This week's Torah portion could be considered the centerpiece or cornerstone of the Torah, and perhaps of the entire Tanakh or even the Bible. Even though it contains the Ten Commandments, it tells us about the calling of Israel which influences the rest of the Scriptures including the entire New Covenant Scriptures.
In Exodus 19:3-6 we read:
Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Israel is called to be a nation of priests and a holy nation. This means that among the nations, Israel is called to be a priesthood and spiritual leaders of the world. To appropriate this calling, Israel must be walking in the ways of the Lord. Later in the prophets, we read that Israel is called to be a "servant of the Lord" (see passages such as Isaiah 41:8; 42:19; 43:10; & 44:1). Throughout the Scriptures we read that Israel continued to fail in appropriating this calling because of sinfulness. The covenant is unbreakable, but the appropriation of the calling is impossible without a heartfelt obedience. The prophets warn Israel of impending doom unless they repent. Those words continue to be true. The Jewish people continue in their calling as the chosen people and still experience the ramifications of rejecting the way of the Lord.
The prophets remind us of a glorious future of spiritual leadership among the nations, but it can only come when God has purged the sinfulness from our people. This will come when the Messiah returns. Passages such as Jeremiah 9:7 and Zechariah 13:8–9 describe this purging or refining process. Jeremiah 30:1–7 and Micah 5:10–13 are also helpful. Then it will be the remnant of Israel who will serve as the messianic people among the redeemed nations.
When we think about ourselves as a called people living in Messiah Yeshua, we also need refinement as a people. God desires to turn the world upside down through the community of Messiah followers around the world. But this requires much self-examination and repentance, as well as a change of lifestyle for many of us. The refining process can be difficult, but it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. God will use many different situations to serve as the refining process. It can come via persecution or trying circumstances of all kinds. Therefore, whenever any of these kinds of circumstances comes our way, let us ask how we can be refined by it. We read in 2Timothy 2:20–21, “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
May we be vessels for honor and useful to the master. Just as a surgeon must have sterilized instruments, so we must be cleansed instruments for the master’s use. May we be refined vessels for the service of God.