Old Testament passage for Wednesday, April 3, 2013: Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19
“One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord." Deuteronomy 23:2 (NKJV)
I am a aware of the provocative nature of the title of this blog. Please by no means take offense. I draw it from a story told in James Michener's novel The Source. Though fictional, it tells the deeply touching true-to-life story of Menahem ben Yohanan. The Source, in true Michener style, is a novel telling the story of the Holy Lands, following the lives of individuals and family as they come to us down through the eras of history.
Menahem's father Yohanan, a Jew living in third century Palestine, had conceived him out of wedlock. That made Menahem a bastard, an illegitimate child. By the law of God, he was a man living under a curse. He suffered the full weight of the law. One of the primary verses in God's law dealing with this is in our passage today.
I pick up the story from Michener's novel as Menahem the bastard speaks to Father Eusebius, a leader of the new Christian faith that was spreading in Palestine:
Menahem swallowed and said, "My father married a woman who already had a husband."
"He sinned," Father Eusebius said. "Grievously he sinned."
"That made me a bastard."
"I could not be a Jew nor take part in any services." Menahem hesitated and said a boyish thing, recalling an old hurt. "When I was thirteen I was not allowed to read the Torah."
Father Eusebius made no comment, so Menahem continued, "I could not marry. I could not pray." ... He could not continue.
"Go ahead," Father Eusebius said.
"They told me.... I myself could never be saved. But if I stole ten drachmas' worth... " The words came with great pain, for they recalled the spiritual crisis he had suffered.... "They would arrest me, sell me into slavery, marry me to another slave, later set us both free, and while we could not be restored, our children would be.'
For some time Father Eusebius sat silent, reviewing this incredible tale.... Then slowly he looked up at the would-be Jew and tears of compassion stood in his eyes. As if from the depth of a great basilica he said in a whisper, "The salvation you sought, Menahem, has always been at hand." He turned and pointed at the crucifix. "When He ascended that cross, when He gave His life for you and me, He took upon Himself the burden of sin that you have been carrying. The moment you accept Him, Menahem, you are free."
The priest rose, came to where the Jew was sitting and knelt beside him on the beaten earth. Placing his hand in Menahem's he brought him to his knees also, and in this position Father Eusebius prayed, "Jesus Christ, our Lord, smile upon this young man Menahem ben Yohanan, who has carried such a dreadful sin upon his shoulders. Not his sin, Jesus, but the original sin of the world. Smile upon him and transfer from his shoulders to Yours the burden which he has so manfully borne."
In the quiet room a miracle took place. The crushing weight under which Menahem had struggled drifted from his back, the clouds of obscurity from his mind. He felt the actual burden slipping from him as if he had been carrying three sacks of groat, and he began to sob with joy, as if he were a child to whom something fine had happened.
"And now, Lord Jesus," Father Eusebius continued, "invite this outcast into Your brotherhood. Tell him, now, that he is free...."
The law is holy. The law is correct. It is just. This simple story illustrates how much WE NEED A SAVIOUR! In the law, there is no hope. There is only justice. We carry the heavy weight of sin. The good news is that in Christ all is forgiven. The weight of our brokenness and failure can be lifted by the strong shoulders of Jesus.
We can say with the Psalmist, "We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped." (Psalm 124:7) God sent Jesus to do for us that which the law could not do. The law, though holy, could only condemn. But, by Christ Jesus, we who had no hope are now the righteousness of God. There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1-4)