Tag Archives: law

Which Law?

Not everyone who says to meThis article is the final of three articles in a series entitled “Living Kingdom”.  We will examine the importance of choosing to abide by YHVH’s commands as we consider the choices of individuals in Scripture.  The Good News (Gospel) is about YHVH’s kingdom.  Salvation is necessary for Kingdom Living, but it is a part of the process, not the goal.  We face the same challenges as the Israelites:  recognizing and obeying our King. 

Yeshua said, “If you love Me, obey My commandments” (John 14:15).  Misinformation abounds among present-day followers of Yeshua concerning what Yeshua meant by “commandments”.  It is time to clear away the cobwebs of lies and confusion that impede us from all that YHVH intends for us.

Sha’ul (Paul) discusses more than one type of law even though many Bible translations speak of all types as just “law”.  Sha’ul is talking mainly to Gentiles who were involved in pagan worship and were heavily influenced by the law of hasatan (Satan).  Sha’ul pointed out that they had been released from the law of sin and death and were now free to pursue the law of YHVH which leads to freedom and life.  It is helpful for us to use a translation that clearly distinguishes the different types of law, so all Scripture quoted in this article will be taken from New Living Translation (NLT).

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, YHVH clearly points out that we have two choices.  “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!   You can make this choice by loving [YHVH] your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.…”  The Israelites had lived in a pagan culture (Egypt) for over 400 years.  The choices given here were between YHVH’s law or hasatan’s law.  We all live in a world that has been influenced by the values of hasatan’s law which are sometimes called “worldly ways” or “living in the flesh”.

In the first chapter of Romans (1:18-32), we find mention of the two types of law.  First there is the law and order of YHVH expressed through His creation: They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God (v 18-20).  YHVH’s ways are evident throughout creation, but He has also given us His law in written form (Scripture) and has written it on our hearts.  The opposite of YHVH’s law, satanic law, is graphically described in verses 28-32:  Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.…  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.  If hasatan had his way, this is the only law any of us would know.  Therefore, he has worked throughout history to obscure and misconstrue YHVH’s law.

There has been confusion about the law since the time of the apostles.  First, some Jewish leaders were adding pre-requisites before receiving salvation.  We are rescued (salvation) from the dominion of hasatan through faith and even that faith is a gift from YHVH (Eph. 2:8).   Second, Constantine, in an effort to unite his empire, combined the sacred with the pagan and forbade keeping Torah under pain of death, thus distorting the Sabbaths and replacing the appointed times of YHVH.  Later, in the time of Martin Luther, grace was misconstrued as being the opposite of keeping law.

One dangerous heresy that has resulted today is the widespread belief that Yeshua’s followers are no longer under any type of law.  Grace reconciles us to YHVH and keeps us in relationship with YHVH when we transgress while unlearning hasatan’s ways and learning YHVH’s ways.  Grace is not a replacement for obedience to YHVH’s laws but rather the application of the atonement and covering of Yeshua when we repent of our sin.

Another myth today is that the laws of YHVH are too difficult to keep and therefore YHVH has done away with them.  There are 613 laws in the Torah and no one person is accountable for all of them.  Some are for priests only, others just for men, some for women only, and so on.  There are actually 1,050 commands in the New Testament!

Adam and Eve were influenced by hasatan and sinned against YHVH, subjecting themselves to hasatan.  Until hasatan distracted and confused them, they were capable of keeping YHVH’s law.  Now, we who are born under the dominion and influence of hasatan, struggle to keep YHVH’s law on our own.  Therefore, through Yeshua’s covering and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we can maintain our relationship with YHVH while we are being perfected.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil 2:13).

Yeshua rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for their false teachings and actions.  Under the guise of keeping Torah, the Pharisees were more often keeping their own man-made laws (Matt 23:15-30).  hhhahasMan-made law is the distortion of YHVH’s law thanks to humans who have disobeyed by adding to or subtracting from YHVH’s law (Deut 4:2).  Man-made law is actually satanic law in another guise.

Salvation is not a one-time event, but a process.  Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (Phil 2:12).  YHVH has not changed, neither has His law nor His expectations of us.

Law-Abiding Citizens?

