Deuteronomy 11—Love and Obedience to YHVH Is Rewarded

Deuteronomy 11:1, Love YHVH … and keep …his commandments.Compare this verse with what Yeshua said in John 14:15. When we understand that Yeshua is “YHVH your Elohim” does that not give us a new perspective about not only who Yeshua was/is, but his teachings in the Gospels? Does this shed new light on the issue when Paul said to “follow me as I follow the Messiah” (1 Cor 11:1)? What did Paul mean by this? Was Paul really pro-Torah?

Deuteronomy 11:8, That you may be strong.Obeying YHVH by keeping his Torah-commandments keep us strong. Strong is the Hebrew word chazaq meaning “to be strong, grow strong, to prevail, to be firm, be caught fast, be secure; to grow stout, grow rigid, to restore to strength, give strength, sustain, encourage, make bold, encourage, to repair, to withstand.”

Deuteronomy 11:13, If you will hearken. Stale versus fresh manna. In the Hebrew, this phrase literally reads, “If hearken, you will hearken….” Rashi (the Medieval Jewish Torah scholar) interprets the double usage of this verb to mean, “If [you] listen to the old, you will listen to the new” meaning that if one listens to what one has already learned by taking care to review and understand it, one will gain new insights or fresh insights into the Torah (The ArtScroll Sapirstein Edition Rashi—Devarim, p. 110; The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 995). 

What does this teach us about studying YHVH’s Word consistently and regularly? YHVH gave the Israelites fresh (not stale) manna every day, even as he watered the land of Israel with the early (fall) and latter (spring) rains (a symbol for spiritual refreshment), so that the land would be fruitful without the need of man-made irrigation systems. Manna and rain both came from heaven and are used as figures of speech Hebraically to represent Torah-truth. 

Is your life being renewed regularly with fresh revelation and insights into the Word of YHVH, into his very heart and character? Does this not refresh, nourish and sustain the ground of your life, so that it yields an abundant spiritual crop of joy, shalom, intimacy with the Father and anointing? Is your life a place of fresh manna and constant rain, or a place of stale bread and drought? If so, what changes do you need to make in your life to change this situation?

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Yeshua in Us IS the Power to Obey the Torah

Judaism and religious text concept with a Torah on white background

Philippians 1:11, The fruits of righteousness which are by Yeshua the Messiah.

What is righteousness? Scripture equates righteousness with as having something to do all of YHVH’s Torah-commandments.

My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness. (Ps 119:172)

In this verse in Paul’s epistle to the saints in Philippi, Paul refers to “the fruits of righteousness by Yeshua the Messiah.” What does this mean? Let’s discuss this and discover what it has to do with us.

First, let’s establish an important fact. It is impossible for any human to obey YHVH’s high standards of Torah-righteousness on his own strength as Yeshua’s encounter with the rich young ruler proves (Matt 19:16–22). When the young man asked Yeshua what he must do to have eternal life, Yeshua seems to set the man up for a fall when he declares, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Yeshua is not being disingenuous here. Were one to keep the Torah perfectly without sinning, hypothetically, one would not fall under the death penalty for violating the laws of Elohim (i.e. sin). Presumably one could earn eternal life by one’s own good works. But no man has ever accomplished this superhuman feat except the superhuman Yeshua! Continuing, when the young ruler proudly declares his perfect Torah obedience, Yeshua shows him that he was, in fact, violating the Torah in at least one area—covetousness and greed. Yeshua shows him how to come into Torah compliance, and then admonishes him to come and to follow him. What Yeshua is teaching here is that it’s impossible to keep the Torah perfectly without factoring Yeshua, the Living Torah, into the equation. The point that we can’t keep the Torah without Yeshua directly intervening in our lives, I hope to conclusively demonstrate below.

One way that Yeshua helps his followers to obey the Torah is by sending them his divine Spirit as an internal spiritual force into our hearts to nudge and lead us into Torah-obedience. 

