Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer – December 2017 OIM News


Update

December 2017

As a student of world history, coupled with years of Bible study, significant fifty-year jubilee (Leviticus 25:10-13), seventy-year, and/or centennial anniversaries, regarding Israel and particular Jerusalem, can be a compelling reminder that the Holy One is ultimately orchestrating, or at the very least, allowing the affairs of humanity to proceed with His promises fulfilled. In a unique way, keen observers can detect the handiwork of the Almighty, as distinctive mileposts litter the dusty and bloodied trails of mankind’s steps and missteps down through the annals of time. Such is the case when one revisits the noteworthy actions that have taken place over the millennia regarding the place on Earth where God said He would place His name:

“But when you cross over the Jordan and settle in the land that ADONAI your God enables you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you, you will dwell in safety. Then the place ADONAI your God chooses to make His Name dwell, there you are to bring all that I command you—your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes, the offering of your hand, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to ADONAI” (Deuteronomy 12:10-11, TLV).

“Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I did not choose a city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a House that My Name might be there. Nor did I choose any man to be a leader over My people Israel. But I have chosen Jerusalem that My Name would abide there and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:5-6, TLV).

For centuries, many faithful followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have viewed world affairs through a prism that reflects the uniqueness of Israel’s prophesied destiny, and Jerusalem’s exclusive claim to be where the Creator God has placed His Name on the globe He created. Hence, it did not escape our attention this past Summer when we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967 from the Jordanians, as the Six Day War was commemorated. In fact, because this day was so significant to the State of Israel, the Israelis have an annual state recognized holiday and celebration called Yom Yerushalayim on the 28th of Iyyar.

In addition, this past month, on November 2, the one-hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration was also remembered. Shortly thereafter, a century ago, during the final year of World War I, British General Edmund Allenby began the assault against the Ottoman Turks to capture Jerusalem. The Battle for Jerusalem began on November 17, 1917 and ended with Allenby leading his troops into Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate on December 11, 1917. Thus this month it has been 100 years (or two jubilees) since these historic events took place. Might this be another one of the signposts regarding Israel and Jerusalem that God is making evident to Biblically astute observers?

Providentially, this month, the President of the United States has just recognized that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, with plans to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the next few years. This action in and of itself is going to have untold consequences, perhaps negative and positive. However, there has been a recognizable pattern down through the centuries, when a country or people group blesses the Jewish people. Since 1948 (seventy years ago this coming May 12, 2018) when the State of Israel was reconstituted as a sovereign nation on the land promised to Abraham and his heirs, the U.S. has been its strongest and most outspoken supporter. As a result, God’s discernable blessings have flowed and ebbed, contingent upon how America responds to Israel’s needs, as noted in the following passage from Genesis:

“Then ADONAI said to Abram, ‘Get going out from your land, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. My heart’s desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you, to make your name great so that you may be a blessing. My desire is to bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3, TLV).

We are thankful that the current leaders of our country are making declarative statements to the other nations of the world that at the very least, they are cognizant of what the Holy Scriptures state and want to support the right of the Jewish people to maintain their existence in the Land promised to them millennia ago. As a result, I believe the promised blessings to our country will be obvious to all with the eyes to see and the ears to hear. May we all pray to that end!

This month continues our ongoing series of articles on The Messianic Walk. J.K. McKee has written an importance piece, entitled, “Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer.” It goes through the weekly and annual cycle of the appointed times, how they are often approached by Jewish Believers who have come to faith in Israel’s Messiah, and by non-Jewish Believers called into the Messianic movement and embracing their Hebraic and Jewish Roots. You will be blessed, as we discuss both our family’s experience, from an evangelical Protestant background, in becoming Messianic—but also our experience in serving in congregational leadership, in common cause and unity with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Yeshua.

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years! We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net. We thank you for your 2017 year-end giving!

Finally, as we approach Chanukah this month, we want you to take advantage of our ministry’s Messianic Winter Holiday Helper publication, giving copies of this book to family and friends and your home congregational libraries. Each of us needs a more complete understanding of Winter holiday commemorations—especially so we can alleviate unnecessary tensions with those who are doing some less-than-Biblical things. Chag Sameach Chanukah!

Blessings, Mark Huey


Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer

by J.K. McKee

Each of us tends to be a person of habit, and there are ongoing daily, weekly, and annual cycles which tend to give focus and meaning to our lives. Certain days appear on the calendar which have importance to us. We may look forward on a certain day each week, to eat at a particular restaurant having a special. We may look forward to the weekend, to simply relax and not work. We may look forward to a birthday, an anniversary, or a day when something extremely important took place in our individual or family’s lives.

People in today’s Messianic movement have a different life cycle, than those many others who claim faith in Israel’s Messiah. While we have our birthdays and anniversaries like other people—the Jewish and non-Jewish Believers who compose today’s Messianic community, follow a different cycle throughout the week and throughout the year. For many Jewish Believers in Yeshua, being a part of the Messianic movement has been a significant lifeline, especially given the past history of many Jewish Believers who had become part of Christianity. Only until the past century or so, it was normative for Jewish Believers to assimilate into non-Jewish Christianity, its religious holidays, its customs, and for the children of Jewish Believers to quickly forget about their Jewish heritage. After all, it was thought that being Jewish and receiving Jesus meant that one became a Christian and stopped being a Jew. Today, with the Messianic Jewish movement, this is thankfully no longer the case. Not only it is a very Jewish thing to believe in Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah—but it is entirely acceptable to do Jewish things like remembering Shabbat, the festivals of the Torah, and the historical commemorations of the Jewish people.

A significant number of the non-Jewish Believers, whom God has specially called into the Messianic movement at this point in time, have often been led by Him to remember Yeshua in the Biblical feasts. A passage like Colossians 2:17, which speaks of how the appointed times have shadows of the substance of the Messiah, and how various Torah instructions portray elements of His redemptive work, really speak to the hearts and minds of non-Jewish Believers. These are people who want to live more like Yeshua and His Disciples, recognizing themselves as “fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19, CJB/CJSB). As followers of Israel’s God and Israel’s Messiah, and as a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13), what God has specified for His people and what He has done in the history of Israel, bears supernatural importance.

What does it mean for today’s Messianic people to regularly remember the Biblical appointed times and holidays in Scripture, as well as various commemorations from Jewish history and tradition? Many Jewish Believers see a magnanimous fulfillment of these things, wondering how their ancestors and family members continue to miss the Messiah. Many non-Jewish Believers feel that they had been robbed from past spiritual experiences, which did not include the appointed times of Leviticus 23 and other remembrances, and they can run into significant conflicts with their family and friends over why they are not necessarily observing previous engagements any more.

The Weekly Shabbat

For many Jewish homes, especially more religiously observant ones, the work week culminates in the remembrance of the weekly Sabbath or Shabbat. The Erev Shabbat family dinner is a huge centerpiece in the Jewish community, so much so that many non-religious Jews still think it is important to light candles, break challah, recite blessings, sing songs, and gather around the table together. For those who are followers of Israel’s God, the Erev Shabbat meal is important for maintaining the relationship between not only family members, but also with the larger Jewish community and with its God. This of course is carried over into the actual Sabbath day, frequently with morning services held at one’s local synagogue or temple, including traditional liturgy, Hebrew canting from the Torah, and a message that is typically delivered from the weekly Torah portion.

The Messianic Jewish Shabbat experience, while varied, does rightly incorporate a great number of the edifying traditions witnessed in the Synagogue. It is important that families get together once a week, and share a meal. It is vital that we all come together corporately in worship. And as Messianic Jews remember traditional prayers and customs, sometimes from their own childhood—Yeshua the Messiah being the center of the Shabbat rest, and identifying a number of the Jewish Sabbath traditions originating during Second Temple times, brings great joy and elation to them.

