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D'varim/Deuteronomy 18:14 And you? Not so has Adonai your G-d given for you
This phrase comes at the end of a verse summarising the various pagan activities of the nations that Israel is about to displace from the Land: "For these nations that you will possess - they listen to astrologers and diviners; And you? Not so has Adonai your G-d given for you". This follows a list (verses 10-11) of some of the particular practices that these nations do. Tigay tells us that, "the Canaanites conducted their affairs in accordance with the instructions of diviners and sorcerers. In the pagan societies of the ancient Near East the functionaries in question were exceedingly influential. They were regularly consulted by commoners and kings, who would often not make an important move without them." But not so the Israelites; they are to hear the words ofAdonai through the prophets, whom He would appoint from among the people. Quoting the Jewish tradition, Sforno emphasises that, "as for you, [G-d] has not given you permission for such ... for the words of the diviners and soothsayers regarding you will not be fulfilled as our Sages say, 'Israel is not affected by planetary influences' (b. Shabbat 156a)" - while the affairs of other nations may be determined by the stars so that they consult stargazers and astrologers, he says, Israel is ruled only by G-d so the starts are not only irrelevant but forbidden.
When they visited Lystra, Rav Sha'ul and Barnabas were surrounded by crowds that were proclaiming them as the gods come to earth because the L-rd had healed a lame man through them. As they tried to resist the crowds, Sha'ul and Barnabas told them, "In the generations gone by [G-d] permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness" (Acts 14:16-17, NASB). Rabbi Samuel RaphaelHirsch comments of the nations, "For them the result is everything ... results that are dependent on a thousand external chances against which they are powerless, which they feel lie beyond the sphere of their control. Men without their spirits looking to G-d ... have always fallen to heathen immoral practices of fortune-telling, clairvoyance, etc. in coarser or more refined forms. These nations listen to astrologers and fortune tellers for their private and public affairs." But Israel is not to indulge in these back-door attempts to second-guess G-d! Israel has been given the Torah, reinforced by the prophets and the gift of prophecy, whereby Israel knows how and when to serve G-d and how to approach Him and hear directly from Him. Israel is not to be like the nations, as G-d tells them, "Thus says the L-rd, 'Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the sign of the heavens although the nations are terrified by them; for the customs of the peoples are delusion'" (Jeremiah 10:2-3, NASB). Israel can and must stand apart from the behaviour and conduct of the nations to be a witness for G-d.
It is no surprise therefore that Rav Sha'ul has the same thing in mind for the Body of Messiah when he says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of G-d is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2, NASB). Sha'ul knows that the people of G-d are supposed to be different from the people around them, clearly discernible from everyone else. This is not a matter of wearing special or peculiar clothes so as to look physically different - that would simply expose us to ridicule - but a completely different value system and subsequent behaviour in every area of life.
So we find Sha'ul drawing a line between the believers in Messiah and other people: "It is perfectly evident what the old nature does. It expresses itself in sexual immorality, impurity and indecency; idol worship and misuse of drugs in connection with the occult; in feuding, becoming jealous and getting angry; in selfish ambition, factionalism, intrigue and envy; in drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you now as I have warned you before; those who do such things will have no share in the Kingdom of G-d!" (Galatians 5:19-21, CJB). Make no mistake, the people of G-d don't do these things, this is not kingdom behaviour. This is a checklist that G-d provides both for those in and outside the kingdom so that we may be sure who is who, that the people of G-d may be distinct. Notice how idol worship and the occult continue to feature in the list as those who do these things have no direct connection to G-d and seek to fill their spiritual need by other unauthorised practices.
Sha'ul has a parallel list: "Don't you know that unrighteous people will have no share in the Kingdom of G-d? Don't delude yourselves - people who engage in sex before marriage, who worship idols, who engage in sex after marriage with someone other than their spouse, who engage in active or passive homosexuality, who steal, who are greedy, who get drunk, who assail people with contemptuous language, who rob; none of them will share in the Kingdom of G-d" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, CJB). Many of the practices - homosexuality, for example, was considered a purer and more noble form of love and relationship by the Greek and Roman civilisations - were commonplace or even at times valued by the surrounding cultures, but Sha'ul clearly marks a boundary between believers and the rest of the world. It isn't that people will be punished more severely for some sins that others, that Sha'ul is encouraging discrimination against people who do these things, or even that people who do these things cannot be nice people in other ways. He is simply drawing a line in the sand so that everyone knows who is who: followers of Yeshua don't do that. Yeshua Himself said, "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree good fruit ... so you will recognise them by their fruit" (Matthew 7:18,20, CJB).
Further Study: Psalm 81:8-16; Acts 17:30-31
Application: G-d's demarcation line seems fairly clear; are you on the right side of it? As you work to keep your own behaviour in order, why not pray for someone else you know who struggles in this area that you may both know G-d's grace and victory.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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