Tuesday, September 03, 2013

TorahBytes: Where Did You Come From? (Ha'azinu)

Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? (Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:6; ESV)

When our children were little, if you asked them, "Where did you come from?" they would have answered, "From God." Cute? Quaint, perhaps? Sentimental? But how about true? Even if God were the creator, people don't actually come from God, do they? He may have started the process, but after that, human beings, like all creatures, are the product of natural processes. But are we the product of natural processes alone?

In this week's Torah portion the people of Israel are reminded that God is their father. But what does that mean? Is it metaphor, symbol, myth, or something much more? Does it matter? I imagine if we were the random product of natural processes alone, then nothing matters. Existence, consciousness, desire, love, are nothing more than physical happenstances. Life has no meaning. Even human relationships would have no intended purpose. Values, standards, and morals have no actual basis beside preferences and desires. It's no wonder many societies are moving more and more towards moral anarchy.

Yet most people know the truth that there is meaning in life. We know intuitively that relationships, especially our most intimate ones are not the product of impersonal random chance. The reason why so many people are so very hurt by their fathers is because we carry in our hearts an ideal of what fathers should be. Where does that come from?

The father relationship is as crucial as it is because it is derived from The Father of us all (see Acts 17:28). The Torah's reminder to Israel at some level is a reminder to all people. God as the great original progenitor is personally everyone's Father. That he used secondary causes - our natural parents - to bring us into the world is beside the point. You exist because God birthed you.

Every human being has their origins in God. You were specifically designed on purpose and for a purpose. The sense of meaninglessness so pervading life today is primarily due to our being disconnected from this realization. We are not made to simply learn how to cope with life, but as God's children to serve the high purpose of our Father.

Accepting the truth that God is our Father helps us to better understand what life is all about, but that doesn't automatically put us in right relationship with him. Torah teaches that we come into the world predisposed as rebels against him. No matter how hard we try to feel good about ourselves, we are deeply aware that something is wrong with us. The Scriptures call this problem sin. Sin is more than misdeeds; it is the principle driving our inability to be what we know we should be.

But God as Father has provided a solution to the problem of sin. In Jewish tradition the Messiah was expected to come to defeat God's enemies, but an essential aspect of this victory tended to be overlooked by our ancient teachers: that to achieve that goal, the Messiah would need to resolve the internal issues that made people God's enemies in the first place. It was necessary for Yeshua to die on behalf of our sins, thereby reconciling us with our Father. And through his resurrection he empowers us to truly live as children of the Father.

1 comment:

Michael Tso said...

Alan, this is a very key foundational truth that you explicate with great clarity and insight. Thank you and may we embrace our Father who made us and originated us.