I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me.
You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not clear one who swears falsely by His name. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work — you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the Lord your God is assigning to you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house: you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.
-Exodus 20:1-14 (JPS Tanakh)
Back to Basics Tour, Part 1
Before I get on with the main point of my blog today, I just want to introduce this "series" and why I'm writing it. As you know, the Messianic blogosphere is a volatile and sometimes even hostile place. Everybody takes their turn at fussing and arguing. Sometimes we're civil when we disagree and sometimes we absolutely aren't. It's exhausting and spiritually draining, but it's something else.
Many of these discussions can be woefully short sighted and focus on priorities that take away from the "big picture" and the One God. That sometimes drags me down and sometimes drives me crazy.
What to do? Yesterday, a friend, knowing I was discouraged, sent me the book of Luke via email (yeah, the whole thing) and suggested that I get back in touch with the Master.
While I didn't read all of Luke, I did wake up this morning inspired (albeit at 3 in the morning). After a workout at the gym, breakfast, and a shower, I drove to work knowing what I wanted to write today.
Getting back to basics.
Last July, Judah Gabriel Himango wrote a blog post called Some things We Agree On. I'd like to think that as disciples of Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus), we all agree about some basic things. Hopefully those are the things we don't talk about in the blogosphere because we agree on them. Maybe that's even some of the reason why we see certain "gaps" in Yeshua's teachings in the gospels; because that information was "a given" to his Jewish audience. He didn't need to teach on those topics because they were already being correctly interpreted and performed.
This coming Shabbat (which is fast approaching), we read Torah Portion Yitro in which we witness the Mount Sinai event; the approach of the most awesome God to His treasured splendorous people and His speaking the "ten words" to the millions standing at the foot of Sinai in terror and wonder.
God was speaking to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles and every one of them accepted the Torah of Moses "as a single man" before God uttered even a single syllable. Within a few generations. the non-Jewish multitude, by virtue of performing the same mitzvot at their born Jewish companions, assimilated into the Children of Israel. They became fully Jewish in just the same manner as Ruth did. Up until the time of Yeshua, that was the only way to have a relationship with God.
Yeshua changed all that. But what about the "ten words". They were certainly given to a specific group at Sinai and not announced to the worldwide population of human beings. What do they mean to the non-Jewish people of the world today? What do they mean to Christianity? What do they mean to you and me?
I live in Idaho. We're conservative. I regularly drive by a rundown (former) farm house that has a sign out front listing the Ten Commandments for every driver and passerby to see. I'm sure the occupants of this house aren't Jewish. Christianity claims the Ten Commandments (or most of them).
What do they mean to us? Let's have a look. I'm using Judaism 101's list for reference:
1. Belief in G-d. This category is derived from the declaration in Ex. 20:2 beginning, "I am the L-rd, your G-d..."Is this only for the Jews (and I know that different Christian traditions order the commandments in different ways)? Can Christians not believe in God? The first of the Master's two greatest commandments, which I believe are just as accessible to Gentile Christians as they are Messianic Jews, says to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind". I don't have a problem applying the first "word" to my life as a believer. Hopefully you don't have a problem with me doing that, either.
2. Prohibition of Improper Worship. This category is derived from Ex. 20:3-6, beginning, "You shall not have other gods..." It encompasses within it the prohibition against the worship of other gods as well as the prohibition of improper forms of worship of the one true G-d, such as worshiping G-d through an idol.Acts 15 letter to the Gentiles, written by the (Jewish) Jerusalem Council specifically states, "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things" (Acts 15:29). I'd say supports Gentile believers taking the second "word" to heart.
3. Prohibition of Oaths. This category is derived from Ex. 20:7, beginning, "You shall not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain..." This includes prohibitions against perjury, breaking or delaying the performance of vows or promises, and speaking G-d's name or swearing unnecessarily.Should Christians and Gentiles in the "Messianic movement" consider themselves (ourselves) exempt from this? Is it not good if we too do not take the Name of the Lord in vain or treat His Name as something common? I don't see a problem here for me. Let's move on.
4. Observance of Sacred Times. This category is derived from Ex. 20:8-11, beginning, "Remember the Sabbath day..." It encompasses all mitzvot related to Shabbat, holidays, or other sacred time.Depending on who you are, this could be a problem. Some strict interpreters from traditional and Messianic Jewish sources specifically state that the Shabbat is only for the Jewish people as a reminder of their liberation from Egyptian slavery (and never mind God sanctifying the seventh day way back in Genesis 2:2-3). On the other hand, you have Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Shmuley Boteach who have gone on record as saying the Shabbat has benefits for all God's people (that is to say, all people). I've recently read Jewish opinions saying that it's OK for Christians such as me to observe the Shabbat as long as we don't do it "Jewishly" (which means not observing the Shabbat according to halachah). I'm not sure what that exactly means, but I can always "cheat" since I'm married to a Jew who does observe the Shabbat. Frankly, based on Genesis 2 and in solidarity with my wife, Israel, and God, I don't have a problem resting on the seventh day.
5. Respect for Parents and Teachers. This category is derived from Ex. 20:12, beginning, "Honor your father and mother..."Um...does anyone think that only Jewish people are supposed to respect parents, teachers, and other authorities? Next.
6. Prohibition of Physically Harming a Person. This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, "You shall not murder."Again, this one seems like a no brainer. Does anyone think that it's actually OK for a Christian (or anyone) to commit murder? In fact, Yeshua teaches this prohibition in Matthew 5:21-22.
7. Prohibition of Sexual Immorality. This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, "You shall not commit adultery."Yeshua teaching support not committing adultery in Matthew 5:27-30 and these teachings are re-enforced in a number of Paul's letters. You'll also find it in the Acts 15 letter.
8. Prohibition of Theft. This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, "You shall not steal." It includes within it both outright robbery as well as various forms of theft by deception and unethical business practices. It also includes kidnapping, which is essentially "stealing" a person.Again, this isn't really difficult to apply to all disciples of Yeshua.
9. Prohibition of Harming a Person through Speech. This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." It includes all forms of lashon ha-ra (sins relating to speech).
10. Prohibition of Coveting. This category is derived from Ex. 20:14, beginning, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house..."Are only Jews not supposed to lust over their next door neighbor's new skill saw or selection of other power tools (or his totally hot wife)?
As far as the halachah is concerned on how to obey these mitzvot "Jewishly", I'm not necessarily saying Gentiles should replicate those exact behaviors (although Rabbinic opinion says that Gentiles should not perform any mitzvot outside of the seven Noahide laws unless they do so halachally, so life does get confusing). Maybe there isn't a problem? But who knows?
Both Christianity and Judaism look at the "ten commandments" somewhat differently, but we also both view them as at the rock bottom core of our religious behavior.
Actually, there's considerable overlap between the ten words and the seven laws, since Noahides are prohibited to practice idolatry, murder, theft, sexual immorality, and blasphemy (Name in vain). That covers a lot of territory in both codifications of God's desires for his Gentile and Jewish creations.
These are the basics. This is what we should all agree upon, at least for starters. Can I get an "Amen"?
In future blog posts, I'm going to try and discover what else we have in common and what other portions of the Torah and Yeshua's teachings apply to us all as people of faith. As I've mentioned before, I'm also starting a class on pretty much this same topic next Wednesday evening, so I expect further enlightenment to come along.
Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of being told that I'm unworthy, or unholy, or unrighteous, largely because I'm not Jewish. I'm also getting a little tired of people arguing with each other over the fence between us. Maybe there's plenty I can't do or can't do right because of this, that, or the other opinion, authoritative writing, or sage, but there's got to be some connection between me, the Jewish Messiah, and his other disciples. Otherwise, we might as well burn the Gospels and the Epistles.
The road is long and often, we travel in the dark, ignoring the light of the world. Look for the lamp who lights your path or you may become lost in the dark forever.
"A Jew never gives up. We're here to bring Mashiach, we will settle for nothing less." -Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh