Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
This month’s article by Ernest Martin is called "The Folly of Tradition." It discusses the role of tradition in life and in our spiritual lives. The purpose of tradition, and their companion actions called rituals, is for individuals to feel part of a community.
Most people feel they need rituals. In fact many people receive great comfort from extensive rituals and traditions. Such traditions and rituals make individuals feel they are part of a larger body, whether that is a body of believers from the past continuing to the present, or a body of adherents to a single idea, or advocates of a cause. The cause can be political, religious, educational or economic (such as a business) it makes no difference. All organizations that have traditions and rituals choose to continue such regular activities because they are successful to give individuals a sense of belonging, a sense of place, a sense of meaning to their lives. Regularity is important in life.
Is the desire for tradition and ritual bred into us as human beings? Are we prone, as humans to desire ceremony, dressing up in different clothes, repeating rote prayers, singing songs and reading aloud passages that, hopefully, will be explained to us in a main message? Perhaps. God uses ritual. The Old Testament Law is more than just a set of "dos and don’ts." It is also a set of traditions and rituals designed to turn a rabble of 12 tribes into a people, and later after crossing the Jordan, to turn a people into a nation, and still later turn them into an empire.
The traditions and rituals were changed throughout the Old Testament period. The traditions and rituals of the Tabernacle were expanded in the time of David when he arranged for specific families to provide music, and he organized the Temple rituals. These were further amended during the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah and again later in the time of Ezra. All such traditions and rituals were designed for Israel alone. They of course perverted the meaning and considered the traditions and rituals as sort of a magical talisman that would protect them, giving little thought to the God who commanded those laws. In fact, some of these rituals originated with angels (Galatians 3:19 and Colossians 2:18).
One thing that interests me is that the final teaching of God, the Mystery of God, has no required traditions or rituals. There is nothing for you or me to do. There are no required traditions. We are commanded to love and given guidelines on how to act that out—but no rules, regulations, time schedules, no stand-up, no sit-down, raising your arms, going down on your knees. You can do none of those things, or any of those things, or all of those things. There is no requirement to do anything—except love.
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I have contributed a short article titled, "Are You a Misfit?" (Please do not write and tell me whether you are or are not a misfit, the question is rhetorical.) This article in a small way parallels the criticism of tradition in Dr. Martin’s article.
Be assured that you likely are a misfit. Many people feel so alone in the world. You feel out of place with the rest of the world. You feel that you do not "fit." You are "mis-fits." You are misfits because of decisions you made along the way to follow God’s truth from the Bible. It took you a long time to learn a little truth, and there were bumps along the way. But the end result is that you are different because you have the spirit of God within you empowering you to seek God first, however haltingly, however sinfully, however hypocritically, however lonely you are. The fact that you have God’s Spirit sets you apart so much that you are the light of the world. The things that you are, that you have become, the growth you have accomplished, the salvation process that you are undergoing, these are all things that angels desire to understand. You have the salvation that the Prophets desired to learn,
"Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported to you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."
1 Peter 1:10–12, italics mine
Yes, I know that Peter was writing to the "strangers scattered throughout …" in the dispersion, meaning to Jews (1 Peter 1:1). But this passage applies no less to you than to them, because the message he wrote to his immediate audience of Jews was a generic message that applies also to those of us under the Mystery.
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Next month we will present another article by Dr. Martin that expands on the development of Judaism in the period between the completion of the Old Testament and the coming of Jesus Christ to this earth. It is titled "The Intertestamental Period." It shows the changes of religious laws, observances and traditions within Judaism were so extensive (primarily due to Hellenism) that Judaism at the time of Jesus was entirely different from the practices at the time of Nehemiah and Ezra the Prophet at the close of the Old Testament canon. This information from Jewish sources will help you understand why the Judaism criticized by Stephen, the apostles and later Paul, was a different unbiblical Judaism than we find in the Law of Moses. He goes into further detail than in this month’s article about the development of the so-called "oral tradition" that is a large part of the Judaism at the time of Jesus and the apostles, and is still a large part of Judaism today.
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ASK will be holding a small meeting near our Portland office on July 13th, 2002. The purpose of this meeting will be for some of you to meet Mr. Sielaff. He will give a short presentation about the future projects of ASK. Portions of this meeting will be videotaped and will be put on the ASK website some time after the meeting date. If you anticipate being in the area at that time, we invite you to express your interest in attending.
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We at ASK are greatly encouraged that your support thus far indicates that we will be able to continue producing important biblical studies each month by Dr. Martin. This is in addition to producing several books over the next few years. The first book is tentatively titled, Prophetic Books of the Old Testament by Ernest L. Martin. All primary material will be Dr. Martin’s. My function will be to edit the text to make it clear and concise, add footnotes in a regular format, and to typeset the books. Any information from me will be clearly indicated as separate from Dr. Martin’s ideas. This first book should be ready to go to press in about two months. If financial the support is not forthcoming, the production of these books will be slowed.
Your help is greatly appreciated as we operate as efficiently and as personally as possible. We constantly wonder at the open and great hearts that support the efforts at ASK to provide you with solid biblical material that will enrich the lives of the sons and daughters of God. After all you are our brothers and sisters in a sense more real than any of us can imagine.
Thank you for everything.
David W. Sielaff
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