Not everyone who says to meSince the time of Martin Luther, much emphasis has been put on salvation through Yeshua as a gift of YHVH’s grace and not something we merit.  This is true, but it is only a part of the truth.  Yeshua taught about salvation and stressed that reunification with YHVH was possible only through Yeshua Himself.  However, the majority of Yeshua’s teaching focused on how to live in the Kingdom of YHVH (Matt 5-7; 16:19, 18:3, 29-30, 19:23).  Salvation supplies us citizenship in YHVH’s kingdom, but as citizens we must abide by the rules and regulations of our King.  Citizens and visitors in all countries on earth are required to obey the rules of the country where they reside or visit.  What are the consequences of ignoring YHVH’s teaching and commandments?  What are the rewards?  Two books of Scripture (Judges and Ruth) present vivid pictures of the two choices and their consequences.  As we review the stories in these two books, let us look for insights into kingdom living and see how the Body of Messiah measures up.

The Book of Judges provides examples of those who made it to the Promised Land but who failed to follow YHVH’s explicit commands (Judges 2:10).  Let us begin with the story of Micah (chapter 17).  Micah stole 1100 silver pieces from his mother (violating Ex 20: 12, 15).  He overheard his mother putting a curse on the thief.  Micah confessed his sin and returned the money.  His mother used part of the money to “honor” YHVH by creating some idols.  Mixing pagan with sacred and is strictly forbidden by YHVH (Ex 20:3-5).   Micah hired a Levite to serve as a priest in his home.  Levites were to serve YHVH in the Tabernacle, not in individual homes (Num 18:1-2).  How do these choices compare to the development of the Body of Messiah? The church early on mixed pagan with sacred (Christmas and Easter replacing the seven feasts of YHVH), misappropriated funds (selling indulgences and relics), provided idols (statues), and created roles for “priests” that YHVH never authorized.  These practices continue today.  Corruption spreads quickly but is not easily eradicated.  Over time, the Israelites’ disobedience led to their expulsion from the land.  What will be the consequence of our continued disobedience in the kingdom of YHVH?

Next,  the tribe of Dan discovered Micah’s evil setup (Judges 18).  They not only failed to root out the evil, but they stole the idols and the Levite “priest” from Micah thus spreading evil throughout an entire tribe.   Even though YHVH raised up various judges to lead the people, their influence was short-lived.  Strong godly leaders have arisen throughout the history of Christianity.  Revivals have come and gone. Leaders can inspire, exhort and teach, but we make our own choices.  Each person is responsible for establishing and maintaining a relationship with YHVH by loving Him and obeying Him.  We are also responsible for exhorting each other in the Body of Messiah (Col 3:12-17) and rooting out evil from our midst.  Each of us will appear before the Judge (Matt 7:21-23).

Finally, there is the tragic tale of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19).  The Levite not only failed to protect his concubine, but he used her as a human shield to protect himself.  At that time travel in the Promised Land was no safer than in foreign lands (Judges 19:12).  Israel finally addressed the situation by almost eliminating an entire tribe, not to mention the loss of life in the other tribes.  The first two days Israel fought with the tribe of Benjamin (where the rape and murder had taken place), the other tribes suffered heavy losses.  Was this perhaps punishment for not purging evil from their midst earlier?  On the third day, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and almost totally destroyed.   A lot of people were killed, but was the evil eradicated?  Being a member of a particular congregation or denomination in the Body of Messiah does not guarantee that we will be righteous before the Judge.  The many incidences of corruption, immorality, etc. within the Body of Messiah today bear witness to our failure to purge evil from our midst.  How many people have sought to know Yeshua and His Father within the Body of Messiah only to be discouraged or even destroyed?  What are we doing to purge evil from our midst?

The book of Ruth provides strong examples of Kingdom of heaven living. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz lived during the same time period as the book of Judges, but their choices brought blessings to themselves and others.  They represent the remnant, those in each generation who truly follow YHVH’s ways, the few chosen from among the many who are called (Matt 22:14).  The climax of the story takes place in the springtime during the barley harvest, the time of Pesach.  Boaz not only followed Torah (Lev 23:22) by allowing Ruth, a poor foreigner, to glean from his fields, but he provided protection and advice for her, unlike the Levite did for his concubine.  We are to welcome the “foreigners” to our faith who seek to know, love and serve YHVH.  We are called to make disciples of them, providing advice, mentoring and protection, not bias and judgment.  Ruth wholeheartedly sought to serve YHVH and her new family.  She was willing to follow the advice of both Naomi and Boaz.  We have much to learn from each other.  Are we proud and obstinate or humble and yielding?  Boaz followed the commandments of YHVH in offering to the kinsman redeemer first in line the opportunity to do his duty.  When the first kinsman redeemer refused, Boaz assumed his assigned duty.  Ruth and Boaz were harvesting barley; we are to harvest souls.  (John 4:35-36).  While bloodlines are important and respected by YHVH, they are no guarantee for eternity.  Neither is the fact that we claim to accept Yeshua as our Savior.  The litmus test for all of us is faithfulness to YHVH and His Torah.