What’s more, Yeshua also gives his people the divine gift of his grace to accomplish the same thing. His grace removes the guilt, stain and penalties for our past sins, and with a clear conscience and a clean spiritual slate before YHVH, minus the past baggage of sin weighing us down, we are able to go forward under the power of YHVH’s Spirit to walk in accordance with his Torah. Praise Yeshua! An illustration of this would be a runner who trains wearing a backpack filled with rocks. Once the weight is removed from his back, when he runs, he feels as if he were flying through the air. 

Our faith in, love for and continual abiding in Yeshua is the key to receiving his systemic spiritual empowerment to walk a life that mirrors Yeshua. Paul invites us to imitate Yeshua as he himself imitated Yeshua (1 Cor 11:1). The word Christian means “one who follows what Christ did and taught.” One follows Yeshua by abiding in him as a branch abides in or is attached to a vine (John 15:4–5). A branch that is attached to a tree naturally, through no effort of its own, receives energy from the tree and produces fruit. The energy of life just naturally flows into the branch. When we abide in Yeshua, we will naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit. Love is the first and foremost fruit out of which all the other fruits subdivide. How do we walk in love toward YHVH and love toward our neighbor? The biblical answer is simple: by keeping his Torah commandment, which show us how to love. As Paul tersely declares, “Love is the fulfilling of the Torah-law” (see Rom 13:8–10). 

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What does Elohim require of us?

Deuteronomy 10:11, Begin your journey. At the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land, the children of Israel had a divine encounter with Elohim. This experience that occurred at the start of their trek across the wilderness marked the beginning of a spiritual relationship with their Creator. To be sure, it was an intense, emotional experience where Elohim revealed himself to them, but as is the case with any relationship human or divine, this was a starting place for them, or a spiritual launch pad into a new way of life. This new relationship carried with it responsibilities and requirements. Paul declares, that what happened to the Israelites was for OUR learning and admonition (1 Cor 10:11; Rom 15:40). 

So what can we learn from this? Simply this. When we had our first encounter with Elohim at the beginning of our spiritual journey, this wasn’t just a one time event where we experienced an emotional high and had a brief period of spiritual enlightenment occurring and then we went from there unchanged. No! YHVH Elohim revealed himself to us so that our lives would be transformed, changed and so that we could enter into a special relationship with him. For example, when one gets married, life changes. There are new responsibilities and duties to maintain the marital relationship. One’s life doesn’t continue as before. It changes dramatically. The same was true for the Israelites after encountering the Creator of the universe at Mount Sinai, and the same thing occurs with us when we encounter Elohim at the beginning of our spiritual journey en route to the Promised Land of our spiritual inheritance. 

So what does our Creator require of us from the beginning of our spiritual journey through the wilderness of this life? The exact same thing he required of the children of Israel. Moses answers this question in the next two verses. Elohim’s standards of righteousness and obedience have never changed from then until now.

Deuteronomy 10:12–13, What does YHVH your Elohim require of you? These two verses lay out the five fundamental things that YHVH requires of us. 

Fear YHVH your Elohim. The two levels or types of fear explained. There are two aspects or levels of fearing Elohim. The higher of the two is the sense of awe and reverence we should have for him simply because of who he is, and that is what Moses calls for here. Such fear is easy to imagine, hard to walk out. This type of fear involves loving Elohim because of who he is; therefore, we want to obey him because it pleases him (not to mention that it will bring great blessings upon us).

The second fear, and the lesser of the two, is the fear of physical punishment because of disobedience to YHVH (The ArtScroll Kestenbaum Edition Tikkun, p. 433). When the higher fear fails to be a significant motivating dynamic in our lives, we are likely to experience the lower type of fear birthed out the so-called “school of hard knocks” or the consequences of our sinful actions. If this type of fear causes us to wake up from our spiritual stupor and we correct the error of our ways, then we can come back to the higher level of fear—obeying YHVH because we love and revere him. Sadly, it seems that few humans ever figure out these fundamental spiritual principles and make it to the higher level.