Non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement, observing Shabbat, is frequently a sight to behold. Many eagerly embrace Shabbat and its theme of rest—because they know that all human beings need rest! Admittedly for some, attending Shabbat services is little more than going to “Saturday church.” Yet, for many others, their introduction to Shabbat may have begun when a Messianic Jewish friend invited them into their homes for an Erev Shabbat dinner, and then they got hooked. Others, per the theological traditions of their Protestant heritage, may have looked at Sunday as a proper Sabbath day, including a prohibition on conducting in commerce, but appreciate that they now have embraced Shabbat with the fullness and richness that is seen in Judaism.

The Fall High Holidays

Jewish people of generally all varieties, take some notice of the high holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. For the observant, the time period leading up to and around these days is most vital, to make sure that any sins or errors of the previous year, and faults committed against others, are resolved. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are times, for religious Jews, where they believe that God is indeed looking at their hearts, and actively determining where they stand before Him. It is a very serious time for prayer, contemplation, and entreating the Lord for His mercy. Jewish people, who are nominally or non-religious, still tend to make an effort to attend some synagogue service for one or both holidays.

People in the Messianic community, because of affirming Yeshua of Nazareth as the prophesied Redeemer of Israel—while surely admiring customary Jewish approaches to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur—have a much different orientation toward these two high holidays, precisely because we believe that He has been sacrificed for our sins. While it is useful and appropriate that we all try to make amends for the errors we have committed toward our neighbors, and come in corporate confession and repentance as congregations and assemblies—we do not sit in a service, with some angst hanging over us about our sins not being fully taken care of. Instead, we come together in praise of what the Lord has done for us, and we entreat Him for the salvation of Israel and the world. This is especially appropriate, given how many conclude that on a future Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement will be significant events to take place in association with the return of the Messiah to Planet Earth, and the defeat of His enemies.

Following the high holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Traditionally in the Diaspora Jewish community, a sukkah or tabernacle is constructed in one’s back yard or at one’s synagogue, where families will often spend time for meals, and invite their friends for socializing. This is also the frequent way Sukkot is observed in the Diaspora Messianic Jewish community, although congregations can make Sukkot a time where there are special teachings or special functions to attract a larger audience. In North America, at least, the Feast of Tabernacles does tend to take place within the Fall, corresponding to various harvest themed activities that one may encounter in the local community.

The Fall holidays of the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles tend to be a major season when Messianic Jewish congregations make a considerable effort to reach out to the larger Jewish community with the good news. Messianic Jewish congregations often advertise to the Jewish people in their city—especially those who may only tend to visit a synagogue once or twice a year—that their congregation not only has Rosh HaShanah or Yom Kippur services, but that they are free! In many Jewish synagogues, members have to actually pay for their seats—yet Messianic congregations have been especially set up for Jewish non-Believers to come, visit, and be presented with the good news of Israel’s Messiah.

Non-Jewish Believers, whom God has directed into the Messianic movement, tend to have different approaches, or even reactions, to the Fall holidays. Many simply appreciate the reverence, traditional prayers and liturgy, and overall seriousness of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Focusing on one’s individual and corporate standing before God and others is actually therapeutic. And certainly, praying that the Jewish people come to faith in Yeshua, and that the world can experience shalom, is also most vital. At the same time, just as Messianic congregations can have a “flood” of Jewish visitors for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, there can also be many Christian visitors. But, rather than focus on some of the holy themes and prayers of these high holidays, these people tend to rather be focused on being present for what they think might be the season for “the rapture.” Unfortunately, their interest is not so much on entreating the Lord for His mercy toward the unsaved, and His concern that His people be accomplishing His Kingdom purposes.

Most Messianic Jewish congregations holding Sukkot activities do something similar to what is witnessed in the mainstream Synagogue. They are likely to have a sukkah on the congregational property, and they may have some event or major gathering open to the public—which more than anything else gives the congregation significant exposure. A number of congregations and/or Messianic ministries will hold various week-long retreats at a rural campground. (More frequently than not, this is a feature of the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement.) It can be witnessed that attendance at one’s Messianic congregation might be down, because people are off attending some Sukkot function. Regardless of how Sukkot is remembered by your local assembly, make sure that it is a welcoming time, where people notice the presence of the sukkah, they can fellowship, worship the Lord, and truly experience community.

The Winter Holidays

The Winter holiday season is frequently a very tense time of the year, for people within the broad Messianic movement. A definite feature of the Jewish experience, during the month of December, is remembering the holiday of Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication. The events involving Chanukah are mainly recorded in the Apocryphal Books of 1-2 Maccabees, as it involved the resistance of the Jewish people against the Seleucid Greeks—who wanted to see them give up their Torah way of life and assimilate into Greek polytheism—and the subsequent rededication of the Temple after their defeat. In much of the Jewish tradition, the festival of Chanukah is a time when families gather to light the menorah, they eat special foods (often fried), and it is a time to demonstrate good will and happiness toward one another, often with the giving of gifts.

Messianic Jewish congregations observing Chanukah, often transfer over much of the Synagogue communal experience, although as the menorah is lit, Yeshua the Messiah will be emphasized to be the Light of the Word. Messianic teachings during Chanukah do appreciably tend to focus more on the historical record of the Second Century B.C.E. Maccabean crisis, the Books of Maccabees, various prophecies of Daniel, and actually what can be learned from the Maccabees’ resistance not only to apostasy from the God of Israel—but how there are vital connections to be made to the end-times, the future rise of the beast, and how Believers in Yeshua need to resist apostasy. And, for our overall Biblical Studies, it does tend to be discussed how the First Century Jewish Believers were affected by the social fallout of the Maccabean crisis, as it did play a role in some of the tensions that erupted between the Jewish, Greek, and Roman Believers, as the good news spread out into the Mediterranean. Overall, Messianic Believers tend to learn new things about how relevant the story of Chanukah actually is for our contemporary lives as Messiah followers today.

Huge controversies can and do erupt during the month of December, regarding how Messianic people are to approach the Christian holiday of Christmas, on December 25. Many Messianic Jews simply do not see Christmas as something Jewish, they do not see it as something for them, but if Christians observe it, they are not going to oppose them. Many Messianic people, particularly intermarried couples often keep both Chanukah and Christmas. Many other Messianic people, oppose Christmas, although for different reasons and with different levels of opposition. Some of this may simply come from December 25 not being a specified holiday in the Bible, or established by the Apostles. Others see Christmas on December 25 as a clear result of syncretism practiced by Christians of the Second-Fourth Centuries, where pagan holidays were reinterpreted and “Christianized” with Biblical themes. Many see Christmas on December 25 as outright paganism, Christmas trees directly prohibited in Scripture (i.e., Jeremiah 10:2-5), and most Christians serving the Kingdom of Darkness. And, a few others, noting some early opposition to Christmas by a number of the Protestant Reformers, see Christmas on December 25 as a symbol of corrupt Roman popery. Those who hold to all of these positions are likely to be found at your local Messianic congregation during the month of December.

All of us should be mature enough as adults to recognize that during the month of December, due to all of the nativity scenes and different Christmas carols, that more people are going to be presented with hearing about Jesus and some form of the gospel, than at any other time during the year. In spite of many of the questionable practices and origins surrounding Christmas, God has brought people to Himself during this time of year. Yet Messianic people should also be wise enough to recognize that the Savior declared today during the month of December, is broadly not the Messiah of Israel, who is returning to reign over Planet Earth from Jerusalem—but is instead a universal Christ of tolerance (for human sin). While many sincere Christian people have honored God in ignorance on December 25, Christmas on December 25 is not a God-honoring activity. Still, Messianic Believers who may observe Chanukah, do not need to be odious to Christian people during this time, creating unnecessary scenes. Wishing “Happy Holidays” when being told “Merry Christmas,” is entirely legitimate.

