Tag Archives: Torah

Clean Reflections

This is the eleventh article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH [Yehovah].  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series. YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Our King reigns from His throne and also pronounces judgment from there. 

This article focuses on the significance of the Bronze Laver (basin) that YHVH instructed His people to build and place between the Brazen Altar of sacrifice and the Tabernacle. In Exodus 30:18, YHVH [Yehovah] said to Moshe: “You are to make a basin of bronze, with a base of bronze, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it” [CJB].

In verses 18-21, YHVH explains to Moshe how this basin is to filled with water and used by the priests for washing before they come into His presence and before they bring sacrifices to the Altar: “Aaron and his sons will wash their hands and feet there when they enter the tent of meeting — they are to wash with water, so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by burning an offering for Yehovah, they are to wash their hands and feet, so that they will not die. This is to be a perpetual law for them through all their generations”.

To help the priests see their dirty places more clearly, YHVH also instructed the Israelites to embed mirrors into the bronze laver: “Bezalel made the bronze washbasin and its bronze stand from bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle” (Ex 38:8).  Since YHVH wants us to come before Him without spot or blemish (as in Ephesians 5:27), the bronze mirrors from the women helped the priests to clean up those physical spots that would keep them from full immersion into YHVH’s presence.

These instructions that YHVH gave to His people show the importance He places on purity.  When His people come before Him to minister to Him, they are to be “clean”.  So, what does Yehovah mean by clean in this context?  He has given us many examples of cleanliness in the physical world, such as His instructions to the priests to wash themselves before coming into the Tabernacle or Temple, for His people to eat clean instead of unclean foods, and to cleanse ourselves after touching a dead body or being healed of leprosy.

However, these are only physical object lessons that point to His more crucial message that we need to cleanse and purify our hearts and minds before coming into His presence, as in Psalm 24:4: “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up their soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully”.  The importance to YHVH of purity of hearts and hands is also shown in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” and James 4:8: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.  After David committed his most flagrant sins, he cried out to God in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me”.

Aaron and his sons were the appointed priests for the whole nation of Israel, but we know that all of YHVH’s children are to be priests ministering before Him, as in Exodus 19:6: “And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation”.  Yeshua said in Revelation 5:10: “And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God”.  We know that we are to come before YHVH’s throne and into His presence, as in these Scriptures in Hebrews:

  • Hebrews 4:16 – “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most”; and
  • Hebrews 10:22 – “…let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him…

Now that we understand that we are to be priests before YHVH, be cleansed, and come into His presence, how do we go about cleansing ourselves?  First, look at the second part of the verse from Hebrews 10:22: “For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Messiah’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water”.  While it is true that Yeshua’s blood has saved us from our sins, we still need to be cleansed and made holy by “the washing of water by the word(Eph 5:26)

In James 1:25 [NLT] it says: “But if you look carefully into the perfect law [Torah] that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it”.  So, YHVH says that we are to study the Torah (the Word of YHVH) and follow what it says.  The living Word is Yeshua.  As it says in John 1, verses 1 and 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us…”.

The Word of God (both written and Living) is our water of cleansing – it is His will for us to spend time every day soaking in His Word, being transformed by the renewing of our minds, and being cleansed in our souls so that we can constantly draw closer and closer to Abba and His precious Son, Yeshua.

YHVH’s Sanctuary

yhvh-is-a-shelterWhat did Yeshua mean when He said in His Olivet discourse: “as it was in the days of Noach” (Matt 24:39)?  In this and other Re(new)ed Covenant Scriptures (2 Pet 2; 2 Thess 2), the authors speak of a future world of great wickedness, such as has not been known since the times of Noach and Sodom.  These Scriptures also speak of YHVH’s judgment on those who are deceived by the lies of hasatan and refuse to turn to the truth of the Creator and Redeemer of the world, Yehovah Elohim.