The prevailing excuse given in Judges is that Israel had no king.  Actually, they did have a King who is Spirit, but they failed to recognize Him.  He later came to earth as a human and many still failed to recognize Him.  Our King, who is both YHVH and human resides in heaven, but also in our hearts.  Do we recognize Him as King?  Do we follow His commands?

Law-Abiding Citizens?

Not everyone who says to meThis article is the first of three articles in a series entitled “Living Kingdom”.  We will examine the importance of choosing to abide by YHVH’s commands as we consider the choices of individuals in Scripture.  The Good News (Gospel) is about YHVH’s kingdom.  Salvation is necessary for Kingdom Living, but it is a part of the process, not the goal.  We face the same challenges as the Israelites:  recognizing and obeying our King.     

Since the time of Martin Luther, much emphasis has been put on salvation through Yeshua as a gift of YHVH’s grace and not something we merit.  This is true, but it is only a part of the truth.  Yeshua taught about salvation and stressed that reunification with YHVH was possible only through Yeshua Himself.  However, the majority of Yeshua’s teaching focused on how to live in the Kingdom of YHVH (Matt 5-7; 16:19, 18:3, 29-30, 19:23).  Salvation supplies us citizenship in YHVH’s kingdom, but as citizens we must abide by the rules and regulations of our King.  Citizens and visitors in all countries on earth are required to obey the rules of the country where they reside or visit.  What are the consequences of ignoring YHVH’s teaching and commandments?  What are the rewards?  Two books of Scripture (Judges and Ruth) present vivid pictures of the two choices and their consequences.  As we review the stories in these two books, let us look for insights into kingdom living and see how the Body of Messiah measures up.

The Book of Judges provides examples of those who made it to the Promised Land but who failed to follow YHVH’s explicit commands (Judges 2:10).  Let us begin with the story of Micah (chapter 17).  Micah stole 1100 silver pieces from his mother (violating Ex 20: 12, 15).  He overheard his mother putting a curse on the thief.  Micah confessed his sin and returned the money.  His mother used part of the money to “honor” YHVH by creating some idols.  Mixing pagan with sacred and is strictly forbidden by YHVH (Ex 20:3-5).   Micah hired a Levite to serve as a priest in his home.  Levites were to serve YHVH in the Tabernacle, not in individual homes (Num 18:1-2).  How do these choices compare to the development of the Body of Messiah? The church early on mixed pagan with sacred (Christmas and Easter replacing the seven feasts of YHVH), misappropriated funds (selling indulgences and relics), provided idols (statues), and created roles for “priests” that YHVH never authorized.  These practices continue today.  Corruption spreads quickly but is not easily eradicated.  Over time, the Israelites’ disobedience led to their expulsion from the land.  What will be the consequence of our continued disobedience in the kingdom of YHVH?

Next,  the tribe of Dan discovered Micah’s evil setup (Judges 18).  They not only failed to root out the evil, but they stole the idols and the Levite “priest” from Micah thus spreading evil throughout an entire tribe.   Even though YHVH raised up various judges to lead the people, their influence was short-lived.  Strong godly leaders have arisen throughout the history of Christianity.  Revivals have come and gone. Leaders can inspire, exhort and teach, but we make our own choices.  Each person is responsible for establishing and maintaining a relationship with YHVH by loving Him and obeying Him.  We are also responsible for exhorting each other in the Body of Messiah (Col 3:12-17) and rooting out evil from our midst.  Each of us will appear before the Judge (Matt 7:21-23).

Finally, there is the tragic tale of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19).  The Levite not only failed to protect his concubine, but he used her as a human shield to protect himself.  At that time travel in the Promised Land was no safer than in foreign lands (Judges 19:12).  Israel finally addressed the situation by almost eliminating an entire tribe, not to mention the loss of life in the other tribes.  The first two days Israel fought with the tribe of Benjamin (where the rape and murder had taken place), the other tribes suffered heavy losses.  Was this perhaps punishment for not purging evil from their midst earlier?  On the third day, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and almost totally destroyed.   A lot of people were killed, but was the evil eradicated?  Being a member of a particular congregation or denomination in the Body of Messiah does not guarantee that we will be righteous before the Judge.  The many incidences of corruption, immorality, etc. within the Body of Messiah today bear witness to our failure to purge evil from our midst.  How many people have sought to know Yeshua and His Father within the Body of Messiah only to be discouraged or even destroyed?  What are we doing to purge evil from our midst?

