Has the Torah been “done away with”? — Hebrews 8 explained

What human deigns to have the hubris and audacity to break the immutable laws of YHVH Elohim, the Creator of the Universe, and then to call it righteousness?????

I just received this comment from a Christian minister who is well known in certain circles and who, over the decades, has done commendable work in opposing wickedness and promoting righteousness in America.

You’re a good advocate for your own perspective, and have provided a great historical outline on the rise of Hellenic thinking in the church. I’ll use some of this in my debates with Roman Catholics. BUT this is not (as you laudably acknowledge) objective scholarship on the question of keeping the Torah. You have entirely avoided Hebrews as a source, which is arguably the most relevant to this topic of all the Epistles.  Your thesis is directly challenged by Hebrews 8, for example.  In my view, keeping the law voluntarily is a matter of personal liberty, and some people benefit from maximum structure in their lives, and for all believers there is great benefit from knowing and being influenced by the Torah.  But leading people back under the Mosaic law as an obligation IS Judaizing — a term that (as used today) defines a concept with much broader Scriptural support than you admit.  

Here is my initial response to to Scott’s comment:

Well hello Scott! Welcome to my blog. I followed your and Lon’s ministry for years when you lived in Oregon, and even met you once decades ago when your office was located in my hometown, and I have appreciated your bold stand in your fight against abortion and the homosexual agenda.

With regard to my article to which you make reference, no, I didn’t cover Hebrews 8 in this particular piece. As a writer, you well know that it’s not possible to cover every facet of every topic including all of the relevant Scriptures on any biblical subject in one article, otherwise the article would be a long book and not an article. I cover Hebrews, Galatians, Romans and everything other scriptural passage in the Bible on the subject of the Torah in many of the 500 some videos on my You Tube channel, some 100 articles on our website and some 2000 articles on this blog.

Moreover, what you call Judaizing I call righteous obedience to the immutable commandments of YHVH Elohim. Judaizing is a term, as you know, that goes back to a Greek word in the NT. However, the early church fathers grossly misunderstood the writings of Paul (largely thanks to the influence of Marcion the heretic who was an anti-Jewish Torah-hater), even as Peter admits in his second epistle was occurring in his day. For Paul, Judaizing WAS NOT obedience to the Torah, or else all of Paul’s pro-Torah statements are nonsensical and contradictory. No, rather for Paul, Judaising was saying that obedience to Torah was mandatory as a requirement for salvation. This was the main thesis of the book of Galatians and the subject of the first Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. However, once saved according to the whole council of Scripture, one is duty bound to follow the Torah, which tells us how, as Paul states in Romans 13, how to fulfill the Torah, and as Yeshua states in the Gospels, how to love Elohim and our neighbor. Following the Torah is simply the fruit of the Spirit, while disobedience to it is the works of the flesh as Paul outlines in Galatians five. You see, Scott, you, to your credit, already follow much of YHVH’s Torah law. You don’t steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, covet, worship idols and so on. Where most people have a problem is with the Sabbath, biblical feasts and biblical dietary laws. These last three were the first biblical commands the ante-Nicene church fathers jettisoned because they were “too Jewish,” and the church has followed their errant ways ever since. If obeying YHVH’s Torah is Judaizing as you say, then so is not stealing, lying, coveting, murdering, etc. It’s simple logic. As James indicates, the YHVH’s Torah-laws all stand and fall together (Jas 2:10). As John states in chapter three of his first epistle, the Torah defines what sin is. So how can not sinning be a bad thing? Beyond this, to take a pick and choose approach to Torah-obedience is to follow the lie of the serpent at the tree of knowledge and to question Elohim as to what he has told us to do and to determine for ourselves what aspects of Elohim’s Word are valid and relevant for us or not. This, as Francis Schaeffer defines it, is the basis for the modern concept of secular humanism.

With regard to Hebrews chapter eight, I have addressed this chapter in my other writings, and I will do so again for your benefit on my blog right now. I invite you to go to it where you will find my response to your kind protestation.

Blessings and thank you for you comments. It has allowed me the occasion to deal with issues that keep needing to be addressed due to the misunderstandings of Scripture in mainstream, traditional Christianity.


