He Established Testimony – Psalm 78:5
“Faith” means believing in something that is not readily evident. We would not use the word “faith” to describe our understanding that the sky is blue or that water is wet. We use the word faith to speak of concepts that we believe to be true but that are not openly obvious.
Both Judaism and Christianity speak of “faith” and both of these belief systems emphasize the importance of faith. Both Judaism and Christianity encourage belief in concepts and doctrines that are not visible and obvious in the physical world. But that is where the similarity stops. The faith of Christianity and the faith of Judaism are as far apart from each other as night is from day.
We can find the difference between the faith of Judaism and the faith of Christianity when we ask ourselves what came first: was it the faith in the heart of the believer or was it the truth in the realm of reality? Did the facts on the ground produce the faith or did the faith produce the facts?
In the case of Judaism God put the reality of His truth directly into the faces of the Jewish people. They collectively witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt, they collectively experienced His guiding hand in the wilderness for forty years and they all heard His voice from the midst of the fire at Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:35). While they were listening to God declare: “I am the Lord your God” it was not a matter of “faith”. The need for faith only arose when the curtain came down and God’s presence was no longer openly revealed.
In order to keep the faith alive from generation to generation God established the testimonial observances through which the Jewish people encounter the testimony of their nation on an experiential level. These observances allow each Jew to touch the solid reality of the founding facts of Judaism. With the strength of these truths established in his or her heart the Jew can step forward into the darkness and walk by the light of the truths which his people encountered face to face.
In the case of Judaism it was the facts that produced the faith.
In the case of Christianity it is the faith that produced the “facts”.
No one in the entire history of mankind ever saw Jesus as the second person in a triune godhead. No one in the entire history of mankind ever saw Jesus die for anyone’s sins. These were conclusions that a specific group of people arrived at after they analyzed and interpreted certain events.
Which specific group of people arrived at these conclusions? It was a group of people who “believed in” Jesus. These were people who had already put their faith in Jesus before they decided that he is the Messiah, before they decided that he needs to die as an atoning sacrifice and before they dreamed that the man that stood before them was somehow divine. These people had committed their hearts to faith in Jesus long before anyone had thought of the foundational doctrines of Christianity.
It was this group of people; those who had already a deep and abiding faith in Jesus, who arrived at the conclusions that form the foundational doctrines of Christianity. The doctrines of Christianity stand on the interpretation of men who desperately wanted to believe. It was the faith that these men had in Jesus which produced the supporting pillars of Christianity.
When the Jew is faced with darkness and confusion he or she can always go back to the anchors of Judaism. Yes; the wicked may prosper and the just may suffer, but our ancestors came face to face with the God of justice. The world may ridicule us because God’s presence is not manifest in our midst, but He joined Himself to us at Sinai, in the Tabernacle and in the Temple to the eyes of the entire nation and that bond can never break. These facts nourish and sustain our faith in times of darkness, we don’t need our faith to nourish and sustain the facts.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal