The Purpose of Torah
February 18th, 2012* * *
This is the second message I was blessed to write and share at Shul on Shabbat while our Rav was away. Although not identical to everything I said, this is a rough transcript of the message that was put on my heart to share. It is a message that I feel is very important for every Messianic Believer in understanding the role of Torah within our lives.
Last week was an interesting Shabbat... it was a Shabbat where we had two people from our congregation enter into the marriage covenant and sign their own ketubah. At the same time, our Torah portion that week, parasha Yitro, was where we read about the marriage contract of HaShem, and the ketubah that He gave; the Ten Commandments. It was a very fitting Torah portion for the festivities that we had that week, and now, this week, we begin the chapters of Torah that really get into the different commandments, ordinances, and statutes. These are the classic "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" passages, and what I want us to focus on today is why all these commandments and instructions were given. Because you see, we're a unique congregation within the greater scope of Christianity in that we see validity and application to all of these various commandments and instructions beyond what traditional Christian theology has tended to look at them. And it's not just us, but many, many congregations all over the world are beginning to see the importance of the Torah as we teach here and we often emphasize how we see this as an end times restoration and fulfillment of prophecy prior to the second coming of Messiah.
But, in order for us to really fulfill our calling as a congregation, and go through seasons of intercession and sharing our faith and seeking and saving the lost, we absolutely must ensure that we have a thorough understanding of why we practice the faith in the manner that we do here at Congregation Beit Mashiach. It might seem like a very fundamental thing to explain the purpose of Torah and why and how we practice it in light of what the Scripture teaches, but without a strong foundation of understanding this fundamental truth, we're going to limit our ability to walk in HaShem's calling in our lives. Because see, in the Hebrew Roots movement, sometimes there's a lot of talk about how everyone needs to keep Torah, and we throw out a bunch of Scriptures saying that one must keep the commandments and so on and so forth, but there's a couple issues with this. Number one, those who are jumping on this bandwagon aren't necessarily keeping the commandments themselves, and number two, those same people are also failing to explain how and why we are to keep the commandments. They're stuck on the point of trying to justify what they believe without actually walking out what it is they're trying to justify.
So I want to make sure that we here at Beit Mashiach know exactly what the Scripture teaches in regards to the Torah so that we can stand firm in our faith which will be a witness to not only those who don't know Messiah, but also to those within the greater Christian community who might be interested in what this whole Messianic movement is all about. Because if there's one thing the Adversary likes doing, it's creating confusion within the Believing community; confusion and dissention. And it's interesting because, when we look at the Body of Messiah at large, there is a lot of confusion and dissention. A lot more then you might see in other faith groups as a matter of fact, have you ever noticed that? But that should actually be somewhat of a faith booster... because if there is a faith group out there who is not following the one true G-d of Israel, why would the Adversary waste his time with them? There's no need. They're already lost if they haven't found HaShem, so when we see confusion within the body of Believers, what we're seeing is a genuine spiritual war. A war that we need to be equipped to fight, and that includes a thorough understanding of our Scriptures and our G-d's Law so that we can effectively use them to carry out our Master's will, which is that ALL would come to a saving knowledge of His Redeeming arm, Yeshua our Messiah.
So to bring things back to our original question, why were all these commandments given? Within evangelical Christianity the Law is looked at as a schoolmaster in that it can convict people of their own sin and show them their need for a Savior. And this is very true! Paul says in Galatians 3:24-26 that the Law, the Torah, and specifically those who teach it, were tutors to lead us to Messiah, the faith that saves. And Paul also says in Romans 7:7 that if it were not for the Law he would not know what sin was. And this of course makes the Law a very, very GOOD thing, because any standard of morality we try to come up with on our own will ultimately fall short. And you can trust me on this one because I tried many times before coming to the faith, having read all the eastern texts on philosophy and morality by Lao Tzu and others, and thinking that I could come up with some strict moral standard that would be perfect and flawless. Back then I was a martial artist who believed he could rely on his own strength and wisdom and knowledge... but, that bubble got burst pretty quick and I came to see the priceless value of HaShem's perfect instruction. His perfect will.