From Natan Lawrence’s commentary on the Bible

Hebrews 8:6, Better covenant … better promises. (See Heb 9:11–15.) In the Greek, the word better is kreitton meaning “more useful, more serviceable, more advantageous, more excellent.” The Renewed Covenant is a better covenant for the reasons discussed in the notes in verse eight. In 2 Cor 3:7 calls it “the ministry of the Spirit” and refers to it as “more glorious” than the former covenant. The Renewed Covenant comes with Yeshua’s promise that from within our heart the Set-Apart Spirit will empower and lead us into all truth. Moreover, under the Renewed Covenant, the promise of salvation resulting in eternal life in the kingdom of Elohim is spelled out more clearly. The Renewed Covenant also carries with it relief from the penalty of the law, which is death, for those who put their faith in Yeshua’s atoning and substitutionary death (see notes at 2 Cor 3:7). Through the Spirit and blood of Yeshua, one’s sin conscience is now cleansed in that the guilt from sin is removed (Heb 9:14). Also, as discussed in the verse eight notes, the covenant (or contract) is the actual agreement between two parties. The terms and conditions of a covenant (or contract) are something else. Torah was the terms and conditions of YHVH’s agreement between himself and his people. When the author here uses phrase like “better covenant,” this in no way implies that the Torah has been abrogated. If this were true, then this flies in the face of what is said elsewhere in the Testimony of Yeshua to the contrary (e.g. Matt 5:17–19; Acts 21:24; 24:14; 25:8; Rom 3:31; 7:14; 1 John 2: 3–6; 3:4; Rev 12:17; 14:17; 22:14).

Hebrews 8:8, Finding fault with them. What was the fault of the first covenant? The Torah-law of Elohim, or the people who failed to abide by the terms of the covenant, i.e, the Torah? The next verse gives us the answer: “because they continued not in my covenant…” The Israelites were at fault.

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Christmas in May

Jeremiah 10:2–5, 

A Christmas Tree?

Is this passage a denunciation of the Christmas tree? Some say yes, and others so no. Let’s briefly discuss this issue.

The use of trees or wooden poles as an object of worship in the ancient world was universal as a fertility/phallic symbol. The Bible strongly condemns involvement with this pagan custom. Obviously the tree of Jer 10 is not a Christmas tree, since Christmas as we know it didn’t enter into Christianity until about the late fifth century AD. However, the pagan implications of the Christmas tree are clear as evidenced by history, which is why it was outlawed by the Puritans and many other religious groups in America. It was not until the 1850s with many Germans migrating to America with their Christmas tree tradition that Christmas became popularized again in this country.

The scriptures advise us to abstain from all appearances of evil. At the very least, because of its pagan connotation, a Christmas tree is an appearance of evil. Furthermore, where in the Bible do we find any examples of YHVH’s people reclaiming a pagan tradition, sanitizing it, and them practicing it? This occurred only when Israel was in a state of apostasy or was attempting to syncretize the religion of the Bible with the pagan practices of the surrounding nations.

True, many things in our daily lives have been tainted by paganism. If we were to toss out everything that fits that category, we probably wouldn’t be able to say anything, wear anything, eat anything, or do anything! What we are to throw out are those things that the Bible forbids, anything that is indigenously pagan, or anything that leads us away from YHVH and his Word.

Often our view of the Scriptures is filtered through our emotions. We all struggle with this spiritual disease. When we’re extremely partial to a belief or an idea, we have a hard time conforming our lives to those Scriptures that disagree with us. Thus, we have a spiritual blind spot. For many, Christmas has become a spiritual blind spot because it is so ingrained in our families and the culture. It is perhaps the hardest thing for people to let go of because of family and emotional ties. Each of us has to make the choice: do we love the praises of family or the praises of Elohim more (John 12:43)?

