The Blessing, Unity and Order of the Torah

Deuteronomy 27:11–28, Blessing and curses for obedience. In these verses we find listed some of the blessings and cures for Torah obedience. Do you believe the Torah principles (spiritual truths) of blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience to YHVH’s Word are for us today? If not why not? 

Here are some questions to consider to ask when considering Elohim’s Torah and the blessings and curses that come upon us as a result of our response to these instructions in righteousness, which are a reflection of the character and nature of the Creator. Does YHVH’s character, truth or Word change? If these blessings are not being manifested in your life why might that be? Could it relate possibly to your level of Torah obedience and faith/trust level vis-à-vis YHVH and his Word? What changes could you make in your life that might place you in a more favorable position to receive his blessings rather than the curses?

Deuteronomy 27:15–18, The commandments are all inter-connected. To the casual reader, the admonitions contained in these verses may seem to be arranged in a random order, but this is not the case. Let’s discuss the purposeful design of the order in which Elohim gives this commandments.

Consider the following: The prohibition against idolatry (verse 15) is juxtaposed with that of degrading one’s parents (i.e. not honoring one’s parents, or as S. R. Hirsch states in his commentary, “who outwardly is respectful to his parents but inwardly considers himself vastly superior to them”) along with trespassing against one’s neighbor’s property by removing his neighbor’s boundary markers or landmarks. 

Now consider this: One who does not honor and fear YHVH but turns to idolatry (the second commandments) will not honor one’s parents (the fifth commandment) (and vice versa) will likewise not honor the property of one’s neighbor (including his neighbor’s wife). 

Juxtaposed next to these commands is the prohibition against misleading a blind person (verse 18). This means that we should not take advantage of one’s blindness by advising a blind person in a way beneficial to us and detrimental to him. 

Following this commandment is the principle about one who steals justice from another by perverting judgment against one who is weaker socially or financially or who is less informed at law than another thereby giving the advantage to the stronger (The ArtScroll Davis Edition Baal HaTurim Chumash/Devarim, pp. 2126–2127). 

Can you see how each command is interrelated with all the others? Does this not give one insight into the curious statement found in James 2:10, which declares that if you have broken one commandment you have  broken them all? This should help us to see that in one way or the other, all of YHVH’s commandments are inter-related, all depend on each other, and they all stand or fall together. 

Now relate James 2:10 back to verse eight of the same chapter where James notes that the entire Torah-law can be summarized as the “royal law of love.” 

As you review YHVH’s list of prohibitions in Deuteronomy 27 can you see any other relationships between these juxtaposed concepts? Learning to exegete (draw truth out of) Scripture in this manner will yield a whole new level of spiritual revelation to the reader.

 

Is Torah obedience too difficult?

Deuteronomy 30:11–14, Is the Torah too difficult to obey? Does YHVH’s Torah set an impossible standard by which we are to live?

If so, we are logically compelled to ask ourselves this question: Would a righteous and just Creator who is a loving Heavenly Father give to his chosen people and children a set of standards that were humanly impossible to perform, then curse them for their inability to meet these standards?

If so, then we must face the fact that Elohim is an unjust and a wicked tyrant! If Torah isn’t an impossible standard to follow, then what is the Torah’s purpose in our lives, and why does the Creator impose the Torah upon his people?

We believe that the Torah sets a standard of faith, trusting in Elohim, and that if followed it provides a system of repentance and sacrifice for obtaining forgiveness from Elohim and restoring a condition of being considered righteous in his sight. The Torah also teaches man how to achieve peace on earth and good will toward men by showing humans how to love Elohim with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

Paul quotes this same Deuteronomy passage in Romans 10:6–8 where he relates the Written Torah to Yeshua, the Living Torah or Word of Elohim incarnate (in the flesh). (Compare with John 1:1, 14.) He shows that they are one in the same and that Messiah Yeshua, through his life, came to reveal to man the righteousness of the Torah-law. This righteousness is available to us if we will but have a heartfelt faith in him (Rom 10:4, 9–10) and allow him to live out his righteousness in us through the empowering work of the Spirit of Elohim.

In verses 11 through 21, Paul goes on to relate this very truth to being the central message of the gospel that Isaiah prophesied (Isa 52:7) would be preached to redeem both houses of Israel to Yeshua their Messiah.

Furthermore, in Romans 10:4 Paul reveals that Yeshua is the end goal, target of or the full flowering or embodiment of the Written Torah in human form.


 

What Is the Purpose of the Torah?

