Parashat Mishpatim (Ordinance or Statute)

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Shemot (Exodus) 21:1-24:18

Dear Reader,

Before you read this blog entry, I ask that you please stop for a moment and ask God to open your heart to what I have written, as I am well aware that this topic may be sensitive for many people.

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.”

Exodus 21:1

(*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!

According to Wikipedia, a statute is, “…a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city or country.[1] Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy.[1] Statutes are rules made by legislative bodies; they are distinguished from case law or precedent, which is decided by courts, and regulations issued by government agencies.[1] Statute law is written by a government’s legislative body and signed into law by its executive.” So we see that a statute is a bit different from a law, and is actually more of a boundary that serves to protect someone or something.

Sadly, many view the statutes of the Lord negatively, as it conjures up the idea of a burdensome law. Instead, I believe we can view His statutes positively, understanding that He gave them to us to not only know what is right, just, and good, but also to have abundant life!

Throughout the Scriptures, we see some very positive references to the statutes of the Lord. King David wrote about his love for them in many places, one of my favorites being Psalm 119: “I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Thine ordinances (statutes) before me.” Psalm 119:30

When Yeshua announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand, He made it clear that sin had no place within the Kingdom: “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent of your sins and believe the Good News.” Mark 1:15

But how do we know what constitutes sin? When we understand God’s statutes, or boundaries! The Lord’s statutes bring awareness of sin, making us aware that we need to be rescued from them before we can inherit the Kingdom of God. But does that mean that the Kingdom of God is a lawless place where one can do whatever s/he wants? Absolutely not!

My dear brothers and sisters, the statutes of the Lord are good; we know that they ultimately point to Yeshua, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one can come to the Father (or enter the Kingdom) but through Him.

We now can better understand why Psalm 119:156 says, “Your mercies are many Lord, as your statues bring life in me”.

Yeshua Himself set an example in the way we are to walk with the Father; He clarified for us areas in which we needed better understanding. Moses played a similar role for the Children of Israel as he set the example of what it was to walk with the Lord in line with His statutes.

When Moses declared the Word of the Lord to the Children of Israel, they responded, “We will do!”: “Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” Exodus 24:3

Then they responded:

“Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will hear!” Exodus 24:7

But this principle was not just for the Children of Israel. I am amazed at how everything comes full circle in God’s economy! This concept of hearing and doing is also echoed in the New Covenant, by Yeshua and His other disciples. Ya’akov (James) wrote, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:17

Rav Shaul (Paul) also wrote something similar: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of the Messiah. ” Romans 10:17

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.

Shabbat shalom,

Moran

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