Saturday, August 29, 2020

Lessons from the Wilderness, Volume 20: What if Doctrine Not Given? Part 1 Introduction

updated 27 July 2020

Lessons From the Wilderness

Volume 20

…(As if doctrine is not given – Part One)…[1]

Matthew 15:1-11 (NASB95) Tradition and Commandment
1 [a] Then some Pharisees and scribes [*] came to Jesus [b] from Jerusalem and said,
2 “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they [a] do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
3 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
4 “For God said, ‘[a] Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘[b] He who speaks evil of father or mother is to [1] be put to death.’
5 “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been [1] given to God,
6 he is not to honor his father or his mother [1] .’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘[a] This people honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as [a] doctrines the precepts of men.’”
10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them,
“Hear and understand.
11 “[a] It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” [2]
Isaiah 29:13-14 (Tanakh) 13 My Lord said: Because that people has approached [Me] with its mouth and honored Me with its lips, but has kept its heart far from Me, and its worship of Me has been a commandment of men, learned by rote— 14Truly, I shall further baffle that people with bafflement upon bafflement; and the wisdom of its wise shall fail, and the prudence of its prudent shall vanish.[3]
Ponder on something with me for a time if you will. Look around us today: do you feel the confusion, the hysteria as we shut down all commerce and gatherings? Yes, I know. It does seem to be the prudent thing to do, but in all honesty – what is happening today is driven by just one emotion – and that emotion is fear. Let me be blunt here. The microwave generation has run into a brick wall that deadens the cry of materialism and has taken away the instant gratification of self. Oh, let us be honest again; the microwave generation consists of those from ALL generations: those of the greatest generation (1925-1945); the boomers (1946-1964); generation X (1965-1980); the millennials (1980 – 2000-05); and now the iGens (or whatever they call themselves now, who knows?) -those from 2006 to now, known in one way (okay, superficially) by their insatiable appetites for the latest technological craze. In fact, just look (when “they” declare it “safe” enough for us all to congregate together again): you'll see the “iGens” everywhere. Four people go to a restaurant and not a word is spoken, the phones come out and everyone is in their own world. Doesn’t matter the age: we have already isolated ourselves long before CoVid-19.

Go to a church, a basketball game, a football game. Inevitably, you will see those that are watching the live game in front of them on their phones or tablets. Instead of worshipping G-d in the church, the iPhones and the Androids come out (albeit held down to waist height so as not to offend of course). Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and many other “social” media outlets further isolate us. Video games isolate our youth, and we have and are very much content to shove a phone or tablet in our two-three year old’s hands just so “they can be entertained” while we binge watch Netflix© or Amazon Video©. An entire generation born in the last decade has been raised by Apple©, Samsung©, Android©, Xbox©, Sony© etc. etc., and they are isolated and withdrawn just as much as we are.

Yes, I ask you again to ponder this. To be sure, I am just as guilty as any, so I am not judging ANYONE – just observing BEHAVIOR, and nothing else. Our hearts are far from Him, even us who believe. We have accepted man’s ways, that is to say , the way of the world as our “traditions” (better translated as mitzvot מִצְוָה (miṣwâ), you know the things society expects us to follow, to obey. Our traditions, our actions are governed by us, not the way of G-d.