Some might accuse those who see Jeremiah 10 as a denunciation of the Christmas tree of prooftexting. By definition, a prooftext is a biblical passage used to support a theological argument or position. It can’t be denied that Jeremiah 10 is the perfect description of what has come to be known as a Christmas tree. This is not prooftexting, this is fact. The Word of Elohim says don’t do it. This is fact. I didn’t make it up, I just read it and believe it. Furthermore, to view Jeremiah 10 as a stand alone scripture or prooftext is incorrect. When Jeremiah 10 is placed against the larger context of the heathen practices of the Gentile cultures around ancient Israel, and against the Bible’s repeated prohibitions against (a) Israel’s adopting pagan religious practices of any kind, and (b) more specifically, not bringing into Israel the worship of the pagan fertility symbols of which the tree was a central object, YHVH’s prohibition against the Jeremiah 10 tree was much wider and broader implications. Basically, YHVH says “don’t do it,” and for me that settles it. YHVH wants a people for his own who will unquestioningly obey his word; who are of a contrite heart and tremble before (i.e., obey) his word (Isa 66:2). 

Elohim has given us seven biblical feasts that we can do that will bring glory and honor to him. Let’s practice and rejoice in what he has given us.

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Godly Vs. Earthly Wisdom: Knowing the Difference

James 3:13–18, Who is wise. There is no mention here of academic degrees and titles as the basis for determining who is a wise and understanding person. This is how the world and the biblically and spiritually uninformed determine these things. Even the devil can quote scripture and appear to be spiritually astute (Luke 4:9–11). This passage states that a wise and understanding person is known by his good conduct and by the works that he does in meekness and wisdom.

To the carnally minded individual, outward appearance and notable achievements (as determined by human standards) are what matters. The character of the individual matters little. On the contrary, this is not how YHVH judges a person, nor is it how his servants are to judge a person. Judgment is to based on righteousness and not on outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7; John 7:24).

James 3:13–18, The wisdom that is from above versus the wisdom from below. In this passage, James discusses heavenly versus demonic wisdom. Did you ever wonder how to tell the difference between the voice of Elohim speaking to you, and the voice the world, the flesh and the devil? This passage gives us some guidelines on how to differentiate between the four voices that are trying to influence our minds and hearts.

Let’s first establish the fact that Yeshua wants to talk to his spiritual sheep. In John chapter four, Yeshua declares that he is the Good Shepherd, and that his sheep hear and know his voice, that he calls them by name, and that he leads them spiritually and they follow him (John 10:3–4). At the same time, someone else is vying for his sheep’s attention—the thief. Yes, the thief wants to lead Yeshua’s sheep astray, for his intention is to kill, steal and to destroy (John 10:1, 8, 10), while the Good Shepherd wants to save and protect the sheep (John 10:9, 11, 14).

Throughout the pages of the Bible we read the record of YHVH Elohim speaking to his servants and leading them. Yeshua makes it clear that he is still speaking to and leading his sheep, and the book of Acts and the Epistles confirm this.

So how does this passage in James help us to hear and to follow the voice of YHVH-Yeshua, the Good Shepherd? When we get thoughts and impressions that we think are the leading of Elohim’s Set-Apart Spirit, we must first determine their origin by putting them to the spiritual test. Is what we are hearing wisdom or knowledge that is from above, or is it wisdom or knowledge is from below—that is earthly (of this world), sensual (from the carnal mind of man) or devilish (from the demonic realm, Jas 3:13–15)? How do we know its origin? James tells us. The wisdom that is from below is envious, selfish or self-seeking, engenders confusion, and produces evil, while that which is from above is pure, peaceable, gentle,willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and hypocrisy, and it produces righteousness (Jas 3:16–18).

 

General Overview of the Book of Numbers (B’midbar)

The English name Numbers derives from the fact that in this book the Israelites are counted or numbered on several occasions (see chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 26). Leviticus ends with YHVH instructing his people to count their flocks for tithe purposes, while Numbers begins with YHVH, as the ultimate Good Shepherd (or in Hebrews, YHVH Rohee), counting the Israelites themselves, who are the sheep of his pasture (Pss 74:1; 79:13; 95:7; 100:3). The fact that this counting took place in the wilderness proves that it was not for political or national economic reasons, but was in fulfillment of YHVH’s Torah instructions. Each Israelite was to give a half-shekel of silver toward the maintenance of the tabernacle. The shekels then counted would give the exact number of Israelites (Exod 30:12–16).

