I took off a couple of weeks- did anyone miss me?
I was reading Isaiah 29 the other day, and when I came to verses 13-14, I had a bit of an epiphany, suddenly seeing in those few sentences the true definition of what religion is.
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As those of you who are regular subscribers, or dare I say members of my congregation (?), you know that I am totally against religion. God’s instructions to us are a lifestyle and not just some set of activities you perform when you go to shul or church. In fact, God has no religion; religion is the invention of people who want to have power over other people.
Isaiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judea, and he was trying to get them to return to God’s way of life as they had corrupted themselves with the religions of the surrounding Semitic peoples.
Before we go any further, let me clearly state this caveat: pulling one or two sentences from the Bible is always a dangerous thing to do because it can lead to misunderstanding. I believe that, in this case, I am not misleading you or misinterpreting what God meant when he told Isaiah what to say, and I leave it up to you to judge for yourself whether or not I have.
That being said, let’s see what God told Isaiah to tell the people (this is from the Complete Jewish Bible):
Then Adonai said: “Because these people approach me with empty words, and the honor they bestow on me is mere lip-service; while in fact they have distanced their hearts from me, and their ‘fear of me’ is just a mitzvah of human origin therefore, I will have to keep shocking these people with astounding and amazing things, until the ‘wisdom’ of their ‘wise ones’ vanishes, and the ‘discernment’ of their ‘discerning ones’ is hidden away.”
To put this in words that reflect my understanding, God is saying that even though the people are going through the motions of proper worship, it is not something that they do because their hearts tell them to do it, but rather because they have been told by men what they should do.
And this opinion of mine seems to be confirmed because God says that their fear of him, which back then meant the form of worship, is just a mitzvah (law) of human origin.
God is saying that the form of worship they were practicing was not from God, but from men.
Now isn’t that exactly what religion is? A set of rules, a form of worship, “fearing” God by performing rites, rituals, and celebrating him with holidays that are all man-made?
I mean, how many different religions do we have that all profess to worship the one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who is the father of the Messiah (who we believe to be Yeshua), the same God who never changes?
If God never changes, then what he says he wants us to do never changes, which means that there should not be different forms of worship or different rules, different celebrations, or different days of rest.
Am I right?
So, through Isaiah God is saying that when we practice a set of rules that are man-made, i.e. follow a specific religion, then he will show us just how wrong we are with shocking and amazing things to demonstrate to all that the wisdom of our wise people will vanish and their discernment will be hidden away, meaning there will be no discernment.
Have we seen any of this?
Well, what about the revelation of child abuse in the Catholic Church?
Well, what about the Televangelist who embezzled from his congregation?
Well, what about the Televangelist who had been associating with prostitutes?
Well, what about the New Jersey Rabbi who had an adulterous affair that led to murder?
Well, what about the…well, you get the point.
And these people, as well as many others that we have heard about in the news or, even worse, don’t yet now about, all have one thing in common: they are worshippers of man-made religions.
Yes, even Judaism, which should be the purest form of what God said he wanted us to do, has been corrupted by Talmudic requirements called Halacha, which overrule and sometimes even replace some of the instructions that God gave us, adding so much more to what God said we need to do (which, for the record, is a sin based on Deuteronomy 4:2).
So, nu? What can we do about people who are so fully immersed in a religion that they discount everything I just said as so much tripe and nonsense?
We can try to show them what God says: which, for Jews, means to get their head out of the Talmud, and for Christians, to get their head into the Torah.
And if we can ever get the Jews out of the Talmud and back to the Torah, and get the Christians out of the New Covenant letters and into the Torah, the next step would be to teach them both the truth about who Yeshua is and what he really taught.
And then, maybe, with God’s help, we can teach all these different Judeo-Christian religion followers to fear the Lord the way the Lord said to fear him.
That would be the fulfillment of God’s New Covenant, given through Jeremiah 31:31, which says that God’s Torah will be written on our hearts.
But, to be honest, I fear this will not be accomplished on a large level, and that is because I know what Yeshua said about salvation: it is the path less followed, and the narrow gate that few people will go through.
I pray that if you are one who follows a religion, you will consider what God told Isaiah about the way He feels about religion, and worship God -starting today- the way God said he wants you to.
Look- you don’t have to totally reject your religion: just know which part is obeying what God said to do, which part is rejecting what God said to do, which part is man-made but not rejecting what God said to do, and choose which part you will do.
One last thing: I sincerely ask you to consider how God will feel about your choice.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!