Torah Portion: Mishpatim (Judgements) Sh’mot/Ex. 21:1-24:18
Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26
Today we read and study together the Torah portion Judgements. This is usually not one of the most gripping portions we read during the year. In this portion we read more than fifty laws covering a wide range of subjects. I would like for you to consider how we as believers in Yeshua consider the issue of laws found throughout the scripture. Have you ever heard, “Why study all these laws, we as believers are under grace now. Laws are the opposite of grace. Since we are believers in Yeshua there is no reason for us to be concerned with all these laws we read in the Torah.”
Many times we draw on the teaching of Shaul to back up our views, such as Galatians 3:23, “Before faith came we were kept in custody under the law.” We also look at Galatians 5:18, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” When we read scriptures like these we may have come to the conclusion that we do not have to worry about the laws of G-d, such as we read today in our portion.
However, as we read further in Shaul’s writing, such as Romans 3:31 “Do we then nullify the Law through faith: May it never be! On the contrary we establish the law.” It seems we misunderstand the audience to which Shaul was speaking. In the early days of our faith many people were teaching that non-Jews had to first convert to Judaism before they could enter the kingdom of heaven. This is the idea that Shaul was rebuffing. It was this false teaching that he was speaking about when he used those words of being under the law. Shaul believed and taught that non-Jews became sons of Avraham and part of the people of G-d through their faith in the Messiah. They did not have to earn that status by becoming Jewish. They did not have to first come under the law in order to enter the kingdom.
There is no conflict between law and grace. Commandments or laws are His loving instruction on how His people should live. Grace and law are not at odds but work hand in hand. After that lengthy introduction I would like us to now look at a couple of subjects that may help us understand more deeply what I am talking about.
Let’s start with Exodus 22:30. This verse is usually translated as, “And you shall be a holy people to Me.” However when we look more closely at the Hebrew, this translation is missing a very important point. This verse by its construction presents both holy and people as nouns, not with holy being an adjective describing the noun, people. When we read it as it was written in Hebrew it is making the point that the issue is not about who you are but what you do As the people of G-d we are to live our life in such a way that it is obvious who we are. Because of the nobility of your mission you must behave as noblemen. How we live is important. As G-d’s people there are things we do or don’t do that identify us as holy. It shows the world we are constantly aware of our relationship to the Father. When we live like the world it damages His image. It damages our holiness. It is important how we live on a practical day to day basis.
Yeshua shared that there is a difference between things that are holy and things that are not. Matthew 7:6 shows His view when He told His audience, “Do not give dogs what is holy and do not throw pearls before swine lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” How we live is important.
In I Peter 1:14-16 we read, “You shall be holy for I am holy.” As followers of the Messiah we are to be holy in everything we do. So how does this work in our everyday life? Romans 6:13 gives us a clue. We guard our hands, not to steal, we watch our eyes, what we spend time watching, we watch our mouth and ears, not listening to gossip, slander or talking about people. Instead of those things we are to strive for peace with everyone. Hebrews 12:14, II Cor. 7:1 and I Thessalonians 4:7 give us great insight into what and how people who are holy are to live. However, we may ask, “So what do these verses from our reading this week add to how we are to live?”
I have done a lot of reading this week and came across something that might help us in our quest. When we read our portion this week look deeper than just the words. Consider the broader principle G-d is teaching us. A great example is Exodus 23:5, “If you see your enemy’s donkey sagging under its burden, you shall not pass by, You shall surely release it with him.” So when we read this verse what is our immediate reaction? I expect most of us would not want to help our enemy but instead would hurry by. However, the verse states clearly that we are to help. First, the poor animal through no fault of his own is in pain. Therefore, we are required, on that point alone, to help. We are required to help even if his owner is our enemy.
Secondly, even a stronger reason is, even if the person is our enemy he/she is still a human being. Destress and difficulty must override the difference we may have. If someone is in trouble, help! Don’t stop to ask if they are friend or foe, Help! Get involve. That is what being holy means.
In our world today we have become divided. We harbor such strong feelings about some people we dislike or some groups we love, that it hinders our being G-d’s holy people. I urge us all to take this to heart. We are all created in the image of G-d. As such for us who are children of the King we are to help, not hinder His kingdom. We are to reach out.