Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Is Permanent Permanent?

We saw in the “Valid Identification” entries, Part 1 and Part 2, that we are Israel.  Then we confirmed that YHVH’s Word Never Changes; and we saw what His Word says about Shabbat.  Now, let’s take a look at a few words that are repeated several times in Torah and consider what they mean to us today.

The phrase to which I would like to draw our attention is “let this be a permanent regulation through all your generations.”  Some translations use the term “perpetual statute,” “lasting rule,” “standing ordinance,” or “abiding law.”  The clear point being emphasized here is the instruction in view is meant to be remembered and observed for all time.  Let us agree then, that since YHVH’s Word does not change, then anything he marks with this phrase should certainly be taken seriously.

This phrase accompanies dozens of verses in Torah.  This entry cannot provide an exhaustive list of those references or, especially, provide extensive commentary on each of them.  So, I will encourage you to do your own study of this phrase, and confine myself to a few significant examples.  That is, at least I consider them to be significant.  Once I started noticing the recurrence of this phrase, it became important to me that I understand what is being required in each passage.

One of the first places I noticed this phrase was in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23, where the Feasts of the LORD are clearly laid out in annual order from first to last.  This chapter begins with “The designated times of YHVH which you are to proclaim as holy convocations are my designated times.”  This opening statement makes it clear that these “designated times” – moedim – belong to YHVH, and anyone who belongs to YHVH should be careful to give attention to his designated times.

A major point I want to highlight here is that Torah quotes YHVH here as declaring that these are HIS designated times.  They are not Jewish – and I direct your attention again to the explanation of the origins of that term in Valid Identification, Part Two.  Furthermore, even though these instructions are being imparted to all of B’nei Yisrael, YHVH nevertheless labels them HIS, which makes it technically inaccurate even to ascribe them solely to Israel.

Since YHVH is, in fact, addressing B’nei Yisrael in this passage, it is certainly not wrong to say that He expects Israel to observe the designated times he is proclaiming.  Remember that we have been grafted in to the tree of Israel (Romans 11).  We are children of Israel.  Therefore, these instructions belong to us, too.  And, by the way, what a great joy it is to keep the Feasts of the LORD!  More on the Feasts in later entries.

Another place where the subject phrase enters our view is in B’midbar (Numbers) 15.  It comes up in two passages – 15:15-16 and 15:38-40.

The first of these two passages is this:  “For this community there will be the same law for you as for the foreigner living with you; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations; the foreigner is to be treated the same way before YHVH as yourselves.  The same Torah and standard of judgment will apply to both you and the foreigner living with you.”

I know I have gone to great lengths to explain that we are “no longer foreigners” (Ephesians 2:19) and have become “joint heirs” (Romans 8:17); that, in fact, “we are Israel.”  The passage above seems to be a strong reminder to B’nei Israel that these instructions are YHVH’s eternal instructions, meant for all who call on His NAME.  We are not to think that we somehow have exclusive rights to HIS instructions.

But I have often heard people say that Torah does not apply to us.  This passage negates that argument in two ways.  One, it says Torah applies to “the foreigner living with you,” AND it says it is a “permanent regulation through all your generations,” so it has not passed away.  It is still in effect.

Possibly the most profound aspect of this particular instruction is that it also brings to mind YHVH’s desire for purity, holiness, cleanliness.  Many times he reminds us that he cannot abide mixture – he does not want us to worship him the way we worship any other gods.  And he calls on Israel to destroy utterly any practices that contravene his Torah.  Therefore, the foreigners in their midst must be held to the same standard.

The second passage of interest in B’midbar (Numbers) 15 is at the end of the chapter:  “Speak to the people of Israel, instructing them to make, through all their generations, tzitziyot (tassels/fringes) on the corners of their garments, and to put with the tzitzits on each corner a blue thread.  It is to be a tzitzit for you to look at and thereby remember all of YHVH’s mitzvot and obey them, so that you won’t go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves; but it will help you remember and obey all my mitzvot and be holy for your God.”

Many believers wear tzitziyot.  You may not see them, since they are often worn inside, out of public view.  The idea being that this instruction is meant to be a personal reminder of YHVH’s mitzvot, not particularly a public declaration of one’s loyalty to his mitzvot.  Torah is not meant to be a flogging stick by which we punish those we judge to be in violation of its tenets.

For me, the “discovery” of this phrase about “permanent regulation,” which came on the heels of a new understanding of the status of Torah and my identity in Israel, was earthshaking.  It was as if internal flags, which had been there all along, suddenly popped up out of the text and smacked me in the forehead.  I mean, how many different ways can we interpret “let this be a permanent regulation through all your generations”? 


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