Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
In this week’s torah reading, one encounters a verse at which traditional Judaism must take a serious look. There is no doubt that G-d entered into history in a special way when the Jewish people were created. The conception of Yitzchak was a supernatural intervention on G-d’s part. Israel has a special call upon her. The most familiar verse that Israel is to be a light to all nations is most relevant in this issue. One must understand not only the origin of Israel, but also her spiritual destiny. The uniqueness of Israel is not the goal for which HaShem brought the Jewish people into existence, rather that Israel might have influence on the nations in such a way that the same unique lifestyle that Israel is called to embrace and demonstrate would be embraced and demonstrated by all people.
In the week’s sidrah one reads,
“The assembly, there is one statute for you and for the “ger” that dwells (with you), an eternal statute, throughout your generations, as you shall be the “ger” that dwells with you.” Number 15:15
What is a “ger”? There are those who say that a “ger” is a proselyte. That is, a gentile who converted to Judaism. I reject this because such a person is recognized as a Jew in every sense. Therefore, it would be redundant to mention that a proselyte is required to follow the same statutes as a Jew by birth. The term “ger” is derived from the Hebrew word to mean to “dwell”. In fact, in the text one finds these two words (“ger” and “dwells”) side by side in the text. What then is the proper translation of the word “ger”? It simply means a sojourner, a non-Jew who is dwelling within a Jewish community. Therefore the text is revealing that G-d has the same expectations for Gentiles as He does for Jews. As the next verse says,
“One Torah and one judgment shall there be for you (Jews) and for the sojourner (ger) who dwells with you.” Num. 15:16
Instead of emphasizing the “difference” between Jew and Gentile, the word of G-d seems to teach that G-d wants unity between us. This is why I object to the rabbinical invention of the seven Noahide laws:
1. Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
2. Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Genesis 9:6)
3. Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
4. Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: You shall not commit any of a series of sexual prohibitions, which include adultery, incest, bestiality and male homosexual intercourse.
5. Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God’s name.
6. Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4)
7. Requirement to have just Laws: You shall set up an effective judiciary to enforce the preceding six laws fairly (taken from Wikipedia).
Although these laws are good, why limit anyone to just these laws? I believe that one should learn all the Scripture has to offer.
Some have said these seven laws are similar to what the Jerusalem council decreed in Acts chapter fifteen.
“But that we write unto them, that they should abstain from the corruption of idolatry, from fornication, from things strangled, and from blood.” Acts 15:20
It must be pointed out that the purpose of the council was not to legislate a lifestyle or a code of conduct for Gentile believers. If one reads the first few verses of this chapter one would learn that what was being discussed was a basis for sharing the Gospel with Gentiles. Jews have as our foundation a very strong moral code of expectation of behavior, i.e. the Torah. Gentiles were involved in idolatry. Therefore what was decided at the council was a minimal basis for sharing the plan of salvation with a Gentile. The issue which was being dealt with by the council was the problem of Gentiles who were involved in idolatry wanting to receive Yeshua but continue in the idolatrous practices. What the council enacted was a basis that said that idolatry and faith in Yeshua is incompatible. That is that one must leave such behavior. It is important to note that one is not saved by not doing these things, but saved by the grace of G-d, only offered by faith in Messiah Yeshua to leave such sins (all sins).
In other words, the council was saying that in order to preach the Gospel to a person, this person must understand the concept of sin; not every aspect of sin, but a general understanding that to receive Yeshua, He must be one’s L-rd, and in wanting to receive Him you acknowledge a desire to leave idolatry and follow only Him as one’s L-rd and G-d.
In short, teaching only the seven Noahide laws (which is a creation of man) as all that G-d wants from a Gentile; is shortchanging those Gentiles who want to experience the fullness of the Scripture. Scripture was given to Israel first as trustees to share, teach, and exhort all people to receive it for what it is— G-d’s inerrant Word to all of mankind and not solely for one people group.
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