Deuteronomy 28:1, Commandments.

Most people with whom I have engaged in discussion about the Torah-law of Elohim have a limited understanding of the breadth, scope and purpose of Elohim’s law. If they understand the full ramifications of the Torah, they would likely be less inclined to dismiss its validity in their lives. When discussing the Torah with people who have a traditional Christian view of  “the law,” it might be helpful to keep the following truths in mind; they help to “blow the lid” off of people’s theological boxes!

(This is excerpted from a larger work by Ya’acov Natan Lawrence entitled, YHVH’s Instructions In Righteousness—A Messianic Believer’s Introduction to the Torah available online at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/torahprimer.pdf)

The purpose of the Torah is to show man how to walk in right relationship (or righteousness) with his Creator. To do this, we must love YHVH with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30) and love our neighbor as ourself (Lev 19:18; Mark 12:30). Once one is saved by grace through faith (See my teaching article entitled: The Abrahamic Covenant: The Covenant of Salvation, available at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/abracov.pdf.), Torah helps show man how to walk in the straight and narrow path that leads to blessings and life and avoids the curses of the law (Deut 30:15; 32:47). The Torah shows man how to avoid sin (which is the violation of YHVH’s Torah-commandments, 1 John 3:4), which is walking contrary to YHVH’s instructions in righteousness that are for our blessing and benefit.

The Torah does not set an impossible standard by which to live. We must ask ourselves, would a righteous and just Creator and a loving Heavenly Father give to his chosen people and children a set of standards that were humanly impossible to perform, and then curse them for their inability to meet these standards? Of course not! Rather, the Torah (including both the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants) sets a standard of faith, trusting in Elohim, and of following its system of repentance and sacrifice for obtaining forgiveness from Elohim and restoring a condition of being considered righteous in his sight. After all, Moses, the human instrument through whom YHVH revealed the Torah to the Children of Israel, states in Deuteronomy 30:11–14:

For this [Torah] commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?” But the word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.

Paul quotes this very passage in Romans 10:6–8 where he relates the written Torah to Yeshua, the Living Torah or Word of Elohim incarnate (in the flesh, see John 1:1, 14). He shows that they are one in the same and that Messiah Yeshua came to live and reveal to us the righteousness of the Torah-law (verse 4) that is available to us if we will but have a heartfelt faith in him (verses 4, 9–10) and allow him to live out his righteousness in us through the empowering work of the Spirit of Elohim. In verses 11 through 21, Paul goes on to relate this very truth to being the central message of the gospel that Isaiah prophesied (Isa 52:7) would be preached to redeem both houses of Israel to Yeshua their Messiah.

It might be said that in a sense that the Torah itself is neutral; neither positive nor negative, for it is like a mirror simply reflecting the image portrayed in it. Torah reacts according to human action. Those who obey it are blessed and those who disobey it are cursed. David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary lists both some of the “negative” and some of the positive functions of the Torah. On the “negative” side:

1) The Torah has the capacity to stir up sin in an individual. This capacity of the Torah to make us sin is not a fault in the Torah but a fault in ourselves. A healthy person thrives in an environment deadly to someone who is ill; likewise, the Torah, beneficial to a believer living by faith, is an instrument of death to these controlled by their sinful nature (p. 375).

2) The Torah can still produce guilt feelings in a believer—as it rightly should whenever he contemplates how his behavior falls short of the standard Elohim sets in the Torah. But these feelings are not irremediable. The remedy is once-and-for-all trust in Yeshua the Messiah’s final atonement for sin (Rom 3:21–26), followed by ongoing confession of and repentance from sins (1 John 1:9) (Ibid.).

3) The Torah also provides a framework of justice by which Elohim, the Just Judge of the universe, will judge the actions of men to determine both their level of punishment for its violation and their level of reward for obedience to it.

4) Because of the righteous standards the Torah sets out, for the sinner it points out the fact that they have sinned and how far they have fallen short of the glory of YHVH (Rom 3:23) and hence their need for a Savior or Redeemer. The Torah actually points the way to Yeshua as Paul points out in the book of Galatians (3:25).