But the Torah is much broader than simply a tool to lead us to our Messiah. Because while that aspect of leading us to the salvation of our LORD is critically important, we have to keep in mind that anything given by HaShem is going to have multiple facets of application and depth. It's never a simple A + B = C equation when it comes to HaShem. If we think it's that simple and that we got it all figured out, then we got it wrong. As it says in one of my favorite passages in Isaiah 55:7-8,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
And so I think in our approach to Scripture, anytime we become too confident in our own understanding of things rather than always being willing to hear from Heaven, we limit how much of HaShem we let into our lives. One of the greatest things that Pastor Andrew has ever taught me is that we should never be going into Scripture to find passages to support our theology, but rather, we should be going into the Scripture to let the Scripture speak for itself, and teach us what HaShem is really trying to say and do within our lives. Because otherwise, whether it happens in this life or in the life to come, we're going to end up like Job when he becomes humbled and says,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
“I know that You can do all things,
When it comes to the true purpose of the Torah, I believe that that true purpose was lost or at the very least distorted right around the time that Messiah came to Israel. There was some misapplication and misinterpretation of the Torah, and it's interesting because Jewish theology has always said that when the Messiah comes, He would properly explain the Torah. One of my favorite Rabbinical passages comes from the Midrash. And the Midrash, for those who don't know, basically means a spiritual exegesis or amplification on Scripture. And so the Midrash on Ecclesiastes 11:8 says,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 32:2-6 NASB, emphasis added)
"The Torah which a man learns in this world is but vanity compared to the Torah of Messiah." (Midrash Qohelet 11:8)
Isn't that awesome? But what's even more awesome is that this Jewish theology of the Messiah coming and explaining Torah was fulfilled to it's very exact detail when Yeshua came. Let's just go Scripture for a moment, turn with me to Matthew chapter 5 for a moment,
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.“ (Matthew 5:17 NASB)
The word fulfill here is actually a Hebraic idiom. Same with abolish. To abolish means to incorrectly interpret Torah... because if you misapply Torah or use it in a way that it was never intended, it would be the same as abolishing it all together. But to fulfill means to properly explain it, and on the receiving end it means to properly understand. So whenever the Apostles say "Thus the Scripture that was spoken by the prophet was fulfilled", what they really mean is "Now that we see this prophecy unfolding before our eyes we fully understand it". So when Yeshua was on the mountain there saying that He has come to fulfill the Torah, He is actually making a Messianic declaration that He is going to come and properly explain it. And if we keep reading the Sermon on the Mount, we see that's exactly what He did,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:27-29 NASB)
So basically Yeshua is saying "okay, this is what you guys are teaching, but this is really what the heart of the commandment is." Same thing when He talks about the washing rituals in Matthew 15 and Mark 7, which have nothing to do with kosher eating, rather those passages are all about contrasting the outward action with the inward truth. The real heart, the real purpose of Torah! And if we can understand the real purpose of Torah... guess what? We're going to understand the Apostle Paul's writings! Oftentimes when people bring criticism against leading a Torah observant lifestyle, they'll often say "okay, sure.... but Paul said...." ... Paul said what? I don't believe for a second that there is an even a hint of Paul speaking against or changing the Torah, although people have accused him of doing so from the very beginning. But in Acts chapter 21 they make it clear that those charges against Paul are actually FALSE. False! So it's kind of silly to teach the same thing when the Apostles already declared otherwise, but, in any case what I do believe Paul is doing is he is correcting bad theology. He's not doing away with the system but he's reforming the system back to what it originally was intended to be, which is merely continuing what Messiah was always proclaimed to do; properly explain and apply the principles of Torah.
But, it's easy to see how and where the confusion comes in, and before I take you to Paul's writings, I just want to visit the second epistle of Peter, because the second epistle of Peter which, in the original book order of the New Testament actually came before Paul's letters, Peter gives a little bit of a warning to Believers in regards to Paul's letters. Let's turn to 2 Peter 3 starting at verse 14. Peter there says,
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (2 Peter 3:14-17 NASB)
So, the NASB here says "unprincipled men" are distorting Paul's words and that we should be weary. Do you know what the word here for unprincipled men is? Athesmos, which is strong’s number 113 if you'd like to look it up, and one of it's meanings which some of you may have already read in your own translations is "lawless". So we have "lawless ones", those without the law, taking Paul's hard to understand letters and distorting them. Okay, that's a fairly harsh accusation, but one we need to understand before we visit Paul's letters. The Aramaic says the exact same thing. One translation which some of you out there have says the "Torahless", and another translation called The Aramaic Bible in Plain English, which I have to note was translated by an Evangelical Pastor, it renders the passage this way,
"You therefore, beloved, as you have known beforehand, guard your souls, lest you go after the deception of those who are without The Law and you fall from your own stability."