The Spring Holidays

Usually as the Winter is closing, or as early Spring begins, in North America, the Jewish community remembers Purim or the Feast of Lots. The main focus of Purim is to recall the events of the Book of Esther, and how God used individuals like Esther and Mordecai, to bring about His deliverance of the Jewish people from certain annihilation. The Messianic Jewish movement remembers Purim via many of the same customs and traditions as the Synagogue, and tends to rightfully use it as a time to focus on not only the necessary deliverance of the Jews—for without the Jews there would be no Messiah Yeshua—but also how we can stand against anti-Semitism in our own day.

Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, where the deliverance from Ancient Israel from Egypt, the ten plagues, and the centerpiece of the lamb are recalled—is one of the most important features of anyone’s reading of the Bible. The significance that the Exodus story has had, not just in controlling redemptive and salvation themes throughout Holy Scripture, the self-identity of the Jewish people throughout history, but also many political and reforming movements in history, is quite staggering. Without appreciating the Passover and the Exodus, one is very much likely to not understand salvation history.

Within the broad Jewish tradition, extending back to Second Temple times, the story of the Passover has been remembered via the Passover seder meal. This mainly involves a retelling of the Exodus, the ten plagues upon Egypt, and incorporates the elements of unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs. The Passover seder has definitely been adapted throughout many centuries of Jewish history, often for the unique needs of diverse Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora. The Passover account alone should be compelling for all followers of the God of Israel. Yet, today’s Messianic Jewish movement has extended considerable efforts from its beginning, to make clear connections between the ancient Passover seder and the Last Supper meal held between Yeshua and His Disciples, before His sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The Last Supper was a Passover seder, although a very unique one, as the Disciples were being prepared to see their Lord executed in atonement for the sins of Israel, and indeed, all of humanity.

The Passover season is a significant time for the broad Messianic community, not only because of the critical need for us to rejoice in the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah—but because more people get exposed to the Messianic movement during Passover, than at any other time. While Messianic families, or groups of families, tend to often hold home Passover seder meals—inviting many guests—Messianic congregations tend to especially be keen on having a large communal Passover meal, sometime during the week of Unleavened Bread. This is often used as a dual-outreach, first to the Jewish community, as there are many non-religious Jewish people who can especially be reached with the good news during this time—knowing that Passover is, at least, a part of their cultural heritage. Secondly, evangelical Protestant interest in the Passover, has also been quite high over the past few decades. Wanting to understand the Last Supper as an actual Passover seder, as something that Yeshua did and should still be remembered (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), has drawn many evangelical people into the Messianic movement, embracing their Hebraic and Jewish Roots.

Some tension can erupt in the Spring, over the approach that the Messianic movement has regarding the Christian Easter Sunday. Messianic people absolutely must affirm the centrality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah to our faith! Yet, there is considerable discussion and debate, even among evangelical Protestants, regarding the origins of the term “Easter.” Some think it comes from the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, others from the Teutonic Eostre. This is why in some churches, the terminolgy Resurrection Sunday has been employed. And thankfully for many evangelical Believers, their Resurrection Sunday is precisely about the resurrection of Yeshua, and not about the Easter Bunny or Easter eggs. Some people in the Messianic community can cause a scene with various Christian people, over their observance of Easter. At the same time, other Messianic people properly integrate a remembrance of Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection into their home and congregational Passover activities.

During the season of Unleavened Bread, a seven-week or fifty-day period called the Counting of the Omer begins, which leads up to Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost. For Ancient Israel in the Torah, the Feast of Weeks was originally an early harvest festival, but became quickly associated with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. It was a key pilgrimage festival, noted in the First Century as being the time when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2). There are varied customs and traditions regarding how Shavuot is remembered, which can involve all-night readings of the Book of Ruth, and special teachings from the Mishnah tractate Pirkei Avot or Sayings of the Fathers. In the Synagogue today, Shavuot is a relatively minor festival, but in Messianic settings, the equal giving of both God’s Torah and God’s Holy Spirit, tends to be the focus of one’s commemoration.

Indeed, when one factors in the storyline from Passover to Shavuot, today’s Messianic Believers are presented with all of the key components of a person’s salvation. (1) Men and women are saved from their bondage to slavery via the blood of Yeshua the Lamb, just as Ancient Israel was saved from its bondage to Egyptian servitude via the original Passover lambs. (2) Believers in Israel’s Messiah are immersed in water, reminiscent of the Israelites led through the parting of the Red Sea. (3) Believers in Israel’s Messiah are to receive His charge for living lives of holiness and obedience, just as Ancient Israel was brought to Mount Sinai to be formally given the Torah. And (4) followers of Israel’s Messiah are to enter into His purpose, accomplishing the tasks of the Kingdom of Heaven, similar to how the Israelites were being prepared to enter into the Promised Land.

Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays

To any Messianic Jewish family, it is essential and imperative that the Biblical and Jewish holidays be observed. History is replete with too many examples, that when Torah institutions such as Shabbat, Passover, or Yom Kippur are overlooked or not remembered, among others, that Jewish people have a tendency to quickly forget their identity. The Hebrew Christian movement of the early Twentieth Century did not do a good job at emphasizing both the cultural and Biblical responsibility that Jewish Believers have to remember the appointed times. Even today, when Messianic Believers, think that it is acceptable to keep both Chanukah and Christmas, two opposing messages are affirmed. The Festival of Dedication has a theme of resisting assimilation to the world and its ways, whereas the syncretistic holiday of Christmas communicates that it is acceptable to take the ways of the world and “reinvent” them with Biblical themes.

Non-Jewish Believers have been entering into the Messianic community, in substantial numbers, since the 1990s—with the Biblical and Jewish holidays a significant magnet for them doing so. They often conclude that a short Sunday Church service, Christmas on December 25, and Easter Sunday, are spiritually anemic and not able to fulfill all of their needs. A weekly Shabbat rest, the appointed times of Leviticus 23, and edifying extra-Biblical commemorations from Jewish history are found to be very inviting! While there might be some good memories which linger, at times, of past family experiences—the future is embraced as one which not only ministers to the human soul on many more levels, but where one can have the genuine assurance of knowing that you are doing something that Yeshua (Jesus) did!

People being who they are, it has to be recognized that there can be a tendency to think of oneself as being a bit superior, as a Messianic Believer, involved with more Biblical things on a weekly and annual basis—whereas most of the worldwide Body of Messiah, at present, could not care that much about them. Proverbs 16:18 does need to remind some of us, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (KJV). Many who should be considering the value of the Biblical and Jewish holidays—be it Jewish Believers who have come to faith in Israel’s Messiah, perhaps rediscovering lost or forgotten parts of their family heritage, and non-Jewish Believers just now considering their spiritual heritage in the Tanach (Old Testament)—can find themselves turned off or even repelled, if we do not have the right attitude.

All of us can, for certain, have an edifying orientation when it comes to either the Sabbath, appointed times, or various extra-Biblical Jewish holidays. When Jewish people who need Yeshua, or evangelical Believers who need to grasp a hold of their Hebraic and Jewish Roots, see us—are they attracted to us, because they want to be a part of a loving and Spirit-filled community of Messiah followers fulfilling God’s tasks in the Earth? Do they feel genuinely welcomed and accepted by us, as they are wooed by the Lord to join with us, experiencing great blessings, and being part of the great things that He has in store for the Messianic movement in the days ahead? Do we, in our remembrance of these various holidays, actually live forth their substance in our lives of faith in Israel’s Messiah?