On the positive side:

1) The Torah provides a framework of grace in which one can live. As David Stern points out, YHVH’s people are to live “within the framework of” Torah, but they are not to be “in subjection to” [or under] the Torah in a legalistic fashion. YHVH’s giving of the Torah was in itself an act of grace that the New Covenant (NT) compares with his sending Yeshua (John 1:17) (Ibid., p. 374). Ariel Berkowitz, in his book, Torah Rediscovered, states it this way, “[Torah] function[s] as a protective border for the people of [Elohim].” He goes on to show that there are two opposing spiritual realities in the universe: the kingdom of light (YHVH’s kingdom) and the kingdom of darkness (Satan’s kingdom). Torah acts as a protective border to keep those wanting to abide in the kingdom of light/life/blessing/relationship with YHVH safe and secure. The Torah tells us what is truth as opposed to error, light as opposed to darkness, clean as opposed to unclean, holy (kadosh or set-apart) as opposed to profane or polluted, life as opposed to death (pp. 26–27).

2) The Torah, as understood and applied through the Spirit, thereby gives life in union with Messiah (Stern, p. 381).

3) Obeying the Torah brings us eternal rewards (not eternal life, which is by grace through faith alone, see Eph 2:8) in the world to come (Matt 5:19).

4) Obeying the Torah helps deepen a loving and intimate relationship with YHVH-Yeshua and helps us to abide in Yeshua (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3–6).

5) Obeying the Torah helps us to stay spiritually pure (1 John 3:3–6).

6) Obeying the Torah protects us from the influence of the devil (1 John 3:8).

7) Obeying the Torah-Word of YHVH helps to perfect YHVH-Yeshua’s love in us (1 John 3:6).


 

Laws and more laws—What is the point of it all?

Deuteronomy 21–25

This section of the Torah (Deut 21:10–25:19) contains 72 commandments, which is more than in any other Torah portion. In this passage there are rules pertaining to all aspects of human relations showing that the “Torah deals with the real world. It does not present a world where all people get along with one another or rush to take care of one another’s property. Instead, it ‘takes into account the grim reality that people do not achieve the desired observance of “you shall not hate others in your heart”’” (A Torah Commentary For Our Times, vol. 3, p. 150). In studying this portion, one can easily miss the point of a particular command if one views it strictly in its pashat (most literal) meaning. For these commands to have relevance in our day, one must view them as principles that have a broad range of application. The specific examples Torah gives are merely representative of one of but many life situations to which the principle behind the example could apply. Keeping this in mind, this Torah portion will give you much to ponder pertaining to your day-to-day walk (or halakhah).

In these chapters we see a plethora of laws concerning many seemingly small details regarding human life. Many people in the church have the tendency to broadly sweep away these commandments with such dismissive cliches as, “We’re now under grace …” or “We’re not under the law anymore …..” But please observe how many of the civil laws of our nation regulating actions between various members of society are based upon YHVH’s laws found in the Torah. As many of us make our way back to a more biblically-based lifestyle and orientation, we begin to see that (a) YHVH cares about the details of our lives and (b) these laws, while sometimes hard to understand, are for our own well-being and blessing. Do you still nurse a “pick and choose” or “have it your own way” mentality with regard to YHVH’s biblical commandments choosing to follow the ones you want and making excuses why you can’t (or don’t want to) follow the rest? By doing so, what blessings are you depriving yourself of, and how are you hindering your love relationship with YHVH?

Some of the laws in these chapters may be hard to observe nowadays. With others, due to our church background, we may have the tendency to spiritualize them away, thus, in essence, rendering them of non‑effect in our lives and thereby placing ourselves above YHVH’s Torah-law and thus becoming a law unto ourselves. Is this not humanism: every man doing what is right in his own eyes instead of obeying YHVH whatever the cost? Who is the Master of your life? You or YHVH? 

How do you view laws about women wearing men-type clothing, wearing fringes on the corners of your garments, mixed certain types of fibers in clothing, lending without interest, caring for the widows and orphans, personal hygiene, family purity laws (e.g. men not having sexual relations with their wives during their monthly cycles), removing blood from all meat before eating it, men wearing beards, faithfully tithing, following the biblical dietary laws, and observing YHVH’s Sabbaths (weekly and annual), etc.? These are lifestyle-changing laws, many of which go contrary to the mores of our society. 

Are we not called to be a kadosh, set-apart, special and peculiar (i.e. treasured) people before YHVH? What progress are you making to bring your life into conformity to his standards of righteousness?


 

The “Schoolmaster” Concept in Galatians 3:24 Explained

Recently, a reader of this blog asked me to explain Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:24.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Here is my promised explanation.