The book of Ruth provides strong examples of Kingdom of heaven living. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz lived during the same time period as the book of Judges, but their choices brought blessings to themselves and others.  They represent the remnant, those in each generation who truly follow YHVH’s ways, the few chosen from among the many who are called (Matt 22:14).  The climax of the story takes place in the springtime during the barley harvest, the time of Pesach.  Boaz not only followed Torah (Lev 23:22) by allowing Ruth, a poor foreigner, to glean from his fields, but he provided protection and advice for her, unlike the Levite did for his concubine.  We are to welcome the “foreigners” to our faith who seek to know, love and serve YHVH.  We are called to make disciples of them, providing advice, mentoring and protection, not bias and judgment.  Ruth wholeheartedly sought to serve YHVH and her new family.  She was willing to follow the advice of both Naomi and Boaz.  We have much to learn from each other.  Are we proud and obstinate or humble and yielding?  Boaz followed the commandments of YHVH in offering to the kinsman redeemer first in line the opportunity to do his duty.  When the first kinsman redeemer refused, Boaz assumed his assigned duty.  Ruth and Boaz were harvesting barley; we are to harvest souls.  (John 4:35-36).  While bloodlines are important and respected by YHVH, they are no guarantee for eternity.  Neither is the fact that we claim to accept Yeshua as our Savior.  The litmus test for all of us is faithfulness to YHVH and His Torah.

The prevailing excuse given in Judges is that Israel had no king.  Actually, they did have a King who is Spirit, but they failed to recognize Him.  He later came to earth as a human and many still failed to recognize Him.  Our King, who is both YHVH and human resides in heaven, but also in our hearts.  Do we recognize Him as King?  Do we follow His commands?

Does God care about Genes or Jeans?

Foreigner keeping TorahIn our recent blog series, Nancy and I made a strong case from the Scriptures that Torah (instruction) has not been done away, but is still just as valid in today’s world as it was in the Temple sacrifice period before Yeshua’s first coming.  In this week’s blog, I would like to focus on to whom YHVH’s Torah applies, and explain why Torah is intended for every person on this Earth, Jew and non-Jew.

In Romans 9, Sha’ul explains to his mostly non-Jewish audience why some of the Israelites are not being saved and brought into God’s Kingdom, while many people who are not Israelites by birth are being redeemed and brought into the body of Messiah by faith.  “Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted, though Abraham had other children, too’.  This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children”. (Rom 9:6-8)

In the rest of this passage, Sha’ul goes on in Verse 23 to say that God shows mercy to those to whom He desires to show mercy (i.e. He draws them to the truth of Yeshua as the Messiah) and hardens the hearts of others so that they will not listen to the truth.  He then quotes from Hosea, speaking of how the Gentiles (non-Jews from the nations) were “not a people” but now YHVH loves them and calls them His children.  In Verse 24, Sha’ul says that the ones God selects as His children are taken from both the original descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as those who are “gentiles” (not descended biologically from the fathers of Israel).  He also quotes Isaiah 10:22-23 in saying that only a remnant of Israel will be saved: “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved”.

Since we have established in our previous blogs that the Torah is for all of Abba Father’s children to observe, then the agreement between Old and New Testament Scriptures becomes crystal clear.  Sha’ul quotes Isaiah once again in Romans 10:20 in making his point that the Gentiles will be drawn to YHVH, the true God of Creation, and become part of the “Commonwealth of Israel”: I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me” (Isa 65:1).   And again in Romans 10:21 he repeats that many of Israel’s genetic descendants will turn away from YHVH and reject His Messiah: “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Isa 65:2).

The real clincher for me in terms of making the case that YHVH wants to draw all people into His covenant is in Isaiah 56:6-7: “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”.  YHVH is clearly speaking of the non-Israelite (Gentile) people of the nations whom He will accept as part of His family, no less His children than the native Israelites.  In the preceding verse (Isa 56:5), YHVH also says: ”Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off“.

In summary, it is clear that YHVH accepts all of His created humans as His children, whether they are genetic descendants of Israel or foreigners from pagan nations, as long as they keep His Sabbaths and are faithful to His covenant.  This is essentially a restatement of the Torah, as these are YHVH’s key instructions to His people: to keep His Sabbaths (which include His feasts) and live by his Kingdom laws.  It all boils down to Yeshua’s words from Matthew 6:33, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – this is the essence of His Torah, where He teaches us how to do this – how can we do any less if we truly love Yehovah our Creator, Lord and Redeemer?  In the nest installment of this 2-part series, I will cover the “Jeans” part of the “Genes or Jeans” equation.

