Parashah #18: Mishpatim (Rulings) Sh’mot (Exodus) 21:1-24:18

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #18: Mishpatim (Rulings) Sh’mot (Exodus) 21:1-24:18
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 34:8-22; 33:25-6
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 9:15-22; 10:28-39

G-d’s Mishpatim (Rulings) describes the focus of this parashah which extensively describes how G-d expects His people to live as a civilized and “set apart” nation. If you believe these rulings are not applicable any longer or that they were “only for the Jews,” I submit that you believe in error. Although we do not stone people who violate some of these rulings as was done at the time, G-d will hold each of us accountable for everything we think, say, and do (Rom. 2:6).
Contrary to a “once saved-always saved” doctrine taught by many Christian clergy, the Bible does not support this erroneous doctrine. G-d’s commands, laws, and instructions were first given to the Israelites to follow and set the example for anyone who chose to become a fellow traveler and “join” the Israelites (Ezekiel:37).
According to Chaos theory, everything, including even the smallest action whether mental or physical, can cause striking consequences. In at least one aspect, this is consistent with what we are witnessing in our world today. That is, Chaos theory describes the qualities of a point at which stability moves to instability and order moves to chaos. Indeed, when a society lovingly followed G-d’s instructions, there was order. Everyone knew what was expected of everyone else, and G-d’s commands, rulings, and statutes provided the boundaries that assured safety and peace as long as they were followed. The system of sacrifices and offerings during the temple periods constantly reminded the people that the atonement for sin cost an innocent life. Guilt offerings brought sinful thoughts and deeds to the fore. Peace offerings reminded the people that when we are blessed, we should share the blessing with others. This is to say that the truth and validity of G-d’s instructions and commands were not abolished with Yahshua’s sacrifice. It is critical to think before we act or speak and to consider the possible effects of our choices. If we have a sinful thought, we must repent of it and ask G-d to protect our minds from Satanic infiltration. I submit this is one reason that the Sh’ma (Deut. 6:4-11) is the focal point or crux of G-d’s Torah. It includes loving G-d with every part of our being, which by default means loving Him through hearing, internalizing and acting upon His Torah and teaching our children to do the same.
The Chinese Communist Party and its allies are diligently and effectively attacking our country, starting with the churches, initiating and expanding the secular humanistic cult in our schools, infiltrating cyberspace with antinomianism, enticing our children away from any biblical teaching they may have had from their parents or others who loved and followed G-d’s Torah, and promoting a socialistic agenda through our government leaders. Legislation that is completely in contradiction with G-d’s Torah/instructions is passed into laws that are making it increasingly challenging for believers who must don spiritual battle gear and move toward the “front line” in preparation for what is to come (Eph. 6:10-20).
It is often said that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Unfortunately, the “hand” representing the nurturing parental teaching from a mother and father who once had the same G-d and who lived and taught G-d’s instructions to their children, has been replaced by acceptance and promotion for modified units and pagan values that are defined by G-d as abominations. Prov. 6:16-19 identifies six abominations: “Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” G-d has been essentially “kicked out” of America, making room for the invasion of previous pagan gods and goddesses including Moloch, Ishtar (Easter; goddess of the dawn), and Baal. Emasculating the male gender, promoting transgenderism, removing anything and everything that identifies with the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and secular humanistic teaching right under the noses of parents, it should not be surprising that children and young adults are easy targets. Without a cohesive social standard that includes following G-d’s instructions for living with our fellow man and how we are to relate to G-d, total chaos with confusion, panic, and the fall of societies result. With the plethora of warnings against following other gods and rebelling against G-d and his Torah, it should be no surprise to see and hear about all that is happening in our world and specifically America today.
Many Christian clergy teach that the blessings for obedience to G-d’s Word and the curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28) were “for the Jews only.” The rulings described in our parashah are also dismissed as antiquated and not applicable to modern society. This is another erroneous belief that will result in the loss of many souls. Those who categorize these rulings miss the underlying concepts that are just as applicable today as they were when presented. Human nature has not changed, and G-d has not changed (Mal. 3:6).
Believers who are attuned to G-d’s Word are aware of the current events that are bearing witness to the Torah’s reliability and validity; G-d’s Word and warnings against those who continually rebel against His Torah/instructions regardless of waning prosperity in all areas addressed in Deuteronomy 1-14. As our nation spirals into chaos and increased lawlessness, those who lovingly follow G-d’s commands, laws, and rulings stand out as a light in the darkness that is becoming more intense, just as Yahshua instructed those who love Him (Matt. 5:14-16).
The Israelites had been slaves themselves who had been treated harshly by the Egyptians, so they understood what it was to be a slave. A person could become a slave because of poverty, debt, or crime. Today we are witnessing government programs that are placing people in a position of indentured servitude. Most of the nations are blind to this progressive agenda and may find out too late that they are slaves to a socialistic world paradigm (Deut. 28:68). But Hebrew slaves were treated as humans unlike what we tend to think of as a slave-master relationship that existed in America. Hebrew slaves were allowed to work their way to freedom and all Hebrew slaves had to be set free in the jubilee year no matter how long they had worked. This system is not part of a secular socialistic system or a dictatorship. I encourage the reader to explore these systems for a more detailed understanding and compare them to current events.