The Hebrew name B’midbar meaning “in the wilderness” originates from the fact that this book chronicles Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. The book of Exodus, on the other hand, records the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, its establishment as a nation, its covenantal relationship with YHVH and the construction of the tabernacle (mishkan), which was the symbol of YHVH dwelling or tabernacling in the midst of his chosen people. The Book of Leviticus deals with the inner workings of that tabernacle and the mechanics of how sinful man could maintain a right spiritual relationship with a righteous Elohim. This was accomplished through the agency of the Levitical priesthood that would function within the tabernacle as a human intermediary between man and his Creator.

The book of Numbers covers much of Israel’s forty years wandering in the wilderness and recounts the early years of this nation under YHVH’s theocratic rule. Recorded are Israel’s triumphs and defeats, its obedience and disobedience to YHVH’s rule of law and the resulting consequences whether blessing or curses.

In this book, we see several main subdivisions. Chapters 1:1–10:10 cover instructions from YHVH to Israel while still at Mount Sinai. Chapters 10:11–36:13 cover the Israelite’s actual wilderness journey. The second section dealing with the wilderness journey has two main parts: the perishing in the wilderness of the older generation (Num 10:11–25:18), and the preparation of the second generation of Israelites to enter the Promised Land (chapters 26–36).

Reoccurring themes in the book of Numbers include the continual murmuring of Israelites and the divine punishment on them as a result. YHVH made promises to care for them and lead them into the Promised Land. Instead of having faith and trust in him, with few exceptions, the Israelites exhibited doubt and unbelief in YHVH. As a result, the entire older generation, with the exception of faithful Joshua and Caleb, perished in the wilderness never to realize the promises YHVH had made to them concerning the Promised Land. This is a poignant lesson for all believers in their faith walk. The spiritual application of this lesson is not missed by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in chapter four of that book. When YHVH makes promises, his people need to embrace those promises with enthusiastic and optimistic faith and never let them go. After all, if we cannot trust our Creator, then who or what can we trust?

In this book, we see revealed the grace of YHVH, that he is longsuffering and slow to anger (Num 14:20–38), but that he is also just, and as a father, he disciplines those he loves. His judgments are measured and progressive. The more his children refuse to obey him and resist him, the stronger the judgments. Eventually, the older generation of Israelites died off in the wilderness. This teaches us that death is the final judgment against the sin of rebellion and unbelief. There are no eternal rewards or spiritual inheritance for those who refuse to take hold of YHVH’s promises and to go forward in faith and faithful obedience to him.

We see the work and person of the future Yeshua the Messiah in the book of Numbers as well. As Provider, he meets all of Israel’s needs both physical and spiritual. Paul reveals that Yeshua was the spiritual Rock that gave them water in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:4). Twice, Israel received water from the rock (Exod 17:1–7 and Num 20:1–13). Additionally, the secular prophet, Balaam, prophesied about the Messiah who was to rise out of Israel like a star (Num 24:17). Leading rabbinic Jews sages, such as Akiva ben Joseph of the early modern era, mistakenly applied this verse to the Jewish zealot, Bar Kokhba, when he endeavored to throw off the yoke of Roman rule over the Jewish people during the Second Jewish Revolt of A.D. 133–135.

 

Blog Scripture Readings for 5-17 Through 5-23-20

Aside

Parashat B’midbar — Numbers 1:1 – 4:20
Haftarah — Hosea 2:1(1:10) – 2:22(20)* | 1 Samuel 20:18-42**
Prophets — Jeremiah 10:1 – 16:21
Writings — Job 40:1 – 42:17; Song of Songs 1:1 – 4:16
Testimony — James 3:1 – 5:20
; 1 Peter 1:1 – 4:19

Our new annual Scripture Reading Schedule for 2019-2020 with daily readings is available to download and print. If you are still working through 2018-2019’s Scripture Reading Schedule, the link will still be available on the right sidebar under “Helpful Links”. If you are using a mobile device or tablet, the link may be below, meaning you’ll need to scroll down instead.

Most of this week’s blog discussion points will be on these passages. If you have general comments or questions on the weekly Scripture readings not addressed in a blog post, here’s a place for you to post those. Just use the “leave a reply” link or the “share your thoughts” box below.

