Dark Places exist all around us. They haunt us from time to time. They suffocate us when we least expect it. And they hinder us from fully embracing the abundant life that God has promised to us. Dark Places steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our vision. And yet, we do not have to be victims of darkness and the Dark Places that can ensue. Instead we can choose to live in the Light, allowing God’s Word to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.
In Part I and Part II of this series, we discussed Dark Places in detail. Today, we will discuss Part III of this lesson series. Specifically, we will look at Dark Places as it relates to people who allowed bitterness to cut them to the bone.
Throughout the Bible, we can read about numerous people who lived in the Dark Place of bitterness. Men and women, young and old, married and adulterous – the story of bitterness has rocked individuals as well as groups of people for centuries. In fact, this particular Dark Place was present and obvious among a well-known group of people. We can read about them in the Gospel accounts. Who are they? Surely you know. The people who lived in the Dark Place of bitterness and who allowed it to cut them to the bone were the Pharisees.
Who were the Pharisees?
Pharisees were of a strict Jewish sect who held the Law of Moses and traditions as binding. They were a notably prominent group identified in Scripture as being against Jesus. The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones. Their basic beliefs were:
1. They believed that God controlled all things, yet decisions made by individuals also contributed to the course of a person’s life.
2. They believed in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).
3. They believed in an afterlife, with appropriate reward and punishment on an individual basis.
4. They believed in the existence of angels and demons (Acts 23:8).
The Pharisees were some of Jesus’ greatest opponents. They spoke so harshly and unjustly against Jesus that they, along with the Sadducees, joined forces and plotted and ultimately murdered Jesus.
But I ask you, how can this be? Pharisees – the religious men of God who “believed and accepted” the inspired Word of God – how could they kill the Messiah who was spoken of in the Word of God? How did this happen? It happened because they allowed bitterness to cut them to the bone. It affected not only their mindset but their heart set.
How did their Dark Place of bitterness affect them?
They became self-righteous legalists who did works to be seen of men. They practiced things that had no validity or God-directed support and they did it and called it the law. Their end, like so many who ignorantly choose or rather don’t choose (not to choose is a choice), was denial of the Christ. Denial of the Savior. Denial of the Life. Denial of the Way. Denial of the Light. In other words, they were alright with a superficial, God-in-the-periphery religion, but not a deep, God-in-my heart worship. They were enemies of Christ and they were dead set against this man – Jesus – who had the audacity to come and speak as if He was the Messiah. Bottom line, they were hypocrites who resented Christ.
Does this sound like any of us? Extreme to the 10th power. So hard and critical and rigid in our rules. So firmly set in our opinions and beliefs (which we craft around the Word of God in an effort to call it scriptural and to justify what we desire). Are we a self-righteous people who have a truth but not the truth? God help us. Are we a people who think we know and practice what is right but lack true integrity in the Word? How vicious we can become, all in the name of religion.
What are the illuminating lessons for us as it pertains to the Dark Places of the Pharisees?
1) The truth of who we are always comes to Light.
2) Beware of dead living (the Law has passed away; we are now under grace and Truth, with an emphasis on grace and Truth)
3) Allow Jesus to direct our steps and shine His glorious Light on our religious practices. Allow Him to do away with traditions of men and to replace them with the truths and promises of God.
4) Realize that the proud have their reward. Be humble in the sight of the Lord and realize that His Truth is the only truth that stands.
The Word of God can be a Lamp and a Light on our Dark Places of bitterness, resentment, anger, contempt, and hostility. Allow Jesus to be the brightness that forever casts out the shadows and darkness that shroud our lives and cause us to get trapped in Dark Places.
Do some background research on Pharisees. Additionally, study each of the Gospel accounts and make note of what you learn about the Pharisees. Once you have completed your review, share your findings with The Phone Tree Bible Study Group. Let’s get a conversation started.