They also speak of YHVH our Deliverer saving and protecting His people during times of past trials or judgment:

  • Noach and all his family were divinely saved from destruction by the protection of the Ark (2 Pet 2:5). Note that the Hebrew word for ark (tevah) not only means a box or covering, but it also means “word” – so you can think of Noach and his family truly being covered by YHVH’s Word!
  • In the time of Sodom & Gomorrah, we are told that the people were very immoral and ungodly, but also that God [Elohim] rescued Lot from the fiery judgment because Lot was a righteous man who followed the truth (2 Pet 2:6-7)
  • Moses (Ex 44:7), David (1 Sam :14-15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8) were all protected in the wilderness
  • In the same way, when YHVH brought all the plagues onto the people in Egypt, He spared the Hebrews from the worst of those plagues (Ex 9). Yeshua became our Passover Lamb 2000 years ago, and now we can cover ourselves with His blood for protection from the enemy’s attacks
  • Finally, in speaking about the end of days, Yeshua says in Revelation 12 verses 6 and 14 that YHVH will once again protect His people from both the unbearable attacks from the adversary hasatan, and also from His own judgments against the wicked

From these Scriptures we know that YHVH has protected His people many times in the past, and has said that He would protect us again during the Tribulation period.  We also know from Yeshua’s words in Matthew 24 and Sha’ul’s prophecies in 2 Timothy 3 that the times before the end of this current world will be characterized by great sinfulness and evil.

What will lead the people of the world into such great lawlessness, though?  We know there are plenty of greedy, boastful and wicked people throughout the world now, but Yeshua says the End will be a time like no other that has ever been seen or will ever be seen again.  Several Scriptures speak of a great apostasy, deception, or falling away (2 Thess 2:3, Matt 24:10).  Reading further in these Scriptures we see many reasons for this falling away of believers in Yeshua, so great that even some of the elect will be led astray (Matt 24:24).  Yeshua speaks of many false prophets and teachers, and the great signs and wonders they will use to try to convince believers that they are the Messiah who is prophesied to return.

There is a stronger deception than simple signs and wonders that will be leading the saints away from YHVH, though.  This deception becomes clear when you look at the expanded meaning of apostasy – it means “an abandonment of the truth”.  In spiritual terms, this means that the end times will involve a wholesale rejection of YHVH’s revelation, a further “falling away” of an already fallen world.  This “end times” falling away is confirmed as the sign that will come before the Tribulation ends and Yeshua returns for His saints (the set-apart ones) in several other Scriptures.

When Sha’ul talks about the end times in II Timothy 3, he talks first about all the wickedness that will mark that time, but then he goes on to say in Verse 7 that people at that time will be: “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”.  This agrees with II Thessalonians 2:10-12 which states that the ones who will be judged in the latter days will be the ones who did not believe the truth of YHVH, but instead believed the enemy’s lies.  The crux of this passage in Verse 11 says: “…God will cause them to be greatly deceived, so that they will believe these lies”.

Going back to Matthew 24, Yeshua’s first answer to His disciples about the signs of the end was: “Be careful that no one leads you astray! For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will lead many astray” (Matt 24:4-5).  Remember that one of Yeshua’s harshest reprimands of the religious leaders was in John 8:44 when they accused Him of casting out demons and healing people in the name and power of the devil: “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

The essence, then, of the reason for the great falling away in the end times will be that a great majority of the people (believers and unbelievers alike) will believe the lies of the false teachers and prophets and of the anti-messiah himself.

So how do we prepare ourselves for these perilous times, so that we can discern false from true teaching and prophecy, and resist following the popular path of believing the captivating lies of the enemy’s allies?  As with all temptations and allurements of our society, we need to put all our trust in our Rock and Redeemer, Yeshua HaMashiach, and be filled with Yehovah’s Holy Spirit.  We need to ask Abba for guidance in discerning the truth from the lies, and then follow that truth no matter what are the world consequences.  While it is true that not all believers will be delivered physically through the Tribulation, we know that if we remain steadfast in our trust and obedience, YHVH will help empower us to overcome the world, by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony.  In this world we will have tribulation, but Yeshua has overcome the world, and greater is He that is in us (the Holy Spirit) than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Joy through Obedience

well-watered-gardenIn a previous blog, I talked about God wanting to bless us with happiness, as He says in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in YHVH, and He will give you the desires of your heart”.  What brings us the greatest joy on this Earth, though?  We know it is not “seeking after our own pleasure on His holy day” that YHVH speaks against in Psalm 58.  YHVH is speaking about His Shabbat, and He goes on to say in a positive way: “if you call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken”.

