[Mar 7:5-9 KJV]5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for]doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Sometimes traditions can be beautiful and hold great significance and purpose to the believer but they are and NEVER will be commandment. Some traditions can be hurtful and even bring confusion such as those that are obviously Pagan and hold symbolic meaning to other gods. Christianizing or trying to take Pagan holidays and make them holy commanded observances is wrong. At best I believe that taking holidays like Christmas and Easter and making them about Jesus is no different than changing the lyrics to an old rock song to sing to God. Can some people find purpose and meaning in doing that sort of thing? Yes. I believe so. Many come to Christmas Eve services and Easter Sunday services and genuinely give their hearts to the Lord. That, however, does not make it God’s best for His covenant people. Just like that converted rock song that you used to sing about sex and drugs even though the lyrics may have been changed, it carries with it old memories and connections to things that are best left in the past. Some people feel very strongly convicted about keeping Christmas and Easter but remember that these are not God’s commandments. You can find even greater significance and purpose in God’s commanded feasts like Passover and Tabernacles. Unfortunately, these feasts are forgotten by most and replaced with Christian traditional holidays that are not commanded by YHVH. Now this is not an article about feasts so let’s forge on…
The question you have to ask yourself is what are the commandments of God and what do they say? Remember that the commandments of God are not grievous or burdensome:
[1Jo 5:3 KJV]3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
The moment we begin to add to the commandments and mixing in our personal convictions these commandments can become burdensome and a problem for people. The Torah was always meant to be simple so that the wood cutter and the theologian could both understand and keep His commandments. God made His Laws simple but some religious men have added and turned it into something quite different, making it frustrating for someone to try to walk this path.
[Deu 30:11-14 NLT]11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.
For many in our western culture we are not taught the commandments of YHVH. Many actually believe that church doctrine and things created by the Catholic church are commandments from God Himself and they are surprised when they realize that they are not. Just like Deuteronomy 30 God’s commandments are meant to be simple so you should not have to go to a priest, pastor or rabbi to know what they are (I am not saying that these teachers are bad either). You simply open your bible and read it for yourself. Do your own research. Question everything. Set all tradition and conviction aside for a moment and just read God’s Word for what it plainly says. I had to do this when my wife and I started to question what the Sabbath day was all about. My head was full of convictions and traditions as I had grown up in the Christian church and that Sunday morning perspective was all that I had. Every time I would read a passage of scripture about the Sabbath day and it was very plain and simple yet my head argued against it with traditions of men. Which would prevail?
Sometimes convictions and personal judgments need to be made? There are times that the written word of God just doesn’t have a black and white answer to. In these cases I believe that through prayer and discernment you may find direction through the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things. Paul several times in his ministry had to make these judgments such as in 1 Corinthians:
[1Co 7:25 KJV]25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
Paul clearly stated that there wasn’t a black and white commandment from God so he gave his personal judgment on the matter, citing his relationship with the Lord as his foundation he rested on. Even in the days of Moses when the man was gathering sticks on the Sabbath day the people did not know what to do so they held the man and waited for God to speak a judgment in that moment:
[Num 15:32-34 ESV]32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him.
I believe that we should strive to keep God’s commandments as often and in as much reverence as we can. I also believe that YHVH gives us freedom within that obedience lifestyle to make judgments, and add personal convictions and traditions as long as it does not replace or negate His laws and ways. Some may say that tradition is adding to the commandments of God which is forbidden in the Torah. Is that really what it says?
[Deu 4:2 ESV]2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.
If we hold a strict interpretation to this then what is adding to God’s Word? Anything beyond the Torah or maybe anything beyond Deuteronomy 4? What about the rest of the Old Testament like Psalms and the Prophets? Is that adding to the Word? What about the New Testament? It’s interesting that the same warning shows up in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation:
[Rev 22:18-19 ESV]18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
So what does adding to the Word mean? I personally believe that it is when we teach convictions or traditions as commandments. The moment we say that we are breaking God’s commandments by breaking the tradition of the church or elders then we are adding to the commandment. It seems like a subtle difference but the implications are very severe. For instance, if we get bent out of shape because someone doesn’t light candles on the Sabbath day and say the traditional blessings and we begin to chastise that person as if they are breaking a commandment we are in fact adding to God’s commandments. Why can’t we just be excited that that person is trying to keep and honor the Sabbath day? This is when the commandments get heavy. This is when they get confusing and impossible to keep. Let’s keep tradition as tradition and commandment as commandment. Let’ s remember that we are to prefer one another not pressure one another. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.