How can We Love?

if you love Me keep me commandmentsIn the first blog of this series, Nancy explained why Torah is still valid in YHVH’s Kingdom on Earth today.  Last week’s blog talked about becoming all that YHVH intends for us to be in this life, including following the loving instructions He gave in His Torah.  This week, I would like to show you why faulty Scripture translation and unclear terminology can confuse us and distort our perception of the truth.

Many Christian churches and denominations use Ephesians 2:8 as their banner verse and state at the core of their doctrines that we are “saved by grace and not by works, lest anyone should boast”.  In many cases, they have taken these words out of context and to such an extreme that they no longer believe we should follow the law (Torah) as that would mean that we are trying to earn our salvation by our works.

However, when we remember that Torah is better translated as instruction than law, we realize that Torah was something God created to help guide us through life in a more joyful, fulfilling way, not something He designed as a set of laws to burden or frustrate us.  Using a more accurate translation of Ephesians 2 (CJB), and moving down from Verse 8 to Verse 10, we see that YHVH has a purpose for our lives that goes far beyond salvation.  Verse 10 says: “For we are His workmanship, as we have been created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them, the good works”.

From this verse and many others in the Scriptures, we know that these good works relate to following God’s will and keeping His commandments (Torah).  Remember what Yeshua said: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  And what are Yeshua’s commandments?  They are the same as Abba Father’s commandments (the Torah), as Yeshua said He only does what the Father does.  We also know that Yeshua did not do away with the Torah, which Nancy explained well in the first blog of this series – she paraphrased Matthew 5:18 “…until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the Torah will pass away”.

She did a great job of explaining why the Torah is still in effect, but she asked me to go a little deeper into the history of the Scripture translations and interpretations.  To point out one of the many areas of the New Testament where there are glaring differences among different translations, let’s look at Romans 10:4, which is often cited as justification for the law being done away with.  In the original King James Version, this verse reads “For Christ (Messiah) is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth”.  This indeed could be (and has been) interpreted to mean that when Messiah Yeshua came on the scene, he replaced the law so that it is now obsolete.  However, let’s look at a Messianic translation (the Complete Jewish Bible) which has re-translated the ancient scrolls from a Jewish cultural and religious perspective.  Here is the CJB translation of Romans 10:4: “For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts”.  This sheds a very different light on this passage.

Earlier in Romans Chapter 10, Sha’ul was talking about how Israel had set up their own system of righteousness, based on what they referred to as the “Oral Law”, but which was actually created by Rabbis who interpreted the Torah based on their own point-of-view and biases.  What Sha’ul is saying in Verses 1-4 of Romans 10 is that the Jewish people (directed by the leaders) had made up their own form of righteousness, whereas Yeshua came to show them the true righteousness they could have by following Him.

Now we can see the vast differences in doctrine from one translation to another; but the burning question is: why are they so different in their spiritual concepts and principles?  I certainly do not profess to be an authoritative expert on Bible translations or exegesis, so I have consulted true scholars in this area.  In  “The Jewish Gospel of John”, author Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg helps us dig deeper into the meaning of John 1:17, which in the ESV says: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.  From his studies, Eli gives us new insights into the dichotomy of law and grace as we know it today from mainstream Christian doctrines.  He says that up until the time of the Reformation, Christian leaders debated among themselves the importance of keeping the Torah (law).  However, when the Protestant Christian movement started, they wanted to emphasize the truth that salvation comes to the believer by faith alone, and not by their works.

The reason for this at the time was because they wanted to contrast this new doctrine with the Catholic dogma that burdened members with so many requirements that it seemed almost impossible to be truly forgiven from their sins.  This was very similar to the religious leaders at the time of Yeshua, who weighed the people down with so many of their man-made laws that they could never hope to be truly righteous before YHVH.  Mr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg says that the Protestants were so insistent about their new doctrines that many Scriptures (both in the Gospels and in Sha’ul’s letters) were actually re-translated into very different interpretations than were originally intended.  About the passage in John 1:17, Eli says that it would be more accurate to translate it as: “For the Torah was given through Moses and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.  The obvious difference is the addition of “and” between the two phrases, now giving the meaning that Torah came through Moses, and Yeshua has now given us grace to keep the Torah, because He has taken away the penalty of the Torah by forgiving our sins and sending them off into the desert to be forever forgotten.