So one of the very pillars of the first Believers in Yeshua is here saying "know that people who do not have the Torah are misusing Paul's owns words and therefore be careful when you read them, lest you fall from the foundation which we have set". And that foundation of course is Mashiyach, and Mashiyach came and brought the proper understanding of the faith, the Torah, HaShem's means of salvation, and so on. But without understanding what it is that the early Believers were trying to correct... in other words, what that distortion and misapplication of the Torah actually was, we too might have a hard time with Paul's letters. Let me give you an example.
In 1 Corinthians 15:56, Paul says that "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;" and then in 2 Corinthians 3 that's where we read that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. So right away we have statements that perhaps might give some the impression that the law and it's letters are... kind of a bad thing. I mean, it's killing us, right? But when we flip over to Romans chapter 7, that's where we read that the Torah is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and GOOD. So which is it? Is it holy and righteous and good, or is it killing us? I mean, is Paul confused? Or... are we maybe the ones who are confused? Right after Paul says the commandment is holy and righteous and good, he says "Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be!" If you notice, Paul has many clarifying statements like this. He uses extreme examples but then he clarifies himself, and if we don't pay attention, we may get lost. Just like Peter said, Paul's... kind of hard to understand. When I read Paul's letters I get the feeling that he's kind of passionate and really energetic all at the same time, kind of like me, and so I get Paul. I get his style, and sometime, if I have a couple weeks with you guys, I can systematically go through some of Paul's difficult phrases if you were interested in understanding them. Phrases like "works of the law", "under the law", "free from the law" and so on and so forth because, those aren't phrases that Paul came up with, believe it or not. You can find them in Jewish literature of the same time period, like the Dead Sea Scrolls. And within that other literature you can clearly see what they mean and are referencing.
But anyway, one of Paul's most important clarifying statements comes during one of his best teachings in regard to correcting the bad theology of his day. And before I tell you what it is, I need to explain a little bit about what that bad theology is. You see, one thing that was happening at that time was that Judaism was turning into a works based system. People were forgetting that their redemption had come FIRST through their FAITH, and FOLLOWING their redemption from Egypt by faith, that was when they had received the Law. But now instead of looking at the Law as the lifestyle of a redeemed covenant Believer in the one true G-d, it was becoming a rigid set of legal rules that was to decide your fate in the world to come. The attitude was that you needed to earn your justification through your righteous behavior, but in doing so, Paul says they failed to even arrive at the Law. in Romans 9:31-32 he says "but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at the law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works." The same attitude still exists within Judaism today where your prayer, fasting and charity are your keys to appeasing G-d. But was this what it was supposed to be? Absolutely not! In fact, Paul spends an entire chapter in Romans, chapter 4, and if you believe Paul wrote Hebrews, he spends an entire chapter there as well, chapter 11, making a case that everyone from the time of Abraham was justified by FAITH! And so if they were all justified by faith, then what was the purpose of Torah? Did they even need the Torah? Of course they did... and so do we, which is why, after making a case for justification by faith, Paul says in Romans 3:31 "Do we then nullify the Torah through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Torah."
