Torah portion of this week is called Mishpatim, meaning Regulations (Exodus 21-24:18 and Jeremiah 34:8-22, 33:25-26). We find regulations concerning the treatment of slaves, different crimes and compensation as well as justice and righteousness. It’s easier to understand God’s point of giving all these regulations when we remember that the Israelites were a people who had gained their independence for the first time in over 400 years. They had been under the rulership of Pharaoh who practiced completely different religion and worshipped other gods and their regulations were according to that. Since Pharaoh was no longer ruling over them and they had no law, they were in need of one. There was a need in this newly independent nation to find godly order within their camp.
Adonai was pleased, for His righteousness’ sake, to make the Torah great and glorious.” (Isaiah 42:21, CJB)
Sometimes it’s difficult for us to understand what is behind all these over 600 commandments of God which we can find from the Old Testament. Some of them seem outdated and some of us struggle whether they still apply today and should we as non-jews follow them or not. For some of us law seems like something that restricts us too much, takes our freedom from doing what we want to do. How we should relate to law then? When we understand that we have a good Father in Heaven who wants to bless His children who He has created to be His own image and who only wants them to prosper in everything, then we can see the law also from different angle. If our God is good and He only wants good for us, the law He created must be good also, since our good Father created it and gave it to us. God never wants to tease us or harm us or see us suffer. But He knows that we need boundaries in order to be fully and securely free. This also applies to nations.
We all want to live in a free land. Also God wants us to be free! But with freedom comes responsibility. Freedom without boundaries quickly turns into anarchy but freedom within secure borders creates trust, peace and joy. As we can read from Jeremiah 34 the people of Israel entered into a covenant of freedom with the king Tzsidkiah. Jer 34:10 we are told that all the leaders and all the people who had entered into the covenant obeyed the law God had given them regarding setting the Hebrew slaves free after six years of slavery (Ex 22:2-11). From both Jeremiah and Exodus we can find the great blessing God has prepared for those who follow His commandments. The western nations in Europe, USA, Israel, Australia and so on, are built on judeo-Christian values, found from the Bible. However, like in the days of Tzsidkiah, although the people had entered into the covenant and agreed to follow God’s law, they quickly slipped back from it. It is exactly what is happening in our societies these days with the same sex marriage law, euthanasia and other laws entering into force that are abhorrent to God. People believe they become free by stepping outside of the boundaries of God but what it truly results is curse and fear, not freedom and joy! Stepping out of God-made boundaries means stepping into a slavery of Satan. Blessing of obedience according to Exodus is that God gives us the Land as inheritance and makes our enemies flee from us. But the curse of not obeying is that God will hand us over to our enemies.
Do not follow the crowd when it does what is wrong, and don’t allow the popular view to sway you into offering testimony for any cause if the effect will be to pervert justice.” (Exodus 32:2)
Real freedom is found in obedience.
But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.”
We are no longer slaves of law because Jeshua, our Savior and King, came to set us free. However, law is not in vain because it guides us into obedience which brings forth a blessing! Jeshua was our greatest and ultimate example of obedience to the Father. And He did all for love. He did not give His life or obeyed God out of religious force or because He thought to gain something for Himself by being obedient. No, He did it only for love. And that is how Jeshua calls us to obey our Father and His regulations: out of love, joy and freedom. That’s called New Covenant, the covenant of true freedom.
The European Coalition for Israel is a unique grassroots movement, which is seeking to promote better relations between Europe and Israel through advocacy and education. More information: www.ec4i.org