Sunday service, Dr Peter Hammond, 24 Jun 2018
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: note
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
In the first eight verses of Luke 18, the Lord Jesus taught the disciples about prayer. The widow wanted justice, but the judge wasn’t interested. However, since she persisted he heard her.
In the second part that we’ve read Jesus spoke against those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. Because of the Bible the term Pharisee is a derogatory term, but it wasn’t that way during the time of the Bible. The Pharisees were the most religious and righteous people in society. When the Pharisee came to the temple he came to his favourite place and when he prayed he was busy with his favourite activity. But here the Lord exposes him as a hypocrite. This man was praying about himself and Jesus said he was even praying to himself. He was blowing his own trumpet, patting himself on the back.
The Muslims identify with the Pharisee because they have a Pharisaical religion.
The Pharisee in this parable give no indication that he comes into the presence of the Living God, the One who has life and death in His hand.
When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, immediately he fell on his face. So too John the apostle who was the closest to the Lord. When he saw the ascended Christ in his glory he fell on his face like a dead man.
People say when they get to heaven they will demand from God to know why He allowed this or that. But if the great apostle John fell like a dead man before God there is no chance that these arrogant people will be able to backchat their Judge. The Bible says that they will call for the hills and mountains to cover them from the face of God.
This prayer was not just an example of a Pharisee, for we find prayers such as these in the Talmud. This is the way that they prayed.
He did not understand that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. He did not seem to fear God at all. He prayed to be heard by those around him in the temple. He did not pray to God at all.
But there was another man in the temple, the tax collector. He had no illusions about his depravity. He knew what a wicked person he was. His prayer was a desperate cry from the heart.
He did not come to recount his merits and achievements. He offered no excuses. He recognised his hopeless state.
After telling this parable the Lord Jesus Himself interprets the parable, so that there could be no misunderstanding, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The confidence of the Pharisee was delusional. He was wasting his time, his prayers were futile and foolishness. His faith was misplaced, in himself. He was actually lost, deceived and damned. He was relying on his own merits.
But the tax collector cast himself on the mercy of God. God declared him righteous and justified.
There is no justification for those who have confidence in themselves. Until we see ourselves in the light of God’s holiness, mercy and grace, all our efforts are for naught. Those who humble themselves will be exalted. Those who come in humility and confess their sin, will receive mercy.
We must realise there’s good in the worst person and there’s evil in the best person. Human nature is fatally flawed. The Pharisee with all his good works cannot be righteous before God. Talking about forgiving yourself is psycho babble. Only God can forgive sins.
We read in Is 55:6-9, “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God resist the proud but gives grace to the humble.