Hey, great question, glad I thought of it. Each of the past couple of weeks I have provided articles related to the Torah. Some of you may have found this interesting and some of you may not find anything about the Torah significant at all. After all Rabbi, since Jesus died for us on the cross, and shed His blood for us, aren’t we now under grace and not the law? Another great question, glad I thought of this as well. Now for a great Jewish response, “So why do we need the Torah.” In case you don’t know it is typical of Jews to answer a question with a question, Why do they do that? Ok enough of that. Lets get down to some truth. The word Torah actually means instruction or teaching. The Jews needed instruction after 400 years of slavery and a lack of spiritual discipline. God gave the Torah to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai to give them guidance and instruction on how to live their lives. But not just how to live but, how to live according to the way God wanted them to live, which was unique and set apart or holy, different from the surrounding nations. The Torah was to be the by-laws and constitution for the Israelites. The Torah was never meant to lead to salvation but it was a means to live under God, to live for God and to live, yes just to live.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 states: I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving ADONAI your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him-for this is the purpose of your life!”
Moses is delivering his final teaching to the Israelites and has been reminding them that the choices they make will lead to either blessings or curses. This all came from Torah, Gods commandments, His instructions on how to live in obedience to Him. In other words the Torah equals life. More on this shortly. The Torah is divided into various sections, and is sometimes referred to as the Tanakh. The first part is the Torah or the first 5 books of Moses, the followed by the N’evi’im or writing of the prophets and finally the K’tuvim or writings. If we look at the word this way it helps to remember the different sections-TaNaKh. The Torah is also known as the Pentateuch which means 5 books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. As we read the Old Testament there are times when the Israelites were obedient and blessed and times of dis-obedience and subsequent curses. The big question that lies before us is WHAT DOES THE TORAH HAVE TO DO WITH THE CHURCH TODAY?
Well I believe, and not just me but the bible, the Word of God tells us that the Torah, the Old Testament is as valid today as it was in ancient Israel. You may be surprised by this but I intend to back this up with scripture, some of which you may have been taught and some which you were taught in error or complete neglect. I am not judging you, I am a teacher of God’s Word and His truth. That is my ministry.
Let’s start with the classic misunderstanding. The Torah belongs to the Jews, they have their book and we have ours. They live under the law and the Church lives under grace. Grace my friends was an Old Testament concept and you can find it throughout the Old Testament. Without Gods grace the Israelites would never have lived to see the promised land. Did Jesus (Yeshua) keep the Torah, was he a Torah observant Jew. The answer is yes and yes. Matthew 5:17-20 reads, “Don’t think I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.” The NIV uses the word fulfill rather then complete. Yeshua clearly meant to explain that He was the fulfillment of Torah. He came not to abolish or do away with Torah but He came to give it complete meaning, a more thorough understanding if you will. Remember Yeshua was talking to Jews, almost exclusively. They followed Torah. Yeshua’s greatest issue with the Pharasees was that they followed Torah in a legalistic way. Yeshua came to teach that Torah was a matter of the heart. After all isn’t faith a matter of the heart. Yeshua was very clear that Torah was valid, Torah was good and should be followed but not through legalism but by truly understanding that God intended for His commandments to be obeyed by demonstration of faith. This was not a works type of mentality that Yeshua was talking about, this was the way of the Pharasees and they did not get it. But Yeshua completes Torah by teaching a faith based mentality, one that would lead to an abundant filled life, not a life of rules and regulations. When Yeshua was asked by a lawyer which of the commandments are the greatest He summed up the Torah this way, “the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself, on these rests all the law and the prophets.” More importantly the Torah represents Yeshua, He is the Word as we read in the book of John 1:1-4, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning; All things came to be through him and without him nothing made had being. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.” The Torah and Yeshua are one, He was the greatest Torah teacher ever and because of His crucifixion and resurrection we no longer need temporary sacrifices, we now have our eternal sacrifice. Much of the law has been fulfilled or completed in Yeshua. We may still be under the law but no longer under the penalty of the law. Yeshua paid the price for us even though we did not deserve it. That is grace and that is mercy. The words “in him was life” brings us back to Deuteronomy 30, that obedience to Torah was life. The two are intertwined. Torah is life, Yeshua is life.
Rabbi Sh’aul (Paul) was also accused of not following Torah and teaching against it. But consider Sh’auls comments in Romans 7:12 “So the Torah is holy; that is , the commandment is holy, just and good.” Does this sound like a man who taught that the Torah was no longer applicable. Of course not. Sh’aul was a Jew from Tarsus, a Pharasee and a learned man of Torah. He, like Yeshua lived a Torah obedient life. He also understood that to reach gentiles, he had to reach them in their own cultural context. We need to remind ourselves that the writers of the New Testament were Torah observant Jews and the only scripture they had was the scrolls of the Torah, the Prophets and the writings. These teachings and the teachings of the Master Rabbi, Yeshua were all they had to follow the Great Commission.
The New Covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 was made with the people of Israel. It was promised to be written on their hearts. This is the New Covenant in which Jew and gentile believers in Yeshua can come together. The Olive Tree metaphor used by Rabbi Sh’aul talks about the grafting in of wild branches, gentiles to the trunk of the Olive Tree. The root of the Olive Tree are the Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jakob with Yeshua at the center. The original branches may have fallen off due to lack of faith but they are promised to be grafted back in. These represent Israel. It is my belief that all true believers, those original branches and those grafted in are now part of Israel and as such we are all enjoined to the teachings of Yeshua, including His teaching of Torah. If we are to be complete in Yeshua, we all need to come together, to wake up and learn that the foundation of the Church is Jewish and the Church would not exist today had it not been for the covenants of the Old Testament, the Prophecies of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua.
The Torah may no longer have 613 commandments for us to live by, but the foundation laid by God as by-laws and a constitution for His Chosen People have not been abolished. They stand today with greater meaning and completion because of the New Covenant and mostly because Yeshua himself has completed much of it. The foundation of Torah is something every believer needs to understand if we are to fully comprehend the New Testament. Not because I say so, because God says so. And that is good enough for me.
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