Galatians 3:24, Schoolmaster. The church’s concept and understanding of the schoolmaster is incorrect. Consider what David Stern has to say about it:

Stern in his Complete Jewish Bible translates schoolmaster as custodian. He explains why in his JNT Commentary (p. 553). The word translated as schoolmaster in the KJV and other English Bibles is the Greek word paidagogos which literally means boy-leader. In ancient Greece a paidagogos was a slave who conducted a boy to and from school and was not actually the school teacher. You can verify this definition in Webster’s dictionary. As languages evolve words change in meanings. Therefore, a secondary modern meaning of pedagogue is a teacher or schoolmaster and pedagogy is the science of teaching. Stern explains that the ancient Greek paidagogos had no teaching function and although the Torah had as one of its goals the leading of Jewish people to the Messiah, as Paul explicitly states at Romans 10:4, that is not the import of the present verse. The paidagogos actually would have been a harsh disciplinarian for the Jewish people, providing some protection but generally making the Jewish person aware of many transgressions so that Jews might turn from legalistic rule-following and be declared righteous legally on the basis of faith and being faithful to Yeshua, whose trusting faithfulness to God the Father purchased our salvation.”

Just because the Torah-pedagogue brought us to the Messiah, doesn’t mean we don’t need it anymore. This is a presumptuous and false understanding of Paul in Galatians 3:24 in its broader context. 

One purpose of the Torah was to identify our sin (1 John 3:4)  and hence our need for the  Messiah who forgives that sin. This is what Paul is saying in Gal 3:24. 

However, according to the Bible, that isn’t the only purpose of the Torah. It also shows how to walk in righteousness once Messiah has forgiven us of our sins. It also shows us how to love Elohim with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourself, as Yeshua declared in Mark 12:28–31. Love is also the fulfilling of the law, as Paul states in Romans 13:8–10. It also shows us how to know Elohim intimately (1 John 2:3) and how to have the love of Elohim in us (1 John 2:5) and how to walk as Yeshua walked (1 John 2:6).It also shows us how to love the Messiah (John 14:15). It also shows us how to be blessed physically in this lifetime (Deut 28), and will determine our level of spiritual rewards in the world to come (Matt 5:19). Sadly, the mainstream church doesn’t teach these biblical truths.

To say that we don’t need the Torah any longer is tantamount to saying that it’s now all right to worship idols, take Elohim’s name in vain, dishonor our parents, steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, covet, have sex with animals, etc. This is, of course, absurd. But this, in reality, is what those who say the law was done away with are saying.


 

What Are the 15 Enemies of Torah-Obedience?

In the Book of Deuteronomy, YHVH through Moses lays out the wonderful blessings that will come when YHVH’s people obey his Torah commandments. In stark terms, he also lays out the curses that will come as a  result of disobedience. Throughout Deuteronomy, it’s almost as if YHVH is pleading with his people to choose to obey him, so he can outrageously bless them. What a deal for the people! At the same time, he clearly shows that ultimately it is the choice of each person to choose which path they will follow: the path of obedience and righteousness that leads to blessings and life, or the path of disobedience and sin that leads to curses and death (Deut 30:15–20).

With the two paths so clearly laid out before men, you’d think that men would choose the path of blessings and life. Yet this isn’t the case. Most men will choose the path of sin and rebellion. Why is this? This is because man has several enemies that are working against YHVH to draw men away from him into a path of sin and rebellion. Who and what are these enemies?

Enemy Number One: Our Flesh Nature

The fallen nature, carnal heart of man (Jer 17:9; Rom 8:7). Man’s heart is naturally rebellious, stiffnecked and hard toward anyone or anything that tells it to do something it doesn’t want to do. The rebellious pride and stubborn hard-heartedness of the human mind, will and emotions is the greatest force working against one to obey YHVH’s commandments. What makes this enemy so lethal is that he’s inside of us — in our heart (how we feel) and in our mind (what we think). This enemy is very hard to detect, since it is so well camouflaged within each of us.

Enemy Number Two: The World

The influences of the world are a snare to us (Exod 34:12; Deut 7:16). The allurements of the pagan practices of the surrounding nations was ancient Israel’s downfall. The ways of the heathen are enticing because they appeal to and satiate the carnal nature within each man. This is why it is so hard for us to resist. The enemy outside of us is seducing the enemy within us and together they are warring against word or truth of Elohim in our spirit man (our conscience).

Enemy Number Three: Satan

Satan the devil, the adversary, is YHVH’s arch-rebel and is seeking to undermine everything that is good, true and righteous (1 Pet 5:8). He’ll use the world to draw man away from Elohim. He’ll use demonic, and lying spirits to tempt man to sin against YHVH. He’ll shoot fiery darts into man’s thinking (Eph 6:16) to deceive man and to lead him astray spiritually (Rev 12:9). He is the original sinner (1 John 3:8). He is the father of all lies (John 8:44) and he lies about and rebels against the truth of Elohim.