Hear that? Paul is establishing a correct understanding of the Torah and it's place within the correct theological framework that Messiah had taught. He certainly wasn't doing away with it, and I think that's been made very clear. So, without further adieu, I am going to explain to you guys the purpose of Torah, and all I need to do so is one single Hebrew word. You see in Hebrew, every verb or action word comes from a root word which explains in a little more depth the imagery behind that word, and these are things that we miss in the English. And the one Hebrew word I need to explain the purpose of Torah is the Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban (7133). The word korban comes from the verb karav (7126) which literally means "to draw near". And THIS is the purpose of Torah... to draw near to our Creator. That's why Messiah had to sacrifice Himself, so that we could draw near to the Father. But this concept goes far beyond that. Yes, Messiah made the way for us, and that's a very important focal point of our faith, but at the same time, we need to then ask ourselves, what do we do now? Messiah made the way, but how do we walk the way? Because we don't just sit around doing whatever we want and expect to have a G-d filled life, that's not how it works. James in the 4th chapter of his epistle, verse 8 says "draw near to G-d, and He will draw near to you". So WE have to take some initiative, that's what a relationship is all about, right? And the guidelines for that relationship were outlined at the foot of Mt.Sinai where we all agreed when we signed the Ketubah and said "All that the LORD has spoken we shall do" (Exodus 19:8)
This is so crucial for us to understand. But it's very important that we heed both Messiah's and Paul's words, which emphasized the heart.. and the real spirit of the matter. We can't just do the outward action, we have to desire within our innermost being to draw near to the Father. That was the real difference between the first ever recorded sacrifice. Cain and Abel had both brought the right sort of sacrifice, but it was their heart intention that made alll the difference. Able had a eager and willing heart to serve the Lord and he happily sacrificed to HaShem. But Cain on the other hand, while he brought the right sacrifice, did so in a sort of dreary "if I have to I will" manner. And this is why when Yeshua was asked about the most important commandments, He said that the first and foremost commandment was to love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. Let's go to Scripture for a moment because I want you to catch the essence of what Yeshua is really saying,
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR G-D WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NASB, emphasis added)
Did you catch that last statement? Yeshua is making a very important clarification that is sometimes missed in Christian theology, and that's that the entire Torah and all of the prophets depends or hang upon this principle of love. It's not that love is merely some fluffy feeling that replaces Torah, but rather, the objective of Torah is to love both HaShem and your neighbour. Just as I said before, to draw near to HaShem! So when we look at the Torah we shouldn't necessarily see 613 commandments, although Scripture does call them commandments, but rather, we should see 613 opportunities to love and draw closer to the Father. Isn't that awesome? Because truly, if we are going to define how to love G-d, we better go ask the Apostle John for a definition of love, and he gives some great ones in his epistles. I want to take you to the very passage that struck Pastor Andrew many years ago about the Torah, and that's 1 John 5:3,
“For this is the love of G-d, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 NASB)
So, would you look at that... not burdensome! Have you ever heard someone say that all those laws are a big burden and that it's too difficult to keep them? But that's not what John says, and I always find it funny if I hear that it's too difficult to keep the Torah, because guess what the Torah says? Keep your Scriptures handy and let's go to Deuteronomy chapter 30...
“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NASB, emphasis added)
So you see, these things are in our hearts for us to observe, if only we would see the true heart that HaShem gives us as we are born again as covenant Believers. So again, not burdensome, but joyful, because we want to please our Father in heaven and serve Him according to His Word, His Will, and His Ways, all of which were demonstrated by our Messiah who, as John says earlier in His epistle, we are to walk according to. Mashiyach is the Word made flesh. If you go through Scripture you will see that Word and Torah are used synonymously, especially in Isaiah and the Psalms. Yeshua also proclaims that He is the way, the truth and the life. Did you know that within Tanach there are passages which also say that Torah is the way, that Torah is truth, and that Torah is life? If you know and walk Torah, you will know and walk like Yeshua... but if you have NO Torah, then you will have no Yeshua. They are inseparable. But just like how people can teach another Christ, different from what was handed down by the blessed Apostles, so too can people teach a different Torah, different from what was originally given by HaShem. And that again, was what Messiah, Paul, Peter and the rest of them came to bring correction to, so that we could have newness of life by walking according to HaShem's image which was revealed in the footsteps of Messiah. And just so you know that yes, this is what it was always supposed to be from the beginning, let's go to John's second epistle starting in verse 4,
I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:4-6 NASB, emphasis added)
It’s very important to make note of the fact that these commandments are from the Father, because there is a theology out there that Messiah came to bring a new law, a different law, which replaces the so called old law. But John’s words here do not support this theology but rather he emphasizes that we have had these commandments concerning love from the beginning (i.e. Leviticus 19:18) But notice how John again clarifies what it is to love when he says "And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments." So once again, it's a two way relationship. You can't love without walking according to the commandments, and you can't walk according to the commandments without loving. Otherwise you end up like Cain, walking in the letter of the law only, but not walking according to the Spirit, which is the true way that one should observe Torah just as Yeshua preached in the Sermon on the Mount. And this point is solidified in one of Paul's remarks in Romans chapter 13, let's go there for a moment,
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 NASB)
If you remember from earlier, I was explaining that the word fulfill means to properly explain, or, on the receiving end, to properly understand. Some of you have a translation by Jewish scholar Andrew Gabriel Roth, who, understanding this, renders the passage like this,
”He who loves his neighbor has properly understood Torah.
