MATTHEW 23
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5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

The religious leaders of the day loved to play act at religion and the clothes they wore were an essential part of the pantomime. This entailed enlarging the border of their garments. That part of the garment that was to remind them of holiness and they thought they were the epitomy of true religion and holiness.

In this verse it tells us that all they did was to be seen of men .. to receive the praises and adulation of men. Now the word enlarge<3170> means to magnify and whereas Mary wanted to magnify the Lord Luke 1:46 (the same Greek word) the leaders wanted to magnify themselves..they robbed God of His glory. The same Greek word is used by Paul Phil 1:20 His body was to be used to magnify the Lord

Bro Richard Snelling [Swansea]

The pharisees were the descendents of the tribe of Levi and Simeon - instruments of cruelty in the matter Dinah and Shechem - and in the cutting off of The Lord Yahoshua


23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.


The Purpose of the Law

Our purpose in studying the Scriptures day after day is to extract strength and guidance for an acceptable walk before God, that our course may finally terminate in life, and not death. Let us, above all things, avoid the mistake of the Israelites who performed all the ordinances of God without any perception of their real meaning. God had, in the law of sacrifice, a reason and a purpose. He never acts arbitrarily, or without a definite end in view. The purpose of the Law is as living and active today as it was when first given through Moses over three thousand years ago. That purpose is to lead us to Christ.

The Jews, as a nation, failed to derive the benefits from the Law that were intended because they attributed its virtue to its mechanical performance. They went by the letter of the Law, and not by the spirit. The spirit of the Law is not something contrary to the letter. The spirit is contained in the letter. But though performing the letter, Israel did not comprehend the spirit. As Jesus said to them,

"These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23).

Both the letter and the spirit are necessary. It is by the medium of the letter that we are taught the spirit. As Paul says,

"I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Rom. 7:7).

But we cannot stop at the letter. We must get at the principle behind it, of which the letter is but the expression. We must, through the letter, make contact with the spirit. If we do not complete this circuit, no power comes to us. The Law, instead of being a conductor to life becomes an insulator from life.

The Jews offered their sacrifices. They carefully measured out their tenth deal of flour, and their fourth part of an hin of oil. But still, in their case, the Law failed in its purpose through the weakness of the flesh.

We must not fail. In the slow cycle of events, it is we who now day after day and year after year read over and over the many ordinances of the Mosaic Law. Do we do better than the Jews? "Understandeth thou what thou readest?" We have a much better opportunity. Much more has now been revealed to enable us to see the hidden meaning. Much is now clear history that was then but veiled prophecy. Much is now forced upon the eye of sight that was then only dimly visible to the straining eye of faith.

With all these advantages, and with the vastly enlarged scope made possible by printing and education, how do we stand in the matter of intelligent perception? For the past two months we have been daily reading from this Law. Have we done it mechanically, wondering why a record of all this meaningless, monotonous rigmarole was preserved? Or have we done it eagerly and intelligently, engrossed in the ever-unfolding beauties of type and shadow-constantly impressed by countless evidences of unfathomable wisdom working out a symphony of perfection over the vast range of ages, every detail foreseen and prepared?

"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search it out" (Prov. 25:2).

The mind that is seeking closer contact with the spirit will not be content with merely reading these things as a matter of duty.

Of one thing we may be sure! A spiritual perception will not just happen through the familiarity of repeated performance. The natural result is just the opposite. Each additional performance removes the act further away from conscious purpose into the realm of habit and adds one more layer to the veil that obscures the lesson hidden within.

The long history of the Jews is an outstanding proof that ordinances can be performed with scrupulous care by one generation after another for thousands of years without ever stumbling upon the secret concealed inside. Let us exert every effort to avoid a similar failure! Nothing is easier than to drift and fail.

***



35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

The KJV has 'slew' past tense...Strongs and Thayers has 'murder' and 'slay'. Yahoshua is prophesying of of future events at the end when Jerusalem should be desolated. Zacharias 'a leading man in Jerusalem, of great influence by reason of his wealth, wisdom, and probity' would in just over 30 years time be arraigned on fictitious charges. When he saw his life was forfeit, with great boldness of speech, he confuted their accusations in a few words and distinctly rehearsed their transgressions of the Law...whereupon two zealots fell upon him with swords slaying him in the middle of the temple.

Bro Roberts gives an abbreviated account from Josephus' 'antiquities of the Jews' in Ways of Providence.. the following is a section from Ch 25.

Titus was then sent by Vespasian against Gischala, which was full of military fugitives. Titus perceived the place was capable of an easy assault, and already satiated with blood-shedding, he proposed favourable terms of capitulation. This was on the Sabbath. A certain violent man named John, who had made himself leader of the place, asked Titus to wait till the Sabbath was over, which Titus, peaceably inclined, consented to do, and withdrew his troops to camp at some distance. John took advantage of the opportunity to flee.