Teaching laws and rulings to an entire people was almost unheard of in the ancient world. Just as we are witnessing today, laws that should be universal are applied differently for different classes of people depending on which attorney or judge is chosen for the case. But G-d’s laws are universal for all mankind. Hebrew slaves also lived in the homes of their masters and were not relegated to slave gangs working plantations. I submit it was G-d ordained that the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt to acquaint them with what it was like to be a slave so that they would really understand the fears, concerns, hopes, etc. of their slaves and treat them as fellow human beings as G-d commands. Most Americans do not know the pain and suffering slavery brings. I have heard stories from several people who lived under communist and socialist regimes who told me they see the inexperience with slavery for so many in America as a negative situation. If one has never lost freedom, one cannot know its true value. G-d knew this and by the Israelites’ experience with slavery in Egypt, they understood freedom and the need to treat their slaves humanely.
Today societies worldwide are losing freedoms once enjoyed. Time prohibits getting into many of the examples and details, especially many that are so obvious in America. The point is that G-d presented rulings for the Israelites to provide structure as a fledgling society that reinforced the 10 Commands, how they were to treat each other and foreigners, and remain a separate nation. We are told not to curse G-d or a leader of the people (Ex. 22:27). Blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience are reiterated in verses 20-30 and the boundaries of the Land yet to be completely occupied are described in Exodus 23:31.
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26
In this week’s haftorah, Jeremiah described the punishment that would befall the Jews because they continued enslaving their Hebrew slaves after six years of service–transgressing the ruling discussed in the beginning of this week’s Torah reading.
King Zedekiah made a pact with the people according to which they would all release their Jewish slaves after six years of service–as per G-d’s ruling. Shortly thereafter, the Jews reneged on this pact and forced their freed slaves to re-enter into service. G‑d then dispatched Jeremiah with a message of rebuke: “Therefore, so says the Lord: You have not hearkened to Me to proclaim freedom, everyone to his brother and every one to his neighbor; behold I proclaim freedom to you, says the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, and I will make you an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” The haftorah then vividly depicts the destruction and devastation that the Jews would experience.
The haftorah concludes with words of reassurance: “Just as I would not cancel My covenant with the day and night and I would not cancel the laws of heaven and earth, so too I will not cast away the descendants of Jacob . . . for I will return their captivity [to their land] and have mercy on them.”
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 9:15-22; 10:28-39
Although in this scenario and time G-d is talking to Ananias about Paul (Sha’ul), we can apply Sha’ul’s mission to Yahshua’s reason for coming to earth as G-d incarnate. “But the L-rd said to him [Ananias]. ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” We must examine this passage in the context of our parashah to make this connection. Through YHVH/Yahshua’s plan, Sha’ul was destined for a radical change in his life from one of human aristocracy to one of ultimate servant hood. Similarly, Yahshua left the very presence of G-d in heaven to assume the role of ultimate servant to G-d/YHVH (Isaiah 53). Sha’ul’s role was to expose YHVH as Yahshua to the lost sheep of Israel first (Matt. 15:24) and not to the Gentiles yet (Matt. 10:5). Then they were to go to the Gentiles and kings and teach the truth of the resurrection and what it means for humankind (Matt. 28:19). We read in this passage “Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Name, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.” Perhaps G-d as Adonai gave the 74 witnesses at Sinai a glimpse of Yahshua by allowing them to see His feet and the clear-blue base signifying deity while connecting with earth (man).
In the second passage, we read in Acts 10:28-29 another connection to the parashah “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But G-d has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore, I came without objection as soon as I was sent for…” We must put this passage in context to understand it correctly. Peter had just been shown by G-d that men of other nations are not unclean in and of themselves. It is their behavior from which we are to remain separated. Moving to verse 34-37 “Then Peter opened his mouth and said ‘In truth I perceive that G-d shown no partiality. But in every action whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which G-d sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Yahshua-He is the L-rd of all-that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached.”
The issue of impartiality is specifically mentioned in our parashah. However, G-d may have provided a demonstration of this concept by allowing mere humans to see the feet of G-d/Yahshua symbolizes G-d reaching down to verify His presence on the mountain and His reality. Although the blue base separated His feet from the earth, a connection was made as evidenced by the viewing of the 74 witnesses. These men could clearly understand that which was “not normal” (heavenly) in association with the “normal” (humanity) Similarly, Peter was shown this connection through a different illustration in a context that he could understand, through a vision of clean and unclean animals.
Unfortunately, many Christian clergy teach that this passage means we can eat anything we want. This is erroneous to say the least and indicates these Bible teachers are ignorant of the fact that G-d is teaching Peter about our relationship with non-Jews and has nothing to do with food.
Perhaps G-d allowed the elders, Moshe, Aaron, Nadav, and Avihu a glimpse of a symbol of G-d’s/Yahshua’s deity before they could fully understand its significance. Later, when G-d would articulate the intricate instructions for the priestly garments; colors, significance, and types of the stones to be used for each tribe in the breastplate, and instructions for building the Tabernacle, these individuals would experience a tremendous revelation. G-d allows these exhilarating “sparks” of insight for those who continue to ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:9-13). These sparks are well worth the effort of continued prayer, thanksgiving, supplication, meditation, and study. May we continually seek these sparks of Torah knowledge and insight to enhance our ability to shine for the glory of G-d before a lost world (Matt. 5:16).
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart