Written by W. G. Finlay
Posted and images added by Jackie
Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
The above indictment by the Lord Jesus Christ against the scribes and the Pharisees – one out of so many which highlighted His Ministry – may be seen as part and parcel of His overall contest with the orthodoxy of the day. That orthodoxy, as the briefest consideration will reveal, was a continuation and extension of that which developed and was responsible for Israel’s downfall and removal into both the Assyerian and Babylonian captivities. In those early years the “shepherds” – the ecclesiastical leaders – deliberately encouraged a rebellion against the Constitutional Law and as one considers the history of events as they transpire immediately before the surviving remnant of the true Israel family was removed from Canaan, this feature becomes very obvious.
If one considers the writing of Jeremiah the prophet in which he recorded the last scenes in Jerusalem before the city was destroyed by fire, one is able to see something of the national catastrophe, was insisting that its doctrines and not the Law, were correct. Jeremiah was commanded by the LORD to stand in what had become the most prominent place in Jerusalem – the temple – and call the attention of that surviving remnant to the cause of the national misfortune which had befallen all Israel. The choice of the site for Jeremiah’s message was most significant for this has become the centre of orthodoxy within Israel and his opening words to the throngs, as they passed through the gate of the temple, set the seal of the LORD’S indictment against the orthodoxy of the day.
- “These are the words of the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel: Mend your ways and your doings, that I may let you live in this place. You keep saying, This place is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD! This catchword of yours is a lie; put no trust in it”. (Jeremiah 7:3,4 N.E.B.)
Just as has happened over the centuries when buildings were ecclesiastically consecrated to the LORD, people believed that that building was the repository of God’s Truth, so too, that surviving remnant at Jerusalem believed that all that was announced from that temple was presented under the Benediction of the LORD. In continuing His message to the crowds as they pressed into the temple because of the deteriorating situation, Jeremiah made it very plain that the faith of the people – no matter how sincere – was misplaced and that it was necessary for them to renounce the doctrines of orthodoxy and return to the Law which God of their fathers had given at Sinai.
- “For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, (Hebrew:gệr) the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever”. (Jeremiah 7:5-7A.V.)
This, without a shadow of doubt, was a call to repentance, for the listed “wrongdoings” were those things which fell squarely within the regulations governed by the Law of the LORD. However as one continues, one finds Jeremiah again charging that the people “trusted the lying words” and as this was all in the context of the temple, the indictment was, without doubt, against orthodoxy which emanated from that building.
- “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?” (Jeremiah 7:8-10)
The point to note here is the people believed that they were covered by the grace which propagated by orthodoxy and which emphatically declared that they were absolved from all the Law by trusting in the priestly-sponsored efficacy of the innocent sacrificial blood which was shed by the priests in the temple. Needless to say, their trust in the ”lying words” by the priesthood in the temple had absolutely no effect when outraged Law demanded reparation.
In addition to charging that the people believed in the invalidation of the Law, it will be noted that Jeremiah drew specific attention to the “oppression of the stranger” (Jeremiah 7:6) – a statement which many have seen as an indictment against the homogeneous way of life as lived in Israel and as prescribed by the Law of the LORD. This statement – “will ye oppress the stranger”- should be seen against the writing of Ezekiel, who like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea charged that the lack of implementation of the Law of the LORD concerning different types of stranger, was one of the main reasons for the nation’s disintegration in Canaan.
(Jeremiah was the prophet for the Two Tribes, the Tribe of Judah (Judah, Benjamin, and part of the Levi Tribe, the Southern Kingdom). (Jackie)
(Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea were the prophets for the Ten Tribes, the Northern Kingdom, also known as Ephraim). (Jackie)
According to Jeremiah, Judah followed a policy which centred in:
- “Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, (Hebrew zuwr, aliens) and after them will I go”. (Jeremiah 2:25),
While according to Isaiah the root cause of Israel’s national downfall was “your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers (Hebrew: zuwr, aliens) devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.” (Hebrew: zuwr, aliens).
