Rules versus Righteousness


“They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.”” Acts 23:14 NKJV

As I pondered over this verse I thought of rules versus righteousness. There were about forty Jews who took this oath to kill Paul. These men were angry enough to take a pledge to kill someone.  But to let anger drive you to make hasty decisions you will regret later is not only foolishness but it is sin.  The Bible teaches “in your anger do not sin” (Psalm 4:4 NIV).

According to these Jews the rules had to be followed.  Anyone who rejected the rules would be punished.  Isn’t that just like man? We make a rule and expect others to follow it.  When they don’t, we say they deserve punishment.  If God wanted us to follow rules, He wouldn’t have sent His Son, Jesus.  For God said, “This is my Son, whom I love and I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5 NIV)

These Jews were so bent on following a rule of taking an oath they were blind to how wrong their planned action was.   Paul did nothing worthy of death, yet these men were willing to deny them self food and water until they killed him. Killing someone without cause is wrong.  Jesus took this a step further saying even being angry at your brethren without cause puts us in danger of judgment (Matthew 5:22 NKJV).

The thing is we usually think we have a just cause, don’t we?  That’s where righteousness comes in. Righteousness defined by Merriam Webster is acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin and morally right or justifiable.  The Bible teaches us in Psalm 14:3 NKJV “They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, no, not one”.  No one is good, except God.  Our righteousness is worthless in His sight.  The only righteousness that is worth its weight in gold comes from God Himself.  These Jews were not practicing righteousness that comes from God, but what comes from man.  If they were following God, I’m sure they would have remembered Exodus 21:14 NKJV “But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.”

Next time anger tries to over take you, stop and ask your self “Why am I angry?”, “Am I trying to get someone to follow my rule?”, “Am I acting in accord with God’s Word?” Submit to the Lord, resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).   God’s righteousness is what we need, not rules.

Lord thank you for your precious word and your Holy Spirit who reveals your truth to us.  Thank you for your righteousness that sets us free from rules and brings us into relationship with you.  Help us in every way grow into your likeness.  In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

© Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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