"God Be Merciful To Me" (Psalm 51), Christianity, Gehena, God, Gospel of Luke, Jars of Clay, Jesus, jesus the jew, Jewish Calendar, Leviticus, Luke, Mosaic Law, Moses, Pharisee, postaday, Publican and Pharisee, religion, Roman, Talmud, Tax collector, tvaraj
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent. The reading is from Gospel of Luke 18:9-14
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14
He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
In the above narration Jesus tells us the story of two who went to pray: a Pharisee and a Tax collector. This story gives us some insight into how people approach God in prayer.
In the gospels we see Jesus ridiculing the Pharisees at every instance he intereacts with them. So, at times I feel that Jesus the Jew was a bit too harsh in his statements about his fellow men, the Pharisees of his period. Even though Jesus moved freely among the Pharisees and the scholars of the Mosaic law, and even dined with them, he accused them of hypocrisy and pretentiousness; why?; because he knew them better like the palm of his hand.
The whole chapter 11 of Luke recounts Jesus’ scathing denunciation of the Pharisees and also the scholars of the Jewish law. Here is a similar narration in Luke 11:37-52.
Denunciation of the Pharisees and Scholars of the Law – Luke 11:37-52
After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!v Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.
Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.
Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”
Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”
And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.
Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.
We cannot conclude that all the Pharisees during the period of Jesus were bad, because the Gospels say so. Some at least, must have been disciplined and devout men of religion, and serious believers in God, who had committed themselves to a life of regular prayer and observance of God’s Law given to them through Moses.
The Jewish calendar has comparatively few regular fixed fast-days. The Day of Atonement is the only fast-day prescribed by the Mosaic law. In Leviticus 16:. 29-34, we read:
The Fast – Leviticus 16:. 29-34
29 This shall be an everlasting statute for you: on the tenth day of the seventh month every one of you, whether a native or a resident alien, shall humble yourselves and shall do no work.
30 For on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean; of all your sins you will be cleansed before the LORD.
31 It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, on which you must humble yourselves—an everlasting statute.
32 This atonement is to be made by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to the priesthood in succession to his father. He shall wear the linen garments, the sacred vestments,
33 and purge the most sacred part of the sanctuary, as well as the tent of meeting, and the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly.
34 This, then, shall be an everlasting statute for you: once a year atonement shall be made on behalf of the Israelites for all their sins. And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.
Later on after the Captivity were established four regular fast-days in commemoration of the various sad events that had befallen the Israel nation during that period
- Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast days of the fourth, the fifth, the seventh, and the tenth months will become occasions of joy and gladness, and happy festivals for the house of Judah.k So love faithfulness and peace! (Zechariah 8:19).
These were the fast of the fourth month (Tammuz), of the fifth month (Ab), of the seventh month (Tishri), and of the tenth month (Ṭebet). According to some rabbis of the Talmud, these fasts were obligatory only when the nation was under oppression, but not when there was peace for Israel.
But the Pharisees of Jesus’ period went far beyond the requirements of the law. They fasted twice a week.
When the Pharisee in Jesus’s story said, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ he was indeed telling the truth.
Tax collectors, on the other hand, worked for the gentiles – the Romans. They handled unclean money for their Roman masters and therefore were considered to be in a state of impurity. Hence they were generally regarded as people having low moral standards. The Tax collectors were considered public sinners on their way to Gehenna (hell).
Merely believing in God does not save anyone from evil. What really matters is how one understands God. Belief in God affects one’s view of himself and of others. The Pharisee believed in a discriminating God who loves good people and hates bad people. So, he looks down with contempt when he sees sinners like the tax collectors.
The tax collector in this story, on the other hand, is contrite for Jesus says, “But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jars of Clay » “God Be Merciful To Me” (Psalm 51)
Wash me, make me pure within
Cleanse, oh, cleanse me from my sin
My transgressions I confess
Grief and guilt my soul oppress
I have sinned against Thy grace
And provoked Thee to Thy face
I confess Thy judgment just
Speechless, I, Thy mercy trust
I am evil born in sin
Thou desirest truth within
Thou alone my Savior art
Teach Thy wisdom to my heart
Make me pure, Thy grace bestow
Wash me whiter than the snow
Gracious God, my heart renew
Make my spirit right and true
Thy salvation’s joy impart
Steadfast make my willing heart
Steadfast make my willing heart
Broken, humbled to the dust
By Thy wrath and judgment just
Let my contrite heart rejoice
And in gladness hear Thy voice
From my sins, oh, hide Thy face
Blot them out in boundless grace
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