Who are you listening to?
Have you noticed that it is almost impossible to go somewhere and experience complete quiet? As technology has increased and the ability to communicate expanded, we are bombarded by voices and messages from all angles. And in this post-modern age one voice seems to be equal to any other. And in all this, wisdom and knowledge has not abounded, but confusion has. So who are you listening to?
For Moshe it was clear, and as if to illustrate this the portion begins with an amazing event: God calls to Moshe. Scriptures talk about ‘all who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved’, i.e. that man calls to God, yet here it is the reverse! This shows the honour given to Moshe by God; He only did it 3 times however! Each time was when He did something important; the first time was the burning bush, the second on Mount Sinai and the third time here when He was explaining the sacrificial system. So often God says or speaks to Moshe, but here He calls him, in other words the message needs to be heard and got right. Moshe listens, learns and instructs Israel what to do. Judaism begins to happen – it happens because we heard God speak through Moshe and we did it.
But as Israel we have often listened to other voices. And as always, when we allow multiple source inputs, each telling us different things, instead of wisdom and understanding we have confusion. Mashiach too had the same problem in the first century. In words that could again be construed as harsh, but actually were in-house criticism of a genuine prophetic nature, He says of Himself: John 10:22-30. Yeshua talks about voice here, He demands to be heard and that we hear His voice alone. He’s talking to our people, Israel, the sheep of Scripture, yet it seems some aren’t listening to God, or can’t (partly because of bad shepherds according to Yeshua) due to a cacophony of extraneous noises. The people knew the Torah, yet failed to see its true purpose, which according to Rav Shaul in Rom 10:4 is to point to Mashiach. Just knowing the Torah, even doing it, isn’t enough; the prophets railed against those who were apparently keeping Torah and yet were dismally failing to please God. The flesh does a very good line in righteous imitation. There are always many who claim to be ‘doing’, but as Yeshua said, the way and gate is narrow and few actually go through it and walk it. And that gate has a name: Yeshua.
How is it that the aim or point of Torah is Yeshua Mashichaynu? 1 Timothy 1:8-9a: we tend to think that Torah was given to us as “nice Israel”, that somehow we deserved it, yet this makes it clear that it was given to sinners. Torah should convict us of our sin and thus drive us into the arms of HaShem. But as fast as we run to Him, He moves back from us! Why? Because sin repels Him, sin quenches the Ruach. What to do? Is this a hopeless situation? No, and it brings us right back to where we began: sacrifices.
The core of Judaism is sacrifice and the Temple. As these two key elements functioned, it enabled the presence of God. And even here, the fact that the sacrifices had to be brought daily, repeatedly, meant that they were in themselves inadequate to actually deal with the issue of sin; they covered it and made it possible for God to dwell in our midst, but they never ultimately dealt the death blow to our natural sin inclinations and tendencies. And so in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son. As a result of that sacrificial death it was possible to experience the presence of God for each and every one who called on the name of the Lord.
After the destruction of the Temple sacrifice became impossible, in the daily commanded sense of that word. Now we know that because of Yeshua’s death there was and still is today a sacrifice that operates daily for our sins, yet for the rabbis and sages of the first century who didn’t accept Yeshua as Mashiach this was a problem. As time went on the rabbis at Yavneh came up with solutions, and Judaism was fundamentally changed from being a sacrifice and Temple orientated faith with God’s presence enabled due to the shed blood, to a Torah focussed and text based faith. In fact, this new Judaism didn’t need a Temple, didn’t need the bloody sacrifices, nor even did it need the Land, it sat very happily with the Roman occupiers and presented no threat. But to have so changed the focus meant that now we were clinging to the gift and not the Giver. This distinction is critical because it is not text and its inherent obligations that brings Life, but relationship with the Giver alone.
Romans 10:1-4: even in the first century there were those who outwardly looked righteous, but according to Shaul this was merely an import of the flesh, replacing God’s righteousness with our own. And we all know what the fruit of unrighteousness is when it comes to the Land.
According to Heb 11:6, without faith it is impossible to please God. You’d think it would be Mitzvot or sacrifice even, but no, faith. Even when later covenants were added to us at Sinai, the first and crucial one was established through Avraham. And it was established with him because of his faith. In anything else we do as Jews, whatever mitzvah, if we have no faith then we are missing the mark. Because it is faith that imputes the righteousness of God in us as Jews. we have no righteousness of ourselves except that which is given to us by faith. If we attempt to establish any other base for our righteous living, it is a fake and cannot please God. We were, as Jews, never meant to have a righteousness based merely on keeping the Torah commandments. All of the Torah is there:
a. to illustrate that we have fallen short of HIS righteousness
b. to drive us to Mashiach for mercy
c. once we have HIS righteousness through faith, to actualise and internalise that through our lives yielded and submitted to Him in the Spirit.
So whose voice will you listen to? Will you be a part of what God is doing today in this revival movement, preaching His salvation in and out of season, seeing His changes in your life, leading you closer to works of righteousness that are acceptable to Him? Or will you choose your own way, listen to ‘other’ voices, doing what is right in your own eyes, being your own authority, seeking your own righteousness away from what the Lord is doing?
Parashat Vayikra (and he called)