While reading the words of our Lord in Mat. 5:23-24 I was yet once again reminded of one the most neglected and misunderstood elements of God’s Truth Yeshua came to reveal. He didn’t necessarily bring brand new ideas, but rather brought the correct understanding of what’s of greater importance compared to other things. Some might call it ‘bringing order’ to what was already known.
This is seen throughout the entire so called ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Many of things the school of the Prushim (Pharisees) were saying that were of the greatest importance were in fact challenged by the Messiah. However, his confrontation with them should be interpreted within the context of “family quarrel”, not as a blanket denunciation of “the Jews” as replacement theology has been punishing it on us for hundreds of years.
One example is Mat. 5:23-24
It speaks of someone who is about to offer their gift on the altar at the temple. Think about it. Offering a gift in the temple wasn’t a small thing.
To the modern Christian person this is much easier which is why we don’t think much about it.
Our altar is represented by what? To some it’s their local church. To others it’s their prayer room when they kneel before God and pray.
But this is not what Yeshua and his audience had in mind when they talked about “the altar”.
The journey to the temple was long and dangerous. It cost the Israelites a lot of resources, including the missed opportunity to work instead of being gone.
Yeshua teaches that even after someone had gone through all the trouble of making a trip to the temple to offer his sacrifice, if this man remembered at that moment (became aware of it cognitively and on an emotional level) that he had done something against someone, it’s more important for him to leave the lamb, go back to where he came from, meet with the person who had been wronged, own up to them what had done, and only then go back to the temple to offer their sacrifice.
Essentially, Yeshua says what Yeshayahu (Isaiah) declares on behalf of the Lord in his rebuke in Chapter 1: “I take no pleasure in your sacrifices and feasts…” – because they were mistreating each other.
Isaiah 1:11-20 (HNV) 11 “What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me?,” says the LORD. “I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams, And the fat of fed animals. I don’t delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs, Or of male goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, Who has required this at your hand, to trample my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to me; New moons, Shabbatot, and convocations: I can’t bear with evil assemblies. 14 My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts; They are a burden to me. I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; Cease to do evil. 17 Learn to do well. Seek justice, Relieve the oppressed, Judge the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” 18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.”
Would most Israelites have accepted the teaching of Yeshua literally? Probably not. I believe he was making a point bringing to light what is of greater importance to the Lord: the condition of our hearts, and the way we actually treat those in our lives.
This is a tough one because it demands of us to be cognizant and aware of what we do to others. Self-awareness is something many, many people lack, some of them completely.
Why didn’t this worshipper own up to what he had to own up before going to the temple? For Yeshua to take time and teach on this it shows this was something widespread. Do we have the tendency to do the same today?
Maybe he was caught up in the motion of the habit? A religious act of offering a lamb without ‘connecting the dots’ and realizing you can’t expect forgiveness from the Lord if you don’t forgive others, and also if you don’t own up to how you’ve violated others?
And then this worshipper of YHWH goes on his trip, goes through all the trouble of traveling through the heat and the rocky roads on foot – no tennis shoes and asphalt roads either!
But during this process he’s thinking about offering this lamb. Will YHWH accept it?
As we know, the Israelites were well aware of the practice of laying on of hands on the sacrificial animal and confessing/speaking their sins over it (Lev. 16:21). Aaron did this on behalf of all of Israel. It was at this point that the transference of guilt took place.
Yeshua was now reminding the children of Avraham they need to do this in their relationships with their “brother”. The text in Greek uses the word “adelphos”, which is a general term for “whoever you have a relationship with”. Someone who is part of your life, maybe family, maybe the community.
The main point here is that the worshipper who is about to offer his sacrifice, is becoming aware of the wrong he has done through a process of honest reassessment of his own life in light of God’s holiness. Yeshua doesn’t even comment on the role of the priest here. It’s a non-factor. Confessing your sins to the priest makes no difference. It has to be to the one who has been violated.
Was it a land dispute? A fight over whose sheep were grazing in whose field?
Who knows. There are as many variables here as there are human beings and the countless situations we encounter where we violate someone for one reason or another.
But what about those who are shameless?
The lack of shame and guilt in some people is real. It can vary from a more general lack of self-awareness and even consciousness, to pathological levels of what modern science calls psychopathy. Some time in the 70s the term sociopath was introduced and injected into the vernacular, apparently in an attempt to remove the stigma of mental illnesses.
However, sociopath isn’t a medical term. People who commit crimes and have no remorse are fundamentally psychopaths from a clinical point of view. There’s no conclusive research that proves what is the origin of this serious deviation in people. But it’s real.
We don’t know entirely how God handles deviants. At the cross there were two common criminals on either side of Yeshua. One was repenting and asking for mercy, owning up to what he had done in life. The other had no remorse. Was he just a hardened soul who had chosen to be evil? Or was he a psychopath who was unable to repent because he didn’t have any remorse? We don’t know. Some things aren’t ours to know.
What we know is that life is full of people who won’t own up to the wrong they do to others, thus creating unimaginable damage to people and relationships which were meant for good.
One such story is the story of famed motivational speaker David Goggins who tells in detail how his father used to beat him and his mother with a belt. Until one day David and his mother fled the family home. The father never owned up to the damage he had done to his wife or his son and to their entire family. Goggins has an amazing story of escaping a life of poverty that resulted from what the father had done to the family. David went on to become a Navy SEAL, a runner, an author and a motivational speaker.
How many church people need to turn around next Sunday upon approaching their church, go back to those they have violated, and own up to them and God what they had done? We don’t know. Probably a lot.
How many of today’s leaders regularly shine a light into the dark corners of the souls of those who go to their churches, reminding them the right spiritual order Yeshua taught us to have?
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two the entire Torah rests!
““Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?” He told him, “‘You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important mitzvah. And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot.”” Mattityahu (Mat) 22:36-40 CJB
May God help us and May God have mercy on us all!