Last weekend, on the drive to Jacksonville to see my son and his family, I listened to FFOZ’s teaching on the Torah portion ‘Korah’. (I’m a little behind.) In it, D. Thomas Lancaster spoke about how Korah and his cohorts rebelled against God by rebelling against His chosen. They rejected Moses and Aaron, presuming that since they themselves were also Levites, they should be entitled to the same portions and privileges as Aaron, and that Moses wasn’t the only one who could speak for God or rule on His behalf.
This came on the heels of reading the recent Torah portion, which included Deuteronomy 18:20-22
“‘But if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn’t order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die.’ You may be wondering, ‘How are we to know if a word has not been spoken by Adonai?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, and the prediction does not come true — that is, the word is not fulfilled — then Adonai did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him.’” (emphasis is mine)
And there was that word ‘presume’ again. I wondered what God was trying to say?
As some of you may know, I’ve been following a discussion between two bloggers, James Pyle and Pete Rambo. These gentlemen were discussing the differing opinions of whether or not Gentile Believers are under the same obligation to follow the Torah as Jewish Believers. (If you are thinking, “no one is obligated to follow the Torah, Jesus did away with it”, read my recent post)
I see and understand both sides of the conversation. And I sit in the middle knowing one thing – the Lord has called me to start obeying His Torah. Yet at the same time, I do not think I am replacing the children of Israel as God’s new chosen people. So as I mulled over what I was hearing and reading, I wondered if I was being presumptuous in the same way Korah was. Was I rebelling against God and His truth?
With the drive to Jacksonville only half behind me (read 2 ½ hours left to go) I changed to praise music while I mulled this over. As the music lifted me, I started thinking about how we are family, Gentile Believers and Jews. And the Jews are God’s first born, His favorite. As a first born and favorite myself, I can relate. And I am very much aware of the sibling rivalry that existed between my younger siblings and me.
When the music stopped, I popped in a recent teaching by Russ Resnick, ‘The Sinai Ethic’. Resnick was talking about family and pointed out that it’s the father’s prerogative to choose his favorite – to bestow on that offspring what he would bestow.
Take, for instance, Jacob and Joseph. Jacob lavished on Joseph a coat of many colors, a princely robe. It was Jacob’s choice to do this. In the same way, God chose Israel to be a nation of priests – His special chosen people. Out of these, he chose the Levites as especially special (please don’t call the grammar police). And among these, He chose Moses to be His spokesman and Aaron as High Priest – most special.
They forgot that it was the Father’s right to choose.
So too, I look at us Christians, snapping our fingers at God’s chosen people Israel and saying, “You ain’t so special!”
We’ve spent 2,000 years distancing ourselves from our older sibling – the Father’s choice. By doing so, we have distanced ourselves from God.
Think about it: Joseph’s brothers, after doing away with Jacob’s chosen, had to live with the knowledge of what they’d done and how it affected their father. It had to put a rift between them and their father. Every time they looked at this heart-broken man, they remembered they caused the heartbreak.
But God had a purpose and a plan in all of this – salvation for His people and a sifting for Joseph.
(Now before you start seeing Israel as the brothers and Jesus as the firstborn, I ask that you stick with me as we are discussing Jews and Gentiles, remembering that Jesus came from the line of Judah – one of the brothers.)
So again with Korah, Moses, and Aaron, God had a plan – a sifting of His people to separate those who would obey His chosen leader and those who would not, and a confirmation to His leaders of His choice. (It’s not every day that a leader gets harassed and the earth opens up and swallows his harassers!)
In the same way, God knew we Christians would rebel against His chosen people, and His chosen people would rebel against His Son. BUT, that does not negate the Father’s choice. Israel is still the favored son. And God’s plan and provision that ‘all Israel will be saved’ still stands – because God’s word never goes out and returns to Him void.
So let’s look at the definition of presumptuous. It is an adjective of a person or their behavior, failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate; overstepping bounds.
All of this is presumptuousness: Jacob’s sons overstepping their bounds, Korah failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.
In the same way, we Christians have presumed that we are the new chosen people, usurping the right of the Father’s choice. God chose Israel to be a light to the nations. He made an eternal covenant with them. And through His Only Begotten, He invited us strangers to become a part of that.
So we should be cautious that we not overstep our bounds, that we not presume we are now the chosen ones above His people. But rather we should be grateful for the invitation and look up to our older brother, Jesus, and His family for direction and guidance in what God wants from His children.
And that brings me to those of us who believe the Torah still stands and is the standard for God’s people, natural and adopted. When we say we are following God’s Torah without the authority of the leaders God appointed as His people to be a light to us (the nations) we are disobeying Jesus. After all, Jesus said, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it” (Mt 23:2-3a)
So the question is – are we going to presume we have the right of firstborn, revealing that we are petty, jealous siblings knowing no bounds, believing we can pick and choose what we will obey? Or will we start to walk like our Big Brother, Who walked in obedience to His Father’s will, giving honor to His chosen people?