A Torah Foundation (Part II) – November 2017 OIM News


Update

November 2017

My how time flies! It is difficult for us to believe that fifteen years ago, on November 1, 2002, that Outreach Israel Ministries was born. This was a process involving a lengthy “gestation period,” which was initially conceived during a tour of Israel that Margaret and I took with Zola Levitt’s ministry in December 1994. It was there that the Holy Spirit communicated to us that our family needed to begin celebrating the Feasts of the Lord. We had each already participated in various Passover seders years earlier, and were acquainted with the Jewish Roots of Christianity—but this prompting was much more than just a recommendation to have some token attendance at a formalized meal for the sake of spiritual enrichment. Instead, it was a solemn invitation to learn more about our direct connection to our Savior, the Messiah Yeshua, who we both worshipped. In addition, since we had just traversed the same paths as the forefathers of the faith and gazed upon the same terrain they had during their lives, our hearts were ripe for more understanding of who we were as adopted children of the Most High (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). Providentially, this past month, while attending a conference of various charismatic Christians, we recalled the life-changing decisions we made in 1994-1995 that have altered the direction of our lives forever.

At that recent gathering, as we reflected back over twenty years to that time, we both concluded that it was a “crossroad” moment when we had two different paths to seek God before us. By His grace, we chose the path less traveled toward Messianic Judaism. In particular, I vividly remember in November 1994 a training jog, in preparation for another marathon run, when I was contemplating all the peer group pressure from the Charismatic Church we were attending to go to Toronto to experience the “Toronto Blessing” first hand. As I mulled this over and over in my mind, I heard in my spirit an almost audible “Jerusalem!” Immediately upon receiving this word, in my mind’s eye I envisioned the “pouring out of the Spirit” everyone was talking about in Toronto, instead being a direct pour on Jerusalem with a significant splash going to Toronto. By the time I jogged home I greeted Margaret with these words, “We don’t need to go to Toronto to receive a blessing, but instead, let’s go to Israel!” Her direct response was simply this: “If we are going to Israel, we need to go with Zola’s ministry. If we are going to tour Israel, we might as well be guided by a Messianic Jew.” Since I knew Zola from associations in Dallas, I called his ministry to find out when their next tour was scheduled, and five weeks later we were headed to Israel.

But even upon getting this inspiration to visit Israel and the gentle nudge to celebrate the feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23), it still took nine months to be led to a Messianic Jewish congregation, where we celebrated our first Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Even though we were not Jewish, we were certainly drawn back to the Shabbat services and within a few months of “triple dipping” (Friday Evening Erev Shabbat, Saturday morning Shabbat, and Sunday morning services at church), we concluded that the Holy Spirit was teaching us about the Holy One of Israel most effectively at the Messianic Jewish congregation:

“But the Helper, the Ruach ha-Kodesh whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I said to you” (John 14:26, TLV).

In a few months, we were taking the new member’s class and introduction to Hebrew. Before long, our family was totally integrated into the assembly with our daughters learning Davidic dancing and John getting very interested in eschatology and other theological subjects. Needless to say, as we gaze back upon those early days and the intervening years, we are delighted that the Lord led us to what we have been doing for the Messianic community of faith ever since!

Initially upon the inception of Outreach Israel Ministries, we discerned a need to help and aid the issues being faced by evangelical Believers, like we ourselves had been, who were being led into similar understandings. We wanted to make sure that we were all focusing on Yeshua and His ways, in a loving, balanced, and academic manner. After John McKee’s undergraduate studies were complete in 2003, he then matriculated at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2005 to hone his skills in Hebrew, Greek, and Biblical exegesis, and received a Master’s in Biblical Studies in 2009. As a result, our teaching abilities were immeasurably enhanced. Today in 2017, via Messianic Apologetics, and as we survey the future of the Messianic community, we know that we have a significant calling to be a voice of stability to the diverse Jewish and non-Jewish people whom God has called into this special move of His Spirit. Our ongoing efforts are focused at making sure that the difficult questions and issues people are facing get addressed!

This month’s lead article continues where last month’s left off, with Part II of “A Torah Foundation.” It finishes by addressing many common passages that are used to claim that the Torah or Moses’ Teaching has no more relevance for God’s people today. You should find this a very concise and useful summary—and it should definitely also increase your interest in further studies of the Scriptures!

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years. We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net. In the past month, the Messianic Apologetics website at www.messianicapologetics.net has completed its full server transfer, with all articles restored. We have also added a new Messianic Apologetics podcast, which we encourage you to subscribe to via iTunes and Google Play.

Finally, the U.S. continues to have a variety of issues that are spreading division and strife on many different levels. It is our prayer that God will use each of these circumstances to draw people unto Himself, and that hurting and confused people will turn to the Messiah for salvation, hope, and restoration. Father, we need your love, healing, and peace!

“ADONAI bless you and keep you! ADONAI make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! ADONAI turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!” (Numbers 6:24-26, TLV).

Blessings, Mark Huey


A Torah Foundation

PART II

by J.K. McKee

Last month’s lead article, A Torah Foundation—Part I,” addressed the components of the weekly Torah portions, the Tanach as the Bible of Yeshua, and began to address common Scripture passages used to claim that the Torah is not important for born again Believers today.

“A Torah Foundation—Part II” finishes the list of Scripture passages, incorrectly employed to claim that God’s Torah is irrelevant for His people.

Romans 11:6: “Grace is no longer on the basis of works”
It is a common misunderstanding among many contemporary evangelical people that grace was not present in the period of the “Old Testament.” Paul actually references a number of Tanach passages (1 Kings 19:10, 14, 18) in emphasizing how God’s gracious choice has always allowed for a remnant of righteous. The statement, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (NASU) should be taken as a logical argument, demonstrating how God’s grace has always been present in all time periods, not that there was once a time when grace could be actually earned from human works.

Romans 14: “God does not care about what days people celebrate or what food they eat”
The information in Romans ch. 14 is often applied to matters of adiaphora in contemporary religious settings today, such as the music people listen to or the movies people watch. In all probability, Paul’s instruction to the Romans about eating and sacred days (Romans 14:2-6) involved unnecessary criticism of those who would only eat vegetables at fellowship meal times, and not “common” (Romans 14:14, LITV) meat that others would eat, Biblically clean but not ceremonially acceptable to some. These people were not to be looked down upon. There is a long-standing alternative opinion that the religious “days” in view (Romans 14:5-6) were times of traditional Jewish fasting. If one should not be criticized for fasting on a particular day—likely remembering or memorializing a tragic event in Israel’s history—then one should surely not be criticized for not eating certain things at a communal fellowship meal.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20: “All things are now lawful”
A correct translation of Panta mou exestin 1 Corinthians 6:12 would be “Everything is permitted for me” (TLV). Numerous versions place this clause in quotation marks “ ”, reflecting the opinion of most scholars that this was a slogan used by a particular group in the Corinthian assembly. When Paul says, “‘Everything is permitted for me’—but not everything is helpful. ‘Everything is permitted for me’—but I will not be controlled by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12, TLV), he is actually cross-examining and refuting something said by a group of Corinthians; this is not reflective of his own personal beliefs.

1 Corinthians 8: “Paul permitted Gentile Christians to eat idol food, a clear violation of the Mosaic Law”
Paul did not permit any of the Corinthians to knowingly eat meat sacrificed to idols, and was critical toward those who thought that they had the freedom to do so (1 Corinthians 8:9). He focused his admonitions heavily toward those who thought that given the supremacy of the One God, that it did not matter if they ate meat sacrificed to idols, given how idols were dead objects (1 Corinthians 8:4). Their actions could have had grossly negative consequences, as there were new Believers who once ate their meals as an act of reverence or worship to idols (1 Corinthians 8:7), and eating meat sacrificed to idols could cause them to relapse back into paganism (1 Corinthians 8:10).

