As noted in last month’s update, the change in direction of the government of the United States was a Godsend of magnanimous proportions! In many regards it could have been, according to a variety of righteous servants of the Most High, a direct result of God’s children crying out for mercy, and then protection, for the inauguration of the new executive administration. Whatever it was, for those old enough to bear witness to the persistent political pendulum swings of the American culture, there is one undeniable conclusion: the population of this 240-year old democratic republic is substantially divided about how to proceed into the future. To observe the internecine battles played out daily on various media outlets can be extremely disconcerting. There almost appears to be a self-destructive nature at work to tear apart people with different worldviews. We must persist in our prayers!
From a Biblical viewpoint, one knows that without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit impacting a person’s thinking and understanding, diametrically opposed perspectives are expected. How, one might ask, is it possible for a person without faith under the domineering influence of the world, the flesh, and the Evil One (Ephesians 6:12; 1 John 2:16), going to comprehend spiritually appraised data in lieu of the onslaught of contradictory information? The Apostle Paul summarized the dilemma two millennia ago when writing to the Corinthians:
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
As I contemplated these realities, some words shared by Yeshua came to mind:
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25; also Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17).
Here in precise terms Yeshua stated that when a kingdom or a house is divided, it will not be able to stand. This universal truth applies to countries that the Almighty has always used for His sovereign purposes. Hence, the United States of America, founded on Judeo-Christian principles—and currently the foremost protector of the State of Israel—cannot avoid the severe negative consequences of division indefinitely. This is especially true in light of geopolitical circumstances which have the potential to erupt with nominal warning. Once again, we urge the faithful to pray for those in authority, as was declared recently from the inaugural podium, when this Scripture was read without any hesitation:
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:1-6).
With those Scriptures as a backdrop, rather than dwell on the depressing and surly aspects of division and vile detestation for others, instead I want to share a personal testimony which has taken place over the past year. This month’s lead article entitled, “One New Man Testimony: United We Stand,” describes how the Holy One of Israel is meeting the needs of people through willing vessels who are simply making themselves available to serve Him. Hopefully, everyone who reads this account will be as blessed, just as the author was, who simply followed the Spirit’s lead to help those in need.
Finally, our year has gotten off to a fast start and we are anticipating an acceleration of references to Israel as significant anniversaries occur later in the year! We know from past experience that as the Lord continues to bring His people together in harmony, the Enemy of our souls continues to prowl about as a lion seeking to devour any susceptible to his wiles. Hence, J.K. McKee continues to expand the Messianic Apologetics division of Outreach Israel in order to help people within the emerging Messianic community of faith refine their understanding. Please continue to support our efforts with your financial contributions. Without your offerings and gifts, it would be difficult to dedicate the time and energy to produce our many educational resources. Thank you in advance for your partnership with our endeavors!
With that in mind, may: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
Shalom and blessings,
One New Man Testimony: United We Stand
by Mark Huey
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
Who would have thought that Psalm 133:1 would be quoted in the inaugural address by the newly elected President of the United States of America? In a prophetic sort of way, it is our prayer that his—and our—desire for unity between people of relatively common faith, will be a hallmark of the new administration and the citizens of our divided nation over the next four to eight years. However, as people of faith witness over and again, the attainment of blessed unity, or even respectful coexistence, is under constant attack from nefarious spiritual forces that derive satisfaction from division, destruction, and the ultimate divider, death.
Lamentably, the acrimonious debate devolving to vile actions is never pleasant to observe. In fact, the constant reminder of negative disinformation can be discouraging and downright depressing! Hence, instead of writing and focusing on the ugly things people say and do to one another, I would like to, instead, share a positive personal testimony about how people from distinctly different Jewish and Christian backgrounds have come together to help others in desperate need. After all, everyone who fervently seeks to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and walk in His ways, is exhorted to perform good works to and for their fellow human beings. Providentially, in a unique display of unity under the broad umbrella of the Holy Scriptures, there are Jewish Israelis, American Baptists, and Messianic Jews collaborating to minister to Syrian Christians fleeing from atrocious acts of carnage at this very hour. From my limited perspective as I watched the events unfold, it surely could have been God’s mercy answering the prayers of His people for those in significant need of medical attention.