If we walk constantly in a loving reverence of Elohim, we will keep his commandment because we love him (John 14:15, 21), because he is Elohim and it’s our duty to serve and obey him, and, lastly, because we don’t want to come upon us the consequences that disobedience brings. 

How can we achieve the greater level of fear and maintain it as a constant force operating in our lives that helps to keep us on the straight and narrow path of righteousness, while at the same time walking in intimacy with the Father? This can only occur through a relationship with Yeshua and the work of his Set-Apart Spirit who has written YHVH’s Torah on our hearts.

Deuteronomy 10:16, Circumcise … the …heart. (q.v. Lev 26:41; Deut 30:6; Jer 4:4; Rom 2:29) Are you shocked to find that Paul did not originate the concept of heart circumcision? What does it mean to have a circumcised heart? What other concepts that you’ve heard taught were innovations of Paul actually originated in the Torah? How about salvation by grace and the concept of a loving, merciful and gracious Elohim?

Deuteronomy 10:17, Elohim.The name Elohim denotes YHVH’s omnipotence (that he is all powerful), and that he is over and controls every other power in existence. But as the The ArtScroll Tikkun points out, in this scripture that this word is used with reference to anything or anyone imbued with power—real or imagined—over others. Thus elohim can refer to judges (Exod 21:6), to a master (Exod 7:1) or even to idols (Deut 5:7, p. 433). Note that in Deuteronomy YHVH himself uses the “sacred name” elohim to refer to idols. What does this teach us about the use of “sacred names”? Because the pagans have appropriated one of the names or titles of YHVH for idolatrous practices this does not mean that his people cannot continue to use it in worshipping him. It is not the name that is the important issue here, rather the object of our affection.

 

Deuteronomy 4—Torah-light to the Nations, the Fear of Elohim and the Exile and Regathering of Dispersed Israel

Deuteronomy 4:2, You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract/diminish from it. YHVH warns his people against adding or subtracting from his written word elsewhere as well (Deut 12:32; Rev 22:18–19). Men seem inclined to ignore YHVH’s command in this regard. In fact, whole religions have been founded based on disregarding this prohibition. Some claim to be Bible-based (e.g. Mormonism with their Book of Mormon and rabbinic Judaism with its Talmud), and some have supplanted the entire Bible with their own book (Islam with its Quran). This doesn’t even include the numerous unbiblical traditions and man-made doctrines that many traditional churches and denominations have constructed out of whole cloth and patched into the teachings of the Bible. This cannot be pleasing to Elohim!

Who is the author of and real power behind adding to and subtracting from or twisting YHVH’s Word? It is Satan the serpent. (See Gen 3:1ff and Matt 4:3ff.) Make no mistake, adding or subtracting from the Word of Elohim is to fall for the lie that the devil told the first humans at the tree of knowledge that the Word of Elohim can be molded and formed to fit men’s ways of  thinking instead of Elohim’s.

What did Yeshua warn the religionists of his day against in this regard? He said, “Thus have you made the commandment of Elohim of none effect by your tradition” (Matt 15:6) and, “Howbeit in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). What are some examples of traditions and theologies in the modern-day Christian and Jewish religions where YHVH’s word has been superseded by man’s traditions? What are some traditions and doctrines of men you have turned away from in order to bring yourself into greater alignment with YHVH’s Word? How is your life better for it? What has been the reaction of those around you in response to your aligning your life more closely with the truth of YHVH?

Finally, the Bible ends with a warning to those who would add to the word of Elohim.

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, Elohim will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, Elohim shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev 22:18–19)

When this passage says “this book,” which book is it talking about? The Book of Revelation or the entire Bible? To be on the safe side, it is prudent to assume John is referring to the whole Bible. I personally don’t care to experiences any of Elohim’s curses; life is already difficult enough as it is!

