Why Stress Torah Observance?
By Dennis E. Green
"You're just preaching bondage to rules and regulations."
"The Messiah set us free from the yoke of bondage."
"All we need is to love God and obey the teachings of the New Testament."
People often make statements very much like the ones written above when the topic of Torah observance is broached. With a less than adequate understanding of the nature and purpose of Torah, it is easy to arrive at similar conclusions. Depending upon the context in which the above statements are made, they could all be very accurate or far from the truth.
As a Messianic believer, one must be sure to have a proper understanding of the role Yahweh's Torah is to have in your life. With this proper understanding of our Fathers instructions, we will find peace and security in a lifestyle of yielded obedience. Likewise, if a believer has an improper balance in their doctrinal stance with regards to grace, Torah observance will inevitably lead to a life of struggle as one sees their own inadequacy to uphold an extensive list of do's and don'ts.Wasn't the law given in the Old Testament, abolished under the New?
'Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one iota or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19).' See also: Luke 16:17; Romans 2; 6; 7; I Timothy 1:8; 1 John 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:16.
The Law was given to mankind for several reasons. Some are expounded upon at great length while others are less obvious but no less important.
Since Adam, all of mankind has had to walk within specific guidelines which were laid down by a caring Father. Without these "rules" and "regulations" man would be free to pursue any and every hellish perversion that entered his mind. Without "Law", Yahweh would be unable to convict and condemn sin, for without the Law there is no sin. As One who is pure, our Elohim by His very nature requires and demands purity in the lives of those who have been created in His very image. The guidelines or "Law" which were set forth not only brought light into the darkness of fallen man, but they also brought death in that this newly awakened man was now accountable for his actions (Romans 7:1213). He now had a line which he was not to cross. This Law which now showed the way of righteous living also became that weight under which man was to struggle in an effort to please his maker. Without the power of Yahweh's Spirit giving the inward desire and ability to obey His commands, the Law can quickly be seen as a mountain to be climbed while suffering with broken legs.
This is not to say that the Law or loving instructions of our Father are hard beyond measure or that they had to be grievous. Often it is our perception of the command that makes it a blessing or a burden. David eloquently put his heartfelt love for these instructions to music (Psalm 119). Even a cursory overview of the Psalms will reveal that the Law was a delight to one whose heart yearned after intimate fellowship with the Father. (See also Romans 7:12,22)
Torah was not given for a righteous one but for the unholy and profane (1 Tim.1:9). Torah was not revealed to Adam to the extent in which it was later revealed to Moshe (Moses). The reason is simple, a man doesn't need a command not to do something when that thing is not in his power to attain in the first place. When Adam and Eve lived in a state of purity, free from the inclination to steal, lie, murder, etc., they did not need to be told, ''You shall not Steal, lie, murder, etc.". The one prohibition laid down, "You shall not eat from the tree...", should not have been a burden to uphold, but through that one commandment, their weakness was revealed. Through disobedience to that one commandment they were convicted as sinners. One must realize that even though Adam was not given many of the later prohibitions revealed to his descendants, the morality upon which those later commandments were based was simply the very nature and character of the Heavenly Father. Yahweh's Torah, as expressed in the Pentateuch, is ultimately an owners manual written by our creator by which we find the proper and expected way to live out our lives for the Fathers good pleasure.
Torah brings to light our inability to live up to Yahweh's standard of righteousness. The Law makes us ever sure that we need something outside of our own strength and wisdom to be accepted as righteous by a Holy El. In the Epistle to the Galatians we are shown that Torah, as a schoolmaster, was to lead man to Messiah (Gal. 3:24). While striving to be made perfect through obedience to Torah we see that we often fail. the penalty of this failure is death. Woe unto me if I fail to cleave to Messiah for redemption and His imputed righteousness, for without His atoning work, I would never be free from the cycle of temptation, struggle, failure, sin and death. It is only through faith in the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua that I live in the freedom to obey His commandments with heartfelt gratitude. His Torah is for our good and it is with great desire that I now seek to obey its instructions because they show me how to perfectly walk in this perverse generation without offending my Elohim or my fellow man. We were never set free from the requirement of obedience to our Father. His Spirit within us now gives the strength, joy and peace we need-as we walk as he would have us to walk and though we may fail, we are assured of His mercy and grace to guide and lead us without condemnation.
The scriptural arguments so often used to deny the authority of Yahweh's loving instructions in our lives are most often out of context with the unbroken flow of biblical thought. Sha'ul (Paul) fought constantly against those who would belittle the fact that we can only be justified by faith. He consistently made statements which reaffirmed the fact that no flesh shall be justified by the works of the law (Romans 3:20; Acts 13:39). This fact needed to be stressed to a people who felt that it was their own nghteousness, earned through Torah observance, that would save them. Abram was justified before the Law was completely revealed. It was for his faith in, and loving respect for Yahweh that he was accounted as righteous. Being righteous through faith in Yahweh in no way exempted him from the requirement of obedience to the laws of Yahweh. One in no way negates the other.It's all about love, right?
The central purpose of Yahweh's instructions can be summed up in the following:
- "All things therefore whatever you would have men should do to you, even so do you also to them: for this is the Torah and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12).
- "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said to him, You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law hangs, and the prophets'' (Matt. 22:36-40).
- "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Gal. 5:14).
Now one might say, "I love God and my neighbor so why push Torah? Depending on ones culture, upbringing, and entire world view, an individuals understanding of what true love for Yahweh and his fellow man is may vary greatly. If our Father threw out a command to "love" without instructing us as to what pure love is, we would be free to decide for ourselves how to work it out. I'm sure the outcome of that experiment would be disastrous. Torah shows how we are to live out our love for our neighbor and the Post-Messianic writings clarify and strengthen those commands (2 Tim. 3:16)
If one reads through the "laws" of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) he would be struck with the realization that obedience to these instructions would leave him healthy, fruitful, loving, prosperous, reverent, generous and happy. The curse of the law comes in our inability to faithfully walk this wonderful road. Our failure shows us our inherent inability to be the perfect man we should. Hallelujah it doesn't end there. With the Messiah we are free from bondage to the ways of the transgressor. We now, with perfect freedom, seek to obey the Fathers instructions from the heart. A heart on which His Torah has been engraved (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16). He has made a perfect man out of something very much imperfect. With the Psalmist I can truly rejoice "Oh how I love your Torah! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). And "Great peace have they that love your Torah; And they have no occasion of stumbling" (Psalm 119:165).
Copyright © Petah Tikvah Magazine
From Petah Tikvah Magazine Vol. 15, No. 1
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