1 Corinthians 9:19-23: “It is only necessary to keep the Old Testament law to convert Jews to Christ”
If Paul only taught that some adherence to the Torah or Law of Moses was necessary for Jewish evangelism, then Paul could rightly be accused of violating his own words about not bringing the good news in a manner of craftiness (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). When Paul communicates “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20a, NASU), among the other groups he lists (1 Corinthians 9:20b-23), this is best taken as a statement of rhetoric. Paul self-identifies with the position of the diverse groups in the First Century Mediterranean, in order to best communicate the good news of salvation to them. Paul never stopped being a Jew after coming to Messiah faith. But, there were certainly aspects of the First Century Jewish experience and recent history—among other groups’ experiences—that he had to be quite conscious of, in going to synagogues and declaring that Yeshua was the Messiah of Israel.

1 Corinthians 10:14-33: “Paul says to eat whatever is set before you”
The specific context of Paul saying to eat what is set before you, involves the acceptance of an invitation to eat at a non-Believer’s home (1 Corinthians 10:27). What is set before a Believer on his or her plate, is to be graciously received as a matter of the host’s hospitality. Should it become public knowledge that any meat had been offered to idols, then it is to not be eaten (1 Corinthians 10:28), as it would be a bad witness of one’s faith in the One God of Israel.

1 Corinthians 16:2: “The early Christians met on the first day of the week, a clear abolishment of the Jewish Sabbath.”
The reference to the Corinthians meeting “on the first of the week” has been traditionally approached as Sunday worship services replacing the seventh-day Sabbath. There have, at times, been some dissenting opinions from this, given how this meeting on the first of the week was specifically for collecting monies. This would not be a permissible activity for the Sabbath. Also, in view of the Biblical day beginning in the evening, it has been usefully proposed that what is in view is Motza’ei-Shabbat (CJB/CJSB), or a special time closing off the Sabbath on Saturday evening.

2 Corinthians 3: “The veil of the old covenant has been removed.”
The Old Covenant is specifically labeled by Paul to be “the ministry of death” (2 Corinthians 3:7) or “condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:9). It involves the Torah, at most, being delivered on lifeless stones, only able to condemn people as sinners. The supernatural work of “the ministry of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 3:9) involves activity of Divine principles being written onto human hearts and manifest to others (2 Corinthians 3:3). This is language taken from the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 37:15-28, which speak of the commandments of God written by His Spirit onto new hearts of flesh. The reading of the Old Covenant ministry of condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:14), the Torah operative for a non-Believer, should convict people of their sins. Unfortunately, a veil lies over the heart of many, especially Jewish non-Believers, when the Torah can only operate as Old Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:15-16). The veil that separated Moses’ face from Ancient Israel (Exodus 34:34) was not unlike the curtain separating out the Holy of Holies in the Temple complex—which was split in two at the Messiah’s death (Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45). The veil over a non-Believer’s heart, prohibiting God’s salvation and sanctification to take place, is what is removed. The Torah no longer functions in a condemnatory fashion, but in principles imbued on a redeemed psyche by the Spirit.

Galatians 2:11-21: “By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
Whether “works of the law” is approached from its traditional vantage point of being “observing the law” (Galatians 2:16, NIV)—or “works of the law” is approached in association with various sectarian deeds involving formal proselyte conversion to Judaism (cf. 4QMMT)—justification comes only through belief in Yeshua the Messiah and what He has accomplished. Who we are as redeemed human beings is to be focused around the work of Yeshua, and not any human action. We are to obey the Lord’s Instructions as a result of the Divine work of Yeshua in our lives.

Galatians 3:12-14: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law.”
Those who disobey God’s Instruction are cursed, and the Messiah’s death on the tree (Deuteronomy 21:23) is what merits those who believe in Him a redemption from the effects of sin. Obedience to God’s Instruction, however, is to bring with it a high quality of life lived on Earth (Leviticus 18:5).

Galatians 3:23-25: “The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ.”
It is said, “Therefore the Torah became our guardian to lead us to Messiah, so that we might be made right based on trusting” (Galatians 3:24, TLV). Salvation does not come by any human actions involving the Torah. But, the Torah’s Instruction is to convict people of their sins, so that they might come to a point of realizing that only the work of Yeshua can provide salvation. The Torah’s pre-salvation role is one of instruction and harsh discipline, revealing the human limitations and faults of people

Galatians 4:8-11: “The Sabbath and Old Testament feast days are weak and worthless principles.”
Paul specifically told the Galatians, “but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?” (Galatians 4:9, RSV). The non-Jewish Galatians, in being errantly influenced to be circumcised as proselytes to Judaism to be truly reckoned as God’s own, were returning to practices they left behind in Greco-Roman paganism. Has Paul associated Biblical commandments in God’s Torah, such as those involved with the appointed times, and paganism, as being quantitatively indifferent? Or, in becoming formal converts to Judaism, did the Galatians feel that they could still participate in the Roman Emperor cult as good citizens? Alternatively, were the Judaizers/Influencers who had been persuading the Galatians, practitioners of any proto-Gnostic or mystical errors, with superstitions infused into their observance of their appointed times? A variety of interpretations are available at a reader’s disposal, all of which have been proposed in Galatians scholarship over the past few decades.

Galatians 5:1-4: “Those who try to keep the Law of Moses have fallen from grace.”
It is actually stated by Paul, “You have been severed from Messiah, you who would be justified by the Torah; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4, PME). This specifically involved non-Jewish Believers seeking some kind of right-status before God, originating in the Torah and not the Messiah. It also involved whatever commitments they made in undergoing formal proselyte circumcision, where one would make himself “a debtor to do the whole law” (Galatians 5:3, YLT), a negative condition to be sure. Born again Believers, reliant upon the work of Yeshua of Nazareth, are not to be debtors of any kind to perform the Torah, but are rather to fulfill its righteous requirements via the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit inside of them (Romans 8:4), something resultant of the justification they have experienced.

Ephesians 2:8-10: “We are saved by grace, not as a result of works.”
No one true to the Scriptures can deny the clear imperative, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). Eternal salvation does not result from any human activity—be that activity general works, or actions in association with the Torah of Moses. Yet, it is also absolutely true, that “we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, TLV). Those who have received the salvation of Yeshua, are to walk in good works of obedience, serving as definite external proof of the internal change which has occurred within them.

Ephesians 2:14-15: “The Law was abolished in the flesh of Christ.”
The breaking down of the barrier wall (Ephesians 2:14) has frequently been interpreted by Christians, as meaning that the Torah of Moses had to be abolished in order to bring unity to Jewish and non-Jewish Believers. While there was a dividing wall present in the Second Temple, designed to keep pagans and non-proselytes out on threat of death (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 15.417; Wars of the Jews 5.194), such a wall is nowhere specified in the Torah itself. Some Protestant traditions, favorable to the moral instructions of the Law, conclude that Ephesians 2:15 is only speaking of ceremonial instructions of the Law, and not the Torah as a whole. The Greek clause ton nomon tōn entolōn en dogmasin specifies a kind of direction that has been abolished: dogma. This term appears nowhere in the Septuagint translation of the Tanach in regard to any Biblical commandments, but instead in regard to regal decrees of the Babylonians and Persians (Daniel 2:13; 6:8; Esther 3:9) or Jewish ancestral traditions (3 Maccabees 1:3; 4 Maccabees 10:2). What was abolished by Yeshua were various extra-Biblical dogmas or decrees responsible for erecting the barrier of the dividing wall in the Temple complex—passing themselves off as “Torah”—and resulted in an inappropriate spiritual culture where people from the nations were being kept out of God’s Kingdom, rather than being welcomed into it.