Deuteronomy 4:2, Observe the commandments of YHVH. The word observe (RNA/shin-mem-resh)is a common Hebrew verb meaning “to keep, guard, give heed, watch, protect, have charge of.”In its noun-form, shamar means “a watchman.” According to TWOT, the basic meaning of shamar is “to exercise great care over something.” One of the most frequent uses of this verb in Scripture is how it is used in this verse. YHVH commands his people to shamar his Torah-commandments some 30 times in the Torah alone. What does this mean to you? Are you learning to not only “hear,” but “to do” his commands? How has your life changed and what are the resulting blessings? Though YHVH clearly commands his people “to keep” or “to guard,” what is commonly taught in most Christian churches in regard to “the law”?

Deuteronomy 4:6, Keep. Keeping Torah (YHVH’s instructions in righteousness) was the means for YHVH’s chosen people to be salt and light to the surrounding nations. Torah is literally a “witnessing tool.” What kind of righteous witness are you (via your Torah lifestyle) to those around you who are lost in spiritual darkness?

Wisdom [Heb. chokmah] and understanding [Heb. biynah]. What is the biblical definition of wisdom and understanding? Let’s explore this subject to see what we can learn from the word of Elohim.

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Why wear tassels on the corners of your garments?

Someone reading this post may ask the question, “Natan, do you wear tassels or tzitziot on the corners of your garments?” The answer is yes I do, and I have done so since the late 1990s. I try to practice what I preach. The Torah tells me to do it, so I do it. Period. End of discussion. I have a set of fringes to wear with my work clothes and another set for my more dress-up clothes. For me it is a holiness and an obedience issue. — Natan

Numbers 15:37–41. Tassels on the corners. (See notes at Exod 26:1 for a discussion on tekelet blue.) The command to wear tzitzits on the corners of one’s garment was to act as a reminder to keep one from committing intentional sins, even as a wedding ring worn on the finger serves to remind one of one’s marriage covenant, and help keep one from committing adultery. This is why this command is placed directly after the warning against committing intentional sin (vv. 30–31), and the example of the man who committed intentional sin by gathering sticks on the Sabbath (vv. 32–36).

Corners. The ancient Israelites wore four cornered tunic-like garments. Why did YHVH instruct them to wear tzitzits on the four corners? This was likely to teach them that the Israelites’ Torah-based covenant with Elohim was there to box them in, to surround them, to remind them of their sworn obligations to Elohim,to keep them on the right path spiritually, and to protect them, so that they would receive Elohim’s blessings and be his representatives to the surrounding nations. With this view in mind, the shape of the garment is no longer the issue. That happened to be the style of clothing of that day. We no longer wear four-cornered garments. What matters is to wear four tzitzits on one’s four sides to represent our spiritual commitments to Elohim and our allegiance to his word, the Torah, and our understanding that his word will guide, direct, protect and bless us is we treasure it and adhere to it. Tzitzits are to our relationship with Elohim what a wedding ring is to our spousal relationship.

 

Does Romans 14 give Christians license to ignore the biblical dietary laws?

This may be what your pastor and church tell you, but it’s not what the Word of Elohim says!

Romans 14:14, Nothing is unclean in itself. In this verse, is the Apostle Paul declaring that there is no longer a distinction between clean and unclean foods, therefore making void the biblical dietary laws? Let’s analyze the contextual and linguistic aspects of this passage to see what Paul is really saying here.

The word unclean (koinos) in this verse can also mean “common,” and in three places in the Apostolic Scriptures the two words “common” and “unclean” are used side by side; q.v. Acts 10: 14, 28 and 11:8, which says, “But I said, Not so, Master: for nothing common [koinos] or unclean [akathartos] has at any time entered into my mouth. “From this example, we see that unclean in Romans 14 can also mean “common” as we find in Acts 11. The word for unclean in Acts 11:8 is an entirely different word; therefore, akathartos is a reference to unclean meat, as proscribed by the Torah. Koinos, on the other hand, cannot mean unclean meat in Romans 14, or else Acts 11:8 would be a superfluous and unexplainably redundant in using two words that mean exactly the same thing. The word koinos is used elsewhere in the Apostolic Scriptures not to mean “unclean,” as in “unclean meat,” but “unclean” as in unwashed hands (Matt. 7:2), or “common,” as in something that is shared commonly among people (Acts 2:44; 4:32; Tit 1:4; Jude 3). Of the seven places this word is used in the Apostolic Scriptures it never means unclean meat.