He escaped by night. Several thousands of the citizens with their families fled with him-a multitude of women and children. When three miles out of the city, finding the people with him slow in their movements, he left them, and rode in all haste to Jerusalem. Many of the men accompanied him, notwithstanding the agonising importunities of wives and children to stay.

The multitude thus deserted were in great distress. They were afraid to go back and unable to go forward. They dispersed among the hills, and vast numbers of the women and children perished. Next day, the Romans slew crowds of them. Three thousand of them were driven back like a flock of sheep to the city. The city was spared and occupied by a garrison.

Vespasian then advanced from Caesarea to Jamnia and Azotus, both of which he captured and garrisoned. Disorder and civil war now prevailed throughout the country. The Jews were everywhere divided between those who wanted war and those who wanted peace. This raised feuds even in private families, and led to bitter quarrels. The more violent banded together in bodies and betook themselves to rapine, and for barbarity and iniquity exceeded the Romans themselves. The Roman garrisons took no notice of these disorders, and the country became a prey to misery. The lawless bands, after exhausting their opportunities of plunder and cruelty, repaired one after the other to Jerusalem, which became crowded with the refuse of the country.

JERUSALEM BEFORE THE SEIGE.

Galilee subdued, the Romans next turned their eyes anxiously to Jerusalem, which, on account of its great strength and abundance of supplies, threatened a stubborn resistance. John of Gischala, arriving there, incited the people to war, by reporting the Romans to be in a weak condition on account of the resistance of Galilee. John's harangues had the effect of inciting the young and violent part of the city, but saddening the aged and the prudent. The numerous vagabonds from the country sided with John, and soon evinced a disposition to domineer over the city. They supplied their own private wants by robbery, and murdered all who stood in their way.

They assassinated the public treasurer, a man of royal lineage, and two other public men. Other leading men soon fell a prey to their violence, under the pretence that their victims were in secret correspondence with the Romans. Terror prevailed in the city even before the Romans arrived. Ananus, the high priest, persuaded the people to rise against John's party, who, after a collision and much effusion of blood, took refuge in the Temple, and fortified themselves there against their assailants. John's party sent secretly for the Idumean Jews to come to their assistance. The Idumeans came to the number of twenty thousand, but the party of the high priest refused them admittance.

John's party, who may be called the Temple party, cut open one of the gates at night during a tempest, and admitted the Idumeans to the Temple. When their presence was discovered, dismay filled the city. Fighting ensued, during which the Idumeans slew nearly nine thousand persons. The outer wall of the Temple was covered with blood. The Idumeans proceeded to violent measures in the government of the city. They assassinated the high priest Ananus, who, had he lived, had influence enough to have persuaded the Jews to submit to the Romans and save the city.

Jesus, the next in influence to Ananus, was also slain, and the bodies of both thrown out of the city naked and without burial. General massacre ensued. The better class of citizens were imprisoned in the hope they would join the Idumean party; refusing which, they were put to all manner of tortures. Public terror prevailed. Nobody had even courage to weep for the dead or bury them, for anyone suspected of sympathy with the murdered were immediately put to death.

***

The Temple party increased in arrogance with their success, and resolved to assume the government of the city. They determined to get rid of Zacharias, a leading man in Jerusalem, of great influence by reason of his wealth, wisdom, and probity. They arraigned him before the Sanhedrin on the accusation of designing to betray the city to the Romans.

They furnished no proof, and the Sanhedrin acquitted him of the charge; whereupon two of the party slew Zacharias before the Sanhedrin, and dismissed the Sanhedrin with a blow on the back of each member with a sword. The Idumeans then got out of love with the proceedings of the Temple party, and left Jerusalem in a body. The high-priest party were glad of this, but without reason, for the Temple party became more audacious and lawless in their proceedings-arresting and assassinating prominent citizens at their pleasure.

Anarchy then set in. The Roman commanders hearing of what was going on, advised Vespasian to march on the city. Vespasian replied that God was fighting for the Romans, and that it would be far better to leave the Jews to wear themselves out in their seditions than to unite them by attacking them. Many of the Jews left the city and deserted to the Romans. The exodus was stopped by the Temple party, who killed all who were found fleeing, unless they were able to pay a large sum of money for their liberty to go.

All along the road vast numbers of dead bodies began to accumulate in heaps. The Temple party refused burial, and the bodies putrefied in the sun. If any man in the city granted a grave to any of the slain, he was himself killed instantly. The terror of the living was so great that the dead were envied. To increase the dreadfulness of the situation, the Temple party laughed at the law, and poured contempt on the prophets as "jugglers"; though, as Josephus observes, they proved the prophets true by the miseries they brought on the city. John, the leader of the Temple party, aspired to the position of dictator; upon which the Temple faction split into two parts-one for, and the other against him.

