In this video, we explain how the children of Israel’s journey through the wilderness is a biblical metaphor for our life, and the Promised Land is a symbol of salvation and the kingdom of God. We also explain how most Christians have a wrong understanding of why the man was stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, and why the Torah-law is still Elohim’s standard of righteousness for both Christian Gentiles and the Jews to this day.
2 Peter 3:15–16, Paul…hard to understand. If the writings of Paul are confusing as Second Peter 3:15-16 affirms, then why did the Holy Spirit write confusing things through Paul and not through others?
Why Paul Is Difficult to Understand
Paul was hard to understand in the first century as Peter states in 2 Peter 3:16–17, and he’s hard to understand now in the twenty first century, as we will discuss below. In fact, it might be said that if it was hard for Paul’s contemporaries (those who knew him and ministered with him) to understand him, then, logically, it follows that it will be even much harder for those of us to understand him who live 2000 years later and who didn’t know him or work with him. To the former point, Peter writes,
And account that the longsuffering of our YHVH is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
Again, if Paul was hard to understand in his day, how much more 2000 years later!
For those living and working with Paul, he was hard to understand because of his intellect and education. He was one of the top Jewish scholars of his day with an intellect to match it. You weren’t taught by Gamliel, the grandson of Hillel the Great, the founder of the Hillel School of Phariseeism and considered by some modern Jews to be the greatest sage of the common era, unless you were the top of your class in Judaism! This was the same Paul who was well-travelled, multi-lingual, could debate with the Greek philosophers of Athens, could quote Greek literature from memory and was from a wealthy and prominent family who were Roman citizens because of their wealth and influence. By contrast, most of Yeshua’s other disciples were from the backwoods regions of the Galilee and were common tradesman. Today it would be analogous to a logger from Oregon or a fur trapper from Alaska suddenly linking up into a working relationship with a PhD professor in physics or philosophy from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale universities.
Now scroll forward 2000 years. Since then, we have nearly 2000 years of church history with all of its institutionalized traditions, syncretistic belief systems, man-made doctrines, anti-Semitic theologies and so on to have to wade through. The very purveyors of these church traditions are also the same people (the Christian leaders and “scholars”) who are translating our Bibles. This means that they’ll often be translating the biblical text in ways that agree with their best (often anti-Torah) understandings of Scripture.
It is this Babylonian mixture of truth and error (man made doctrines and traditions of men along with questionable if not faulty Bible translations) out of which most of us have come. We have to somehow weave our way through this tangled religious theological web and mess and figure out what is truth and what is error, what to keep and what to toss out, who is right and who is wrong, what is wheat and what is chaff. This isn’t easy to do especially when we’ve been indoctrinated, even brainwashed by the church to view Paul, the Torah-law and the rest of the Bible in a certain way through the lenses of those who have taught us their viewpoints be they right or wrong. One’s attempt to separate the precious from the vile and the holy from the polluted promises, justifiably so, to be a daunting and frightening proposition. That’s why the majority of people will prefer to stay in the comfort zones of their churches and man made traditions, rather than to step out into the unknown and unexplored wilderness of being a truth seeker, and, like a modern-day archeologist, to dig down to the bedrock of biblical truth. To step out of the boat of the church system means that, like Peter, you have to have a higher measure of faith than those who will remain safely and comfortably in the boat of their religious traditions. It means that one has to keep their eyes on Yeshua and follow his voice, or else sink into the spiritual watery depths of spiritual confusion. It means that you have to role up your sleeves and get to work, and put on your rubber muck boots and slog through the muddy dung in the barnyard of men’s religious traditions, some of which are good and many of which are vile, to get to the solid high ground of biblical Truth.
Unlocking the Mystery of Understanding Paul
Now let’s discuss Paul specifically to unlock the mystery of how to understand him. This is not a complicated task if done in a logical way. The way NOT to do it is to cherry pick Paul’s difficult-to-understand scriptural passages out of the larger contest of Scripture and then to explain them one-by-one. To attempt to understand Paul in this manner becomes an impossible knot to untie—especially in light of how many Christian scholars have translated his hard sayings through the grid of their faulty understanding and biases.
