For the week of August 7, 2010 / 27 Av 5770
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11 - 55:5

Backwards Logic

But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 13:5; ESV)

I first encountered this verse many years ago shortly after I came to believe in Yeshua. It was in conversation with a so-called ultra-orthodox Jewish man. In his attempt to turn me from my faith, he had me read this verse. He claimed that because Yeshua had been executed, he must have been a false prophet. I didn't know enough at the time to ask him about other true prophets of God who had been executed. Regardless, his logic was faulty.

He asserted that since Yeshua experienced the consequences of being a false prophet, he was a false prophet. Of course, it wasn't Yeshua's death that disqualified his messiahship in this person's eyes. He had rejected Yeshua for other reasons. As far as he was concerned, Yeshua's execution was justified because he was a false prophet. He hoped his backwards logic would impact me. It didn't.

We know that according to Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12, the Messiah was to die. The popularized understanding of the Messiah in Jewish tradition which focuses exclusively on his victorious triumph over evil and death doesn't take into account the full picture provided us by the Tenach (the Hebrew Scriptures). Messiah's death and resurrection on the third day are key components of his victory for Israel and the whole world.

The faulty nature of the backwards logic offered me that day might seem obvious as I tell this story, but this kind of thinking is far more normal than we might realize. Students of the Bible are aware that life isn't a meaningless collection of random circumstances. The Scriptures teach that God oversees life - both in the grand scheme of things and in the minute details. Theories abound as to how this works; something I don't think the Bible explains, but, however it works, God is intimately involved in the affairs of our lives. Simply, those who truly follow after God and his ways will be blessed and those who do not will be cursed. However, in whatever way this actually works, it is not meant to be understood backwards. Yeshua's execution was not proof that he was not a true prophet of God. In the same way we are not to determine the state of a person's relationship to God based on his current circumstances.

Job's friends (see the Book of Job) also used backwards logic. Since Job appeared to be cursed, they wrongly concluded that he must have greatly offended God. They couldn't have been more wrong. The reason for Job's suffering was because of his righteousness, not his sin. The outworking of God's blessing in Job's life would only become evident in the long term. In the short term, his circumstances proved nothing. What made Yeshua the Messiah was the reality of an entire life lived, not the state of his circumstances at a particular given time. What makes a false prophet a false prophet is his teaching, not his circumstances.

Not only can we wrongly conclude that someone is out of sorts with God because of current difficulties in their lives, we can also wrongly conclude that external blessings somehow justify their otherwise ungodly behavior.

This doesn't only relate to how we look at others, but also how we look at our own lives. While God may use difficult circumstances to get our attention or teach us certain lessons, let us not use backwards logic to create inaccurate pictures about ourselves.

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