This morning I was reflecting on the fact that Yahweh the Holy One of Yisra’el, the Living God, chose His people out of all the nations and gave them Torah, much more than just what we call “the Law,” a complete revelation of everything that God wanted mankind to know. To Moses was given Torah, and then to the prophets, the Nevi’im, were given the oracles of Yahweh, the only true oracles ever given to mankind. Finally, to top it off and complete their understanding, the Lord revealed Himself to His people through the Ketuvim, the histories and wisdom writings.Judaism, then, based on the Word of God, is the only divinely instituted religion ever given to mankind. Every other religion has arisen from mankind’s searching for a way to appease the gods or God (if they thought there was only one of Him). I have experienced many religions, not just Christian ones, and in comparing those experiences, I have to honestly say, though other religions may be more awesome and glorious in ceremonial worship, nowhere else did I find anything even remotely resembling the prayer to Yahweh the God of Yisra’el that I found among the Jews, nor anywhere so profound a respect for the Word of God as among them.
In an earlier post, I struggled again with trust, as in “whom do you trust?” What spiritual authority is really trustworthy, which one has the words of eternal life that really can be trusted?
Taking the point of view that all religious teachers and philosophers, being human beings like myself, can have no “inside information” that I don’t have, I have come to the conclusion that only one Teacher can be trusted, the only One who shattered history and the physical laws by rising from the dead. Not just because He was someone who died and came back to life again, no, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, who have done that, especially in today’s world where people routinely die on the operating table and come back to life, many of them bearing tales of “the other side.”
No, I have decided that I can trust Jesus because He actually rose from the dead, to die no more. I notice that He didn’t tell any of His disciples the details of “the other side” that they wrote down, but what He must have told them, His descent to She’ol and the smashing of its gates, how He singlehandedly defeated satan and delivered more than just Adam with a mighty “Come forth!” taking him and all humankind with Him (and the good thief) into Paradise—all this passed on to them orally while He sojourned with them for the forty days before He was taken up to the right hand of the Father.
And I think back to the Jews, those who are still behind the veil, in a mystery remaining witnesses by their unbelief in Y’shua ha-Mashiach. These are truly faithful ones, the believing Jews I mean, for their trust in Moses seems to me to be at least as great as my trust in Jesus, who was dead and is alive.
Without having seen the risen Christ physically, I trust in Him, and through Him the whole of divine scripture, the Old Testament and the New. But these Jews, without having seen Moses or the Exodus from Egypt and all its attendant miracles, still trust in Moses and in the Tanakh, the Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim. And when I am with them, in prayer, praise and the study of God’s Word, I feel myself completely among brethren.
Then I remember the teaching of Christ, not a parable as it is often called, about Lazarus and the Rich Man. If it were only a parable, perhaps we could read into it other details. But no, it’s not a parable. What it is, perhaps, is God’s only intrusion into our lives of “the other side,” spoken with perfect certainty by the only One who would be able to tell.
The rich man, in agony in She’ol, sees across the unbridgeable abyss, the “citizens of Paradise,” particularly Lazarus, like him recently deceased, who is in the company of “our first father Abraham.” The rich man is nameless, for all his wealth while he lived on earth, yet a poor man, once a nameless beggar on earth, has a name, Lazarus. He asks, not Lazarus, but Abraham, to send the poor man over the abyss to put a dash of water on his tongue. Abraham says, “Impossible! Even if we wanted to, we can’t.”
Then the rich man implores, “At least send Lazarus back from the dead to warn my brothers about this place!” (Notice how even in She’ol the rich man thinks he can command others.) It’s tempting to make the connexion between the poor man Lazarus and the rich friend of Jesus, Lazarus, whom Christ brought back to life after four days in the tomb. Could even His telling of this “after death experience” contain a germ of prophecy that would come to pass before His own death and resurrection?
Abraham’s response is, “Your brothers have Moses and the prophets, so let them believe them!” Still, the rich man argues, “No they won’t, but if someone comes to them from the dead, they’ll repent!” But Abraham has the last word, “If they won’t listen to either Moses or the prophets, they won’t be convinced, even if someone were to rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)
I think back to the faithful Jews. They’re not the ones that Abraham is talking about when he says, “If they won’t listen to either Moses or the Prophets, they won’t be convinced…” They are still trusting in Moses, but they are trusting like Martha trusted when she responded to Jesus’ words, “Your brother will rise again” with “I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.”
It still remains for their trust to be perfected, but only He can speak these words into their hearts, “I am the resurrection. If anyone believes in Me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:24-26 JB)
And I, who love the people of God, Am Yisra’el, confess my trust with holy apostle Paul, who writes, “Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead!”
(Romans 11:15 JB)