For the week of July 30, 2011 / 28 Tammuz 5771
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 33:1 - 36:13
Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4

Changing Times

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them. (Bemidbar / Numbers 34:55, 56; ESV)

Recently I saw a report from Israel about how a group of so-called ultra-orthodox were aggressively demonstrating against the presence of Messianic Jews in various towns. I refer to the ultra-orthodox as "so-called" because contrary to the popular understanding that they are more orthodox than the orthodox, many of their beliefs and practices are very different from those held by traditional orthodox Jewish people. The "ultra" descriptor actually emphasizes their tendency to be extreme, not their greater commitment to Judaism.

I think a lot of people would be shocked to hear of some of the things that they were saying against Jewish followers of Yeshua. It is one thing to disagree, to discuss, even to argue, but accusing Jewish Believers of being Hitlers and calling them infections that must leave Israel is extreme to say the least.

To give these religionists the benefit of the doubt, one might connect their stand to what is included in this week's Torah portion (parsha). Prior to entering the Land of Israel, God told the people through Moses that they must drive out the previous inhabitants. If not, then not only would these people be problematic to them, but God himself would bring the judgments that the previous inhabitants deserved on the people of Israel instead.

That's a pretty heavy duty directive and warning. Since the ultra-orthodox protesters regard Messianic Jews as apostates and idolaters, they lump them together with the wicked among the Gentiles, and just like the ancient inhabitants of the Land, they must be driven out.

Besides the fact that the ultra-orthodox don't represent mainstream Judaism - let alone a biblically derived Judaism, which even mainstream Judaism doesn't represent, I wonder if there are some people who respect their commitment to their understanding of truth and their lack of tolerance toward those who differ from them. Are they not being true to their understanding of God? In fact, is not their aggressive stance in keeping with the aggression of God himself against the ungodly?

While it is true that God commanded Israel of old to drive out the inhabitants of the land, we are under a very different mandate today. It's not that God has changed or that our understanding of God has changed. It is that the time of preparation, of which the conquest of the land was one aspect, ended long ago. The days of Moses and Joshua are not the same as the days of David and Solomon, or as the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, or as the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, or as the days of the Maccabees and Herod's Temple, or as the days of Yeshua and the apostles, which are the days we are in today. While God himself doesn't change and there is much of what he has decreed that is also unchanging, there is much that has changed. The protesters don't understand that.

While we live among people of differing viewpoints and faith, some of which we may even regard as dangerous and destructive, whether we live in Israel or anywhere else, we are under no directive to drive them out. Far from it! Instead, we are called to teach God's truth to all nations, including Israel. Yeshua through his followers fulfill the prophet Isaiah's words: "From Zion will go forth Torah and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3; see Matthew 28:18-20).

This is not a day of conquest, but the day of salvation for not only the people of Israel, but for all nations through the proclaiming of the good news of the Messiah's coming. Sadly the ultra-orthodox want to rid the Land of the very source of their own salvation, healing and help.

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