If one bears in mind the different Hebrew words which have simply been translated as stranger in mind – gệr, nokriy, towshab, and zuwr one may see Jeremiah’s indictment of “oppressing the stranger” – the gệr – falls into an area with which the true modern descendants of Israel are becoming increasingly familiar. Is there not a very distinct bias, which favours the alien coloured immigrant and discriminates the White man of the same race who wishes to immigrate? If one considers Ezekiel 13, it will be seen that the whole chapter is an indictment against the prophet/teachers in Israel, whose opinion on all matters was held to be more authoritative than the Law and what the LORD said. This chapter, of course, deals with the “breach in the wall round Israel” (Ezekiel 13:4 N.E.B.), and this “wall” was of course the Law which created a very homogeneous way of life excluding those “strangers” which the LORD deemed unfit for the incorporation with the Israel people. The “breach in the wall” is a clear indication that prohibited “strangers” had been allowed in and that the impact of their initial presence became the area of the “cover-up” by orthodoxy – a cover-up which was exposed when the LORD said:…”they have misled my people saying that all is well, when all is not well” (Ezekiel; 10:13N.E.B.). Insofar as the oppression of the gệr, mentioned in Jeremiah 7:6 is concerned.
- Ezekiel wrote: 13:19 And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, (the zuwr) by your lying to my people that hear your lies?”
Thus, from the writing of the prophets of the LORD, it becomes patently obvious that orthodoxy whose origin and creation was never sanctioned by the LORD, became the dominating force in Israel as it had been for countless centuries among the nations of the world, and this force or power was sufficient to deter Israel in its obedience to what the LORD required of them.
- “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul”, (Deuteronomy 10:12)
Israel, of course, paid the penalty for trusting the “lying words” which in essence, suggested that the nation was specifically created to proselytise or convert all other people to their way of life. Ignoring the fact that the National Constitution given at Sinai militated against conversion and proselytism, orthodoxy, without any authority other than their ritually-orientated opinions, taught these opinions of universalism as the LORD’S motive in creating the Israel nation, realising that such opinions were not only foreign to the Law, but expressly condemned by the LORD Himself: ”You call it every word of the LORD, but is not I Who have spoken”. (Ezekiel 13:17N.E.B.)
With the indictment of the LORD through the prophets highlighting the history of the demise of Israel in the land of Canaan – and this because of the orthodoxy’s doctrine pertaining to the inclusion of all strangers into Israel – one finds a new nation springing up in the land formerly occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It is of course quite common to hear it claimed that this new Judean nation was a continuity of the Israel Covenant People of the LORD – a contention which derives its origin from the post-captivity era and from the orthodoxy which showed an amazing affinity with that which obtained in Babylon. Doctrines, which are not found in the Law of the LORD, began to be taught to the very heterogeneous Judean population and promulgated as that which was acceptable to Him. Active proselytism became the main area of Judean orthodoxy and to quote the Jewish Encyclopedia:
The rebirth of all people into the “Israel Community of God” through the process of circumcision, baptism and sacrifice, was top priority. END OF QUOTE.
Here one finds a strange inconsistency in that insofar as Israel was concerned the moment that prohibited “strangers” entered the community at the instigation of the orthodoxy of the day, the voice of the prophets was raised up in condemnation at this violation of the Law. No such voice was raised when the Judean community became the active national propagandists of the very thing for which Israel was removed from the land – why? The LORD God of Israel had said everything that He wanted to say in the plainest language that they had violated His Law and had specified the areas which has led to deterioration and final captivity. He Had told through the prophets what He intended to do for them,
- For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out…” (Ezekiel 34:11)
and having declared His intention, there was absolutely no need for anything further to be said. As the Judean orthodoxy pressed ahead with its proselytising campaign, one finds the development of a “smear campaign” in which all those prophets who denounced the integration of strangers in Israel were presented in a very poor light and what they wrote and said, ridiculed in such a way that few placed any importance on their work.
After four centuries, during which no prophet was raised to either praise or condemn the orthodoxy of Judea, one finds the Word of God again spoken in the Middle East when the Word incarnate accused the Pharisaic orthodoxy of making,
“the commandment of God of none effect” (Matthew 15:6). This of course, was the first Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ – an Advent which not only denounced Judean orthodoxy and the Judean people as being totally false, but established very clearly the identity of the people to whom the Word has been sent: “I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, AND TO THEM ALONE” (Matthew 15:24N.E.B.) were the words of the Lord Who of all people knew the Purpose of His Advent. The Lord’s Words have no comfort for universalists nor those who trust in orthodoxy’s opinion concerning it.
To be continued Chapter 2