For the week of February 19, 2005 / 10 Adar 5765
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 27:20 - 30:10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
The Order of Things
When we study Torah we should be very careful not to read into it things that are not there. At the same time there is an abundance of ideas and issues that are not so obvious to the casual reader. I am not referring to what we might call "reading between the lines," where all sorts of concepts may be developed with little or no actual connection to what is actually found in a given passage. One of the ways that we can avoid drawing fanciful conclusions is to always take our ideas back to the Scriptures to see if they are consistent with its overall teaching.
I am only bringing this up at this point by way of introduction to this week's topic. If you are interested in pursuing this issue of accurately interpreting the Scriptures, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The section of the Torah that we are in currently continues the instructions for the structure, furniture and other articles of the special place of worship and sacrifice, which in Hebrew is called the mishkan or in English, the Tabernacle.
I want to point out a concept that may not be that obvious at first glance, and that is what may be implied by the order in which God revealed these things. This section of the Torah actually begins with the giving of the Ten Commandments in chapter 20. This is followed by regulations regarding various relational and moral issues. Only then are the details of the mishkan given.
For many religious people, ceremony is the foundation of their faith. Issues regarding worship and ritual is what sets them apart from the rest of society. But that is not the biblical order. A right understanding of God and what he has done for us historically and personally comes before anything else. A long list of moral and societal issues immediately follow. Only after that are issues of ceremony listed.
I believe that we need to live out our faith in this same order today. We must begin with a right relationship with God. Without that, there is no sense in trying to engage God and participate in any kind of spiritual or religious activity. But then, even before we participate in those activities, we must relate properly to other people. A right relationship with God immediately calls us to live all of life in a godly manner, which includes everything from expressions of intimacy to our business dealings and use of property. Only then can we legitimately express our relationship with God through worship and other expressions of faith.
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