In David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary, on Romans 14 he states that Paul is not abrogating the biblical dietary laws. On verse 14, Stern says that Paul is referring to ritual purity, not whether something is unclean (nonkosher) meat or not. What is ritual purity? It is a reference to either how something was slaughtered, and whether it was bled properly, or whether the meat had previously been sacrificed to idols before being sold in the public meat markets—a common practice in that day in pagan cities.

Furthermore, Paul could not have been advocating eating swine, and other unclean meats, without making himself into a total hypocrite and liar, since in several places in the book of Acts he strongly states (toward the end of his life) that he was a Torah-observant Jew and walked orderly and kept the Torah (Acts 21:20), and that he had not broken any of the Torah laws (Acts 25:16), which would have included the dietary laws contained in the Torah. 

Let’s also keep an important point in mind when speaking of YHVH’s biblical dietary commands: When some­one gets born again or regenerated spiritually neither does their digestive system change nor Elohim’s standards of holiness and righteous living. Eating unclean or biblically unkosher meat is, from a purely medical standpoint, deleterious to one’s health regardless whether one is a believer in Yeshua or not, and Scripture still refers to eating unclean meat as an unholy, sinful act and an abomination, and the Word of Elohim does not change yesterday, today or forever!

 

The Abrahamic Covenant Vs. the Mosaic Covenant: Once we are saved, how are we to walk?

Romans 5:9, Being justified by his blood. Through Yeshua the Seed of Abraham through whom all nations would be blessed, believers are saved from their sins and blessed. Through Yeshua, the imputation of righteousness by faith and the justification (or right standing before Elohim) that it brings—a spiritual principle revealed in the life Abraham—is combined with the concept of being justified by his blood that is revealed in the Levitical sacrificial system. 

Prophetic inferences to the sinner being atoned by the blood of an innocent and blemish-free lamb are to be found in Genesis 3:21 where YHVH covered the fallen Adam and Eve in garments of animal skins (very possibly, the skins of a lamb or some other kosher animal), and at the akeidah (the binding of Isaac) event on Mount Moriah in the substitutionary sacrifice of the lamb. This concept is further developed with YHVH’s command to the Israelites in Egypt to smear lamb’s blood on their door posts to protect them from the judgment of the death angel, and is more fully developed in the subsequent elaborate Levitical sacrificial system. 

Broadly speaking, the Abrahamic Covenant and events in the life of Abraham surrounding its implementation reveal to man how to receive right-standing before Elohim, while the Mosaic Covenant and events surrounding its implementation reveal in more detail just how a man’s sins are atoned for, and then howman is to walk in righteousness once he attains right-standing with Elohim. This idea might be also stated in this way: Abraham’s being justified by his faith was a precondition to YHVH’s formulating the Abrahamic Covenant with him; Israel’s coming under the blood of the lamb, leaving Egypt and being “baptized” in the Red Sea were preconditions for YHVH formulating the Mosaic or Sinaitic Covenant with them. For the Renewed Covenant believer, Paul shows us that we must have faith in the Word (Logos) and promises of Elohim as Abraham did, and then come under the blood of the lamb, leave Egypt, be baptized and then follow Torah as the Children of Israel did to obtain and to maintain right-standing with Elohim, to be saved from the wrath to come and to have an eternal inheritance in YHVH’s kingdom.

It might be said, in a certain sense, that aspects of both the Abrahamic and Mosaic or Sinaitic covenants synergize together to construct the whole redemption or salvation “package.” In Romans, Paul weaves elements of both covenants together to form a systematic theology or a complete “package” showing the Renewed or New Covenant believer how to “get saved” and once “saved” how to stay “saved.”