In this particular case, although it continues to be a work in progress as of this writing, we find a prime modern-day example of a “one new man” collaboration of Jewish and non-Jewish people working together to help those in physical need. The spiritual ramifications of the relationships established remains to be seen, as hearts are softened on all sides of the Judeo-Christian spectrum. After all, over the last several decades since the reconstitution of the State of Israel in the Promised Land, the Holy One has been patiently and methodically removing the enmity and breaking down many of the historical barriers that have been built between the Jewish people and non-Jewish followers of Israel’s Messiah over the last two millennia. The Apostle Paul wrote some dynamic words to ancient Believers in the First Century, specifically on how Yeshua’s work has torn down the barrier wall of enmity, and how Jewish Believers and non-Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah were to be unified into a “one new man” or “one new humanity” in Him:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we would walk in them. Therefore remember, that once you, the nations in the flesh—who are called ‘Foreskin’ by the ones called ‘Circumcision,’ which is in the flesh, made by hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off, have been brought near in the blood of Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the religious Law of commandments in dogmas, that He might create in Himself the two into one new humanity, so making peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the enmity by it” (Ephesians 2:10-16, PME).
With this Scriptural reminder of not only how all Believers in Israel’s Messiah are a part of the Commonwealth of Israel—but most especially how they are to experience great unity in His Body—the following is my testimony of what the Holy Spirit is doing to bring His people into unity to accomplish His purposes.
The resulting good works ministering to God’s children in Syria began in an unusual way, with a chance encounter at the Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas. In late November 2015, I was attending to the needs of my father, who was receiving an MRI for his trigeminal neuralgia disorder at the hospital lab. My brother and I were in the corridor speaking with the neurologist, when down the hall on an electric cart came a middle aged man who recognized and then greeted my brother. Apparently, these two SMU graduates had reserved season ticket seats next to each other at the basketball arena. Other than the time they sat together during games, they had no other real relationship. To be polite, my brother introduced me to Bruce, and I noticed he had a nametag on that indicated he worked for the Baylor Hospital system. So I asked him what he did, and he said that he helped raise money for the Baylor, Scott & White Health Group, and then also worked on distributing used medical equipment to needy people around the world, spending much of his time at his office in a warehouse just a block away.
As it happened, I had just seen a presentation about the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America’s, or MJAA’s, Joseph Project, a few weeks earlier. So, when Bruce mentioned medical equipment and giving it away, I simply asked him if they would consider giving some to needy people in Israel. Without hesitation, Bruce simply replied, “We give it to any needy people. All you have to do is pick it up and pay for the shipping overseas!” With that I said, “OK. When can I come by the warehouse and see what you have? Maybe some of this can minister to folks in Israel?” And from that providential point forward, a relationship was initiated that resulted in the shipment of a container of medical equipment and supplies in July 2016. In fact, I was able to solicit the medical expertise of one of our congregation members, an oncologist who had just recently retired from working at the Baylor Hospital. She was able to point out valuable medical equipment and supplies which would be appropriate to send, and was even going to be in Israel when the container was going to arrive. But the testimony does not end here…
The MJAA Joseph Project was already responsible for distributing over $100 million in humanitarian aid to Israeli Jews, Arabs, and even Palestinians (widows, orphans, homeless, elderly, disabled, and Holocaust survivors) over the past two decades. They were delighted to receive the generous gift of medical equipment and supplies from the Christian Baptists and their Faith in Action Initiative (FIAI), the non-profit organization of Baylor, Scott, & White Health Group. The FIAI is the entity that runs the warehouse and prepared the pallets of supplies and equipment for shipment. So in a unique sort of way, there was a collaborative “one new man” effort of Messianic Jews and Christians working together with the sole goal and desire to minister to people in Israel with this medical equipment and supplies. But there is more evidence of God’s handiwork.
