Have you ever heard about something or someone and wondered, “Where is the fear of God?” Me too.
Peel back the layers
I have to peel back the layers to get to root causes and foundations before I feel I understand something to any degree, so I’ve worked backwards peeling away historical and cultural layers until I arrived at how the Jews were regarded by gentiles in ancient times.
History reveals that Jews were respected among the Greeks and Romans in many ways, and almost any level of gentile society could admire one or more characteristics of Jewish culture. Among the religious, the Jews were respected because they had real faith and only 1 god (God) with well defined rules for serving Him, unlike the gentiles whose various gods and goddess had ever changing rules and regulations.
Jews were true believers, while gentiles were all about the show of religious exercise. This is one reason scriptures mention so many Roman and Greek converts to Judaism who were just part of Jewish culture in the gospels and Acts - many gentiles admired the Jews so much they converted to Judaism.
Among the intellectuals the Jews had sacred texts revered to such an extent they would not even use vowels concerning the writing of the name of G-d, which is where we get YHWH for instance, with scholars guessing it may have been Yahweh/Jehovah (Hebrew/Greek), but no one really knows for sure because they never used vowels in His name for fear of violating the ‘no vain use of my name’ law!
Their sacred writings gave them morals, a world view that made sense to gentiles, and a whole day every week set aside for worship, family, and personal reflection, which gentile gods did not offer nor require.
In day to day living
They were also faithful husbands and wives with strong families and family connections even when those children became adults, whereas the gentile familes were often what we might call today, dysfunctional, and included sex (often bi-sexual) with temple/cult prostitutes during each offering, with mistresses and affairs just part of life.
Jews were also known as honest businessmen and women, people of their word and to be trusted with money, who would never lie, steal, or cheat anyone lest they break one of their commandments. In part, that is how so many became bankers in the ancient world - they were the only ones gentiles could trust with their money.
And because living generously was woven throughout their law, unlike the gentiles who were focused on self and personal freedoms with no social obligation taught by their gods and goddesses, the Jews were family and community oriented and opened centers giving aid to the poor, the sick, widows and orphans, bettering any neighborhood, community, and city in which they dwelled - thus they were widely admired.
Here is where it was lost
After Acts 11:26 when gentile believers started being recognized as separate from the Jewish religion and called Christians, the letters (especially) of Paul, Peter, and James included teachings and exhortations for these gentiles to forsake former pagan ways and rise up to the morality, integrity, and lifestyle the Jewish population had largely walked in for centuries – with varying degrees of success.
If you look for these things as you read letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and from James and Peter, as well as the 7 messages to the churches in The Revelation, you’ll find many exhortations not to live in the flesh as in their former lives, but in honesty, morality, and integrity with a sense of community and family. The Jews came by these positive traits as a matter of the Law of Moses in their culture, but many gentiles had to learn about morals, integrity, and ethics for the first time when they came to Christ.
Sacred defined: Connected to and related to God and dedicated for His purpose
The summary of what I’m talking about can be found in one word: Sacred. The gentiles had to have the word sacred defined for them, and then be shown how to live sacred lives, and those teachings are woven throughout the letters of the New Testament.
In the temples of gods and goddesses, the sacred was related only to things directly involved with a sacrifice or temple. With the God of Israel the sacred was well defined, starting with all human life, then extending outward to the natural world, all of which they recognized as God’s and therefore humans are merely stewards of God’s creation.
Paul had to teach formerly pagan Romans in chapter 1 and 8:19-23 God created all of nature and will deliver even nature from the curse of sin. No pagan religion taught that. He told the Corinthians in his first letter, 6:15-20 that being joined to a (temple) prostitute made them one with that prostitute, but in fact we are one spirit/Spirit with God in Christ, making us one with Him. No pagan god or goddess taught that. Think about that – a whole people who had no knowledge of that in Christ they were set aside for God – sacred.
To the Galatians he defined in 5:16-25 very clearly the actions of the flesh and the fruit of the (born again) spirit. He told them to walk in the spirit/Spirit so as not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. That was all new to them, the idea they were set aside for God’s use – they were sacred beings. No god or goddess had ever elevated them to such a degree as God had through His Son Jesus, making them His very own children.
The Ephesians in 4:17-32 had to be taught not to sleep around as they had in the past, and not to lie, steal, and curse. They had to be told to get a job instead of stealing so they would have money to give to those in need. No god or goddess had ever taught that, and it was all based on the understanding human life is sacred therefore walking in love and caring is required, and there will be a final accounting 1 to 1 before God.
They had to be told they are holy and must apply themselves to growing in Christ, for he said in Ephesians 2:12-22 they are now joined to God along with believing Jews through faith in Christ, and are being built up together as living temples individually, and in a larger sense as a whole body, a single temple God fills.
No one had ever told them they were sacred. No god or pagan religion would ever suggest mankind was anything more than a plaything for sadistic gods to toy with as a cat might toy with a mouse.
The ancient Jews had a deep sense of the sacred, which made them distinct among the gentiles.
When a gentile person comes to Christ today
Human nature hasn’t changed, and gentiles (non-Jews) who come to the Lord who weren’t raised with a sense of the sacred and respect for God, have to learn it – with varying degrees of success.
Today, instead of being like the ancient Jews among gentiles who were known for their integrity, moral uprightness, strong families and honest business dealings, Christians are viewed as irrelevant objects of laughter and derision, and dishonest in business, no different than any other unbeliever. Why is that?
To have the fear of God you have to first have an understanding of the sacred, and to have an understanding of the sacred you must first have something else…
And that leads me to next week: The foundation required for a person to have a true and accurate understanding of the concept of ‘sacred’, which has been largely lost in the body of Christ.
Until then, blessings,