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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Yet they say to each other, ‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me! I am holier than you!’ These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away."—Isaiah 65:5 (NLT)
I remember the day I stopped enjoying the playground. I was in first grade; we were all chasing each other, just having a good time. But then a young lady decided to label me a carrier of the dreaded cooties virus. All of a sudden, all the kids were screaming and running away, saying, “Ew, he has cooties,” and “Get away from me, cootie man!” I kept pleading with everyone, saying, “I don’t! I don’t have cooties. Why won’t you play with me anymore?” But it was too late . . .
While I’ve likely exaggerated some of these memories a bit over time, I think the picture remains pretty clear. It’s a picture we see in the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan with the priest and Levite not helping the beaten man. It’s a picture of how the Jews felt about Samaritans. And it’s a picture of today’s verse in Isaiah. “Don’t come too close or you will defile me. I am holier than you.”
Here, God is speaking to Israel, pointing out their hypocrisy. In the verses prior, He calls them out for worshiping created things, and for eating that which He had commanded them not to eat, and yet they dare stand above someone else, calling them defiled and unclean, claiming to be above, superior, holier.
Did you know that Proverbs 6:17 tells us the thing the Lord “detests” is “haughty eyes;” a proud look. John Gill explained it this way: “Scorning to look down upon others . . . with disdain; or reckoning them as unworthy to be looked upon, having a high opinion of their own worth and merit.”
Where does this arrogance and self-righteousness come from? What makes one person think they’re better or holier than another? We all come from the fallen Adam and Eve, whose sin was in fact pride! We all have the same fatal flaw. I say fatal because so often pride keeps people from surrendering to God. And even worse, haughty eyes and self-righteousness from believers has a tendency to turn people off to knowing Christ.
As disciples, we should know better! We know we’re all sinners, enemies of God, fallen and wicked apart from the only One who is holy and above all (Philippians 2:9). In Christ, we receive His holiness. And as believers, I pray we can stop being accidental Pharisees and become intentional servants—meek, humble, compassionate ambassadors of the ultimate Servant!
DIG: If you have the margin and can spare a few dollars, consider purchasing Larry Osborne’s book, Accidental Pharisees. It’s a truly eye opening and convicting read.
DISCOVER: Have you ever had a cooties type situation happen in your life? Have you ever felt rejected, as if someone had put you beneath them? Have you ever done this to someone else—intentionally or unintentionally? What did you learn from these experiences?
DISPLAY: Be intentional today about your humility before God and others. Take every prideful thought, every sanctimonious or self-righteous instinct captive to the mind of Christ.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.