WFT- proscribe

03 July 2010

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for February 25th was proscribe.

1 : outlaw 2 : to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful

They provided this information regarding the origins of the word:

"Proscribe" and "prescribe" each have a Latin-derived prefix that means "before" attached to the verb "scribe" (from "scribere," meaning "to write"). Yet the two words have very distinct, often nearly opposite meanings. Why? In a way, you could say it's the law. In the 15th and 16th centuries both words had legal implications. To "proscribe" was to publish the name of a person who had been condemned, outlawed, or banished. To "prescribe" meant "to lay down a rule," including legal rules or orders.

Proscriptions that glorify G-d and benefit us

When we as Messianic believers in Yeshua proclaim to the world that we are "Torah observant" or (perhaps more accurately) "Torah pursuant" then we are living lives that are a testimony to everyone around us regarding what is "lawful" and what is "unlawful" in the eyes of G-d.

This is an awesome responsibility and, as such, G-d defines great consequences for violating that responsibility.  Consider the fact that violation of the G-d's holy Sabbath day warrants death according to the Law (Exodus 31:14-15).  The person of Isra'el who violates the Sabbath declares to the world that it is lawful to do so in G-d's eyes.  Such a lie is removed from the community of Isra'el by the death of such a person.

G-d has graciously provided many commandments that proscribe certain behaviors that are contrary to His nature and are harmful and unlawful for us:

  • theft
  • adultery
  • murder

Nobody questions the benefits of following these commandments.  Oh, we might engage in a bit of logomachy regarding the meaning of those words in specific situations but there is general agreement that the commandments forbidding these things were for G-d's glory and for our benefit.

What about G-d's proscription of certain types of relationships (in Leviticus 18, 20)? Aren't they also given for G-d's glory and for our benefit?

What about the commandments where G-d proscribes certain types of animals for use as food (see Leviticus 11)? Aren't those commandments also given for G-d's glory and for our benefit in the same measure as the prohibitions against theft, adultery, and murder?

Yes!  They are!

G-d sets the boundaries in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6) and shepherds us as the good shepherd (John 10:11-15).  Will we call "good" what G-d has said is "bad" and will we call "light" what is "dark"  as in Isaiah 5:20? Will we call "lawful" what G-d has declared to be "unlawful"?

May it never be!

The words of men

Another area of concern is the weight to which Messianics give the words of men.

  • Some Messianics desire to follow the pattern of Orthodox Judaism in their observance of the commandments.  That is their choice.
  • Other Messianics seek to follow the pattern of modern teachers and pundits.  That, too, is their choice.
  • Still other Messianics seek only to adhere to G-d's Word without regard for any teachings outside of Scripture.  That is their choice.

Where each of these groups can go wrong is in declaring their way to be the right and only way.  By proscribing any way other than their own they are taking the words and teachings of men (be it rabbis, teachers, scholars, or themselves) and escalating it to the level of G-d's Word which proscribes certain behaviors.

For example, Scripture commands us to "remember the sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).  It is to be a sabbath of complete rest on which we should do no work (Exodus 31:15).  Scripture does not give us much in the way of definition for "work".  For any group to proscribe a certain activity on the Sabbath outside of what is explicitly described in Scripture is to add to what is given in that Scripture.

That is not to say that a community cannot come to some agreement about how they will keep the commandments.  One community says they will not drive on the Sabbath.  Another community says they will drive on the Sabbath to facilitate fellowship.  These are agreements within communities about how to keep the Sabbath not about whether or not the Sabbath should be kept.  If someone violates the agreement they aren't sinning because they have not violated what G-d has said but what men have said.

In all that we do may we be gracious and merciful in our actions and speech towards others.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

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