The fortress of Masada, outside of Jerusalem, at this point was seized by a large band of lawless men, who made incursions from the fortress into the neighbouring country, and plundered the villages, slaying the inhabitants. Engaddi, a small city in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem was taken by them. The population fled, and the women and children left behind, to the number of seven hundred were butchered. The whole region was quickly desolated, and those parts of Judea hitherto quiet, were now in commotion and misery.

Vespasian was importuned to come to the rescue. He temporised, but at last decided to move, resolving, however, to reduce what Jewish cities still held out in the provinces, so that nothing might interrupt him in the siege of Jerusalem when once begun. Accordingly, he marched against Gadara, the metropolis of Perea, a place of some strength. The place was surrendered on the fourth day, and the walls demolished, but the people spared on account of their friendly disposition to the Romans.

Numerous seditious fugitives escaped from Gadara to Bethennabris, and made a stand with the Jews there. A detachment of the Roman horse followed them and took the place by storm, and put all the inhabitants to the sword, and burnt the village. A few survivors escaped; they spread the news of the Roman arrival throughout the district, and declared that the only hope lay in insurrection en masse. The population accordingly left their homes in the hills and mountains, and fled to Jericho, which was fortified, and had many inhabitants. Before they got there they were overtaken by the Roman horse and driven to the banks of the Jordan and compelled to accept battle. A massacre-not a battle-ensued; 15,000 were slain by the Romans; large numbers were drowned in the Jordan, and 2,200 taken prisoners.

***

The Roman commander, Placidus, who performed this exploit, next fell on the smaller cities and villages in the district, subduing Abila, Julias, and Bezemoth, and all other places toward the Dead Sea.

Vespasian marched to Jericho. Hearing of his approach, a great multitude left Jericho and took refuge in the mountains. Vespasian took the city and built a citadel in which he placed a garrison. He despatched a Roman officer, with horse and foot, to Gerasa. The place was taken at the first assault, the young men slain, the houses pillaged and then burnt. The adjoining villages were treated in the same way.

The mountainous district of Judea was now desolate and also the plain country, and escape from Jerusalem was impossible. Returning to Caesarea to make final arrangements for the siege of Jerusalem, Vespasian was informed of the death of Nero, and suspended his plans till he should see who was made Emperor, and what instructions he should receive as to the Jewish war.

The death of Nero postponed the fate of Jerusalem for many months. Meanwhile, new trouble arose for that unhappy city. One Simon, of Gerasa, a man of violent and domineering disposition, got himself appointed captain of the marauding bands in the fortress of Masada. Increasing his numbers by various means, he extended his operations in the open country about Jerusalem till he was in a position to invade Idumea.

The Temple party in Jerusalem-headed by John of Gischala-watched Simon's movements with great jealousy. They captured his wife and household. Simon appeared before Jerusalem in a great rage, and demanded the restoration of his wife. He laid hold of all the stragglers he could find outside Jerusalem; killed many by torture, and cut off the hands of others and sent them maimed into Jerusalem. His threatenings were so formidable that the Temple zealots at last sent his wife out to him. He departed into Idumea, but returned in a short time and environed the whole city with his soldiers, torturing and slaying all who ventured out of the city.

Meanwhile, inside the city, affairs became worse. John of Gischala propitiated the support of his party by giving them licence to pillage and murder and ravish without restraint. His men revelled in every form of violence and excess. Many sought to escape from the city, but in fleeing from John inside the walls, they fell into the hands of Simon outside. Affairs grew so bad that the high priest party tried to overthrow John by admitting Simon. The people welcomed Simon with joyful acclamation: but the remedy proved worse than the disease. Simon having obtained possession of Jerusalem, treated those who had admitted him as enemies equally with those of John's party. He made an assault on the temple where John's party were established. A great deal of bloodshed ensued, but with little result.

A faction then sprang up in John's party, headed by Eleazar the priest. Desirous of getting rid of John's tyranny, this faction established themselves against John in the inner court of the Temple and assailed John's adherents from the upper part of the building. John was thus between two fires-Simon in the city and Eleazar in the inner and higher parts of the Temple. Constant and desperate fighting ensued between the parties. Simon and John both resorted to the use of fire, by which the principal calamity of the city was prepared.

In addition to the houses near the Temple where the strife raged, the granaries near the Temple in which had been stored corn that would have lasted the city several years, were burnt down. This was the cause of famine afterwards. The city now sank to a state of extreme wretchedness, and the elder part earnestly desired the arrival of the Romans, but had no means of communicating with them, or in any way of influencing the course of events, as every exit from the city was carefully guarded, and every one suspected of favouring the Romans was put to death, equally by the three factions at war with each other.

The Roman army at Caesarea proclaimed Vespasian emperor. Vespasian departed to Alexandria, and thence to Rome, leaving the direction of the war to his son Titus. Titus remained for a time at Caesarea, making preparations for the siege of Jerusalem. At last he marched and was reinforced at various points.

Ways of Providence Ch 25