Tag Archives: Torah

“Your dirt removes my blindness, your pain becomes my peace…”

Truly humble lyrics from an astoundingly poignant and truthful song in which the singer states “Convinced of my deception, I’ve always been a fool … If I was not so weak, If I was not so cold …. I would be frail.”

The astounding picture of transparency, contrition, and repentance painted by this song reflects the heart and soul of the lyricist.

It’s lyrics like these that make it kind of unbelievable when the same person turns around in a moment of, I guess, boredom on a long flight, and says “I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. … I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Equally amazing is the utter lack of surprise I feel when reading stories about christian figures spouting such ludicrous nonsense in regards to sexual immorality and perversion. Not simply because people are, always have been, and always will be corrupt and seeking to replace or destroy God at their very core, regardless of the religious title or stance they hold. But because the way that the Scriptures themselves have been mutilated and twisted, misinterpreted, manipulated, and in most cases, flat out rejected or neglected. Such behavior will naturally lead to false perceptions and ideas that contradict Scripture itself. Those people that condone such actions are in no better a position spiritually than the fornicators and perverts themselves!

We’re even specifically warned of such people by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5

11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”

I’m sure most of us who might read that would go “yeah, cast ’em out, and leave them to their own destruction!” Yet, we fail to realize that we are not only part of the problem that causes such mindsets, we are likely taking part in an equally evil act by condemning them without examining our own actions.

I guess my question is this: What is really the cause of such distorted and blatantly arrogant/ignorant beliefs of the “spiritually” minded christians of today?

Even a look at Hebrews 5 gives us insight to the fact that this same dilemma occurred even as early as Paul’s day.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

Now, it’s important to note that most mainstream translations of this passage break it up into two separate sections (cuz you know, the translators know what it’s really saying better than anyone else). In the NIV verse 11 is preceded by a heading that says “Warnings against falling away.” This is especially curious because there is no actual mention of falling away in the passage that follows that header. Instead, it’s an admonition, which basically says “We should go on about this, but you don’t seem to care so it’s hard to try to explain.” The next few verses shows the author basically ridiculing the readers by accusing them of being immature in their faith because they refuse to study the Scripture (of great importance is the fact that the Scriptures that would have been referenced was the Hebrew tenakh, as it was the only “scripture” available at the time.) and rely instead on someone else teach it to them.

12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature,who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Anyone who relies on their pastor or “leader” to explain the scriptures to them and keep reminding them to repent is like an infant who still relies on the milk of his mother because he is too immature. This spiritual immaturity comes as a result of laziness and refusing to study the “teaching about righteousness (a.k.a. the Torah, which described how to live a holy life, through the power of Messiah). In the next chapter, the author of Hebrews goes on to say “Let’s move past this repetitive cyclic teaching of the life of Messiah and what Messiah actually did, and apply what that means for us as His followers.  Let’s move on to spiritual maturity, and not keep rehashing the overplayed albeit crucial message of repentance. It’s as if the author is saying “Yes, repentance is vital for spiritual maturity, but if you’ve repented, you will move on from those acts that lead to death (Heb.6:1) and realize that if you continually have to have repentance taught to you, you’re pretty much lost and beyond hope (Heb.6:4-8). You should know it, it’s kinda the foundation of everything we’re talking about. If you don’t get that much, you’ll never grow. Let’s move on.”

Modern christianity has built such an “anti-old testament/Torah” foundation, that it really just utterly fails to surprise me when I read the article about the lead singer of Jars Of Clay supporting gay-marriage and basically throwing out the authority of the scriptures on matters such as homosexuality.

“I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Yeah. While it certainly cannot be applied as a blanket statement in regard to most self-proclaimed Christians, not many who claim to be christians in this nation actually do care about what the Bible considers to be wrong, they just fear the backlash that would come with saying it so bluntly. Ironically, while many likely share your sentiments, Mr. Songwriter, they don’t realize it.

I’m reminded of a story  I read almost a year ago about a teen who claims to be both a christian and a practicing homosexual. This teen thought it was a good idea to bring his Bible to Show-and-tell one day, and boldly rip out the first two-thirds of the pages (coincidentally — or maybe not — that’s the part that contains the dreaded and horrible law given as a form of slavery to the unsuspecting suckers called the Jews by the mean and angry “god of the old testament” that so many try to distance themselves from while still trying to grasp at all the good things He can give them, interestingly enough).