After the container landed at the dock in Israel, because there were some used electric powered incubators, monitors, and sophisticated baby warmers, the Israeli Health Ministry would not let it into use because of government regulations about restrictions on “used” electrical medical equipment. This “red tape” hang up precipitated a series of meetings with not only some of the Orthodox Jewish Israeli Health Ministry bureaucrats, but also the Israeli Minister of Health, who is also Orthodox. Thankfully, the Joseph Project director, who coordinated the shipment, and our retired oncologist friend, were able to attend the meetings with the Health Minister this September 2016 in Israel. Their conversations went extremely well. The result was the Israeli Health Ministry actually changing some governmental policies to allow used medical equipment to come into Israel, and actually be given to smaller towns, villages, and settlements where they do not necessarily have the monetary resources to purchase new equipment. That breakthrough was quite a blessing, because what is happening in Israel through the efforts of the Joseph Project is spiritually significant! Orthodox and secular Jews are witnessing the tangible actions of Messianic Jews literally giving all sorts clothes, shoes, furniture, appliances, diapers, baby formula, and other things to needy people—without expecting anything in return. The unconditional love of the Messianic Jewish community, to those in need, is softening the hearts of many Jews, who have historically been antagonistic toward Yeshua the Messiah, and very distrusting and suspicious of the Messianic Jewish community. Clearly, God has been using the Joseph Project for His eternal purposes beyond just physical relief!
However, even though at the time all the parties to the breakthrough were elated, there was still a problem getting the new regulations written and approved through the Israeli Health Ministry. (Does this sound familiar to those working through other governmental entities?) But God had another plan. Instead, while the container remained on the dock and the stowage fees began to mount daily, word got out through the community of Messianics and an Israeli lobbyist, with many contacts with the Knesset and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), that the container was being held up at the dock. Then somehow through a series of relationships, the person who started Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), a first responder to natural disasters, found out about the container of medical equipment. Through her contacts with the IDF, she was able to get the container released from the dock, and get the mounting stowage fees waived. She was then allowed to have the medical equipment and supplies sent clandestinely across the Israeli and Syrian border to help the Syrian “internally displaced people” (IDP) or refugees unable to leave the country. It is our understanding that many of these IDPs are Christian Syrians fleeing from the violence and carnage taking place in cities like Aleppo. Since the refugee camps established in Jordan are completely full and unwilling to take any more people, the Syrian IDPs are actually being collected down near the Golan Heights. How amazing is it that the IFA, performing some “good works” for their neighbors, have been instrumental in making all of this happen by the end of 2016? But if you can believe it, positive things continue to materialize.
In January 2017, after the people at the Joseph Project had developed this strong relationship with the secular Jewish Israelis and American Jews supporting the efforts of the Israeli Flying Aid missions, and the ongoing association with the Faith in Action Initiatives, a request for more aid was made to help those in Syria. Without any hesitation, the request for a container of medical equipment to be shipped in January was granted. In fact, during a long distance phone call showing the equipment available via Facetime technology, a request for a second container was suggested. Providentially on that very day, 87 pallets of shoes and orthopedic braces and boots had just arrived. Those at the FIAI warehouse were more than delighted to send a second container, because their own warehouse was too overloaded, with more medical equipment and supplies than it could handle. So not only did the MJAA Joseph Project send two containers which will make the trip to minister to the Christian Syrian IDPs, but a third container with 18 pallets of shoes will go directly to the Joseph Project warehouse in Israel this month. These will be distributed on a first come first served basis to needy Israelis of all backgrounds.
Quite frankly, I am marveling over how the Lord has orchestrated this rapid shipment of medical equipment and supplies to His needy people in Syria, and also in Israel. But what is also exciting to witness is how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is knitting together the hearts of Israeli Jews, Messianic Jews, and Christians, in order to minister to Syrian Christians, as well as Israelis who are both Jewish and Arab. God does not discriminate when it comes to answering the prayers of His people, and ministering to those in need.
As I contemplated and wrote this testimony, a variety of Scriptures came to mind. One in particular is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Yeshua contrasts the command to love neighbor with the common human fault of hating one’s enemy:
“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:42-48).
