Testament would be hard enough, but the additional restrictions set by the Pharisees would make it nigh well impossible. The Law, as given by God, is the first five books of the Bible known by the Jews as the Torah.
As humans tend to do, some Jews decided that the perfect and complete word of God needed explaining and that they needed to write rules and regulations to govern any situation one might encounter when following the law. In doing this, they changed the law into the legalism of by-laws and regulations.
Take, for example, the Sabbath law tells us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Do all your work in six days, but on the seventh, neither man nor servants nor animals were to do any work.
Pretty simple right? God said, here are my rules for the Sabbath and the explanation for them in around five sentences.
Not to be outdone, the Rabbis came along and said, y’all hold my wine and watch this.
They took those five sentences and wrote twenty-four chapters on them in the Mishnah. The commentary on the Mishnah is the Talmud, and there are two of them. The section explaining Sabbath law is sixty-four and a half columns in the Jewish Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud is 312 pages.
You may wonder how they expanded five sentences to 300 and something pages. Well, they did it like this. Tying a knot on the Sabbath was considered work. The Mishnah and the Talmud go into great detail about knots. Knots tied by camel drivers and by sailors are work, so they aren’t allowed. If tying them is work, then, so us untying them.
On the other hand, according to the Rabbis, knots that one can tie or untie with one hand were legal. Also, a woman may tie up a slit in her shift and the strings of her cap and those of her girdle, the straps of shoes or sandals, of skins of wine and oil’.
Now see what happened. Suppose a man wished to let down a bucket into a well to draw water on the Sabbath day. He could not tie a rope to it, for a knot on a rope was illegal on the Sabbath, but he could tie it to a woman’s girdle and let it down, for a knot in a girdle was entirely legal.
The Mishnah and The Talmud make way for loopholes. They make way for humans to do what they want while feeling good about keeping the “Law.”
Man took what God declared good – a day for rest and worship – and made keeping that day work!
That was the kind of thing which to the scribes who wrote the regulations and Pharisees who enforced the regulations was a matter of life and death; that was religion; that to them was pleasing and serving God.
Jesus said no! Love God and love your neighbor regardless of what your lawbooks say.
But do we? As humans, our rules and regulations are one thing, but if they interfere with loving God and our neighbors, they are wrong!
Let the Spirit blow you where it will.