Blessings, curses, blessings and more curses. God wants Israel to understand that their actions and decisions have consequences. Sometimes brutal consequences. And when we think about the Old Testament, these are usually the passages we think of first. We think of God as judgmental, harsh, and punishing. However, we rarely look at passages like the one beginning Deuteronomy 30. If you turn back to God, he will have mercy on you. He will restore your wealth and your homes. He will defeat your enemies. He will gather you together. God will again delight in you. It’s all about relationship. Sure, sometimes we are going to go through hard times and difficult stuff, but God doesn’t just do it for fun. I certainly don’t enjoy when Carter is being disobedient and I have to punish him, but I also know that for he and I to have a good relationship for a lifetime, we have to go through difficult moments like that. But God will always take us back. There is a song by Jeremy Camp that is about this very idea.
There are two unfortunate things that commonly happen with Jesus’ teachings on Pharisees and hypocrisy. First, the Pharisees are considered the ultimate enemy of God, which is pretty harsh. These are men who study God’s word, try as hard as they can to follow the letter of the law and try to get other people to do the same. Granted, Jesus often indicates they do so for the wrong reasons, but they really aren’t all bad. I mean, the reason they are often so mad at Jesus is because they have such high expectations for the Messiah that Jesus offends them. I think we are wrong to assume that all Pharisees had bad intentions. It’s much more likely that many of them had the best of intentions. The second result of much teaching on the Pharisees is that we use it as an excuse to attack the church and other Christians. You hear sometimes that people don’t want to go to church because everybody there is so perfect that people don’t feel like they can belong. And then you also hear that some people won’t go to church because it’s so full of hypocrites, people who say one thing and do another. I am happy to go to a church full of people who acknowledge that God calls them to live by a standard that they admittedly fall short of. When we invite other people to join us in attempting to live by that standard, it doesn’t make us hypocrites. It makes us people in need of a savior.