Torah 101

 

I often note that people who won’t attempt to read what Scripture has to say about a number of things will sometimes take a look at what the Torah says about economics…particularly when it impacts their wallet.  Things which we can point out to others can, in other words, provide us with examples of WHY what the Bible has to say about life are important, and worth the time to study and consider.

But there is another situation which many of us have, or will, encounter.  That is the individual who claims to “believe” in Scripture, but has become disillusioned or confused, due to what might justifiably be called the “Jeremiah 16:19 Syndrome”, because that prophet so accurately described those who realize we have been deceived:

“O YHVH, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction, The ‘goyim’ shall come to You From the ends of the earth and say, “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.

When people DO begin to “come out” of the world, and the world’s ‘church’, it is important that we be able to give an account for what we believe, and why – based on what we have learned.  “Torah 101”, then, refers not so much to WHAT it contains, but how we show those who have begun to question those “unprofitable things” WHY that study…from Bereshiet (Genesis) onwards…is so important.

As it turns out, we have been taught about “another Jesus” (II Cor. 11:4) who supposedly “did away with” His own torah, or “teaching and instruction”.  We were taught “doctrines of men” in “Sunday school” — just as our Messiah called the Pharisees “hypocrites” for doing (Matthew 15:7-9, Mark 7:6-8) — instead of what is actually Written.  We were taught to accept pagan ‘holy days’ — that He called “abominations” —  in place of the Feasts which we were instructed to keep forever!

And yet the natural reaction of most people — and perhaps especially those who thought they were doing things in obedience to God — is anger, when they realize that so much of what they have been taught is not only wrong, but amounts to calling good, evil, and evil, good.  How do we show those folks who DO truly want to study and believe what His Word really says that so much of what the Caesar-created, state-approved, tax-exempt “church” teaches is just plain wrong?

We quote the “Word Made Flesh”, Himself.  We show them that when He said that He does not change, and keeps His Covenants forever, that this is exactly what He meant. (Malachi 3:6, Hebrew 13:8, etc.)

One of the first such teachings, of course, is in the famous “Sermon on the Mount”, the verses in Matthew 5:17-19, which have been so often misquoted to say something that He did not:

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Navim (prophets). I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
For I say to you, that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as one jot or one tittle will pass from the torah until all is fulfilled.

There are two key points to understand. The first is that His teaching was not in English, nor in Greek, and that when He said that not the smallest part, not “one yod or tiddle,” will pass from His instruction, the word He used was “torah” — not “law” or “nomos”.  And the second thing is the combination of qualifiers He chose!   His instruction cannot have changed, much less been “done away with”, because “heaven and earth” obviously still exist!   Finally, note that the phrase “torah and prophets” is a well-understood, specific reference to what everyone listening knew was the Written Scriptures.  The rest of His sermon makes that point over and over again as well, since he repeatedly used the contrast between what “you have heard it said” — just as we, too, have heard things taught in error — as opposed to what is actually Written in His Word!, THAT is, in fact,  what He taught as “one having Authority”  (Matthew 7:29).

In fact, much of His ministry focused on correcting the false doctrine of the Pharisees — the legalistic clergy of that age — because they violated His Word by “adding to” it so many “burdens” that they did not have the authority to change! (Deut. 4:2, Deut. 12:32, etc.)  He called them “hypocrites!” (and worse, even — see the whole of Matthew chapter 23) for doing exactly that.

There are many other testimonies from the apostolic Writings which make the point.  But several have always seemed to me to be good introductions to the vital distinction between man’s traditions, and YHVH’s Written instruction.  It was never His torah which was “nailed to the execution stake”, but the indictment for the sin of rebellion to Him!  And the “law” which we are not to be “under” is the false burden of legalism, paganized ‘tradition’, and the “doctrines of men” which undermine His instruction for us on how to live our lives:

“…you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.  Hypocrites! …in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Matthew 5:6-9, and similarly Mark 7:6-9)

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

The word “law”, translated all too often without discernment from that Greek “nomos“, is a big part of the problem.  Yahushua was very careful to distinguish between His “commandments” and the imitation “law” enforced by those who claimed authority to correct what He Wrote.  Whether it was the Pharisees who added over 1500 hundred specific regulations concerning the Sabbath alone (whereas what is actually Written can be counted on our fingers!), or the Popes who literally “changed times and seasons“, getting rid of His appointed Sabbaths entirely and replacing them with forbidden pagan festivals — the principle is the same:  their “law” is NOT His!

Even Shaul (Paul) was very careful to explain those differences to pagan converts who were woefully ignorant of His Torah, unless, unfortunately, they are compared to most of the modern “Church”.  Chapter one of the letter to the Galatians makes the point very well…but only if one reads it with understanding of the Torah.

There are legions of examples in Scripture…from His healings on the Sabbath, where He explicitly violated those “traditions of the elders”, but NOT His own Word, to the lesson of Acts 15:21  (the “Big Four” were a starting point, not the goal), to literally the entire letter to the Romans.  Each of us should strive to understand, and be able to explain to those who have become disillusioned, how what they have “heard it said” was ‘done away with’ differs from His “Law,” as it is actually Written.  That means starting, literally, from Bereshiet — “in the Beginning”.

Once people have a solid grasp of why our Savior called those who tried to rewrite His Word “hypocrites”, the caution of Peter concerning those who try to “twist” the writings of Shaul (Paul) — the consummate Torah scholar — will make sense!  (II Peter 3:15-16)  The pieces all fit together when we are able to recognize what He  meant by, “If you love Me, keep My commands.”   (John 14:15)  After all, it is our “reasonable service”, and He hasn’t changed a word of ’em.

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