This is one of my favorite passages from all of Scripture, and one of the most amazing promises YHVH makes, to bless us to the highest degree possible!  Can we be truly blessed by YHVH if we are not following His instructions in the Torah?  Consider the example of the remnant of Israel who returned from Babylon: they were back in Israel for almost 100 years before they re-discovered the Torah scrolls and the people asked for them to be read.

In Nehemiah 8, when the people came together as one in the city center, they appealed to Ezra the scribe to read the Torah Scriptures to them.  When they heard the words of the Torah, they were convicted of their sins and they bowed their faces to the ground and began to mourn and weep.  It is obvious from their reactions that they did not just come to listen to the scrolls for entertainment or casual curiosity, but rather they wanted to know the truth of the Torah commands they had broken before the captivity.  They came to hear, listen and then obey what they heard.  This is the meaning of Sh’ma in connection with the greatest of the Torah commandments: “Hear oh Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One” Deut 6:4.  We are to hear YHVH’s word, take it deep down into our hearts, and then act on it by obeying what He says.

Going back to the promise from Isaiah 58, YHVH says that if we obey and honor Him, He will cause us to ride on the high hills of the earth.  When YHVH first brought His children out of Egypt, He also said He would make them ride in the heights of the Earth (Deut 32:13).  We know from the other passages that He meant He would give them prosperity, fruitfulness, and blessings in the land.

In Habakkuk 3:18-19, the prophet says: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on His high hills”.  God describes Himself as one “Who treads the high places of the earth” (Amos 4:13).   YHVH created us in His image, and He wants us to keep growing closer to Him so that we can walk on His high hills and experience those same high places where He roams in both His earthly and heavenly realms.

YHVH’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, but He has given us the ability to draw closer to Him through keeping His Torah and His appointed times (Sabbaths and feasts), coming into His presence more and more so that we can enjoy intimate fellowship with Him.  When we walk in our own paths and fail to follow YHVH’s guidance, we are like dry plants in a desert.  I would much rather be a “follower of the way”, keeping YHVH’s commands and enjoying His blessings to be “like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isa 58:11).  Give it a try – walk with YHVH and follow his instructions and the blessings of joy will flow through your life like a never-ending spring.

Does God care about Genes or Jeans (Part 2)?

least of these

In Part 1 of this blog last week, I talked about who are YHVH’s children and those who should keep His Torah, and concluded that it is not Abraham’s biological descendants, but rather those who are His spiritual descendants.  The true children of YHVH’s covenant are those are following His will and trusting Him, keeping His Torah and striving to be pleasing to Him in every part of their lives.  That covered the “genes” part of this 2-part series.  This week I want to focus on what God sees when He looks at us: we know from Scripture that He looks on the inside of us and does not focus on our outer appearance or the level of recognition we merit from the world.  In other words, He doesn’t care whether we wear threadbare jeans vs. classy suits, or how many degrees we have achieved or awards we have won.

What is YHVH truly looking for when He looks deep down inside of our souls?  From Hebrews 4:12, we know that He “discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart”.  But what are His criteria in evaluating our hearts – does He look to see how perfectly we are following His Torah, or how diligently we are working to serve our congregation?  Psalm 58 gives us a beautiful window into YHVH’s heart, and we know that our hearts should line up with His heart as we seek to renew ourselves more into His image every day.

