One day I was talking to my brother Bob on the phone. Bob was living in New York, and I was in Pennsylvania. We started talking about our mom, and I decided to use my desk phone and patch the three of us together in the conversation. As soon as she answered, it became apparent that Bob and my mother couldn’t hear each other, although I could hear both of them fine. Since the phone patch wasn’t working, we decided to hang up and try again later. As a parting remark, my mother said, “Tell Bob I love him.”
I said, “Bob, Mom says she never really liked you very much, and she wishes you wouldn’t call so often you’re bothering her.” Bob started laughing. He knew my mother wouldn’t say something like that, even as a joke.
My mother started screaming, “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. Tell Bob I love him.” She was trying to be outraged at what I said but was having difficulty because she couldn’t stop laughing.
Bob said, “Tell Mom I don’t trust one of her sons to deliver messages properly.”
I said, “Mom, Bob said that he’s not a very nice person, and he understands why I am your favorite son, and that is as it should be.”
My mother, still laughing, said in a very determined voice, “I may not be able to hear Bob, but I can hear you. Now, tell Bob that I love him.”
“Bob, Mom said that she loves you.”
My mother said, “Good.”
I said, “Bob, she laughed when she said it. It wasn’t very convincing. Sorry, Bob.”
We were all three laughing at this point, and after threats from my mother, I told Bob that she loved him. Conversations, where someone is in the middle are challenging and can go wrong unexpectedly. Even Jesus taught us we could pray directly to the Father, saying, “Our Father who art in heaven.” The Lord sent the Holy Spirit to come alongside us and help us have free access to both the Father and the Son.
It’s human to think we need someone between God and us. After giving the 10 Commandments to Moses, God wanted to speak to the people. Still, the people rejected that idea and insisted that Moses speak to God, and then Moses tell them what God wanted.
At the time of Jesus’ ministry in Israel, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem controlled the nation. It acted as the Supreme Court over lower Sanhedrins in the cities. The Sadducees controlled this court which consisted of 71 rabbis that sat as judges. Originally the High Priest was the president of the Sanhedrin, but in the year 191 BC, the Sanhedrin no longer trusted his judgment and expelled him from the group.
The Sadducees came from a wealthier class of Israelis and primarily lived in Jerusalem. They were responsible for maintaining the temple and controlling the nation’s army. In school, the professors used to say you could remember the name of this sect because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and therefore they were “sad-you-see.”
- Believed there was no reward or penalty after death
- Did not believe in heaven or hell
- Man has free will and can choose to do good or evil
- Rejected Oral Torah
- Believed only the written Torah (Old Testament) was inspired by God
- Believed something is either right or wrong with no shades of grey
- Believed the best life is the moral life
- Since a moral life is best for the nation, it should be part of civil law
- Believed violators of moral law should be punished here on earth
- Believed that God established nations and classes for a purpose
- Believed races should not intermarry
- Believed God had a relationship with nations but not with the individual
- They believe that education or money gives someone the right to lead
Away from Jerusalem, the Pharisees controlled the local Sanhedrins, which consisted of 23 rabbis who sat as judges. In all the Sanhedrins, only five judges were required to be present to make a ruling. The Pharisees were the largest Jewish sect, and most Israelites followed their lead.
- Believed in the resurrection from the dead and reward in the life to come
- Did not believe in hell
- Believed everyone went to Sheol after death to wait for judgment
- Believed those who did not have eternal life would cease to exist after judgment
- Believed that man has free will, but God has foreknowledge of human destiny
- Believed education was the way to godliness
- Believed the leadership of God is revealed through the structure of the rabbis
- Believed the letter of the law was as important as the spirit of the law
- Believed that one day Israel would rule the world
If either of these groups stood between God and us, their direction for us would be quite different. Today there are neither Sadducees nor Pharisees in the Jewish faith, but they remind us not to let men stand between God and us. They were supposed to be the same religion, but their beliefs were so different. Ministry should come alongside us and help us have a personal relationship with the Lord. God is more important than religion.
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments
I realized that a counterfeit $20 bill does not prove that the real $20 bill doesn’t exist. I believe God speaks to us and even uses people with a prophetic calling. Whenever there is some serious event in our nation, the charlatan prophets come out of the woodwork. They want to stand between God and us and tell us what God is saying. Like the Sadducees and the Pharisees, they come with a bias.
When the AIDs epidemic began, those self-proclaimed prophets had much to say about God’s judgment. They said God would defend the president when Richard Nixon got in trouble because of Watergate. It serves no spiritual purpose to know in advance who will win an election or be removed from office. When the year 2000 was approaching, they said there would be chaos on the earth and a great deal of our equipment would stop working (it didn’t happen). They prophesied a lot about COVID-19. Those so-called national prophets were wrong so often that they defied all odds and brought ridicule to the church. God is not a fortune teller giving us knowledge of the future for no purpose. It’s a very different spirit that does that.
The Lord has spoken to me many times through another person. Each time I remind myself to question whether this word is from the Lord. Is it genuine or counterfeit? I don’t know why it’s my favorite, but on one occasion, four of us were about to travel to Romania. Someone in our church came to pray for us and said, “The Lord said your trip would be delayed, but you will be fine.” On the way home, taking off from Frankfurt, Germany, to travel to the United States, one engine on our two-engine plane blew up. All the members of the flight crew that I could see looked afraid. The plane was full of fuel and heavy. After a few minutes, I remembered the prophecy that we would be delayed, but we would be fine. The fear was gone. God was with us. The Lord had provided comfort in our time of need. He gave us just what we needed without actually telling us the future. I loved it.
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