If we were to summarize what Yeshua added to our ability to keep the Torah in one word, it would be “love”. In teachings such as the “Sermon on the Mount”, he clarified and explained the Torah so it would be easier to understand and follow.  And then with His incredible sacrifice on the Cross, He saved us from all our sins and set us free from bondage to hasatan.  As it says in Scripture, He first loved us, so let us love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15).

How Can We Live?

The key to your lifeIn last week’s blog we examined why Torah is still valid.  This week, I would like to add some additional thoughts and clarification on this subject.  Understanding what YHVH expects of us is important.  Some may argue that YHVH loves us no matter what.  That is true, but just as parents love their children, they still have household rules and expectations.  It is more than just obeying YHVH; it is about becoming all that He intends for us.

Peter and I became aware of our Hebrew roots and Torah about twelve years ago.  At the time, we were in our late forties and our children were all grown.  We attended church regularly, were involved in Bible study, and participated in various outreach programs.  We considered ourselves to be mature Christians.  When we began seriously looking into our Hebrew roots and Torah, we realized that we were finally at the grownups’ table.  It was an epiphany for us.  We were finally off the milk and into the meat (1 Cor 3:21).

Faulty translation and unclear terminology can confuse us and distort our perception of the truth.  Peter will expound more fully on these topics in next week’s blog.  For now, however, it is important that we know that YHVH’s purpose in establishing His kingdom on earth is to have relationship with us.  Torah is more than just law; it is instruction and guidelines as well.  YHVH’s desire is to have relationship with us and His Torah shows us how to draw ever closer to Him.  Those who think there is no need for law, ignore it and drift away from YHVH.  Those who try to keep the law “perfectly” do not understand that the Torah is meant to “perfect” us; that is, to make us whole and complete.  They focus on the letter of the law and also drift from YHVH.   The word “perfect” in Hebrew is shalom shalomShalom means wholeness and completeness, reaching full potential.

YHVH calls us to be holy, just as He is holy (Lev 20:26).  To be holy means to be set apart from those who do not follow YHVH.  Ultimately, we are to be set apart from demons and anyone else who is adamant about operating in the kingdom of darkness.  The Israelites were called to be set apart.  They were to follow Torah and be a light to the nations.  For the past 2,000 years, people from other nations have been called to follow Yeshua (the living Torah) and have been grafted in to the olive tree known as Israel.  They, too, are to be set apart and learn how to live in YHVH’s kingdom.

Romans 11:17 can be a touchy subject for Jews and non-Jews alike. We are all called to follow and obey YHVH, regardless of our ethnicity (Gal 3, Col 3 CJB).  YHVH keeps His promises.  If He has made promises that are specifically for physical members of the twelve tribes of Israel, He will keep them.  If He has made promises to anyone else, He will keep those promises also.  It is helpful to remember that we are spirit-beings who reside in a physical body (James 2:26, 1 Thess 5:23).  Galatians 3:26-29 CJB points out that our trust and obedience are what matters; not our ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status.

It is crucial that we always keep in mind the big picture.  YHVH is working through the process of salvation and kingdom building on earth that began either before or at creation (Rev. 13:8).  Everything in Scripture is about that process.  YHVH reveals only what is necessary at each phase of the process since YHVH’s enemy, hasatan, is ever vigilant about destroying or interrupting YHVH’s work (John 10:10, 1 Pet 5:8).  YHVH’s kingdom is already established in heaven and hasatan was exiled from YHVH’s heavenly kingdom for trying to take it over.  Now hasatan is trying to do the same with YHVH’s kingdom on earth.

YHVH created the earth and its inhabitants to be a reflection of His heavenly kingdom.   It has always been about establishing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Humans are created in YHVH’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26).  However, we are fallen since the sin of Adam and Eve.  Therefore, YHVH often has to work through and around our ignorance and stubbornness.  We, in our limitedness, tend to lose sight of the big picture and focus only on the latest phase of YHVH’s plan.  As more of His plan and process are revealed, we tend to think that anything that came before is automatically obsolete.  If we are capable of taking one verse of Scripture out of context, then we are certainly capable of taking one action of YHVH’s out of context.  YHVH is not doing away with former phases; rather, He is building on to former phases.

In summary, our focus is to be on loving and obeying YHVH, so that we can become all that YHVH intends for us to be in His kingdom.  YHVH is in control and will keep all His promises.  As always with YHVH, He will exceed even our wildest expectations.  Dayenu!  Now that is truly living!

How Can We Sin?