So here's a good litmus test, where all of this becomes extremely relevant in our lives. If our observance of Torah is not resulting in a closer, deeper, more intimate relationship with HaShem... if it is not having an outpouring of the fruit of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5... if it does not help us to truly love our neighbour as our self, then we have to come to the firm realization that... we're not getting it. There is something amiss. We have to go back and re-assess just what it is that we're doing. You see, I love the Messianic movement, but there is a lot of leaven, especially when you don't have any spiritual cover. You can go on the internet and see everyone debating what calendar to follow, when to keep the feasts, what the sacred names are, if we should use the sacred names, what's pagan, what's not, and the debates are endlessly going on and on and on. But you'll notice that not very many of them actually result in people developing a deeper relationship with the Father, or each other. In fact, you will tend to see more fruits of the flesh than anything, which is not very good at all. So it's extremely crucial that we as Torah Observant Believers have a very firm understanding that the reason for Torah is so that we can love one another, draw near to the Father, experience more of His presence, more of His blessing. Not to divide the flock over theological differences that, in opposition to the will of HaShem, which is that everyone would come to a saving knowledge of His salvation, His Yeshua, and that we would love one another, in opposition to THAT, some of these theological arguments are very petty.
But did you know... the depth of Torah and it's purpose of helping us to draw near to the Father still goes even far beyond what I've just been teaching here.
Let's go back to the concept of the word sacrifice. The sacrifices in the old temple system were designed to purify our sinful flesh so that we could enter and experience HaShem's manifest presence... so again, in a very real sense, to draw near to Him. But this concept hasn't disappeared with the temple nor with the outpouring of the Spirit following Mashiyach's resurrection and ascension. Because you see, we ourselves are the temple of G-d so that His Spirit may dwell with us, and Peter makes a remark in his 1st epistle, chapter 2 verse 5,
"you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to G-d through Yeshua the Messiah."
So, spiritual sacrifice? What's a spiritual sacrifice? Well a spiritual sacrifice is anything we do within our lives to separate ourselves from sin or idolatry and to actively grow in our relationship with HaShem. This may mean changing the music we listen to, or the kind of movies we watch, or the places we hang out, and it will also involve spending time in prayer, in His word, in activities with other Believers... I mean, really, it's a huge lifestyle change that takes time. Especially if you're coming into Torah Observance and you're getting Saturdays off work now and doing your chores on other days of the week so that you can begin to keep Sabbath and enter into His rest. And then your changing your wardrobe slightly and wearing tzitzit, and then asking for random days off for the feast days, and so on. I mean, these are sacrifices, genuine sacrifices that take time to learn, time to commit to, and energy to complete. But those are the things that help us to draw closer to Him and our lives will ultimately change for the better, whether it's in regards to more love, more joy, more peace, or simply more blessing and protection from HaShem. Something we absolutely have to understand is that our obedience to HaShem and avoidance of sin is what allows HaShem to pour out His blessing on us. I preached a lot about that last time, but it's so fundamental. His blessing and protection are something we have to choose to accept by our willingness to obey and serve Him. In fact, that's an accountability tool! Because one thing that helps to keep me line is the thought of no longer receiving His protection because I'm willingly walking away or backsliding. No word of a lie, after experiencing HaShem's blessing, it freaks me out to think of what life would be like without it.
But this is another benefit to the Torah Observant lifestyle. You see, HaShem has given us an awesome set of guidelines and instructions to help us stay on the straight and narrow. When Yeshua says to walk the narrow path, well, that's sometimes not very easy. But when we walk according to His Word it does become a lot easier. Whether you claim to be Torah Observant or not, if you are a Christian in any sense of the word, you will be keeping Torah. Sure, you won't be keeping all of it, but you will definitely be keeping some of it. After all, not murdering, or committing adultery, and loving G-d and your neighbour are all aspects of Torah found within the five books of Moses. But all of the additional things which are not as common in Christianity, things like reciting the Shema twice a day, wearing Tzitzit, saying the blessings, observing the feasts, keeping Shabbat, etc. these are things that when properly applied will play a significant role in helping you to walk as Messiah walked, and I think it's a lifestyle that should be taught and developed as soon as someone comes to the faith.
