Anglican Morning Devotion for 27 February 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Matthew 11:20-23; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The term ‘WOE’ occurs forty times in the New Testament thirty-one of which were proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a term expressing grief and revulsion. It is not a term by which I would like to be addressed by the Lord.
Our Lord Jesus Christ had performed many miracles and taught often in Chorazin and Bethsaida, yet the people took the miracles and rejected the Author of those miracles. They failed to repent. Tyre and Sidon were used as examples to contrast the unwillingness of Chorazin and Bethsaida with that of Tyre and Sidon. God brought judgment down on those two places resulting in their total destruction. Jesus says if He had performed the same mighty works in Tyre and Sidon as He had done in Chorazin and Bethsaida, those two cities would have repented and spared.
It is a sad thought to realize the great and abominable sin of Sodom was sodomy, and that same sin is spreading across the beloved cities and plains of our own beloved land. (See Lev 18:22) Knowing that God does not change, we should tremble at the thought that God withholds His judgment until the iniquity of a people is full.
But our Lord reserved the use of the term ‘woe’ more directly for the Scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish rulers. They had rejected the Son of God, and must surely have known He was the anointed Messiah prophesied. They could not bear to countenance the loss of power, prestige and economic privilege they would lose by His recognition.
In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew alone, our Lord rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees with the term ‘woe’ no less than eight times. In most cases, His charge deals with matters of base and grievous hypocrisy on the part of these men. Some choice examples of our Lord’s use of the term are included below:
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!” (Matthew 23:13-16)
The above charges are critically severe for those so labelled. It is a condemnation of the souls of those who remain in such degenerate states. Remember, these were the great and popular ministers of the day to whom the Lord spoke. He speaks with equal umbrage to those who are of the same character today. The pulpits are full of men who profess themselves to be righteous but are full of filth and rot in their souls. There is one such condemnation that deserves particular mention: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” I say it deserves particular mention for it is the one woe that is omitted in most modern Bible (per)versions. You need not think long and hard to realize why the modern manipulators of God’s Word would not want this verse to be understood by their people. Many might catch on to the fact that the modern ministerial Pharisees were, themselves, devouring widows houses by demanding tithes and offerings from widows of scarce means while the minister lives on a lucrative salary. The pretentious prayers are noteworthy as well.
It is sadly true that the hypocritical ministers of today may work harder and longer to gain a proselyte than the honest, God-fearing pastor. They are motivated by the profit motive and will say anything to make a sell. God preserve His Church inviolate from such rogues and thieves who argue the most obscure points of biblical doctrine and ignore the weightier matters of the simple Gospel of Christ.