In addition, the Holy Scriptures are replete with commandments and examples of what is required to love God and your neighbor as yourself, as best summarized by the Messiah Yeshua, when questioned by a scribe as to what was the foremost commandment:
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Yeshua answered, ‘The foremost is, “HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORED YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. The second is this, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is one, and there is no one else besides Him [Deuteronomy 6:4]; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF [Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:28-33).
Notice at the end of this passage that evidence of loving God and neighbor is much more beneficial than “all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Is not ministering to the needs of neighbor—and perceived enemy—much more pleasing to our Creator than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices we can do? Now is that not something to think about as we move forward in 2017?! Perhaps we all should consider how we can live together in unity rather than in division. After all, we know how good and pleasant it can and will be if we can work toward that end!
So in this era of great division in our country, may our prayers be for those who persecute us—which quite frankly is a difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, we need to learn to love our neighbors and the immigrants which come to live among us, as was commanded of the Ancient Israelites in the Torah of Moses:
“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
The Lord God is testing all of us in this hour of rapid change, as the illegal immigrant population grows, not only in the United States, but in modern countries around the globe. And it is critical that we all understand that this axiom continues to ring true: “United we stand, divided we fall!”
I thank God that He is bringing together the “one new man” at His pleasure and according to His will. It is my prayer that this is one testimony which reflects His work among those who call upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and encourages one and all to continue to advance His Kingdom, until the Messianic restoration of all things…
“Rules Unto Others”
Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26
by Mark Huey
As we turn to Mishpatim this week, we are reminded that the Israelites have just received the Ten Commandments and have heard the terrifying voice of the Lord as He shook Mount Sinai. We recall that the Israelites were so frightened by the sound of God’s voice, that they requested that Moses be their exclusive intermediary to receive the further instructions about how to conduct their lives. As they trembled at a distance, the fear was so great that they thought they would die if they had to continue to hear the voice of the Almighty:
“And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die’” (Exodus 20:18-19).
Apparently, the presence of God was so awesome that the Ancient Israelites relinquished their individual rights to hear Him directly, by choosing Moses to be their intermediary. In this capacity, Moses received instructions about how men and women should conduct their lives with respect toward one another. At the end of Mishpatim, we see the commitment of the Israelites to keep the commandments that Moses delivered to them:
““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 be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:7-8).
In many ways, as you read Mishpatim and its listing of rules, ordinances, and judgments—the thought comes to mind that these practical instructions are quite consistent with what we often call “the Golden Rule,” treating others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). Examining Mishpatim gives us the annual opportunity to rethink many of the basic instructions on how we should treat others, when human interaction creates inevitable conflict.
Interestingly, the first rulings that Moses focused on relate to the treatment of slaves (Exodus 21:2-11). Here, the Ancient Israelites, having just been freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, are given specific instructions about how to lovingly handle the relationship between a slaveholder and slave. Hopefully, with memories ripe with remembrance of this condition, they will be able to relate to people confined to this humble station in life. The Holy One definitely communicated grand attributes of compassion and lovingkindness to all members of humanity, no matter what their relationship might be one to another.
A New Creature
The instructions in our parashah relate to a variety of interactions that typically occur in any society, especially given the fallen state of man. We are reminded that in spite of us being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9), we have inherited a sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12). Because we are fallen creatures, we require redemption. The nature that we have all inherited in Adam must be replaced by a redeemed nature only available through the salvation of the Messiah Yeshua. Once a person can understand who he or she is in Adam, confessing and repenting of sin, and dying to oneself—then and only then will you be able to receive the new nature provided as the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of you. You are finally able to be born again! You become a new creature in the Messiah, just as the Apostle Paul describes to the Corinthians:
“Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Messiah, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
To many of you this may sound very basic, but if you will recall, even the exemplary Torah teacher and Pharisee Nicodemus did not understand some of these foundational concepts. For whatever reason, Nicodemus could not comprehend the concept of being “born again,” even though he was considered a leader among his people:
“Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Yeshua answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?’” (John 3:9-10).