YHVH's Kingdom

Sometimes we forget that the physical world was created to reflect the spiritual world.  For example, do you realize that the earthly Tabernacle was a copy of the heavenly Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-5 NLT)?   Likewise, YHVH shared his Torah on earth so that earth’s inhabitants could reflect heaven’s inhabitants.  Torah has not been replaced either in heaven or on earth.  Yeshua Himself stated that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the Torah will pass away (Matt. 5:18).  Yeshua’s earthly kingdom will be a reflection of the heavenly kingdom.

The old covenant was replaced, not because the laws were faulty, but because the people were faulty (Hebrews 8:9).  The first covenant did not work out because the people did not keep their side of the bargain.  In other words, they did not obey YHVH’s laws.  If the law was faulty or obsolete, why would YHVH want to put it on our minds and write it on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10)?  YHVH was not teaching the people a set of random laws just for the earth, but was teaching the people how His kingdom operates in heaven.

Yeshua taught us much about the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5-7).  The gospel of Matthew depicts Yeshua as King just as the gospel of Mark depicts Yeshua as servant.  He came the first time to serve us; He will return to reign as our King.  Yeshua made mention of the new covenant (Luke 22:20), but the point was that His shed blood is the payment for our sins.  We can be forgiven and restored to YHVH, if we ask.

After being exiled in Babylon, Jewish leaders and teachers determined that people were unable to keep Torah and set about making a “fence” around it, to ensure that Torah would not be broken.  They were attempting to fix something only YHVH can fix.  The “fence” focused on the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.  The “fence” consisted of man-made laws that added to and subtracted from Torah in direct violation of YHVH’s command (Deut 4:2, 12:32).  In fact, by the time Yeshua came to earth the first time, there was more than one “fence” in place.  Each additional fence drew people further from the Torah, and consequently further from YHVH.  Yeshua argued with the Pharisees about the “fences,” not about the TorahYeshua violated the “fences” but He never violated TorahYeshua is the living Torah and He is not divided against Himself.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about the new covenant, not the new Torah.  The Torah is still in place; it is the guilt and condemnation that have been removed through the shed blood of Yeshua.  The law is no longer just written on stone, but is written on hearts and minds.  Perhaps the stone represents the stony hearts that kept turning away from YHVH.  Now that we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, our hearts need no longer be stony, but instead be yielded to YHVH.

There are many Christians today who firmly believe that the Torah is no longer relevant.  However, if they are not following YHVH’s law, then what are they doing?  Where there is no law, people will create a law for themselves, for there is an inherent need for order and structure.  We are created in the image of YHVH, Who is the epitome of order.  Do we truly think we can improve on YHVH’s law?

Dear Brothers and Sisters who insist that Torah is no longer in effect, how is it that we are still capable of sin?  The definition of sin is “a transgression of the law of God” (Merriam-Webster).  If Torah is not God’s law, then what is?  If there is no law, then there can be no sin.  If there is no law, then there will be no order or structure, only chaos.

Romans 7:4-6 (NLT) states:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.  When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

We are dead to the law only in the fact that we no longer bear the punishment for our transgressions because Yeshua bore our punishment for us.  In that way, our focus can be on obeying the Spirit of the law.  When we sin, we can ask YHVH for forgiveness and receive forgiveness through the blood of Yeshua.  Those who sin and do not ask forgiveness are still held accountable for their sins.  So, the difference is not in the law, but in who bears the penalty for transgressing the law.

On our own, we are not able to keep the law perfectly.  However, we are no longer on our own.  We have access to the fullness of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to obey the law as YHVH requires.  When we stray from the Spirit and sin, our guilt and condemnation are covered by the blood of Yeshua.  When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, sealed and perfectly able to understand and follow Torah.  Where we still need Yeshua’s atonement is for our souls (minds) which need to be renewed (Rom 12:2).

YHVH is still King in heaven and His laws are still intact in heaven.  Those who reside in heaven obey YHVH’s every command in the spiritual realm.  In the physical realm, that is, the earth, citizens of YHVH’s kingdom are still working to fully reflect the Kingdom of Heaven.  Even in our imperfections, we can, through Yeshua’s atoning blood, stay connected to YHVH as we “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12 NLT).  One day, earth will be the perfect reflection of heaven as YHVH has always intended.

Living Torah

Torah on HeartOn this feast of Shavuot (“weeks” in Hebrew), we celebrate both the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and the re-issuing of the Torah in human hearts as the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Yeshua.  I am writing this blog on Shavuot and will post it today rather than on Friday.  Hopefully this article will clear up misunderstandings about the work that YHVH has planned from the beginning of creation.

