I heard a teaching yesterday that intrigued me. It focused on the various ways the gospel of Matthew whispers of Jesus being a prophet like Moses, and how this would sound to Jewish people. You see, Moses said that God would send a prophet like him and they must listen to him.[i] The Jewish people understand this to be the Messiah.
One of the references used in the teaching was Josephus. Well because I am a teacher, accountable to God for what I teach, I cannot take someone’s word for it, but must look into the matter myself. So I started to dig into what Josephus said about Moses. To my surprise and delight I discovered something more – and had only read the Preface of ‘Antiquities of the Jews’!
The first thing I discovered is the custom of the people of Israel to freely share what they esteem valuable. (And there is nothing more valuable than the Word of God.) I’ve listened to various rabbis, and it is evident that they take the mandate to be a light to the nations seriously. They have a charge by God to make a positive difference in and for the world.
The second thing I discovered is that compared to Israel, no other nation has been so diligent to “fix even the generations of their gods, much less the actions of their men, or their own laws”.[ii]
It is also interesting to note that man typically set up laws to justify their own base behavior. As Josephus put it, “other legislators…followed fables, and by their discourses transferred the most reproachful of human vices unto the gods, and afforded wicked men the most plausible excuses for their crimes”.[ii]
Finally, and most importantly something we Gentiles miss: the legislation, constitution and rulings of God given to Moses does not start with “contracts and other rights between one man and another, but by raising their minds upwards to regard God, and his creation of the world”[ii]and that “God is the father and Lord of all things, and sees all things”.[ii]
So why is it important to understand the difference between the Torah and all other writings? The Torah of Moses teaches us who God is, and how He expects us to relate to Him and to each other. Without the Torah, we cannot hear the whispers of our Redeemer, Jesus. He himself said, “everything written about me in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.”[iii]
[ii] The Works of Flavius Josephus http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/flavius-josephus/antiquities-jews/preface/chapter-1.html
[iii] Luke 24:44