Many of us are familiar with this passage from the Gospels, and yet have we ever considered the thought that even the foundational teachings of the Torah are frequently not understood by its teachers? It has long been recognized in Biblical Studies that being “born again” or “born from above” was used in Second Temple Judaism to describe proselytes. The Talmud records, “R. Yosé says, ‘A proselyte at the moment of conversion is like a new-born baby’” (b.Yevamot 48b). Yeshua the Messiah simply took the terminology “born again,” and rather than apply it to proselytes to Judaism—applied it to His followers. This might not always be obvious to some of you, so think about whether the Torah teacher you listen to on a regular basis is really familiar with its basic instructions regarding holiness and proper living.
It is critical for us to consistently turn to Moses’ Teaching in order to learn more and more about our human condition and how we should conduct ourselves. The main reason that the Torah exists is to help define sin for humanity, and regulate the behavior that the Lord expects His people to demonstrate in the world.
We must each be thankful for the opportunity to be reckoned as the sons and daughters of the Living God, via our adoption in Yeshua. But for whatever reasons, we frequently need to be reminded of our responsibilities, even after we have inherited new life in the Messiah. Paul comments about the awesomeness of Believers’ adoption into God’s family in his letter to the Romans:
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:15-23).
Just as Paul writes, we as Believers in Yeshua do not walk in a spirit of slavery, but instead in a spirit of adoption as children of the Most High. Hallelujah for His mercy to us! Yet, we each eagerly await the complete redemption of Creation, including our total selves at the resurrection. But, let us now turn to the Torah portion and see what our Father wants us to consider, as once again His Instruction communicates basic life principles to His sons and daughters.
As you read through Mishpatim, you are reminded of some of the basic instructions about how we should treat one another when the inevitable problems of human interaction occur. We see detailed, various ordinances about personal injuries (Exodus 21:12-36), property rights (Exodus 22:1-15), sundry laws (Exodus 22:16-23:9), as well as the stipulations to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 23:10-13) and observe the three festivals of ingathering (Exodus 23:14-18). The basic yardstick of instruction is essentially “the Golden Rule.” When God’s people face challenges today, these various instructions surely articulate and inform us on how He would have conflicts resolved.
Interestingly, as you read these rulings, you will note that a tenor of fairness, equality, and compassion seems to permeate the statements. If the Spirit of God resides inside of you, then when you read these various ordinances, the Spirit should bear witness that the remedies and treatments for various violations of conduct seem perfectly equitable. Over many centuries, these very statements have been incorporated into the civil laws of societies influenced by the Judeo-Christian values established in Holy Writ. This is not to say that all of these laws are reiterated exactly, but that the essence is certainly there in our Western judicial system. (Even pagan societies that do not acknowledge the God of Israel have benefited from the Torah’s moral message.)
The difference between when these commands were originally given to Israel and today is that we live in a post-resurrection era that has made the understanding of these rulings much clearer, through the teachings of Yeshua and His Apostles. We do not stone children for striking or cursing their parents, because Yeshua has atoned for this penalty (cf. Colossians 2:14). However, when you encounter statements that speak of capital punishment, you realize how important God considers adherence to the commandment regarding how parents should be honored (Exodus 21:17).
When you couple these kinds of statements with other reiterations about: keeping the Sabbath, the appointed times, the first-born offerings, not bearing false witness, properly treating the poor, widows, orphans, speaking out about leaders, lending money, etc., you begin to realize that at times throughout your life you have probably not followed these rulings too well. You have probably broken all the rules. As a result of breaking these rules, you are therefore guilty and need to pay restitution. Some of the restitution principles are articulated in this parashah, but when you are completely honest with yourself, you begin to realize that you have probably not paid the price perfectly for your various transgressions.
The Almighty God Himself is most aware of each and every transgression we have committed. He knows the when, where, and to what degree each of us has sinned. He knows that each person is indeed bankrupt in trespasses and sins. Eventually, in spite of our various mortal attempts to keep all of these commandments, especially coupled with the remaining instructions that are seen throughout the Bible, one should hopefully come to the logical conclusion that he or she cannot possibly avoid the penalties that ultimately lead to death and eternal separation from God. If you really think through all of these things seriously, the final conclusion would be not too unlike what many cried out to the Apostles at various times: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:33). An inability to keep God’s Law is to show us the need for a Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24; Romans 10:4, Grk.).