The English word for the feast of Shavuot is Pentecost which means “fifty”.   YHVH told the Israelites to count seven weeks (Shavuot) and one day to remember the time He dwelled with them while they were in the wilderness.

The word Pentecost originates from the Greek “pentēkostē and means fiftieth day.  Either way, it comes out to the same amount of time.  However, the similarity between Christian and Jewish perspective ends there.

As I browsed various websites discussing Pentecost, I discovered that many Christians believe that Pentecost was a brand new event totally unconnected to anything YHVH had done before.  There seems to be no awareness of a much older celebration known as Shavuot.  On the other hand, as I visited Jewish websites, there was no recognition of the work that YHVH continues to do in humans through His Holy Spirit.  This lack of knowledge and understanding has led to some grave errors in both Christianity and Judaism.

Let us examine the Christian perspective first.  Many Christians mistakenly believe that the “church” was born on Pentecost.  They do not understand the background that YHVH began His kingdom building long ago and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a continuation of this work, not a whole new idea.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the next step in the process YHVH started long ago.  In other words, YHVH was not “scrapping” His work with the Israelites (Jews) and starting over with other people.  This is evident by the fact that the Holy Spirit was first given to Jewish followers of Yeshua (Acts 2).  What was the purpose of this outpouring?  To empower and perfect us in keeping the Torah (instruction or “law” of YHVH).  We must be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:14-16).

There is confusion among Christians concerning the writings of Paul, especially his letter to the Romans.  Much confusion arises from faulty translation and lack of background knowledge.  In Romans 1:5, Paul tells us Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell [all people] everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name (NLT, emphasis mine).  How can we obey YHVH if there is no law to follow?  YHVH is building a kingdom, not a church (Dan 2:44, Matt 3:2, 4:17).  It is true that we are not saved by our own efforts (Eph 2:8), but it is also true that once we are admitted as citizens into YHVH’s kingdom, we are to obey His laws.  Romans 2:5 states, But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  Christians have mistakenly generalized YHVH’s mercy to mean that He not only did away with the guilt from our sin, but that He also did away with His Torah, thereby eliminating any possibility to transgress His law.   We no longer are subject to death when we sin (disobey YHVH’s Torah) if we repent.  In Hebrew, the word for repent is teshuvah which means turning back to YHVH.  We do not merely ask for forgiveness when we sin, and then keep on sinning, knowing we can ask forgiveness each time.  We are to literally turn ourselves away from sin and return to YHVH and His ways.  How can we do this?  That is where the Holy Spirit comes in to empower us to do what YHVH requires of us.  When we rely on the Holy Spirit, we have our own personal teacher, showing us how to be obedient, convicting us when we stray, and empowering us to follow YHVH’s ways (John 14:26, 16:13).

 On the other end of the spectrum, those who follow Judaism understand that the Torah was first given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai after YHVH delivered them from slavery to the Egyptians.  They celebrate this giving of Torah (instruction), because YHVH is teaching them how He intends for us to live.  Many Jews today are diligent about following Torah.  However, they are relying on themselves and their own efforts are enough to make them right with YHVH.  They do not realize that they need to first be reconciled to YHVH through Yeshua. 

 Jews who do not recognize that Yeshua is their long-awaited Messiah, believe that Yeshua did not keep Torah and taught others to do the same.  They are confusing Torah with the extra writings and teachings of generations of rabbis who have added to and subtracted from Torah in direct violation of YHVH’s command (Deut 4:2).  Yeshua refused to obey man-made traditions, especially when they went against the true intention of Torah (Matt 9:1-14, Luke 13:15-16).  The purpose of Sabbath is to put aside working for our own gain to spend quality time with YHVH.  Yeshua did His Father’s work of kingdom building.  Healing those who are broken is so important, that it can be done even on Shabbat.

 Messianic believers hopefully recognize that the Torah is still valid and that the Holy Spirit is very much needed in order to carry out our Father’s commands.  They recognize Yeshua as the embodiment of the true Torah and refer to Him as the living Torah.  In Matthew chapters 5-7, Yeshua not only reinforces the validity of Torah, but raises the bar.  Why would he raise the bar when people already had enough trouble in obeying Torah?  Yeshua knew that He would be sending the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.  When Yeshua returns He will still require us to follow Torah.  We will have a new Temple so that we can fulfill all the requirements.  He will rule with an iron rod (Ps 2:9, Rev 2:27. 12:5).  Until then, we welcome the Holy Spirit’s help as we follow the instructions of our loving Father and King.