Sunday: Seat of Moses

While the scribes and Pharisees appear to be two separate groups who just happened to be lumped together, the scribes were likely a subset of the Pharisees (see Acts 23:9). The Pharisees became a visible group during the time of the Grecian Empire. They are believed to be the remnants of a pious Jewish sect, known as the Hasidim, who helped to fight in the Maccabean revolution against Greece.

Image © Jeff Preston from

Image © Jeff Preston from

The name Pharisees is derived from the Hebrew paras, which means to separate. In an age when many Jews had become greatly influenced by pagan cultures, the Pharisees saw it as their duty to ensure that every Jewish male was taught the law. To accomplish this task, they established the position of rabbi, which literally means my great one or my teacher.

In saying that the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, Jesus acknowledged their positions as teachers of the people (Matt. 23:2-3, NKJV). After all, at least they had taken the responsibility to ensure that the people were instructed in the way of the law.

Read Matthew 23:1-7. From these verses, what was one of Jesus’ biggest problems with the scribes and Pharisees?

Most of the references to the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospels are negative, and considering the complicity that many (but not all) had in the death of Jesus and the persecution of His followers, that negativity was well deserved. Members of these groups seemed to be lurking around corners and hiding behind trees just waiting for people to make mistakes so they could enforce the law against them. This image of the Pharisee is so frequent in Scripture that the word is often used as a synonym for legalist. As we look closely at this text, we find that Jesus’ big problem with the Pharisees was not so much that they wanted others to keep the law of Moses but that they themselves were not keeping it. They were hypocritical-they said one thing, but did another-and even when they did the right thing, they did it for wrong reasons.

Read again what Jesus said about the scribes and Pharisees. How can we make sure that we also don’t become guilty of similar attitudes?



Sunday: Seat of Moses — 33 Comments

  1. Too bad that so many of us have taken over from the Pharisees, oftentimes we feel the need to admonish everyone or remind everyone of the laws of God while we ourselves are doing the opposite. I pray that we become humble enough to take a good look at ourselves before its too late.

  2. I heard a really good quote yesterday but am not sure just where is came from.

    "Being right is not the same thing as being Christian!"

    I must put that on my computer screen so that I am reminded of it when I feel the need to tell someone what to do.

      • Not sure what you mean by that, Merwin. It is true that being "sinless" (if we could be), might not be "mature" (the meaning of "perfect" in the Bible.)

        However, I think Maurice's idea was that being doctrinally correct is not the same as being a Christian. We are Christians by virtue of depending on Christ as our Savior and Lord. It's a relationship issue. Many people will be saved who were not doctrinally correct, but they accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. Conversely, many people will be lost who were doctrinally correct but did not humble themselves to depend on Christ as Savior.

  3. They preach water and drink wine. They prepare a heavy burden for others to carry but can't even put their finger on the burden to help others lift the burden. Hypocrites. God help us to worry bout our failures than about others failures unless we truly want to help them

    • I believe that before we (followers of Christ) live in fear of being today's Pharisees, we should individually seek the spirit of discernment, the wisdom from the Holy Spirit in order to have inner purity of thought, deed, and action. Our confidence in what we preach must first be rooted in God. We can balance our traditions and moral laws only when the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts so that whatever we teach or say to others is through love, integrity, and responsibility in which our Holiness through the righteousness of Christ our savior becomes a reflection of obedience to God's law within us as we make our own choices (tradition) in every situation.

  4. We need Rabbis. SSNET is our e-rabbi. It is a great help to us who in the simple presentation of the lesson cannot follow it and cannot get the point most of the times. Your posts and comments keep us learning. We are not anymore just sitting down in our classes now but can share in the discussion of the lesson. Thank you SSNET.

