For the week of September 22, 2012 / 6 Tishri 5773
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:1-30
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17


Don't Point Fingers

And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:18; ESV)

I recently had the opportunity to share the story of how I came to believe in Yeshua with a relative. At one point in the conversation he mentioned a common criticism of the New Covenant scriptures (New Testament) - that it was anti-Semitic. I then explained how the critical statements regarding the Jewish people found in the New Covenant are similar to those contained in the Hebrew Bible. And just like the Hebrew Bible, much of the conflict in the New Covenant is a family dispute - Jewish people confronting other Jewish people over what's right and what's wrong. One of the things that has embittered Jewish people towards Christianity is the way non-Jews have often used our self-criticism against us. There is a big difference between my critique of my own family and when an outsider does it (especially using my words!).

I mentioned to my relative that some of the harsh words against our own people in the Hebrew Bible are stronger than those contained in the New Covenant. Moshe Rabbeinu (our great teacher, Moses) himself, before he died was directed by God to make sure the people understood that in the future they would suffer bitterly for turning away from God. This week's Torah portion uses very strong language to describe this. Throughout the Hebrew Bible are criticisms, dire warnings, and harsh judgments against Israel.

That non-Jews, especially Christians, would use negative words from the Bible against us is one of the greatest hypocrisies of all time. To do such a thing exposes a profound lack of self-awareness and Bible knowledge. One of the purposes of God's choosing Israel was to demonstrate to all the nations the whole world's failure before God. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God (Romans 3:19; ESV)

Israel's failure to keep the Torah just as God predicted in the Torah was designed by God to not only indict his own people for their failures, but to reveal to the whole world the sin problem which oppresses us all, Jew and non-Jew alike.

God chose the people of Israel to be an object lesson to the world. Israel's failure to live up to God's standards is an example of what any nation would do in that same situation. Whoever we are, if we don't see ourselves in the life of ancient Israel in the pages of Scripture, we don't realize that we have been looking in a mirror. For anyone to claim that they are any better is to be in the worst type of denial.

Thankfully, Israel's tragic role as being the nation picked by God to demonstrate common human sinfulness is not what being the Chosen People is all about. God's directing Moses to ensure the people knew about their destined failure was not to discourage them, but to help them recognize their need.

The coming of the Messiah is the culmination of the long prophetic history of Israel that began with Moses. Israel like all people required a clear confrontation of its sin. The high holidays, which are currently upon us again, are designed for the kind of self-reflection necessary to come to grips with our need before God. Once we honestly acknowledge the depths of our depravity, we will be in a place where we can receive God's provision of forgiveness and restoration in the Messiah.

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