God is conveying a very strong message through Isaiah when He tells Him to shout it out with a shofar blast. (Isa 58:1)  He chastises His people for their false piety – they are trying to impress God by putting on sackcloth and ashes, and afflicting themselves severely when they fast.  The only ones they are impressing are people around them though, not YHVH.  He desires them to fast from their hearts when He says:

“..this is the kind of fasting I want: free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help”. (Isa 58:6-7)

If these concepts sound familiar to New Testament readers, that’s because they are.  Listen to what Yeshua said when He was speaking to the goats on His left and the sheep on His right:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to Me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed Me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite Me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give Me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit Me.’  “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?’  “And He will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.’  “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

What, then, is truly important to Abba Father when He looks into our souls?  From Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:7, we know that He desires for us to be pure in heart, not obeying Him out of obligation but because we sincerely want to please Him from the depths of our heart.  And what does He say about those who are pure in heart?  ‘They shall see God’.

This takes us right back to the essence of our relationship with Yehovah – if we want to know Him intimately, we need to align our hearts with His, which means we will automatically do the things that please Him: feed the poor, take care of orphans and widows, shelter the homeless, etc.  In your life, try not to focus on the outward things, but look deep inside your heart.  In the ‘intents and desires of your heart’, after stripping away everything superficial, do you see what YHVH is looking for?

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.

Ancient Hebrew Confirms Yeshua’s Work on the Cross

How to live Torah“So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I am He.” John 8:28

We have spoken before about all the amazing prophecies of the Messiah in the Nevi’im (prophets) that foretold the first coming of Yeshua and how He would die and be resurrected to atone for our sins and bring us back into relationship with Abba Father.  When we go deeper into the history of the Hebrew language and look at the paleo-Hebrew word pictures, even more incredible Messianic prophecies are revealed to us.

The most elemental aspects of our relationship with YHVH [Yehovah] are the life instructions He gave us in His Torah, and the covenant(s) He made with us from the beginning of His creation.  Looking at the ancient Hebrew symbols for Torah first, we see that the final letter is hey, which appears like a person with their arms raised, meaning “to reveal or behold”.  As the final letter, it actually means “what is revealed from”.  Looking back at the first three letters, they tell us where the law [Torah] originates from.  The third letter, resh, which looks like a person’s head, means “the man”.  The second letter, vav, means “nail”, and the first letter, tav, means “cross”.  So, putting all these together, torah means “what is revealed from the Man nailed to the cross”.

Covenant in Hebrew is b’rit (pronounced breet).  This word starts off with the letter bet, which means “house” in ancient Hebrew word pictures, and then is followed by the letter resh, meaning a person, man or leader.  When these two letters are placed together, they mean “the man of the house” or more commonly “the son of the house”.  The next letter is yod, which means hand or arm, but when used at the end of the first two letters, it becomes possessive, or “my”.  So the first three letters now give us the meaning of “my son”.  Finally, we have the tav at the end of the word, which we saw above meant “cross”.  Putting these together, we get the awesome prophetic meaning of the word covenant as “the cross of My Son”!  This was prophesied in Psalms 22:16 as “they pierced My hands and My feet.” And Zechariah 12:10 as “they shall look upon Me [Yeshua] whom they have pierced”.  We know that YHVH’s covenant with His people started with Abraham, but it was prophesied that the final covenant would be fulfilled through the Messiah, our Redeemer.  Through Isaiah, Abba Father said to Yeshua the Messiah: “I will preserve You and give You as a covenant to the people” (Isa 49:8).

If we go full circle back to the name of the Hebrew language, iv’rit, in the ancient word pictures it is written the same as covenant [b’rit] with one addition – the letter ayin (meaning reveal) is added to the front of the word.  Putting these letters together, we can see the purpose of the Hebrew language stated in its name, meaning in English “to reveal the covenant”, which is “the cross of My Son”.

These are beautiful insights into the Scriptures and the Hebrew language, but what does it all mean for our lives?  If we study YHVH’s Word, then His Son will be revealed to us more and more, and we will come to know Yeshua and His Father, our Creator and Redeemer, who desires only good things for our lives (Jer 29:11).

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.