Yeshua came to Earth and was sacrificed at Golgotha (Calvary), paying the penalty for our sins and offering a permanent atonement. But long before being executed, He spent time with His Disciples and others, trying to help them understand some of the basic principles of His Father’s Instruction. Yeshua’s teachings bring a great depth and dimension to what we are constantly learning in the Torah—some of you for the first time. Many of the things Yeshua says are almost impossible for a person who has nothing more than a natural, fleshly mind. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, a natural person is incapable of receiving things from the Spirit:
“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
Consequently, we have a great number of people throughout the ages who have attempted to understand and comment about the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles—with many now trying to understand the Torah. Unfortunately, many have not dealt with the reality about coming to the end of themselves and being born again from above, in order to have the spiritual capacity to even understand the basic teachings of the Bible. This, you can imagine, can create a tremendous amount of confusion, as one will be most prone to misunderstand the essentials of salvation, holiness, and accomplishing God’s mission for His Creation.
When one reads the words of Yeshua, and His clarification about and/or elaboration upon the Torah principles that are seen in a reading like Mishpatim, many are befuddled. Consider the instruction that deals with the loss of an eye or a tooth (Exodus 21:24, 27). Read how Yeshua applies this in His Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH’ [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39).
In Mishpatim, some commandments are given about how one is supposed to be compensated for the loss of an eye or a tooth, or whatever else has been lost. Some of these circumstances will arise due to fallen human nature. Out of anger or passion, a person might strike someone and cause an eye or a tooth to be lost, and so the Torah issues instruction on how restitution is to be made. But Yeshua remarks about the spiritual causes of such a loss. The natural inclination when injured is to injure back, but the Messiah instead directs people to receive another blow and turn the other check. If love for one’s fellow human beings is imperative, what is going to convict a person who has lost his temper and control of his emotions more? The perfect restitution for the infraction, or a response out of love that indicates how physical harm can ultimately do little damage? As Yeshua continues in this particular passage, He expresses the meaning of true love established by the Torah:
“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHRBOR [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:40-48).
Yeshua tells those in His audience to give up shirts, walk extra miles, give freely, love their enemies, and pray for those who persecute. Why? Because then and only then will you be “sons of your Father who is in heaven.” He concludes with the stellar requirement that one is to be perfect, just as the Father in Heaven is perfect. Yeshua knows this is impossible for human beings to attain in their own strength, and yet He clearly declares it as a requirement for following Him. Following Yeshua’s teachings are virtually impossible without the Holy Spirit and His atoning work covering our lives. The status of being excellent in the Lord, much less perfect—requires total commitment, steady spiritual refinement, and consistent discipleship in maturity.
We have much to consider this week as we reflect on the ordinances and precepts that God has established for His people. May we hold fast to those rules, so just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we too can claim what the ancients claimed:
“He took the Book of the Covenant and read it in earshot of the people, and they said, ‘Everything that HASHEM has said, we will do and we will obey!’ Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and he said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that HASHEM sealed with you concerning all these matters’” (Exodus 24:7-8, ATS).
Today, as Believers in Yeshua, we can experience the fullness of the things that the ancients only heard about. While Moses only sprinkled animal blood on the people, the author of Hebrews testifies that the blood of Yeshua Himself inaugurates the New Covenant—where the commandments of God are to be written upon our hearts and we can have great confidence to go to the Father:
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
We should not only have a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27), washed by the blood of the Messiah—but we should also have our hearts and minds made clean, eagerly able to perform God’s service. May we all be blessed in this understanding as we consider His rules, and live them out as a testimony of what He has done for us!
 This is definitely a section of the Torah that can only be adequately understood when read against its Ancient Near Eastern background. For a further discussion, consult the article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” by J.K. McKee.
 The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. MS Windows XP. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005. CD-ROM.
 Heb. kol asher-diver ADONAI na’aseh v’nishma.