So I feel a soapbox coming on. That happens to me sometimes, in case you didn’t know. <wink>
I have a friend whose first language is Spanish, so sometimes she asks me what I mean when I say things like “soapbox,” which don’t translate very well into another language.
According to Wikipedia,
A soapbox is a raised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. The term originates from the days when speakers would elevate themselves by standing on a wooden crate originally used for shipment of soap, or other dry goods, from a manufacturer to a retail store. The term is also used metaphorically to describe a person engaging in often flamboyant, impromptu, or unofficial public speaking, as in the phrase, “Get off your soapbox.”
I don’t want to talk about politics on my soapbox. Rather, I’m thinking about topics that are not okay to discuss in polite society, because they are considered so controversial that it’s not polite to speak of them, “for the sake of unity.”
For instance, calendars. In the Torah movement, it’s considered very impolite to talk about how one interprets Scripture on how the biblical calendar is to be observed. This is because there are so many different interpretations that, as another friend recently told us, “I believe there is such a thing as truth, but on the topic of the calendar, it’s not necessarily possible to know it.”
Eeeks! That makes me shiver.
Is it true that there are things we just can’t figure out with any certainty?
In the Torah, YHVH warns,
“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15, repeated in verse 19).
So Family A observes a calendar that has them removing leaven from their house on a Thursday of a particular year, and they keep it out for seven days. But Family B observes a calendar that has them removing leavening from their house on a Tuesday that year instead, and they keep it out for seven days. According to this verse, there are days at the beginning and end of that week when somebody is in danger of being “cut off from Israel,” or in other words, in danger of Yah’s wrath and a death penalty.
Here’s another one:
“Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to YHVH. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before YHVH your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath” (Leviticus 23:27-32).
So if YHVH threatens to cut off and destroy any people who do not carefully obey His instructions on the “tenth day of this seventh month,” then it seems to me, it’s critically important to know exactly when that day is on the calendar!
But with so many opinions and interpretations of Scripture, my friend says it’s not possible to know with certainty when the tenth day of the seventh month is.
So we should just love each other and not worry too much about it.
I agree we should love each other. Rudeness and anger are never called for, but I am wishing that I could have lived in the city of Berea, when Paul visited their synagogue after leaving the city of Thessalonica.
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (Acts 17:10-12).
The Berean people “more fair-minded,” or as the King James says it, “more noble” than the believers in Thessalonica.
The word is semnos, or “honest, awesome, admirable, and noble” — the very same word we’ve been discussing for a couple days from Philippians 4:8.
The Berean people acted like each was a nagid, a prince, when they opened their Torah scroll to verify the truth of Paul’s words.
It’s easy to see why. Not every synagogue in Asia Minor in the first century had enough money to purchase a Torah scroll. As one scholar notes about one Torah scroll,
Takes 6 months to a year to make. Requires a full-time סופ sopher (scribe) who needs to be paid a full-time professional wage ($50,000 — $75,000 per scroll). Ordinary people don’t own books. Too expensive. Most common people didn’t read. Jewish boys like Jesus & Peter WOULD have learned to read at Hebrew school. One scroll per village not uncommon.
Thessalonica was evidently too poor to have their own copy of the Scriptures, but those in Berea were “more noble,” more rich.
I mentioned yesterday that some people say the word “honest” or “noble” in Philippians 4:8 means “honorable or weighty,” from the Hebrew word נכבד, nichbad (Strong’s 3513). The first use of this word in Scripture is talking about Abraham and his wealth.
“And Abram was very rich (נכבד) in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2).
Literally, he was heavy in cattle, in silver, and in gold. He was loaded, dude!
The Bereans were considered loaded with wealth because they could afford a Torah scroll, and they weren’t shy about using it, unrolling it meticulously to carefully check what Paul said about Yeshua being the Messiah of Israel.
Why did they check it so carefully?
Because in their Torah scroll, YHVH had said,
“I will raise up for them a Prophet like [Moses] from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).
They were discerning, knowing that if they didn’t listen to the Prophet who was coming, who would speak the very words of YHVH, then it was a death sentence.
Peter knew this, too, because he preaches it to the Jews in the Temple:
“For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘YHVH your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people'” (Acts 3:22-23).
In Torah and Christian circles today, we still recognize this as a “weighty matter,” a matter that is “awesome” in importance. If someone doesn’t accept that Yeshua is the Messiah, we know that we aren’t supposed to have much to do with that person.
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Yeshua the Messiah as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Messiah does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Messiah has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:7-11).
So when Paul showed up in Berea with a “new teaching” about who the Messiah was, that it was Yeshua of Nazareth who had risen from the dead, these good Jews rushed to the synagogue and carefully spent time in their Torah scroll, comparing each prophecy, each word, each command to the stories they had heard about Yeshua — and in faith, when they saw the written Word and knew that it had come to pass, they accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, too.
They had faith that what YHVH had said about Yeshua the Prophet was true.
Faith, as I’ve said before, is believing what YHVH says is true — and taking action on it.
Yeshua reprimanded the Pharisees for their lack of faith and obedience to the commands of the Torah:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24).
What are the “weighty” (awesome, noble) matters of the Torah?
What is faith? Believing what YHVH says is true — and taking action on it.
Where does it say that unity and getting along with others are the weightier matters?
It says we are to have faith, to obey, to walk in truth.
There has to be such a thing as truth, else how could YHVH condemn people to judgment and death for going against it?
“YHVH, YHVH, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).
His very nature is justice and mercy, so to make a command to rest on a certain day or to take leaven out of our homes for a week — and then not make it exceedingly plain when those dates are, would be against His character and make Him not God.
And if love is the most important thing, we should not be so afraid to speak up about such things.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:17-21).
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17).
Heavy stuff today. Weighty things.
If you aren’t sure of truth, I urge you to seek it!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.