Rather, the best way to understand Paul is to step back and to view his writings from the larger context of Scripture—to see the whole forest instead of merely focusing on the individual trees. For example, Paul told the saints in Corinth to imitate him as he imitated Messiah Yeshua (1 Cor 11:1). By the way, Paul’s statement here lines up with John’s instructions to all the saints in his first general epistle to do the same (1 John 2:6). If we’re to imitate Yeshua, then we must, logically, ask ourselves what our Master did, so that we can imitate him as Paul (and John) instructs. For sure Yeshua followed the Torah-law. If not, then he was a sinner, for we read in Scripture that “sin is the violation of the Torah-law” (1 John 3:4), that sin is unrighteousness (1 John 5:17) and that YHVH’s Torah-law defines what righteousness is (Ps 119:172). On the contrary, we know that Yeshua kept the Torah, for he was without sin, for if he had sinned, he wouldn’t been our perfect, sin-free Savior or Redeemer. He kept the Torah in all points and never violated a single command, which would have been sin (Heb 4:15; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Not only did Yeshua obey the Torah, but he clearly upheld its validity again and again (e.g. Matt 5:17–21; John 14:15, 21), and he commissioned his disciples to carry his instructions in this regard forward to the whole earth (Matt 28:20, 18–20 for context). So according to Paul, this is what he imitated, and what he expected the saints of his day (and us) to imitate.
Next, we read in numerous places that Paul spoke favorably of the Torah law.
Wherefore the law [Torah] is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Rom 7:12)
For we know that the law [Torah] is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Rom 7:14)
For I delight in the law [Torah] of Elohim after the inward man… (Rom 7:22)
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin [i.e., violation of the laws/Torah of YHVH, see 1 John 3:4], that grace may abound? Elohim forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom 6:1–2)
Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom 3:31)
But we know that the law [Torah] is good, if a man use it lawfully…(1 Tim 1:8)
But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners [i.e., violators of the law/Torah], is therefore Messiah the minister of sin [lawlessness/Torahlessness]? Elohim forbid. (Gal 2:17)
And when they heard it, they glorified YHVH, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe [in Yeshua the Messiah]; and they are all zealous of the law [Torah]: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? The multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law [Torah]. (Acts 20:20–24)
While he answered for himself, neither against the law [Torah] of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. (Acts 25:8)
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, [i.e., the Torah] yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. (Acts 28:17)
So with all of this overwhelming evidence (and more could be given) from Scripture itself that not only proves Paul’s favorable disposition toward the Torah-law, but that he actually lived according to it himself and taught both the Jews and the non-Jewish saints to do likewise, how is it that so many Christian scholars believe and teach the opposite? This is a discussion for another day, but suffice it to say, two Bible verses sum up the indigenous and general antipathy that all carnal humans have toward the commandments of Elohim because of their sin nature:Continue reading
Leviticus 25:42, Slaves. The Hebrew word slaves or bondmen is ebed meaning “slave, servant, man-servant, worshiper (of Elohim), servant (of Elohim, e.g. Levite, priest or prophet).” Ebed derives from the basic Hebrew root word and verb, abad, meaning “to work or serve.” The word abab refers to service that can be directed toward people, things or Elohim. In biblical usage, if directed toward things, abad can refer to tilling the earth, dressing a vineyard, working flax or constructing a city. When abad is used in reference to serving YHVH it can refer to Levitical and priestly service. In Hebraic thought, such service is considered joyous, not bondage. This same service can be directed toward pagan deities as well. When used in reference to serving another man, abad transforms into the noun ebed meaning “slave or servant.” As discussed below and as pointed out by The TWOT, the concept of Hebrew slavery isn’t akin to the modern concept of slavery where the slave possesses no basic human rights. This was not the case in ancient Israel. The Hebrew slave, on the other hand, occupied a position of status involving rights and trust. The Torah required this to be case as this and other Torah passages demonstrate.
