Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And all that is within me,   
bless His holy name.   
Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And forget none of His benefits.   
- Psalms 103:1-2   
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Matthew 15:8,9

In the 29th chapter of Isaiah we read of the woe that is placed upon Jerusalem.  We see that they went through the form of worship as it is stated "add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices" however the Lord was not pleased with them. The Lord pronounced woe upon those who sought to hide their counsel from Him and did their works as if being done in the dark and saying "Who seeth us and who knoweth us?" They were accused by the Lord of having things turned around "for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?" They were accused of being deaf to the words of the book and their eyes were blind being obscured and in darkness. They were erring in spirit and murmured in doctrine. These were they whom the Lord said "Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the percept of men." Isaiah 48:1 states "Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness."  The main objection from Jehovah toward them was that the fear toward Him was based on what was being taught by the leaders. The leaders no longer taught what Jehovah required but had replaced His statutes with the precepts of men. The reverence and worship to Jehovah was now being done based on how the leaders felt it should be done according to their knowledge and their precepts (commands and statutes).  The Interlinear Hebrew records "And the Lord says, Because this people draws near with its mouth and they honor me with its lips but its heart is far from me and their fear of me is taught by the command of men." This was the spiritual condition of Israel just before their going into captivity due to their disobedience to the commands of Jehovah. Now fast forward to where Jesus is with the spiritual rulers during the beginning of the record of the New Testament times. Jesus and the religious leaders are still living under the precepts and commands of the law of Moses. These commands and precepts were specific on how Jehovah had instructed them to worship and show reverence to Him. But over the course of time the scribes and Pharisees inserted many additional precepts which they simply called the traditions of the elders. They had detailed instructions concerning the washing, the handling, the tasting and the touching which they had incorporated into the law of Moses as religious acts. Paul summed these up in his comment in Colossians 2:20-22 "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments (basic principles) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (rules), touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using after (according to) the commandments and doctrines of men?" Mark records in Mark 7:3,4 "For the Pharisees and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders, And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be which they have received to hold as the washing of cups and pots, brasen vessels and of tables." This is the environment surrounding the context in Matthew chapter 15 and Mark chapter 7 as Jesus is discussing with the scribes and the Pharisees. The disciples of Jesus were accused of transgressing the tradition of the elders and in his rebuttal to the scribes and Pharisees Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13. Jesus said to them "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me, but in vain they do worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 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." They had made the word of God of none effect through their traditions that they taught.  Matthew 15 and Mark 7 is not talking to Christians who had added traditions to the commands of God because Jesus had not died and established his church yet. Jesus is talking to the rulers under the Mosaic law and their perverting of the law of Moses.

Larry Bumgardner