The Theological wordbook of the Old Testament puts it this way:"... מִצְוָה (miṣwâ). Commandment. In a deed of purchase for a plot of land, miṣwâ refers to the terms of the contract (Jer 32:11). It is also the word used by the wisdom school for the instruction of a teacher to his pupil (Prov 2:1; 3:1). More frequently the commandments are the particular conditions of the covenant. It is used for the Ten Commandments in Ex 24:12.
God clearly reveals his commandments in order that they be available to all the people. No one has to spend a lifetime in search of them (Deut 30:11). They are right at hand. The Lord reaches out to man long before man seeks him. God’s commandments are considered pure (Ps 19:8 [H 9]), true (Ps 119:151), reliable (Ps 119:86), righteous (Ps 119:172). The man of faith has his delight in God’s commandments; and he is called blessed (Ps 119:47; 112:1). The commandments of Yahweh provide insight into the meaning of life in order that it may be lived to its fullest significance (Ps 19:8f. [H 9f.]; cf. Deut 5:29; 6:2; 8:11). Following God’s commandments gives one wisdom and the respect of his neighbors (cf. Deut 4:5f.). Consequently, the one who follows them often rises to a place of leadership. So too, Israel would become a leading nation if she remained true to the Lord’s commandments (Deut 28:13). …The one who loves God keeps his commandments (Deut 11:1). Thereby he shows his reverence for (or fear of) God and develops a walk with God (Deut 8:6; 13:4 [H 5]). God extends his love (ḥesed) to those who obey him (Deut 5:10).
To do the commandments, man must remember them. The Hebrews were to make fringes (or tassels) on the corners of their garments to remind them of the law (Num 15:39). Also they were to bind God’s words on their foreheads and on their hands and write them on the doorposts of their house. The fathers were to teach them to their sons and to speak of them frequently (Deut 6:6–9). And they were preserved by being written in the book of the law (Deut 30:10). However, the commandments possess no real value if they are considered only a human document learned by rote (Isa 29:13f.).
Furthermore, man in his depravity is tempted on the one hand to reject God’s commandments and on the other hand to add to them by interpreting them very minutely. The latter leads to the sense of secure arrogance that one is even doing God a favor. Therefore, God declares that one is not to add to or to diminish from the commandments given (Deut 12:32 [H 13:1]; cf.5:32)…” [4]

The things of G-d are weighty – they should hold a prominent place in our hearts.

With less and less people coming to G-d these days (just ask any preacher about attendance in their church or synagogue), it is easy to see how much we are isolated. But the question that begs to be asked is “Why?” Why are we so far from G-d, why are we so isolated by community, ethnicity race, or gender (or lack thereof or a plurality of same)?

It is these “doctrines”, these “traditions” these “precepts” that either bother us or rule over us, and frankly, name one person that wants to be “told” what to do or wants to give up that which makes themselves comfortable.

This is this double-edged sword: Who wants to be under command? If you do, then who sets the rules? Face it, we are ALL under command in some way. Speed limit? 60-70 mph. Park in designated spot only. Gotta pull money out of the wallet or purse if you want to buy something; you could steal it, but there are consequences. What did Bob Dylan say?

“…You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”[5]
The devil (if 'he' even exists- that debate is for another time though) could be anything, man-made or supernatural, just as it seems that G-d in some eyes could fill the same criteria. We wall ourselves in our homes, in our cars, in our cubicles; we push a shopping cart ahead of ourselves to keep others at bay, that 6 foot radius, and fill it with sometimes necessities and other times with wants. A few might pick up a bible now and then, but then put it back down because well, the consensus it is a book of do’s and don’ts; most have never even read it in its entirety, mainly skimming through a couple of Gospels, some Paul, rarely looking at the Hebrew Scriptures - then maybe some Revelation because we all like a scary story, even if we don’t understand it.

What would happen though, if you picked up that book and read it “…Esti doctrina mon Daretur…” : as if doctrine did not exist? I am talking about the doctrine of the church, the doctrine of the synagogue the doctrines of all the different denominations, sects, and personality cults. Now you are going to ask, what does that mean? For sure, it is the ultimate journey for the believer. It means truly emptying yourself of all you think you know and approaching the Written Word as if you had never heard about the “doctrine of salvation”, or of justification, of sin, of repentance, of forgiveness, of suffering, of wrath.

Forget about what you think you know about creation, about civilization, about how for two thousand years someone else has told you how to believe, how to worship, what to believe or what to worship. It is coming without presupposition, prejudice, or understanding. It is a slow methodical look at the words, of learning of a culture foreign to you, seeing through the perspective of the writers, and their times, and not that of clergy or rabbi. It is admitting that you are teachable, and correctable. It is all this and more, and nothing more than coming with a humble heart to a book filled with seeming contradictions, of forcing yourself to drown out the cries of the unbeliever that the Bible is full of lies and that there is no G-d. One must pick up this word and begin a new journey of faith and build within yourself a longing to go deeper that one or two of your favorite books. In fact, forget those books at first – read what you have never read before. Turn to the pages of the Tanakh, the Torah, the Writings, the prophets. Put out of your mind any idea that any part of G-d’s words was penned or changed by man, or that any of His life-giving word has been done away with, as if it was the doctrines of devils. Remember only one thing as you pick up this book with a naked heart: G-d does not change. His word is eternal. All His statues, commandments and precepts are valid. Why? Because know this: He never changes, and He IS G-D! Believe once with all you can understand that He exists, despite the calamity, the pain, the suffering you see all around you. Look past the chaos, look past the hate and fear, quell your doubting mind for once and acknowledge there is something greater than you have ever been able to conceive of waiting to establish, not a religion, but a personal relationship with YOU.