Leviticus 25:45, You may buy. This passage advocates “slavery” among the Israelites. Yet, this is not the slavery the American Negroes, for example, experienced prior to the Civil War. It must be remembered that slavery was rife in the ancient world (as it still is, illegally, today in many countries). Often slaves, however, were able to own homes and livestock and to maintain families as was the case with the Israelites in Egypt and the Jews in Babylon. In this case, these slaves were more like servants or feudal serfs. For example, in Israel, the Gibeonites became the slaves of Israel, but they continued to dwell in their own cities, and enjoy Israel’s military protection (Josh 9). Also, it must be remembered that when Israel conquered an opponents’ land or army, they often inherited slaves from those countries or slaves from other countries the conquered country itself had enslaved. What were the Israelites to do with these people who had been dispossessed of their lands? Send them back to countries that no longer existed, or to which they were no longer welcome? Send them back into heathen situations? Instead, YHVH allowed Israel to bring these captured people into Israel where they could live among a Torah-obedient people who worshipped the God of Israel, YHVH Elohim, where they would be taught to love Elohim totally and their neighbors as themselves. In time, these slaves would be assimilated into the tribes of Israel through intermarriage and become part of Israel and thus be elevated in their social status. In this sense, slavery was a means of evangelizing those who found themselves in the lowest echelons of the ancient world. It was ostensibly a way to bring them into the ways of the Torah thereby elevating them spiritually and socially from their previous enslaved heathen condition.
Leviticus 25:55, Servants [Heb. ebed]. The Hebrew word Ebed means “a servant or bondman” and derives from the word abad meaning “to work (in any sense), to serve, enslave, to be or keep in bondage, be a bondmen, do (use) service, to worship or obey. Obviously, as is the case with many Hebrew words, ebed and abad have a wide range of meanings from the slave and bondservant, who was at the lowest socio-economic level of ancient Israelite society to the Levitical priest (Num 4:19; 2 Chron 8:14) who found himself at the highest and most respected level of society. What is the greater and sublime spiritual truth that this verse teaches us? Simply this. All of YHVH’s people were once in bondage in the spiritual Egypt of their past life unable to escape their bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil. Then YHVH mercifully intervened and set us free and now we belong to him. The redeemed of YHVH must never forget that without his mighty arm of salvation, we would all still be slaves to Pharaoh, a symbol of Satan, and eternal death is the final outcome of this slavery. On the other hand, YHVH offers his redeemed saints eternal life if they will now serve and obey him. Is this not a whole lot better than what the devil has to offer his slaves? Is not faithful and obedient service the least that the saint can offer YHVH in gratitude for the great blessings and gifts that he offers those who accept him as their new Master—their loving Father in heaven?
Are my servants [or slave.] Here YHVH declares that “the children of Israel are my slaves [or servants, Heb. ebed], whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt—I am YHVH, your Elohim.” Here YHVH states dogmatically that he brought or redeemed the Israelites out of slavery to Egypt so that they could become his slaves. Does this trouble you? Being a slave of YHVH didn’t seem to trouble the apostles of Yeshua who referred to themselves many times as YHVH’s bondservants or slaves (e.g., Rom 1:1; Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:1). Perhaps their view of slavery is different than ours. Did they not see two categories of slavery and that all humans fall into one or the other category: slavery to the world, flesh and the devil that leads to death as compared to “slavery” to the Word and the Spirit of YHVH that leads to life? There is no escape. One is either a slave to the law of sin and death or to the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua (Rom 8:1–2). Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Yeshua have become Yeshua’s purchased possession as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:
What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Set-Apart Spirit which is in you, which you have of Elohim, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify Elohim in your body, and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s.
Do you live your life, make choices, do or don’t do things, say or don’t say things every day with the realty that your are a slave to YHVH? Is Yeshua truly your Lord and Master? It is easy to make the claims that he is, but living out the reality is a totally different things!