Which say, Stand by yourself, come not near to me; for I am holier than you. These are a smoke in my nose…
Dr. W. Kay has a suggestive note on this verse: "A deep insight is here given us into the nature of the mysterious fascination which heathenism exercised on the Jewish people. The Law humbled them at every turn with mementoes of their own sin, and of God's unapproachable holiness. Paganism freed them from this, and allowed them (in the midst of moral pollution) to cherish lofty pretensions to sanctity. The man who had been offering incense on the mountain-top despised the penitent who went to the temple to present 'a broken and contrite heart.' If Pharisaism led to a like result, it was because it, too, had emptied the Law of its spiritual import, and turned its provisions into intellectual idols." Henderson says, "The conceit of imaginary holiness, accruing from certain external relations, and the performance of certain ritual or bodily exercises, such as the Jews have long entertained, and which is also awfully prevalent among nominal Christians, Jehovah here declares to be peculiarly offensive to him." The illustration of this "stand-by' attitude is found in our Lord's parable of the Pharisee and the publican.
I. HOLINESS OF RITUAL. Religion may be a doing or a being. The religion of doing is the minute and careful observance of ritual. It may be ritual as appointed by God, or it may be ritual as arranged by man. A certain goodness, righteousness, bringing with it much self-satisfaction, and a great disposition to despise others, may come out of a religion of doing. Thousands have been fascinated by it in every age. And yet it is but an external matter, of the senses and of the mind; and it has always been found possible to keep it up along with heart-impurities and life-immoralities. The ritualist is not at all bound to be a clean-living man. Pharisees thought themselves holy, on the ground of their precise obediences; and it was a Pharisaic commonplace to live in self-indulgence and sin. Matthew Arnold, writing of such mere ritual holiness, says,:' Doing all this out of superstition, and out of the vain notion that it will be of religious avail to them, they insolently repel their unsuperstitious and faithful brethren as less holy than themselves." In a thousand ways, and constantly, it is needful to press on attention that ritual is an aid to holiness, not holiness, and the danger of ritual is
(1) that it may blind us to the goodness of those who are not holy in the same way; and
(2) it may make us indifferent to the claims of spiritual holiness.
II. HOLINESS OF HEART. (See the kind of holiness acceptable to God, shown in former homily on Isaiah 66:1, 2.) - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.