Can you wrap your head around that? Can you tremble as you read one word after another, knowing that the eyes and intellect of the primary author is searching your heart and mind to see if you are trustworthy and open enough for Him to reveal Himself to you? All that have read or casually explored the Scriptures have come with our own "color". This means all that has transpired in our lives colors these words, for good or not so good. Life is messy - it does not stay within the lines. Think like a child with an empty coloring book and you have a brand-new box of crayons. This is the journey I wish to go with you on; a journey that must be one of discovery. There is so much to learn when we leave behind the doctrines of men and look to the doctrines of G-d. For too long, believers have let religion craft the doctrines, extracting a bit here and a bit there to justify a belief system that may or may not be what the Author of Heaven intended it to be. I want to see and hear through His eyes and ears. I want to close my eyes and take in the smell of the road to Emmaus. I want to see the tables of the merchants and money changers overturned; I want Yeshua’s voice to fill my heart with the sermon on the mount. I want to see the wilderness journey through the eyes of Moshe (Moses). I want to hear the songs of pilgrims heading into Jerusalem for the Feasts of G-d. I want to experience the crucifixion and resurrection of my Savior; I want to weep and then experience the fear and joy of knowing He lives...

So, I ask you, dear reader, can we explore this word for its sake, and not because someone told us what it means, but we, together, will let it speak. Context is always the key to understanding. The who, what, when, where, why and how the writers of the Tanakh and the Messianic writers put down their memories of the Father and the Son are just waiting to be explored. I want to take you on a journey through the Holy Land uncolored, and without preconceptions as we travel from creation to final redemption. I do not know where it will lead, honestly, I don’t. I have sat too long at the feet of others, let them tell me what the word means. Now it is Father’s turn to fill me with wonder and give to me a clean spirit and a clean heart. The word should drive the doctrine, not the doctrine dictating the word.

Just look at the fear in the land today, over something none of us can stop; an invisible foe that has taken lives in many ways. We see unrest and protest; some of it justified, but the violence and unlawful behavior it has spawned does no honor to anyone. No lives matter if all lives don't matter. We must look beyond ourselves, uncolor race and see each other for what we really are: human beings that share a spot on this magnificent globe. We have been isolated, lied too, conned by politicians and pundits. We have seen this great nation torn apart by the naked power grab of political parties that care nothing for you or me; one just wants to oust a sitting president and turn us all back into the mindless sheep they think we are, while the other cannot decide what its values truly are. Others push for their gods Mammon and Moloch, slaughtering the unborn and stealing from all our children’s futures. We need to turn back to the one place that will never lie to us, never forsake us and never forget us. Our heavenly Father is waiting. The Messiah is waiting. The Spirit is calling.

I pray we go this road together.

Till next time, May He richly bless you, my beloved.

[1] Credit where credit is due: this epistle is inspired in part by the writings of David Bentley Hart.
a Matt 15:1–20: Mark 7:1–23
* A star (*) is used to mark verbs that are historical presents in the Greek which have been translated with an English past tense in order to conform to modern usage.
b Mark 3:22; 7:1; John 1:19; Acts 25:7
a Luke 11:38
a Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16
b Ex 21:17; Lev 20:9
1 Lit die the death
1 Lit a gift; i.e. an offering
1 I.e. by supporting them with it
a Is 29:13
a Col 2:22
a Matt 15:18; Acts 10:14, 15; 1 Tim 4:3
[2] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] Jewish Publication Society. (1997, c1985). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures: A new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
[4] Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (757). Chicago: Moody Press.
[5] “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music

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