Nine Letters # 9 – Covenantal Context

As  a Jew – I stand in a covenantal relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.  He calls Himself the “God of Israel” and he calls us “My nation”. The most  foundational element of my relationship with God demands that I do not submit  myself to anyone in the way that I submit myself to Him. When God sealed this  covenant with us, He made it very clear to us that such an act of  submission/worship towards any other entity aside from Himself would be the deepest  violation of our covenant with Him. He also made it clear to us – how we are to  identify Him in worship – and how we are not to identify Him in worship. He did  all this before He gave us the first page of Scripture.

Let  us stop right there for a minute – after Sinai, and before we read the first  page of Scripture.

How  would we look at a claim such as the one you present about Yeshua? There is no  question we would identify the worship/submission that you are encouraging as  the very act that God defined as the deepest violation of our covenantal  relationship. There would be no way that we could look at it any  differently.

Now  let us take the book. But before we open it – let us remember that it was given  to us in the context of the covenantal relationship that already tied us to God.  It was given to us AFTER God already made clear to us who and how He wants us to  worship. Let us now jump ahead to the “ancient of days” mentioned in Daniel 7.  Let us note that this passage is not being presented as a teaching on the nature  of God (as is Isaiah 40:18) and it is not being presented as a teaching on how  we are to direct our worship (as was the revelation at Sinai). This being the  case – we understand that the physical description of God is being used as a  metaphor to help us understand God’s interaction with mankind that is being  presented there. The Scriptures use such metaphors for entities other than God.  In Psalm 98:8 – the rivers are described as “clapping their hands”. Am I to  assume that the rivers have hands? As clearly as I know that the rivers don’t  have literal hands – I know just as clearly that the God that I am bound to in a  covenantal relationship has no form.

There is no way I can read Daniel 7 (or Genesis 18,  Exodus 24, Isaiah 9) as a directive to go and do what God Himself explicitly and  directly taught me not to do.

Let  me take this one step further. I am advocating that you read the Jewish Bible in  the covenantal context that God placed it. If you would read the book in its  proper context – you would never dream of justifying the worship you are  advocating. But even if we put the Sinai covenant aside (for argument’s sake) – you still would not see your worship in this book unless you approached it with  an affinity for Jesus.

Before Jesus came to the world – no one ever claimed that  the Jewish Scriptures advocate worship of a divine Messiah. Even the apostles  who lived with Jesus and heard him teach for three years didn’t see this concept  in the Jewish Scriptures. They saw Jesus’ death as a contradiction to the belief  that he was the Jewish Messiah – not as a confirmation.

So  let’s recap – God made it clear who it is that we are to worship. Everyone who  read the Scriptures before Jesus came along – had no questions about this  matter. So are we to overturn the understanding that God made abundantly clear – on the basis of an interpretation that no-one saw in the text until 1) they had  already committed their hearts to Jesus, 2) the facts of Jesus’ suffering and  death left them with no choice but to reinterpret the Scriptures in a way that  they could still maintain their devotion.

Why  is it that of all the texts that you use to justify the worship that you are  advocating – not one of them has God put His finger on it and say – here – look  here in order to learn how to direct your devotion – not one! Yet when we focus  on those texts where the Divine Author clearly pointed and said – here is where  I present a teaching on worship – the perception that we were taught at Sinai is  only confirmed and reconfirmed?

One  more question. Again – the perception we were taught at Sinai would have us  identify the worship you are advocating as idolatry. You are arguing that we  modify our perception of reality that God taught us at Sinai – on the basis of  your interpretation of Scripture. Now there are certain passages in Scripture  that are very clear and direct. They teach us to keep the Sabbath, to observe  the festivals, and to abstain from certain foods. I don’t see you (and I don’t  mean you personally – I am talking about the general attitude of followers of  Jesus towards God’s holy Law) taking any of these clear and open commandments  seriously. So how can I believe that it is your loyalty and submission to this  book that has you advocating the worship that you advocate? How do you expect me  to take your argument seriously? It should be obvious to you as it is obvious to  me that it is your devotion to Jesus that is producing your read on  Scripture and that it is not your read on Scripture that is producing  your devotion to Jesus.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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2 Responses to Nine Letters # 9 – Covenantal Context

  1. Yehuda says:

    Rabbi B,,

    Your last point about scriptural significance is especially relevant when you consider how many christian missionaries will frame their arguments around claims that we need to take the scripture at its face value. Yet when it comes to the what is perhaps the most inescapable scriptural imperative – the requirement to keep Gods commandments – suddenly Paul’s ruminations about the “dead law” backed by nothing scriptural other than their dubious reading of Jeremiah 31, is enough to overturn the immense weight of scripture demanding explicitly that the commandments be observed.

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