B’midbar (In The Desert)
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
TEACHING FORMER GENTILES
When the Apostle Saul (Paul) accepted his call to go to the Gentiles, he probably did not realize the difficulty of his task. He had been raised as a Hebrew. He understood Hebrew life, its customs and its traditions. He knew how to communicate with others who had been raised in the same way. Now he was being sent to Gentiles who had never sat through even one class on Torah, nor did they have a clue when it came to the history of the Hebrews. These Gentiles were being adopted into a family they knew nothing about. Paul had to teach them.
You may be asking what this has to do with this weeks Torah portion. When we think it through it has everything to do with it. In 1 Corinthians Saul is talking to the “former Gentiles” about how to function within God’s family. He uses the metaphor of working together as a body just as the human body works in unity to accomplish a task. He was telling these people that God had placed each of them in a specific place for a specific reason. Each of them was to accept the given task and to carry it out to the best of his or her ability. They were not to look down on another person in the body who had been given a job that did not seem as glamorous. They were not to place anyone on a pedestal, as each function of the body must work together to get the job done. He was saying to them that an eye couldn’t function to its full capacity if there is not a leg or a foot to take it from one place to another.
If Saul had been speaking to Hebrews he would not have needed to go into such detail. He would simply have reminded them about the twelve tribes in the wilderness and the functions of these tribes. Each tribe had its place in the camp. Each tribe had a different personality and a different function. If the Corinthians had been Hebrews who had come to faith in Yeshua, he could have simply said to them, “Remember our ancestors in the wilderness, how they camped and how they worked together. You all do the same.”
Scripture is written in metaphors and shadows, which spoke to a specific audience. To forget this principle can lead us into error. If we understand this and apply it, we can find abundance of truth. Let me give an example. When Saul gave correction concerning Torah he was not speaking to 21st century Christians who have for the most part twisted scripture to say the Torah has passed away. He was speaking to a Hebrew audience who had twisted Torah into legalistic observances. He was bringing correction by telling the people to get the horse back in front of the cart.
As we read and study scripture it is a good idea to frequently ask a few questions.
- Who is writing? This is an important question because Peter and Saul come from different backgrounds and said things in different ways. Yes, I believe God inspired Scripture, but he left these men’s personalities and backgrounds intact.
- Who is the intended audience? Without this information we are playing Jeopardy. We may have the answer, but do not know the question.
- What is the background of the people receiving the writing? Do they have an understanding of Torah and Hebrew history or do they need to buy a dog and name it Clue, so they would have one?
These are just a few things to ponder as we continue our journey through the Torah and our own journey through the wilderness and into the Promised Land.