For awhile now, we head into a series of the teachings given to Moses on the mountain. This is an area of the Bible I am learning as if for the first time, through the eyes of a Messianic Jew. It is quite different than I always thought and we will try to make sense out of it together, but there is so much to it and I am only just beginning myself. First of all, it is important to note that the word "Torah" does not mean "Law." People naturally want to rebel against law, and I believe this was Satan's ploy to get us to rebel against the idea.
According to Hebrew definition, Torah literally means, "teaching," and it includes 5 books, Genesis through Deuteronomy. From all the things I'm learning, we have been taught incorrectly in western theology that Torah was done away with by Jesus. Rather, Jesus came to fulfill the Torah perfectly for us because we could not. But it has not obsoleted it one bit. Let me remind you that if you want more understanding on this topic, you should read Thomas Lancaster's book, "Restoration." It is an easy read and so enlightening! Truly it is a great beginning place for you to understand the Bible more fully and how things fit together. Consider this verse:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the [Torah] or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the [Torah] until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19 (NIV)
Notice, Jesus did not negate the Torah or tell us it was done away with. On the contrary; He upheld it. How many times have we skipped over this verse, thinking the commands are "done away with and we are now fully under grace with no responsibility?" Jesus tells us right here to practice and teach the Torah! The way I see it, He still requires we live by the Torah as much as ever, but where we fall short, or where we are not able to keep it, He fulfills it perfectly in us. Think of the Torah like a puzzle and all the pieces must be there to make a complete picture. Our acts of obedience (out of love, not fear or duty) are the pieces we place in the picture, and by our faith in Him, Jesus comes and fills in the rest of the pieces where we fall short.
It is critical to our faith today to unlearn some of the lies that have been passed down since the early centuries during the time of great persecution. Many of these lies have kept us from worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth. Why? Because in the last days, there will be a great deception on the church as we see in today's reading in Matthew 24: Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many... At that time many will turn away from the faith...and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people...For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. We will continue to try to uncover lies we have been taught about God and our heritage faith as much as possible, because God wants good students of His Word who are ready to rightly divide it. "Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)."
Many of us think, "Oh, I would never fall for that. That passage is obviously not talking to me; it is talking to all those backslidden Christians or unsaved people." But right here you have Jesus warning that the elect will be deceived! If you who are walking with God are not the elect of whom He speaks, who is? To me this means it is not going to be an obvious deception, it is going to be cunning and stealthy, underhanded. And Jesus goes on to explain in verse 13 what is necessary for us to come out of the great deception unscathed: "But he who stands firm to the end will be saved." It is my heart to help fellow Christians learn how to stand firm in truth to the end, and that is first done by uncovering lies and learning the truth!
In order for us to recognize the lie, we are going to have to know the truth. And here's a first truth for us to digest: The Torah is no more done away with than Jesus Himself, because it is the Word of God and Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). Now it is up to us to study the Torah and find out what it says to us today, and how it applies to us both now and in the future. And remember to always surround it with this understanding, it starts and ends in love. Love, not fear, duty, or legalism, must be our motivation. It's all about motivation. This is why the Pharisees did not get it right. They did not love, so they were nothing more than legalists. Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the [Torah] and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)
Be sure to pay attention to sub-headings. The Torah is divided into subsections and if you pay attention to these, it will give more context to the teachings.
To be honest, I hardly get many of the laws, and like you, I feel like there must be something missing for our understanding--whether culturally or just details were left out. But one thing you can do--praise the Lord that He has completed the Torah for you, and you do not have to keep each point. You can now bask in the simplicity (simple to understand, hard to do) of loving God and loving people, according to God's standard of love (not your own definition and ideas). The great burden has been removed! That is part of the reason you should read through all the Torah, so that you can rejoice in the newfound freedom of love!
24:2 "Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!" This prophecy came true in AD 70.
24:3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?" I find it interesting that Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives to discuss His 2nd coming with the disciples, since that is where He will make His 2nd coming! "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zechariah 14:4)."
Questions for reflection:
Have you ever thought about the fact that you could be deceived away from the truth? What can you do to safeguard yourself from that possibility? Or...do you think you're immune? Why?
Are you willing to learn and study certain ways you may have been led off track in your understanding of God or His Word? Does that thought make you feel uncomfortable? Why or why not?