Saturday, August 25, 2012
Shake Off the Dust
Matthew 10:1 & 5-6 ... "And when He had called unto him his twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Now why wouldn't Jesus want the Gentiles or the Samaritans ministered to? Aren't they also God's children even if only by creation? So why was it at first only to be preached to the Jews?
The Jews were the ancient covenant people of God, the people whom the Messiah was born into. All others were considered heathen. The time for preaching the gospel to the Gentiles had not yet come. But their time would come.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 7 ... "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven ... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak ..."
Solomon's words are true ... there is a time for all things under the sun ... and this was not the time. So Jesus sends them out along with this added command ...
Matthew 10:14 ... "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."
Who was this speaking what sounds like, if not hateful words, then at the very least judgmental words? Does this sound like the Lamb of God, the Savior; the kind, merciful and caring Son of God who was preparing to give His life for others? So what's the problem here?
It was simply ... Jewish tradition. This act was part of their culture, an act of national pride.
John Wesley commented on this tradition ... "The Jews thought the land of Israel so peculiarly holy, that when they came home from any heathen country, they stopped at the borders and shook or wiped off the dust of it from their feet, that the holy land might not be polluted with it. Therefore the action here enjoined was a lively intimation, that those Jews who had rejected the Gospel were holy no longer, but were on a level with heathens and idolaters."
The Jews believed that even the dust of the Gentiles was impure and believed they would be defiled by that dust, so it was to be shaken off one's clothing and feet. But here, dealing with their own people, Jesus was instructing them to shake off the dust as a symbolic action against any house or city inside Israel who would not hear their words. By doing so, those who rejected the Gospel would be regarded as impure pagans, and would not have any further connection with them, placing them on a level with the heathen cities outside of Israel.
The shaking off ... was a rather violent gesture of disfavor. The Jews had violent prejudices against the smallest particles of Gentile dust because it was regarded the same as the rotting of death, or as becoming putrid. If any heathen dust touched an offering, the offering must be burnt at once.
I'm not aware of when this tradition started but even Paul and Barnabas observed this same symbolic act at Antioch. Acts 13:50-51 ... "But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium."
Evidently this was something that was very common in the Jewish way of life. God was a Holy God and to them Israel was a Holy Land and they intended to keep it that way. The old Jewish traditions were hard for the new Christian Jews to put aside. Even living by "faith alone" in Jesus ... a totally new concept to them ... instead of by the keeping of the Law must have been a scary proposition for them.
This is why at the first counsel of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-24) there was a discussion concerning what some Jewish converts were teaching others, mainly ... "Except ye be circumcised, and keep the law, ye cannot be saved." Paul and Barnabas argued they gave no such command.
So, is dust, dirt or any pollutants the real problem? Remember the accusations brought to Jesus about the washing of hands?
In Matthew 15:1-11, some of the dialogue on this subject goes like this ... "Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? They wash not their hands when they eat bread. But Jesus answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Thus ye have made the commandment of God of none effect ... by your tradition."
Then Jesus continued ... "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
The conclusion then must be ... the smallest particles of dust, the material things of this world that may get on us are not the problem. The main problems are the religious observances and traditions of men ... false teachings flowing out of the mouth ... that may make the Word of God of no effect unto you as it did them.
This is why you need to hide the Word of God away in your heart. You will never know God any better than you know His Word. So instead of shaking the dust off our feet, some of us may need to shake the dust off our Bibles and open them up.