The full “Read Through The Scriptures In A Year” schedule, broken down by each day, can be found on the right sidebar under “Helpful Links.” There are 4 sections of scripture to read each day: one each from the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and from the Testimony of Yeshua. Each week, the Torah and haftarah readings will follow the traditional one-year reading cycle.

* Verse numbers in parenthesis refer to the verse number in Christian English Bibles when they differ from Hebrew Bibles or the Tanakh.

** A different Haftarah is read when it is a special sabbath in Jewish tradition. This week it is Shabbat Machar Chodesh on the traditional calendar so 1 Samuel 20:18-42 is read. Otherwise, Hosea 2:1(1:10) – 2:22(20)* would be read.

Weekly Blog Scripture Readings for 5/17 through 5/23/2020.

 

The Works of the Law Vs. the Works of Faith Explained

James 2:20–24, Faith without works is dead. James is referring here to the works of faith, not the works of the law. No man can live a good enough life to be saved by his Torah-obedience or the works of the law (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:11). 

At the same time, faith in Elohim is more than just mental ascent—“a knowing in your heart.” It has to be backed up by action (and we’re not talking about the works of the law). For example, when Elohim told Abraham to leave Babylon or to sacrifice Isaac, he obeyed by leaving that country and moving to Canaan. 

Moreover, many were healed in Yeshua’s ministry because they had faith in the Master and backed that faith up with corresponding action, which was the evidence of their faith. This faith-action continuum had nothing to do with Torah-obedience per se, but had everything to do with “putting your money where your mouth is” by backing up your faith or belief with action. 

It is this kind of faith that James is talking about here, and this in no wise contradicts the teachings of Paul who said that no man is justified by the works of the law. When Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works…,” he was correct and not opposed to James. What’s more, Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “For we are [Elohim’s] workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works…that we should walk in them.” These good works (i.e. obedience to the Torah) are the fruits, evidence or proof of our salvation and are the works that back up our faith. 

So, in summary, the Bible teaches that we need the faith (a heart that believes and wants to obey Elohim) to lead us to salvation, as well as the works of faith after we have received Elohim’

 

The Truth Behind the Rich Men of the World and Their Castles, Palaces and Mansions

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

James 1:10, The rich. 

Castles, palaces and mansions dot the landscape in many regions of Europe. These edifices are silent monuments of the wealth that has been concentrated into the hands of a few over the millennia. The sizes of these homes are staggering. It becomes especially evident when one tours these palatial residences—some of which boast hundreds of rooms and vast acreages. What are castles, palaces and mansions really all about? What’s behind it all. How does YHVH Elohim view what they represent? These are the questions I found myself asking on my recent trip to the British Isles, Ireland and Paris.

Kensington Palace, London

In many cities you visit, the castles, palaces and mansions of the wealthy “elite” top the list of the most popular tourist attractions. Everyone wants to experience the lifestyles of the rich and powerful if only vicariously. People the world over flock to them in droves as they purchase their tickets, board buses and often travel great distances to some remote and exclusive location with commanding view on a mountain or cliff top,  beach or lake side or some other venerable piece of real estate, where they will spend the better part of a day touring the extravagant grounds, gardens and residences. We did! Some palaces are so elite that photography is even forbidden. It’s hard not be awed at the sight of throne rooms, mirrored ballrooms with frescoed ceilings and dozens of yards of rich tapestries, exotic wood carvings and paneling and marbled flooring and enormous art galleries with paintings up to the gilded ceilings. 

The Louvre Palace, Paris

But all of this richness is, in reality, a pathetically thin veneer covering, in most cases, a sinister and evil side of palaces, castles and mansions. The tour guides, while giving the awestruck tourist the front story, will every so often allude to the backstory of how these wealthy “elite” obtained their vast lands and wealth. Yes, this background information paints a completely different story that betrays the rich but superficial patina of tree lined boulevards leading up to these grand estates as you drive past the high stone walls and gate houses, through the wrought iron gates to these homes surrounded by formal botanical gardens with their lakes, fountains, statuary and Greek-styled columned verandas, porticos and even garden sheds.

Yes, the tour guides don’t want to ruin the fun for their bedazzled paying guests, but the honest guides, when pressed with questions, will let slip out the truth of how these rich folks often acquired their land, and it’s not a pretty picture—certainly not as nice as the homes they left behind.

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