Because, you see, if you lead a fully Torah Observant life and you begin to backslide, things are going to get difficult. I don't mean difficult in the sense of "oh, you've backslidden, now life is going to get difficult without G-d", no, I mean, it's going to be difficult to successfully backslide. Problem number one is every morning you will have to look at those tzitzit and think about your behavior. Then when you go to do the blessing to put them on, or any blessing actually as well as the Shema, if you have truly been saying your blessings and reciting your Shema correctly, you won't be able to say the second two words without smacking into conviction. In every Hebrew blessing as well as the Shema, the second two words are "Adonai Eloheinu" which is a proclamation that HaShem is your G-d... meaning, He is the ultimate authority, He is number one in your life, and you live in submission to Him. But if you're back sliding, you can't really say that. But let's say you're reciting the Shema and you make it past those words, okay, well eventually you're going to get to the part where you say "V'ahavta et Adonai Eleoheicha..." woops, here it is again, and you shall LOVE the Lord your G-d... again, to do the Shema correctly, you have to embrace those words as you say them and understanding that to love the Lord our G-d we have to walk according to His ways, His commandments, just as we've been reading from Scripture today. So if you have been trained to do the Shema properly, then if you begin backsliding, this statement will hit you hard if you know that you've been walking against His commandments. But say you manage to ignore the Shema, the Tzitzit, and any other prayers you have made part of your routine, and you just have a lousy backslidden week. Well, surprise, Shabbat is here!! Now where do you run? Shabbat is not only a time to rest with HaShem but it's also a time to fellowship with other believers, both on Friday night studying Torah, as well as Saturday morning at Shul, both of which you should be in the strong habit of doing if you are leading a Torah lifestyle. So now what happens? Not only do you get conviction from your personal daily routines and clothing, but your fellow Believers and the Scriptures that you read. And let me make this clear that conviction is coming from the Holy Spirit... but the Holy Spirit is going to use these things to help you pay attention. Because in our backslidden state we may try and shut out HaShem's Spirit, but as these things pop up to crack at the hardness in our heart, so the Spirit of HaShem is there is slip into that crack and remind us of our duty as covenant Believers. And this isn't even covering the big feast days and everything else that a Torah observant lifestyle includes. But think about it, the Torah is not only there to help us draw us closer to the Father, but it's there to help us KEEP close to the Father.
We need to understand, all of these aspects of Torah is like a firewall and antivirus software on our computer. It's there to help keep the bad stuff out so that we can function the way that we were designed by our Creator. And isn't that exactly what Yeshua prayed for in John 17? He said "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from evil" See, there's a theology out there about the rapture... and the big focus is on "yes, I've got my ticket out of here, see you all later" but that's not what Scripture teaches. The goal is not the rapture. The goal has never been the rapture. The goal is to live according to His commandments so that we can be a light to the nations and draw all flesh to the Mighty One of Israel. That has been HaShem's will all along. There's absolutely no reason to stress about what you think HaShem's calling is on your life, because it clearly says in Scripture, keep Torah, be a light, and people will be drawn. Sure, along the way we find out what gifts we've been given, but that's something that comes naturally, it's not anything we have to worry about.
So no matter what aspect of Torah we're looking at, it's all designed to help to bring us to our Creator and live life to the fullest in the true sense of the word. If we look at it from western Christian theology, they say Torah is a schoolmaster to lead us to Messiah, and that is very true. And Messiah is the way to the Father, so it's certainly drawing us near to Him. And when we look at what the Torah says, the Torah says that all the commandments are so that we can love HaShem and experience His blessing, His protection, and live a life of abundance. All of this too helps us to draw close to the Father. If we look at it from the perspective of accountability, as I just said, it's there to help us stay close to the Father. And really, when you think about it, it would be foolish to live life any other way as a Christian, and every Christian that is growing closer to our G-d will be following Torah, even if they're not doing all of it. But we have to remember, just because we don't follow every little detail, doesn't mean we're condemned to the fire of Gehenna... no, it's just that we don't grow as much in our relationship with our Maker. What you put in is what you get out, just like with any relationship. And so it is my deepest prayer that we at Congregation Beit Mashiach would come to know and fully embrace the true nature and purpose of Torah so that not only can we answer any inquiring questions from Christians in a loving manner, but so that we may all grow closer to HaShem together and fulfill His will as in heaven, so on earth. Let's just as the Lord's blessing on the word this morning…