The Impartiality of the Law--Part 3
Aug 16, 2011
Isaiah made a statement which both fascinates and astounds me. He hears God's voice and records a prophecy about the coming of Christ. Isaiah 56 says,
(1) Thus says the Lord [Yahweh], "Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My Yeshua[Jesus] is about to come and My righteousness is to be revealed."
Jesus' Hebrew name appears everywhere in the prophets, and every occurrence speaks prophetically of Him. In this case Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God that was to be revealed.
(3) Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely separate me from His people..."
This foreshadowed the "dividing wall" in the second temple, which served to "separate" foreigners from "His people." Here God clearly contradicts the whole purpose of that dividing wall, telling us that foreigners not only have the right to join themselves to the Lord, but also to be in full unity with "His people."
(3) . . . Neither let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." (4) For thus says the Lord, "To the eunuch who keeps My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, (5) to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
God knew that a dividing wall would be built by the traditions of men. So God says that He will give these eunuchs a place "within My walls" and "a name better than that of sons and daughters."
How can anyone do better than being called "sons and daughters" of God? Is not Sonship the highest purpose of God? What can be better than that?
God then returns to the subject of the foreigners, beginning in verse 6,
(6) Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord. . . (7) even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.
This takes us back to the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of that first temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:22-53). First he prays for Israel, asking that God be merciful to them when they repent for their sin. Next, he prays for the foreigners who come to worship at that temple:
(41) Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Thy people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Thy name's sake, (42) (for they will hear of Thy great name and Thy mighty hand and of Thine outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, (43) hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to Thee, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Thy name.
Solomon repeats this in verse 60, saying,
(60) so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God' there is no one else.
In other words, the purpose of the temple was to serve all nations, not just Israelites. The whole idea was for Israel to be a blessing to all nations. They were not called to hoard the blessings but to dispense them to all men throughout the earth. In fact, anyone who tried to hoard those blessings had ceased to be a son of Abraham, for he was no longer doing what Abraham was called to do.
I do not know when the dividing wall was built in the temple. It was not mentioned as a part of Solomon's temple, nor in the few details that we have of the second temple in the days of Ezra and Haggai. All we really know is that when King Herod decided to beautify the temple and essentially REBUILD it from the ground up, it then had a dividing wall that was mentioned in history.
We may place some blame upon Herod himself, but Malachi puts the blame on the priests who were being "partial" (Mal. 2:9). Their attitude of partiality may have started small, but it ended with major departures from the law God.
Their partiality was based largely upon ultra-nationalism. They thought that they were chosen on account of their racial connection to Abraham. This view caused them to think that they could get away with sin on account of their genealogy. They thought God was more upset with idolatrous foreign nations than with Israel. They were part of God's inner circle and were therefore immune to prosecution.
Such blindness is astounding in view of the fact that God continually brought judgment upon them for their sin. During the time of the Judges, God brought them through six distinct captivities, each ending only when the people repented. Finally, however, God brought them into a very lengthy judgment. First Israel was deported to Assyria; and a century later Judah was deported to Babylon.
The Babylonian captivity was only 70 years long, but Daniel's prophecies showed that it was to be extended by nations other than Babylon. Persia was next, followed by Greece, and then Rome. The Judeans were living under Roman domination at the time of Christ.
What is so peculiar is that they seemed to have little or no understanding of either Daniel or Jeremiah. They could not bring themselves to submit to the yoke that God had decreed. They were in a state of constant revolt, not realizing that they were despising the law of God and the decree that God had made against them as the result of the sin of their forefathers.
Their idea of being "chosen" was based almost totally upon their genealogy, rather than upon their obedience to the law of God. At the same time, they were proud of their ability to follow God's law, even while they were putting away the law by their traditions.
One of the root problems was that they thought that the Covenants of God were given to a particular genealogy at the exclusion of foreigners. Only grudgingly did they allow foreigners to convert to Judaism, for they denied foreigners access to the inner part of the courtyard. The message was clear: Foreigners can never be as chosen as those of our own genealogy, even if they join themselves to the Covenant and love the Lord with all their hearts (Is. 56:6).
Over time, many branches of Judaism came to view all foreigners as mere "cattle." Finally, they saw all non-Jews as having "satanic souls."
"As an example, let us take the famous Hatanya, fundamental book of the Habbad movement, one of the most important branches of Hassidism. According to this book, all non-Jews are totally satanic creatures 'in whom there is absolutely nothing good.' Even a non-Jewish embryo is qualitatively different from a Jewish one. The very existence of a non-Jew is "inessential,' whereas all of creation was created solely for the sake of the Jews." (Dr. Israel Shahak, Jewish History/Jewish Religion, p. 27).
This attitude may not have been fully developed during the time of Christ, but the seeds were already planted in the religious culture. They failed to see that the divine purpose for choosing Israel was to be a kind of firstfruits nation that would sanctify the whole world. They were called to bless all nations, but instead decided to lay exclusive claim to the blessings for themselves.
The root of this misunderstanding was that they did not understand God's law of impartiality. They twisted it to mean that God was only impartial among the tribes of Israel. But Jesus came to correct their view.
This is the third part of a series titled "The Impartiality of the Law." To view all parts, click the link below.