Parashat Mishpatim (Judgements)
Shemot (Exodus) 21:1–24:18
I’ve really wrestled with this week’s Scripture portion (parasha). I spent a lot of time in prayer and seeking the Lord’s wisdom before writing this commentary. My goal in writing this blog is to offer some thoughts to encourage us to think before we rush to make statements and take stances on issues that, at times, contradict what we believe.
I’d like to share some of what I wrote on this parasha two years ago:
Our weekly Scripture portion opens with a very interesting verse, Exodus 21:1, which is usually interpreted in a negative way, because I believe we misunderstand the essence of what the LORD is saying to us in it:
And these are the ordinances (statutes) [המשפטים] that you shall set before them.
(*All quoted scripture is my translation directly from the Hebrew.)
God tells Moses that He is about to give statutes (המשפטים) to the Children of Israel. I chose to translate the Hebrew word, “המשפטים” (mishpatim) as “ordinances/statutes” and not “judgments” since they are far more than just a set of laws. And we know that the LORD never uses a word without a specific purpose!
I’ll be honest, this topic is very sensitive for me since I grew up very secular, not even believing that God existed. I hated religion and the hypocrisy I saw in so many areas of religious life. After I accepted the atonement found in Messiah Yeshua, and put my trust in Him, an amazing journey began in my life, full of new discoveries, revelation, full of life and excitement. But it also came with a price of persecution from my own family, friends, and my people (Israel), many of whom believe I betrayed them as well as our Jewish identity. I also experienced persecution from many in the Body of Messiah who often accused me of being a “Judaizer” because I refused to let go of my Jewish identity, and insisted on worshipping God in a Jewish way, as a Jew.
In truth, since I became a Jewish disciple of Yeshua, the Promised Messiah, the LORD removed the blindness from my eyes, allowing me to see not only the truth about who He is, but also the amazing truth of His Word! In my struggle with rejection, I’ve understood two of the biggest reasons that my people refuse to believe in Yeshua (from a practical point of view — not a spiritual one):
- The fear that this could actually be the truth, and…
- The historical fact that gentile disciples started a new religion that stripped Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, of His Jewishness.
Speaking to this point, I just read an article (whose author I will keep anonymous) in which the author writes, “Wherever and whenever the old was blended with the new, unchristian behavior and attitudes ensued.” These kinds of statements are not a new idea and come from people who believe that the “old” testament is something bad, something that is no longer relevant, and therefore something we should ignore. But they are dangerous attitudes because they draw us far from Him and His principles. May I suggest that ignoring the foundational principles of God will only lead to heartache and sin! And where do we find these foundational principles? In the “old” Hebrew Scriptures!
As I was reading this week’s portion, I found an amazing list of moral and godly statutes that I believe if everyone in the world would live by, the world would be a much better place! While some may consider these statutes to be legalistic or “mean”, the reality is that if everyone followed them, we would have a world without the evils of slavery, murder, stealing, cursing, dishonoring and mistreating of foreigners, and the list goes on…
The past three years, I have devoted much of my time to studying the first five books of the Bible, what we call in Hebrew the “Torah”. My eyes were opened to an amazing world where I discovered not only God’s amazing plan of salvation (so many of the Hebrew Scriptures point to Yeshua as the Messiah), but also who God is and His desire for our lives. I am exhorting you to look at God’s Word with a clear and pure heart, to put aside your pride, and to open yourself to an incredible world with an incredible God, who was, and is and will always be!
I would like to close with the same words that I closed my blog entry two years ago: …
The LORD’s statutes are a blessing, not a curse. He gave them to Israel — and in turn to all who would be grafted in to the Tree of Israel — in order to help us to choose life. They are not a heavy burden, but are instead boundaries, which in turn, bring us freedom in Him.
Freedom in Yeshua is not lawlessness! If we love Him, we will obey Him and His statutes. And we will know true freedom.