    For the church as a whole, God has given us Mrs. White to explain and interpret the Bible for us. Her writings have guided our church in her spiritual journey. Because we know where to put her writings, God has richly blessed our church and from a small beginning in 1860s we have now grown today to be
    1.The fastest growing protestant church in the world.
    2.The largest school operating protestant church in the world.
    3.The protestant church who has the biggest hospital chain in the world
    4.The most studied church in the world as far as health is concerned
    5.And I believe will be the first protestant church to have planted a church
    in all the countries of the world.

    But on the negative side, it is sad to see that we have brethren who put the writings of Mrs. White above the Bible and ended up leaving our church, joining another church and some established their own home churches.

    The lesson is, the Bible is the final authority so let us read our Bibles. Let us keep studying it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we will learn the truth because it is only through these words that we can test all the wisdom of the world.

    • I thank God for His Love. Providing missionaries to where I was born/raised so I can claim Jesus my Reedemer..We were not provided Sister White's Bible was the only tool we had...until I came to the U.S.A...However, when I started reading her Books, what a tremendous help it was to me..bringing Bible lessons to understanding expanded through the Holy Spirit's Help...I am sad to know that if there are those who take Her Writings Above The Bible..I do not think she wanted this...But, let us continue to pray for one another...God knows each one of us...Jesus is coming very soon..

  5. As Christians we ought not to behave like the Pharisees, as they claim to know it all but their character differ from what they teach. I believe is because the light or the spirit of God was not in them. They were all bind and covered with darkness. My prayer is for God to help us we Adventist to stand and live out what preach to others, so that our character will tell more of Christ to people. Let's do less of the talk and do more of the walk with Christ to brighten the corners were we are.

    • Be careful, we might all fall into a category as the Pharisees. Why do we think all others are Pharisees and not us? E.g. why do we wear white, or black and white to communion service? Or white to baby offering up, or black/dark color to funeral. Why do people supposed to have a degree before becoming a Pastor/Evangelist? Be careful brethren, the bible says .....while I preach to others, I myself become a castaway.

  6. Help us Heavenly Father to be more like Jesus.
    What does The Lord require of us? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly before God.

  7. I am faced with the attitude of the Pharisees in my own church. They have a requirement for the deaconess to wear black and white and the deaconesses to wear white only and a hat. Me and my wife were voted to serve in this position for the next two years but because we don't conform to this requirement we are not asked to participate in the worship service only in the other activities. We tried to raise the issue and the pastor also did a week a go during sabbath school when he mentioned that it he is not required to wear suit and tie and was jumped on by an elder that if you go to a court and you don't have the proper attire like a suit and tie they will provide for you. I don't know how true is this. I believe that this attitude is that of the Pharisees: "all But all their works they do to dbe seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments."

    • I would also add at my comment that the youth are pushed away by these strict rules(dress code). They are also judged by the outside appearance and not asked to participate in the worship service. I speak from experience because I have three youth(age 18, 20 and 23). I pray for my kids and for all the youth while I work hard to make them feel desired in our church.

      • I would kindly like to respond about church members concern with youth dress code. I do witness young girls wear very very short outfits, so revealing. Now as a parent I feel I am subject to God on how/what I encourage my child to wear based on biblical dignity. Not parents nor their children especially girls, should wear outfits that are too revealing. I think modesty is the key. Do I want to constantly pull down in position my skirt or dress? The world encourages anything goes.

        I believe God wants us to be respectful of Him and the people around us especially while worshiping in an area dedicated (sanctuary, church building ) to come together and commune with God on a Sabbath day
        Just a humble observation.

        • When my daughter asks me how she looks in a dress I tell her my opinion which I consider to be that of a moderate Christian. If she listen is her choice. I don't tell her 'You better dress like this or you are not going to church'. Many time as parents we fail to remember that there was a time when we were at the same age and we didn't want to be told how to dress. If we enforce this dress codes like some places do (at one church the elder was waiting at the door to give to the women something to cover their head otherwise they were not allowed to enter the church and my sister-in-law had to wait outside until the end of the worship service) the youth will leave the faith when become independent.

      • But let your child learn how to dress appropriately. Emil Pustea, The best way by is by example. Not attention calling outfits and not old fashioned clothes. The stores are full of fun clothes for our child that are appropriate for worship. Showing cleavage for young women is not funny at all. And when the are told to correct themselves they protest and say the church is not accommodating them. No way!!!

  8. Why do you think there came out a group like this in the church? What led them to become Pharisees and did those crazy things to the people of God? What benefits did they get from doing that or What was their reason behind for doing that?

    Do you think we have modern Pharisees today in our church? In what way? Thanks for your answers.

    • There may be people like the Pharisees in our church but the important thing is to realise that the message is for us and not "them". I can find lots of things to be judgmental about in the church, after all I worked for the church for a long time. When one gets older one sometimes becomes grumpy about the way people act in the church and we get critical. We used to call these grumpy old men "concerned brethren" (I am not really sure why the sisters did not get a mention ). Now that I am older, I see lots of things wrong in the church, but rather than voicing my opinions I want to work to make changes by the way I live. It is easy to criticize and stereotype, but much harder to live the Gospel message every day.

      The church is hypocritical because we are hypocritical and if we want the church to change we have to start by changing ourselves.

  9. "Do as I say, but not as I do'' So many Pastors, Leaders, Rabbis, Priests are guilty of leading followers astray. Thank God, Jesus came and pointed out these 'secret' practices. We can only be confident that Jesus will lead us to Heaven.

  10. To me life is in tension, always balancing one thing against another. The lesson does not condemn those trying to keep the church on the right path for there are a lot of examples in the Bible where God put His approval on such activities. What the lesson does say is wrong is when the attitude is bad – when it is done for the wrong reasons or hypocritically.

    In this respect the Laodicean church of all seven churches listed in Revelation is the most Pharisaical. “Because you say, `I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'-- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17 NKJV). Because of that our church has been called by some the church that doesn’t know. Just like Paul’s condemnation of the Jews in Romans, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Rom 2:1 NKJV). And like the two men praying in the temple the Pharisee was the one that was totally oblivious of the fact that he was just as bad as the one he despised (Lk 18:10-14).

    So to me correction is needed and I am glad to have a person tell me when I do something that is inappropriate. There have been many times in my life when I needed guidance and friends who saw the problem sought to gently correct me – for that I am most appreciative. What would we do without those agencies of God that point us in the right direction? I think of parents and teachers and sometimes law enforcement people. I also think of those in the Bible like Jesus and Paul who sometimes had some pretty rough things to say to church members but always in love and for the good of everyone.

  11. My brethren, I am not young, neither I am old. But as a youth I did not grew up in church, I actually started going as a child being invited and still would go to Sunday church on Sunday. As I got older in by teenage I accepted the message. Hearing the message did not change much in me because it did not make me a saint. I wore all sort of styles (remember there is nothing new under the sun). At 14-15yrs I realized I had a natural talent for sewing so I did my own sewing so I can choose my own style, it did not took much. Comb my hair in all sorts of style, (clean cut, low cut, partial side cut with some on the top, braids, wig and whatever was in style. I went to church on Sabbath and during the pm for AYS, I went to night church and participate in the service as much as allowed to do. At that time I did not know about having daily devotion and committing oneself to Christ. I only had Friday and Sabbath worships to either start or end the Sabbath. I also did prayer and fasting.
    Life in the church was good, but as I got older I thank God if I had died I would have being a lost soul. As I got older and wiser, I started realizing that I was not opposing the leaders many times, not the Pastors or Scribed but Christ Himself. Now I realized those things do not count, at my age my soul salvation is much greater than to fight with people in church about style, size, color, and make-up. I struggle daily with my own soul salvation much less to let others bar Jesus from my site. I can have 4 dresses, one for each Sabbath of the month, one or two shoes, simple hair style and go about my master’s business. I travelled enough and entered enough of our church to make that thing be a distraction to me.
    My brethren, the night is far spent, the day is at hand, many are dying like flies without a hope, let us not let Satan have the upper hand on us, let us carry the banner forward. Heaven is worth more than color and style, whether you are young or old.

