Is there any greater comfort than knowing that one can put his trust in HaShem rather than in a man? I cannot imagine one. Because we know that HaShem is without need and because we know that God created the world for our good, we can be certain that HaShem does not seek our destruction. Nor does he seek the destruction of another on our behalf.
The Church imagines a god with a foreshortened arm, a god with no strength. He is a god bound in rules and either unable or unwilling to forgive unless suffering is inflicted upon someone, even the innocent. In Ezekiel 33:10, the people have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” The Church echoes this question. It is the question on the lips of every missionary. But the answer of the Church does not match that of Ezekiel. The answer of the Church does not match that of HaShem. Ezekiel continues: “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn back from their ways and live.’” The Church might acknowledge that HaShem has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but then it responds that He takes pleasure in the death of the righteous. But this is not what Ezekiel says. Ezekiel says that HaShem wishes that we would turn away from our ways. HaShem says of those that turn back to Him: “None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live” (Ez. 33:16). No one need die for the sins of another; one need only turn back to HaShem.
The Church will say that this is to make light of God’s righteousness. They will say that someone must pay the penalty for sin, if not the sinner then someone. In this, they echo what the people say in Ezekiel: “The way of the Lord is not just…” (Ezekiel 33:17). It does not seem right to them that HaShem would ‘just’ forgive a person. But HaShem’s response is that “it is their own way that is not just” (Ezekiel 33:17). And He reiterates that He desires the wicked to repent: “And when the wicked turn from their wickedness, and do what is lawful and right, they shall live by it” (Ez. 33:19).
Sadly, the Church often portrays this teaching as trusting in one’s own righteousness. But this is not the case at all. Indeed, this is trust in the promise of HaShem, trust in His love and in His goodness and in His mercy. This is the God that assured Moses of His mercy: “…a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation” (Ex. 34:7). We can be assured of His kindness extended toward us. So assured can we be that we know that if he punishes us, it is for our good, an act of kindness: “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12). Such punishments are a call to return to Him, where we are assured of His forgiveness, mercy, and generosity.
One of the blessings of God is the conscience. It serves to motivate one to review his actions, to see if he has not violated God’s precepts, to see if he has not ill-used another. Guilt, when used properly, is a blessing, urging the sinner to return to HaShem. But guilt can be a burden to those that do not properly heed it. The guilty can become hopeless, feeling he may never be right with God, as those in Ezekiel. The Church compounds this guilt by telling its adherents that they are so bad that God could never forgive them. Not only that, an innocent man needed to be terribly shamed, beaten, and murdered on their behalf. This can create in incredibly over-powering guilt in people, creating in them the sense that they are worthless.
All this leads to the mistake of putting their trust in a man rather than in HaShem. Because they have been told that HaShem could never tolerate them, He feels forever far away. Moreover, He is an object of fear, because He would destroy them. Jesus on the other hand, rather than wanting to destroy them, was willing to suffer and die for them. His love appears to the Christian to be so much greater than the love of God. God was willing to send someone else to die. Jesus was willing to actually do the dying.
And so his trust and affection is given to a man.
All the while, he does not know that HaShem did not need someone to die for Him. He does not know that HaShem loves him enough to forgive him if he will but make amends and return to HaShem. He does not know that his trust in a man is misplaced, but trust in HaShem can never be misplaced. HaShem does not wish his destruction. Nor is HaShem powerless to forgive those that have violated His Torah.
You are right to put your trust in HaShem.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal