Swallow a Camel
By Dennis Huebshman
Matthew 23:24, “Blind Guides! You strain out a gnat, but swallow a Camel!”
The phrase is used by Jesus against the religious leaders when He gave them the “woe-be’s”. In Matthew 23, Jesus is telling His disciples and other people who came to listen to Him about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In verse 3 He tells the people to pay attention to what the Pharisees say, but not what they do because they “do not practice what they teach.” (now we know where this phrase comes from- All emphasis throughout is mine.)
He talks about the heavy loads of “rules” they put on others, but they themselves won’t lift a finger to help. They do things to be seen by others and expect to be in the place of honor wherever they go.
They like to have the titles “Rabbi” and “Father”, yet Jesus says they’re not worthy of such titles. He told them they have One Teacher, and all others are brothers (and sisters). The one they are to call Father is their Father who is in Heaven, and the Teacher is Jesus Himself.
One woe Jesus gave was the “experts in the law and the Pharisee hypocrites” were locking people out of the kingdom that they themselves had never entered into. (V. 13) They were leading the people in “man’s” way, not God’s. He told about making converts to their ways, but actually are making them twice as much a child of hell than themselves. (V. 15) He was saying false doctrine was the culprit and we can see this applied to religious leaders even today.
They make up things for people to swear by such as the temple which they say binds no one, to the gold of the temple which supposedly is binding. Jesus points out the Temple is what makes the gold valuable in the first place. He makes the same point about not being bound by the altar, but being bound by the gift on it He is showing just how far off their beliefs are. (V. 16-22) Jesus points out that the altar and everything on it are valuable as well as the Temple and the One who dwells in it. His final note on this point was whoever swears by Heaven, swears by the Throne of God and the One who sits on it. That alone should make someone cautious as to how they give oaths.
He tells about their tithing of “things”, but neglecting the people in need. (V.23) Nothing takes the place of helping others who are in need and by tithing and not helping, their offerings are not acceptable.
Then comes the gnat vs the Camel in verse 24. The leaders go through all kinds of man-made (not God given) rituals, but fall short on the original intent of the law. They nit-pick miniscule parts of their law, but would go around the actual laws given by the Father to Moses and the children of Israel because it was an inconvenience for them.
They had cleaning rituals that went far and beyond anything that would be normal. Jesus told them that just cleaning the outside was not enough if the “inside” was dirty (full of greed and self-indulgence). He used cups and dishes as reference to that which is seen as well as outward physical appearances; yet their inner beings were dead bones and unclean. Man sees the surface; God sees the heart.
Jesus tells that they are as guilty of killing the prophets of old the same as their ancestors. He said there would come more prophets and the Pharisees would crucify some (He knew the death He was to suffer) and some they would whip and drive them out of the synagogues. He said all the innocent blood that was shed would be on them because they continued with and added to the ungodly rituals.
Jesus finishes off Matthew 23 by saying how much He wished the leaders of Jerusalem would turn back to the original intent of the law of following God’s word. They had missed the prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 about the king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey in the Triumphal Entry earlier, or they would have known He was exactly who He had been telling them He was. They expected the Messiah to come in on a majestic steed, all dressed in fine linen and to “honor” the Pharisees for their “faithful” service. They could not stand that He dressed them down at every turn and had the nerve to do so very publicly. For having been schooled in the Old Testament scrolls, they were ignorant when it came to prophecy being fulfilled right in front of them.
So, with all this in mind, is there any comparison to organized religion today? U-betcha! We have supposed Bible-teaching Evangelical churches today that are backing off the scriptures and saying there’s many ways to heaven. Some are even saying a person can be saved without accepting Jesus. The word is, be gentle and don’t offend anyone or there will be empty seats and lower contributions. Put on great musical light shows with 7-11 songs (saying the same 7 words 11 times). Also, never ever mention hell, Lake of Fire or any eternal punishment. Totally ignore Revelation 20: 11-15 about the Great White Throne Judgment, because Revelation is just a book not to be taken seriously. It only has a bunch of images that are confusing and causes people to be uncomfortable.
Don’t forget the cult religions that make up their own versions of what heaven is all about, who God is, and many don’t claim Jesus as being part of the Godhead. If something doesn’t seem right in the true scriptures, just cut it out or change it to fit what sounds best just as the Pharisees did. Oh yes, and take all gender away from God. To say “He”, “His” or “Father” is insulting to certain groups and must be avoided.
Forget verses such as John 14:6 where Jesus says He is the ONLY way to the Father. Ignore teachings about false prophets in the writings of Paul, James, John, Peter, Jude and even the Savior Himself. Encourage people to read the personal testimonies of today’s leaders rather than the actual Holy Word.
Finally, deny we are in the season spoken of by the Savior and others where time on this earth is about to expire.
Much of this seems like folly, and anything that is not God Breathed Scripture is folly. Soon, in God’s timing, we are about to see the disappearance of a group of people from all over the earth. They will have one thing in common and that is they Accept Jesus As Their Savior. Because of this, they also have the Father. (John 3:18; John 16:27; 1 John 5: 10-12 just to name a few reference verses.) The world for a brief time will be glad we’re gone, but then the truth of the Tribulation 7-year period will set in. If you have a real desire to insure you have a home with the Savior, you need to read His true word – The Bible – for yourself. Talk to Him in prayer. Believe Jesus is the Son of God who came to this earth and gave the perfect sacrifice on the Cross for our sins. The Father raised Him from the dead, and He is currently with the Father waiting for the exact time to come and call His Church Home in the Rapture. The True Church is all believers regardless of organized religion.
If you will accept Jesus, He will accept you – Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13. He is coming very soon. Be ready for His call.