Philippians 3:2-11: “Righteousness is not derived by the Law.”
In spite of Paul’s significant Jewish pedigree (Philippians 3:5), he recognized that his human achievements were meaningless in view of Yeshua (Philippians 3:7-8). He emphasizes how as a Believer, that he be “found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the Torah, but that which is through the faithfulness of Messiah, the righteousness which is from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9, PME). Paul’s identity is centered and focused around placing his faith or trust in what Yeshua the Messiah has accomplished in being sacrificed for human sin. Messianic Believers today, who place a high emphasis on following the Torah, do so because they want to emulate the Messiah who followed the Torah—while steadfastly recognizing that their righteousness is to be found in His atoning work.

Colossians 2:14: “The Law of Moses was nailed to the cross of Christ.”
That something was nailed to the execution-stake or wooden scaffold of the Messiah, is clear enough from Colossians 2:14: “He wiped away the bill of charges against us. Because of the regulations, it stood as a testimony against us; but he removed it by nailing it to the execution-stake” (CJB/CJSB). Many have interpreted what was nailed to the execution-stake of Yeshua as the Torah of Moses in its entirety. Throughout Protestant history, though, many others have been more tempered in their conclusions. Instead of the Torah as a whole being “nailed to the cross,” the most frequent alternative has been to conclude that the capital penalties and condemnation of the Torah were absorbed onto Yeshua.

Colossians 2:16-23: “Christians are not to be judged for not keeping the Sabbath and Old Testament feast days.”
Unnecessary or unfair judgment of people, for what they do or do not do, is certainly not warranted from mature Believers. However, the statement “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (Colossians 2:16, NASU), is directly connected to a false philosophy that denigrated the Divinity of Yeshua (Colossians 2:8-9), and involved self-abasement and asceticism (Colossians 2:18, 20-22). Torah instructions involving Shabbat or the appointed times are supposed to reveal a significant Messianic substance to them (Colossians 2:17), something which adherents of the Colossian false teaching were not able to comprehend. Frequently, Colossians 2:16 is read out of context with what the judging actually involved per the situation being faced: What did various Torah practices mean, when caught up in association with the false teaching or false philosophy?

1 Timothy 1:8-9: “The Law is not made for a righteous man.”
The verb keimai correctly means “to lie upon,” and appears in Yeshua’s teaching about the ax that is laid at the root of the trees (Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9). 1 Timothy 1:9 is correctly translated with “the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners” (RSV). This is speaking of the penalties and condemnation of the Torah being used against those who violate it. Those who are redeemed in the Messiah do not have such harsh condemnation used against them.

1 Timothy 4:1-5: “Those who observe the dietary laws have committed apostasy against Jesus.”
The false teaching encountered in 1&2 Timothy, not only involved some kind of abstinence from eating meat, but also sexual relations (1 Timothy 4:3), as well as the errant belief that the general resurrection of the dead had already taken place (2 Timothy 2:18). True spirituality for initiates was believed to involve a return to a pre-Fall condition, where humans only ate a vegetarian diet and presumably did not engage in intercourse. The issue in 1 Timothy 4:3 involves a total abstention from eating all forms of meat, not the kosher dietary laws separating out clean and unclean meats.

2 Timothy 1:9: “Salvation is not according to works.”
“He has saved us and called us with a holy calling—not because of our deeds but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Messiah Yeshua before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9, TLV). People in today’s Messianic community who give an importance to the Torah for God’s people in the post-resurrection era, do so because of the need to live a life in accordance with His holiness resultant of their salvation—because human actions, deeds, or works cannot merit one eternal salvation.

2 Timothy 2:15: “The Word of God is to be rightly divided between the Old and New Testaments, Israel and the Church.”
While one needs to understand Holy Scripture in its ancient context(s) for sure, and recognize that Biblical books were not written directly to Twentieth and Twenty-First Century people, the KJV rendering of 2 Timothy 2:15 has led to some bad conclusions: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The idea that Holy Scripture needs to be rigidly split up, as it were, between the Tanach and Messianic Writings, is not sustainable. More modern versions correctly render the verb orthotomeō as “rightly handling” (RSV), “accurately handling” (NASU), “correctly handles” (NIV), or even “keep strictly” (REB).

Titus 1:14: “The Old Testament law is to be regarded as nothing more than Jewish myth”
The troublemakers on Crete are said to have been pushing “Jewish myths or…merely human commands” (Titus 1:14, TNIV). Is this actually to be regarded as the Tanach Scriptures, or instead something outside the mainstream? Given the later reference to “genealogies” (Titus 3:9; cf. 1 Timothy 1:4), various exaggerations and embellishments on various minor characters in the Tanach, for which fringe branches of Ancient Judaism offered much speculation and lore, is more likely in view.

Titus 3:5-8: “He did not save us according to our deeds, but according to His mercy”
God indeed does save people according to His mercy, and not according to their deeds or works. This takes place “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, NASU). Yet, it is also true that the promise of the New Covenant is that God will cleanse His people from their sins, and by His Spirit supernaturally empower them to keep His commandments (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Titus 3:9: “We are not to be concerned about obedience to Jewish laws”
Titus 3:9 actually says, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about Torah, for they are unprofitable and useless” (TLV). For the circumstances addressed in Crete, this involved an irresponsible usage of the Torah, as a responsible usage is to reveal and condemn sin (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

Hebrews 4:1-10: “Jesus is our Sabbath rest now”
There is little doubting that for those who have received salvation in the Messiah, that they do experience a rest from the guilt incurred by sin. Surely, however, given the future realities to be anticipated in salvation history, the institution and significance of the seventh-day Sabbath should not be haphazardly dismissed. The complete Sabbath rest that is to be experienced by born again Believers involves nothing less than the complete establishment of the Kingdom of God in eternity. Some Protestant theological traditions, while errantly thinking that the Sabbath was transferred to Sunday, have rightly emphasized that the Messianic rest of the future cannot be properly understood unless a Believer partakes of a day of rest once a week. The weekly Sabbath or Shabbat is to teach God’s people important principles about the rest of the Messiah—which we already partake of now via our salvation from sins, but which we are to anticipate more of at the culmination of the age.

Hebrews 7:11-12, 18-19: “A change of law has taken place, because it was weak and worthless”
Due to the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah, “a change of the Torah” has taken place, but this is specified to involve “the priesthood being changed” (Hebrews 7:12, PME). The overall context of Hebrews 7:11-12 and 18-19 makes it clear that it is not the ethical code of the Torah, or even institutions such as the appointed times or moedim, which are in view of being affected some sort of change or alteration. Changes which have been affected to the Torah involve the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices. The animal sacrifices could not provide permanent atonement and forgiveness for human sin, whereas Yeshua’s sacrifice could. Yeshua’s priestly service before the Father in Heaven is not Levitical, but instead is after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:11).

Hebrews 8: “The New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete”
No one denies that the work of Yeshua the Messiah has inaugurated the New Covenant. However, Hebrews 8:8-12, includes the longest quotation in the Messianic Scriptures from the Tanach, that of the New Covenant or b’rit chadashah from Jeremiah 31:31-34. It is a mistake to think that the New Covenant has nothing to do with the Torah, when the promise includes the explicit word, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10, ESV). The transcription of the Torah’s commandments onto the hearts and minds of God’s people, for sure, can only come about because they have received Yeshua into their lives. It is also a supernatural work that can only take place via the sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:1: “The Law was only a shadow of good things to come”
A Bible version like the New American Standard Update, which employs italics for words added, indicates how “only” has been added: “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” The source text of Hebrews 10:1 says Skian gar echōn ho nomos tōn mellontōn agathōn, “For the law having a shadow of the coming good things” (YLT). While it is true that the Torah and its ordinance do include types and shadows of the substantive reality of the Messiah, the addition of “only” is intended to downplay the importance of those types and shadows. The Torah is incomplete without the revelation of Yeshua of Nazareth, but none of us can have confirmation of who He is, without knowledge of the Torah’s Instruction and expectations.

