For the week of May 14, 2005 / 5 Iyar 5765
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses. (Vayikra / Leviticus 24:23).
If you have never read the Bible, you may think it is just a book of rules and regulations. While it contains many clear directives about life, it is far more than a book of rules. More than anything, it is a book which claims to reveal reality. We live in a world full of contradictory opinions and philosophies. You may not be philosophical yourself, but guarantied you have bought into some way of thinking that informs your lifestyle.
If at any time you decide that you are not going to simply accept your current way of life, you will discover how confusing the world is today. The Bible speaks into that confusion, offering a stable anchor that can give you security in the midst of life's storms. It is tragic that even among people who claim to believe the Bible, there are so many who neglect its pages. Saying we believe something and truly allowing it to influence us are two very different things.
I mentioned last week how God's hesitancy to react to our actions can give us the impression that it doesn't really matter what we do with our lives. We saw how it was the role of the prophet to help connect people with the implications of their lifestyles. This purpose is shared by the Bible as a whole. Through the Scriptures God has revealed the reality of life.
Several times through the years of my doing TorahBytes, I have mentioned how there are certain biblical stories or truths that I don't really like. I could say the same thing about life even without knowing the Bible. I don't like the fact that life includes pain, disappointment, misunderstandings, and so on. Many of you, like me, have likely wished that life was very different from what it is. While there are philosophies that attempt to deny the reality of life's negatives, it is impossible to truly escape them. We are far better off when we face these things head on.
In this week's parsha (Torah portion), we read about someone who cursed God. It appears that this was far more serious than what we would call swearing: He "blasphemed the Name with a curse." (Vayikra / Leviticus 24:11), whatever that means. But whatever he actually did, God directed the people to execute him.
This is another case of a Bible passage that makes me uncomfortable. God's decision here is pretty harsh.
Now we can respond to this in one of two ways. We could discuss the rightness of what was done, or we could see this for what it is. While I don't think God has mandated us in our own day to deal with blasphemers this way, it would do us well to accept that there are things that people do that bring upon them this sort of harsh treatment. The entire Bible is clear that God is a God of judgement. It matters how we live. If we neglect God's warnings, we will perish.
God is love. He desires that we turn to him, so that we could live forever. He is very patient. He doesn't force himself upon us, but waits for us to come to him. He is forgiving. There is nothing we can do that is beyond his willingness to cleanse us from every sin. But to neglect his offer of acceptance through his Son, Yeshua, or to claim to follow him, while continually choosing our own way, will lead us to an end similar to that of the blasphemer in this week's portion.
Sound harsh? Maybe so. But let's get real and do something about it.
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