  12. My brethren, let us remember, there is nothing wrong with sitting in the seat of Moses. The problems comes when we change the bible into our own understandings. As one mentioned at first when I read Sis White writings a spirit of doubt and rebellion was on me. As I understood her writings and the interpretations, I started to see it in a different light. Let us read more of her books and try by the help of the Holy Spirit to understand the bible and what is the true interpretations of given texts.

  13. In Jesus day, the Pharisees were the middle of the road believers. They were doing their best to hold the Church together.

    There were a lot of influences on the people of they day, much the same as there is today on us. Further to this, God had punished Israel for previous gross transgressions of the law.

    The Pharisees taught the law, they reminded the people of the law. They turned the Jewish religion from a religion of faith to a religion of works. Through their traditions, they began focusing on the letter of the law and forgot the spirit of the law.

    The spirit of the law is compassion. God demonstrates this compassion in the way He deals with us. We are to show compassion in the way we deal with others. In this way we are called to a righteousness which is far greater than that of the Pharisees.

    I was staying with a relative who was not an Adventist and it happened to be Sabbath. It was during summer and the day was pretty hot. He was moving some heavy boards on his own that really should have been moved by two people. He was sweating pretty profusely too. He knew I kept the Sabbath and he didn't ask me to help him. I decided to go help him. I didn't want him to hurt himself, and I wanted him to be able to get the job over and done with so that he could take a break.

    Some people would say that I broke the Sabbath that day. But I believe I didn't. I had compassion on somebody and gave them a hand so they could enjoy a rest too.

  14. The law is good. We need to keep God,s and state laws very strictly. Jesus spoke good about the law of Moses and the good of pharisees in keeping that law (Matthew 5.17-20). In strick interpretation of the law Jesus in v. 20 showed the importance of keeping the law to the highest standard to which the pharisees and scribes were better than the rest in Jesus' time. But in the same verse Jesus shows that keeping the law perfectly was not possible "unless your righteousness surpasses that of pharisees and scribes...". Verse 20 is qualified by Matthew 5.48 'You shall be perfect in keeping the law like your father in heaven is perfect' (emphasis mine). If God requires us to keep the law more than the pharisees, and aim to be as perfect as He is, boy, we are done for. The good news is that Jesus is the only one who has kept the law as perfect as His heavenly father is perfect. If this is read with Matthew 19.16ff you will see that the young rich lawyer (a pharisee) wanted to know what good can he do to enter eterlq life. Jesus said no one is Good except God. Although when he said no one did not include Himself for He said "Follow me". Jesus as the only one who is good to show him the father, still invite us in the same way that we must do the law yet to see our Heavenly Father, we must follow Him. Our proble is the same trust our merit and forget that our deeds are as filthy rags compared to Jesus' rightrousness gained by faith in Him as the perfect one. Jesus loved the young pharisee because he had zeal for God demonstrated in keepi g the law from youth. Jesus loves us still even when we dont really understand how impossible it is to please God in doing the law. We must constantly follow Him. Because we cannot be perfect here and now but until this body wears immortality we groan inwardly, who shall save us from this body that fails us to do the will of God perfectly?

  15. The Pharisees kept the law until they forgot the Lord of the law.Painful of it all, they upheld the law to a higher degree and this qualified them to be perfect LEGALISTS. LEGALISM is a fatal tool that down the years since Jesus days has seen some spiritual leaders and the laity alike yield less spiritually .Legalism:1)can make somebody ascend the throne of God, to sit as a God by judging people
    . 2)It hinders spiritual growth since it trains an individual on the discipline of law only thereby forgetting the Gospel and the kingdom of grace
    . 3)it trains an individual to acquire salvation by works hence undermines God's grace
    . Friends, it's my sincere submission to attest to the fact that, we as SDA faithfuls, have become legalistic on the issue of Sabbath.
    How we solve this issue of CHEAP LEGALISM?