Hebrews 10:9: “God takes away the first covenant to establish the second”
The overall context of Hebrews 10:2-8 makes it clear that the issue in view is the limitation of the animal sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood, compared and contrasted to the final sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah. As the author of Hebrews inquires, “The Torah has a shadow of the good things to come—not the form itself of the realities. For this reason it can never, by means of the same sacrifices they offer constantly year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers—cleansed once and for all—would no longer have consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins year after year—for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4, TLV). The issue in Hebrews 10:9, “He does away with the first in order to establish the second” (ESV), is restricted to the role of animal sacrifices in the atonement of sin.

Revelation 1:10: “The Sabbath has now been replaced with the Lord’s Day”
Various theologians have made the case, that per the subject matter of the Book of Revelation, that John did not receive his visions on “the Lord’s Day” or Sunday, as would be seen in the emerging Christianity of the Second Century. Instead, John received his visions on “the Day of the Lord” (CJB/CJSB, TLV).

Serving the Lord as a Messianic Believer

Today’s Messianic Believers, who are convinced of the validity of the Torah from the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, need to be consciously aware of how many of today’s Christians will look at their lives rather critically. Whether you  are a Messianic Jew or non-Jew does not matter here: such people will try to find what they perceive to be weaknesses in your life or faith practice, specifically as to whether or not Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the central focus of your faith. Is the Messiah the focus of your faith? We have just examined many of the common verses that contemporary Christians will direct toward Messianic Believers, as self-justification for them not having to keep most, if any, of the Mosaic Law.

While we have offered some fair-minded answers for you to provide such critics, keep in mind that Messianic examination and teaching on the Apostolic Scriptures need to go far beyond just having answers to passages that are commonly read as being anti-Torah. Many Messianics do not spend a great deal of time considering the important message and theology that the New Testament conveys to us. We have the definite responsibility as a Messianic faith community to truly regard the Apostolic Writings as being a part of “all Scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16) too, and not exclusively spend our time focusing on the Torah and Tanach, as can be commonplace in some sectors. If we do not have a high regard for the value and integrity of the Messianic Scriptures, then today’s Messianic community will be neutered not only from understanding the continuing plan of salvation history—but most of all from accomplishing the Heavenly Father’s objectives in restoring a sense of sanctified obedience to the Body of Messiah.

A Torah Foundation (Part I) – October 2017 OIM News


Update

October 2017

With the official arrival of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot commences. This last of the Fall high holidays, often referred to as the “season of our joy,” is generally eight days of pleasurable reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people. Naturally, because opinionated individuals are involved, when the Leviticus 23 passage regarding the Feast of Books is considered, there are a variety of modern-day interpretations concerning just “how” to observe this appointed time:

“Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, and say, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Feast of Sukkot, for seven days to ADONAI. On the first day there is to be a holy convocation—you are to do no laborious work. For seven days you are to bring an offering by fire to ADONAI. The eighth day will be a holy convocation to you, and you are to bring an offering by fire to ADONAI. It is a solemn assembly—you should do no laborious work. These are the moadim of ADONAI, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations, to present an offering by fire to ADONAI—a burnt offering, a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, each on its own day, besides those of the Shabbatot of ADONAI and besides your gifts, all your vows and all your freewill offerings which you give to ADONAI. So on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruits of the land, you are to keep the Feast of ADONAI for seven days. The first day is to be a Shabbat rest, and the eighth day will also be a Shabbat rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit of trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and rejoice before ADONAI your God for seven days. You are to celebrate it as a festival to ADONAI for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations—you are to celebrate it in the seventh month. You are to live in sukkot for seven days. All the native-born in Israel are to live in sukkot, so that your generations may know that I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am ADONAI your God” (Leviticus 23:34-43, TLV).

Different people living in unique circumstances chose to do dissimilar things to observe Sukkot. Some simply build a family sukkah in their backyard or on a balcony, and then take some time during the eight days to have a meal or entertain a family member or friend or pray in the temporary structure. On the other hand, some people have decided to take a week off from work and go to the country or campgrounds to erect some kind of temporary dwelling (tent) and spend the week in celebration. The wide variance between the means of celebration simply reflects the diversity of people who take the time to not only recognize the Feast of Tabernacles, but actually do something other than some mental ascent to its ancient existence. After all, the words “perpetual statute throughout your generations” (Leviticus 23:41, NASU) should always be considered. Hence, individuals, families, fellowships, and congregations have the latitude to celebrate according to what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leads. The key for a Messianic follower of the Messiah is to recognize this convocation and impart it down through the generations!

For those studying the weekly Torah portions, the close of Sukkot is attended by Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. I have written five TorahScope volumes available in either paperback or eBook format, for you to begin your annual journey through the Torah readings. And, with the importance for today’s Messianic people to be paying attention to the Torah, in their understanding and reading of the Bible, this month’s lead article by J.K. McKee is the first part of a two-part article, entitled “A Torah Foundation.” This article goes into discussing some of the components of the weekly Torah portions, the Tanakh as the Bible of Yeshua, and begins addressing common Scriptures used to claim that the Torah is not important for born again Believers today—when it surely is!

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years. We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net.

Finally, the U.S. and some of its citizens have been ravaged by yet another hurricane hitting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a freak mass killing in Las Vegas. It is our prayer that God will use each of these circumstances to draw people unto Himself, and that any natural or man-made tragedies will turn people to the Messiah for salvation, hope, and restoration. Father, we need your protection, healing, and peace!

ADONAI bless you and keep you! ADONAI make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! ADONAI turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!” (Numbers 6:24-26, TLV).

Chag Samaech!

Mark Huey


A Torah Foundation

PART I

by J.K. McKee

When anyone attends a Messianic congregation, they are immediately struck with a connection to traditions and practices of not only today’s Jewish Synagogue, but of antiquity long standing. For Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah, entering into a Messianic congregation for a Saturday morning Shabbat service—there is an instant connection not only to one’s Biblical heritage, but also one’s ethnic and cultural heritage going back millennia. When the traditional liturgy and prayers are recited—which incorporates Scripture, hymns once sung in the Temple, and compositions from post-Second Temple Judaism lauding the Creator—Jewish Believers feel a strong comfort level, as they seek to live out their Messiah faith by embracing and not rejecting their Jewish heritage.

Non-Jewish Believers from Protestant backgrounds, visiting or attending a Messianic congregation, have varied reactions to the traditions of the Shabbat service. Many are sincerely intrigued, and they appreciate the structure and reverence of a worship time with Hebrew and English liturgy. Many indeed appreciate the ancient tradition of reading from the Torah scroll, seeing that canting the Hebrew aloud to the assembly is an ancient art to be greatly cherished. Others, however, do not see the value of liturgy or canting from a Torah scroll, considering these to be vain human practices. In fact, many—visiting a Messianic congregation almost entirely out of curiosity—are actually quite negative toward anything having to do with the Torah.