Enemy Number Four: Church Traditions

Church traditions or doctrines of men by which make the word of Elohim is made of non-effect is a major force keeping man from obeying all of YHVH’s Word including his Torah-commandments (Matt 15:6–9; Mark 7:8–9).

Enemy Number Five: Family and Friends

Family members and friends who are opposed to obedience to the Word of Elohim is a strong deterrent to one’s keeping YHVH’s commandments. After all, what will they think? How will that affect my relationship with them?

Other Reasons Why People Refuse to Obey YHVH’s Torah

They think it’s too difficult to do.

It requires lifestyle changes.

They’re afraid of what others may think.

They’re afraid they might lose their friends.

People have become a victim of spiritual complacency. They don’t want to leave their spiritual comfort zones.

They’re too busy with the cares of this life to want to make any major spiritual changes.

They’re really not in love with YHVH enough to want to obey his Word.

They lack the fear of YHVH, and therefore obeying his Word isn’t really that important.

They don’t take the Word of Elohim seriously enough.

They have succumbed to a faith of easy-believism when it comes to obeying YHVH’s Word where actions don’t have to back up one’s belief or fatih.

Does one really think that any of these reasons and excuses will pass muster with YHVH Elohim on judgment day when he’s determining a persons level of rewards in his kingdom?

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Rev 22:12)


 

The 18 Benefits of Studying and Obeying YHVH’s Torah

The Scriptures reveal that the Torah is much more than a list of dos and don’ts as many people have been led to believe, and is therefore, in their mind, a negative thing. Deuteronomy 4:6 says that the Torah is our wisdom and understanding before the nations of the world. In Deuteronomy 11:8, we learn that the Torah makes us strong. The word strong in Hebrew is 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 or to withstand.” This sounds like a good thing!

Here is a list of the other benefits of studying and obeying YHVH’s Torah:

The Torah defines what sin (1 John 3:4) and righteousness are (Ps 119:172).

The Torah shows us what YHVH expects from man (Deut 10:12–13).

The Torah convicts man of sin or lawlessness and brings us to Yeshua by way of the cross (Gal 3:24).

The Torah brings temporal and spiritual rewards; life and blessing when followed; curses when disobeyed (Deut 28; Matt 5:19).

Obeying the Torah helps deepen a loving and intimate relationship with YHVH-Yeshua and helps us to abide in Yeshua (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3–6).

Obeying the Torah helps us to stay spiritually pure (1 John 3:3–6).

Obeying the Torah protects us from the influence of the devil (1 John 3:8).

The Torah provides a framework or basis for YHVH’s divine justice or judgment (Deut 17:11; John 12:48; Heb 4:12 cp. Rev 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).

The Torah forms the basis for the jurisprudence system of civil government (Deut 17:11).

The Torah is heaven’s revelation of divine grace. It reveals how sinful man can be reconciled to a righteous Elohim; it reveals the path of redemption or salvation from slavery to sin through the idea of substitutionary sacrifice. This all points to Yeshua the Messiah, the Redeemer or Savior of the world.

The Torah reveals the concept of covenant between YHVH and man involving YHVH’s chosen people—the nation of Israel. Only through covenantal relationship with the Elohim of Israel and by being grafted into the Israel of Elohim can one have eternal life (Eph 2:11–19).

The Torah will guide and keep us on the path of righteousness and lead us into YHVH’s everlasting kingdom and spiritual divine family. It acts as a protective guardrail to keep us on the road leading to eternal life. It keeps man from falling into the spiritual ditches or off the spiritual cliff along the side of the road of life.

The Torah is our light in a dark world; the answer to life’s questions and dilemmas (Ps 119:99, 105; Prov 6:23).

Through Yeshua the Living Torah, the Torah helps us to become the person that YHVH wants to live with forever. It prepares us to be the spiritual bride of Yeshua (Rev 19:7–8).

Obeying the Torah brings us eternal rewards (not eternal life, which is by grace through faith alone, see Eph 2:8) in the world to come (Matt 5:19).

Obeying the Torah helps deepen a loving and intimate relationship with YHVH-Yeshua and helps us to abide in Yeshua (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3–6).

Obeying the Torah-Word of YHVH helps to perfect YHVH-Yeshua’s love in us (1 John 3:6).

The Torah shows us how to love Elohim and our neighbor (Mark 12:29–31).