And why shouldn’t he? The bipolar attitude that the modern church carries toward the old testament of “this still stands, but that verse there, the next one, that is done away with, but the next one still stands, because Paul said so” is a dangerous and contagious one that has spread the world over.

Take for instance Leviticus 20:18:

18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.”

Try telling any given christian couple that they’re not supposed to have sex while she’s on her period, and you’ll likely get laughed at, and probably a reference to some letter of Paul’s that says we’re no longer under law. Yet, if  you tell them that they’re not supposed to have sex with each other’s parents, or with their pets, you’ll likely receive a blank stare because “everybody knows that’s a sin.” Yet, the paradox remains, those particular things supposedly fall under the category of “sexual immorality” along with the other things that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians. Why doesn’t the instruction in Lev. 20:18 fall under that? Most people will probably tell you it’s because of the division of moral, civil, and ceremonial law that “exists” in the Torah, and how only the moral laws still stand.

Read this and tell me where you see that division:

9 “‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. 10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. 11 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 12 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads. 13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 14 “‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you. 15 “‘If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal. 16 “‘If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 17 “‘If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.” 18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people. 19 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible. 20 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless. 21 “‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.”

I guess I missed the division there. So, verse 9 is ceremonial or civil, verses 10-17 are moral and still stand, verse 18 is civil or ceremonial and no longer applicable, but then we switch back to moral in verses 19-21 and those still apply? What? Where does it say that? The only distinction I see is in verse 7-8:

7 “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am YHVH your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am YHVH, who makes you holy.”

Maybe, instead of trying to rationalize, justify, explain, preach, manipulate scripture, or quote Paul in order to get rid of these things we just don’t think we should be responsible to do, we should realize that if we truly believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  the only reason we should ever need to do or not do something is contained in that simple phrase “because I said so”:

Because I am YHVH, the LORD your GOD.

Leviticus 20:23-24:
“You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am YHVH your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” (emphasis mine)


Thoughts on Ephesians 2:15

I came across Ephesians 2:15 yesterday while studying with some close friends, and it caused me to do a double take.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (ESV)
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Does Paul really claim that Yeshua abolished the law of commandments? It seems pretty black and white when you look at it, but a closer look and a deeper study reveal some issues with this common understanding.

He opens this paragraph to the gentiles at Ephesus by saying “So, remember that at one time you were gentiles, looked down upon and scorned by the Jews for your lack of Covenant with God, and at that time you were separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants which God made with His people, utterly hopeless and without God.” (my own paraphrase)

If you go back to chapter 1 you will discover to what Paul is contrasting this prior hopeless, Godless, covenant-less scenario. Paul is giving us a rundown of everything that God did for us when He chose to send His Son to die for our sins (I’ll let you read it, it spans almost a whole chapter). Basically, God gave the gentiles knowledge of the covenants, gave them hope, gave them an inheritance, and gave them grace by forgiving their sins. Chapter 2 goes on to say “And even tho God gave all authority over the believers to Yeshua as a head and leader of that body, you were still wallowing in your sins and lusts, following the ways of the world, even following satan himself through other men! Yet even so, God, the merciful God that He is, because of his astounding love for us – even though we stank with sin – gave us life thru Messiah, saved us by His grace, and gave us a place of equal inheritance next to Messiah on the throne in Heaven. You have been saved by grace, not by anything of your own doing – it’s God’s gift, so that you can’t foolishly boast.” (Again, my own paraphrase)

Paul is on a tirade of giving the Ephesians both a pat on the back, and a sobering reminder that their faith is not something they get to take credit for, all the glory for their salvation (and ours) goes to God alone.

Then comes the tricky part. Paul tells the Ephesians,

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up. Let’s back that up just a second. God created us in Messiah for good works, which were prepared beforehand so that we might walk in them? What in the world does that mean? What does he mean by works? And how do we walk in them? I think we need to talk to some friends about this for just a second.