    • I love reading you comment brother. Perfect. How can we solve? The answer always is let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus. The problem with us is we keep going back to laws.

  16. Please could someone explain to me the meaning of Matthew 15:5,6. What is Corban? and from what will the person who says it to his parents, be free? I don't understand this. Thankyou.

  17. Corban means a gift devoted to God. My understanding of the verse is that one of the ways we show honour to our parents is by supporting them in their old age. If we dedicate something to God that could be used to support our parents and then we say that we cannot support our parents because of this, we are breaking the fifth commandment.

  18. As for me I don't see anything wrong with certain dress codes for specific roles in church or even certain clubs or affiliations. They In no way my brothers and sisters show that we are Pharisees. Instead the way we adorn is meant to identify us by those roles and responsibilities. For instance a teacher commands great respect in their students and society at large when they are formally and appropriately dressed. That makes me think twice when I want to dress down lest I send the wrong signals to my students.

    Personally I admire the deaconess in our church during the holy communion when they are all white. I long for the day I will serve as a deacon as dress that way.

    Bothers and sisters lets not sweat ourselves over small matters. The whole idea is to provide service.

    And remember the natural inclination of man is to question every rule and it's authority, as well as disobey. Let's not be entrapped. In Last week's lesson though Jesus questioned the law on temple task; he still went ahead and paid it anyway. It does not hurt if we obey no matter how mediocre we think the law is.

    • We do need to be careful about the unspoken message we convey to observers. If a person is willing to serve but can't afford the uniform, how do you deal with it?

      If we dress up for church, then expect everyone else to dress up too because it is a custom, what happens when somebody who has never walked into a church before, walks into your church for the first time looking for that something, and are dressed in their cleaning the yard clothes, how do you deal with it?

      I remember a man who started coming along to a church I was attending some time ago. I think he might have been a merchant sailor. It was his custom to be a bit under the weather when he came to church. A number of people were definitely upset by having somebody who was drunk come to church. Some people took the man graciously under their wing. It was a big surprise when one day he began to turned up for church sober. He ended up being baptised and I think he ended up studying for the ministry.

      What would have happened if that man was removed from Church because he was not in a condition appropriate for church?

      The bottom line is that Jesus accepts us as we are. There is nothing we can do to gain merit. Jesus says He will replace our hearts of stone and He will give you a heart of flesh. He will write His laws on our hearts and in our minds. All we need to do is give him permission to do it. Church needs to reflect this fact.

      I remember a story of a prostitute who was in a pretty desperate situation. She even rented out her daughter to men to try to get by. When a Pastor asked her why she didn't approach a church for help, She replied "why would I go to a church for, I feel bad enough as it is. Going to a church will make me feel worse."

      Do the customs we have in our churches allow our churches to be a safe place for people to come and meet Jesus, maybe even for the first time?

      Is the atmosphere we have in our churches preventing people from entering, because the feel bad already and they don't want to feel worse?

      I have heard of one way of determining how well we are succeeding is to count the cigarette butts at the church entrance after church.

      • You said it right brother. When we try to make ourselves holier than other or only give the appearance through 'holier' clothes (in the Bible doesn't say to wear black and white only when you serve as deacon) the people that 'I feel bad enough as it is' will avoid joining us in worshiping God.

    • Last week I was in Boston visiting the place where is the Finish line for the Marathon. Right next is a church that was conducting the worship service outside. I quickly realized that was a Catholic Church celebrating Palm Sunday. The group of people participating in the service were dressed man in black and women in white. Are we trying to imitate the Catholic Church in how to dress for our worship service? Lets do not go back to the church that we came out of.


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