1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

James 2:14-26 (ESV)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Wow, that’s heavy. I’ve read that before, but it still hits home pretty hard. So many people argue with me that because I view the Torah instructions as valid for modern believers in Yeshua that I believe in salvation by works. No. I believe in salvation by grace, through faith in Messiah Yeshua, and that as redeemed, bought-with-a-price, followers of Messiah, we should prove our salvation with our works. Just as James said, “You have faith and I have works… I will show you my faith by my works.” And John also gives us a sobering slap across the face when he says “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

But back to our selected verse.
Paul continues to sober us up with the passage that I opened with:
“So, remember that at one time you were gentiles, looked down upon and scorned by the Jews for your lack of Covenant with God, and at that time you were separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants which God made with His people, utterly hopeless and without God.”
But now, we who were once far off have been brought near to God by the blood of Yeshua. Paul mentions that God, who is our peace, has made us one by breaking down the dividing wall of hostility. Who was made one and what wall was broken down? The Jews and Gentiles (Paul uses the first person plural because he was a devout Jew, and constantly refers to himself as such). How did God do this? By abolishing that law of commandments as was expressed in ordinances.

So I feel at this point that it is necessary to point out a truth that was revealed to me when it comes to understanding scripture, and it consists of two simple rules:
1. Scripture is never wrong or self contradictory; either we misunderstand it, or we are making contradictions that do not exist.
2. If you ever come across a scripture that is either wrong or contradicts another verse, see rule #1.

That being said, let me make this point:
Yeshua himself said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah, but to fulfill it,” and if Paul is actually declaring that this is what He did, we then need to refer to the two rules.

More than likely what Paul is referring to is the fence (“traditions)” that Jews put around the Torah commandments in an effort to keep from even coming close to transgressing it. What is ironic is that most Jews fail to realize that in doing so in certain situations, they actually transgress the very Torah they are seeking to guard! One example is the washing of hands. In Mark 7, the pharisees deride Yeshua for not making His disciples wash their hands before eating (a command that is not given in Scripture). Yeshua, in a roundabout way, tells them that it is not the food that goes in to a person that defiles him, rather it is the excrement that is created that defiles a man. What the pharisees did was to create an ordinance, or a fence around the commandment to not enter the temple in an unclean state. This particular ordinance prevented them from seeing that the true purpose in being clean is not for everyday situations, it is for temple service! In their haughtiness and pride, they misjudged others – even distanced themselves from and cast out those who didn’t follow their rigorous purity practices, accusing them and condemning them for a sin that they did not commit. Yet the whole of the Torah can be summed up in “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” If they failed to do that in their judgement, they failed the whole of the Torah. This same attitude carries over even today. Many Jews will disassociate themselves from their gentile friends for reasons like kosher eating. Modern halakhah (or traditional observance of Torah Instruction beyond the explicit instructions in the Torah) says that all meat has to be kept absolutely separate form other food so as not to contaminate it with the blood, since God instructs us not to eat the blood, since it contains life (Deuteronomy 12:23). I know a family that has a separate freezer/fridge for meet and vegetables, and when they prepare meet, they cover their entire kitchen in aluminum foil so as to prevent the blood from contaminating other food. Because of this, they never dine with other families (even jews) who do not do the same, thereby neglecting their relationships for the sake of their own satisfaction in their deeds. Certainly this puts their own traditions above God’s instructions. This is what is meant by ordinances. Ordinances are manmade. God did not give a list of ordinances at Mt. Sinai, He gave instructions. Parents give their children instructions, not ordinances. Husbands and wives have expectations for each other, not ordinances.

For one to read Ephesians 2:15 as Paul saying that God abolished the law of commandments because it is nothing more than a list of ordinances does not line up with Scripture. If there seems to be a conflict, refer to the rest of scripture. Too much esteem is put on the letters of Paul, to which the other side is not known.  We don’t know the issues to which he is referring, and in our modern language, we miss all the nuances of his contemporary language and idioms. For us as astute believers and scholars of Scripture to hold a higher esteem for Paul, who’s writings make up little more than 5% of the entire Bible when counting verses, than all the other books (like James and John’s epistles) is simply irresponsible. Paul, who claims himself to be a pharisee, a Jew of Jews, would not have blatantly contradicted the very words of Messiah. Study the scripture. If something in one book seems like it is either going against or replacing something that is said elsewhere (especially when it conflicts with the words of Messiah) study into it. Don’t just accept it at face value because it was written by Paul, or even because your pastor told you so. Study it for yourself and ask God to show you the truth. And always remember the two rules:

1. Scripture is never wrong or self contradictory; either we misunderstand it, or we are making contradictions that do not exist.
2. If you ever come across a scripture that is either wrong or contradicts another verse, see rule #1.