There is no question when reading the historical record of the Tanach (Old Testament) that obedience to God’s Instruction is required of His people. Israel’s obedience to the commandments of God’s Torah or Law was to bring it great blessings and fame (Deuteronomy 4:5-10), but disobedience would bring judgment (Deuteronomy 30:1-2). The history of Israel throughout the Tanach is, unfortunately, one of frequent disobedience—and Bible readers often witness the required punishment or chastisement of Israel by God (Deuteronomy 27:26). As soon as the Ancient Israelites entered into the Promised Land, one encounters how the period of the Judges was one where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, ESV). The Kingdom of Israel was split in two by the disobedience of King Solomon to God’s Law (involving incessant polygamy, idolatry, and child sacrifice!), although there was a period of critical reform during the reign of King Josiah, which saw a renewed appreciation for God’s Torah (2 Kings 22:1-23:28; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27). Following the Southern Kingdom’s return from Babylonian exile, the custom of publicly reading the Scriptures to the community became established (Nehemiah 8:1-3). If the exile was caused by disobedience to God’s Word, then it is logical that the Jewish community assemble to hear God’s Word, so that such disobedience would never take place again.

The Torah Cycle

In today’s Messianic community, just as in today’s Jewish Synagogue, a major feature of the Shabbat service is reading from the weekly Torah portion. While Jewish history indicates that there have been different ways that the Synagogue has approached reading the Torah, with both annual and triennial cycles employed[1]—the practice of the Jewish community reading through the Torah is ancient. In fact, the oblique statement appearing in Acts 15:21, “For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat” (CJB/CJSB), is an historical attestation of the Torah being read and discussed in the ancient Synagogue.

Two significant Jewish figures from the First Century indicate how important it was for members of the Jewish community to come together, hear the Torah declared, and for it to be the centerpiece of education in holy conduct. The Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived in Alexandria and was contemporary to Yeshua and Paul, stated, “And would you still sit down in your synagogues, collecting your ordinary assemblies, and reading your sacred volumes in security, and explaining whatever is not quite clear, and devoting all your time and leisure with long discussions to the philosophy of your ancestors?” (On Dreams 2.127).[2] The historian Josephus recorded how members of the Jewish community were permitted “to leave off their other employments, and to assemble together for the hearing of the law, and learning it exactly, and this not once or twice, or oftener, but every week; which thing all the other legislators seem to have neglected” (Against Apion 2.175).[3]

It is seen in the evangelistic efforts of Paul, that after the public reading of the Torah and Prophets (Acts 13:15), that he would use the opportunity to speak of the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah. Within today’s Messianic movement, the weekly Torah portion, and its associated Haftarah reading from the Prophets, frequently tends to be a venue for considering the work of Israel’s Messiah. This is an excellent way to testify of Yeshua to Jewish non-Believers, and to see evangelical Protestant Believers drawn to Messianic things, significantly connect with their faith heritage in the Scriptures of Israel. Today’s Messianic movement, on the whole, follows an annual Torah cycle, divided into 54 Torah portions. In addition to the associated Haftarah from the Prophets, Messianics also have tended to incorporate associated readings from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament).

The Bible of Yeshua

One of the significant pulls for many evangelical Protestant people, drawn by the Lord into the Messianic movement, is reconnecting with the Tanach or Old Testament Scriptures. As obvious as it may be, the Tanach was the Bible of Yeshua and His Disciples. Yeshua Himself spoke of how “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44, NASU). When a figure like Paul speaks of how “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV), much of what we today call the “New Testament” had yet to be collected together or even written. The Scriptures to which Paul was referring would have composed the “Old Testament.” Theologian John Goldingay emphasizes,

“One of the New Testament’s own convictions is that the Old Testament is part of the Scriptures (indeed, is the Scriptures)…and that the Old Testament provides the theological framework within which Jesus needs to be understood. The New Testament is then a series of Christian and ecclesial footnotes to the Old Testament, and one cannot produce a theology out of footnotes.”[4]

The Tanach Scriptures, and consequently also the Messianic Writings, are built upon the foundation of the Torah (the Pentateuch or Chumash). If you do not understand the Torah, you are liable to misunderstand what is being said in the remainder of Scripture. You have to understand the foundational stories of the Patriarchs of the faith: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the formation of Ancient Israel as a nation. Understanding the Exodus is imperative to properly appreciating one’s salvation and the sacrifice of Yeshua as the Lamb of God. You have to understand that the theological patterns established in the Torah are repeated in the remainder of the Tanach, and indeed also, in the Apostolic Scriptures. The Torah forms the foundation of the Bible and Scripture progressively builds upon it as God’s plan of salvation history unfolds. The ethical and moral values of the Torah, for certain, affected the worldview and perspectives of Yeshua and His Disciples!

As Jon D. Levenson remarks in The Jewish Study Bible, “both Jewish and Christian traditions view the books Genesis through Deuteronomy in this order as a single unit, standing first in the Bible. The unanimity of tradition and the initial placement of these five books reflect their significant place within religious life. In Judaism, the Torah is accorded the highest level of sanctity, above that of the other books of the Bible.”[5] Even though Christianity does accord the Torah some strong status, this status is not as high as it is in Judaism. W.D. Davies notes in IDB that “The coming of Jesus has inaugurated a new order in which, in some sense, the law is superseded.”[6] While the Messiah Yeshua is always to be our primary focus of faith as Believers, and Yeshua as God in the flesh and thus our “Lawgiver” (James 4:12) must by necessity exceed the Torah itself in importance, does Yeshua supersede and make the Torah to none effect? Or, is the Torah fully realized in Yeshua, who has final authority?

How should we approach the Torah of Moses?

While the Torah of Moses is the foundation of the rest of Scripture—and all Bible readers should have a good understanding of—it would be a mistake to say that with the coming of the Messiah, there have not been some changes resultant of His sacrifice for human sins. In Protestant theology, for certain, there are varied approaches witnessed to the role that the Law of Moses plays in the life of a Believer. There are theological traditions such as Lutheranism which see a strong contrast between the law and grace of God, considering the Torah to be a part of a previous time. There are other theological traditions such as Calvinism and Wesleyanism, which have historically sub-divided the Torah’s commandments into the civil law, ceremonial law, and moral law. It is thought that now with the arrival of the Messiah, that only the moral law remains to be followed by God’s people. (My own family, with mixed Presbyterian and Methodist roots, comes from a heritage which emphasized the “moral law” of God remaining valid for God’s people.)

Within today’s broad Messianic movement, different perspectives are witnessed as they involve the ongoing relevance of the Torah or Moses’ Teaching for God’s people. For sure, it is agreed that the Torah composes the ethnic and cultural heritage of today’s Jewish people, to which they should be faithful. Yet, how do we approach the Torah as our spiritual heritage?

As far as it involves the continuity of the Torah for the Body of Messiah, there are those who believe, often following dispensational theology, that the Law of Moses was for a previous era. There are others—perhaps or perhaps not influenced by theological traditions that have emphasized the so-called “moral law” as continuing—which have thought that a review of practices believed abolished such as the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, appointed times or moedim of Leviticus 23, and the kosher dietary laws, is important. Those who believe in a widespread continuity of Torah practices in the post-resurrection era, tend to focus on the themes of the prophesied New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27, and how God’s commandments are to be written on the heart, and is a decisive work of the Holy Spirit. Concurrent with this would be the necessity for God’s people today to recapture a proper understanding of how “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), the need to be holy (Deuteronomy 14:2; 28:9), and how blessings are given to those who obey the Lord (Deuteronomy 30:9-10). Unfortunately, given the great importance of a Torah foundation for those in Messiah, there are those who we will encounter, who can be very legalistic and inflexible.

Does the New Testament Really Do Away With the Law?

Today’s broad Messianic movement does adhere to some form of post-resurrection era validity to the Torah of Moses. At the very least, today’s Messianic people believe that the weekly Torah portions should be read and contemplated, as we let its accounts inform our understanding of how God works in history, and how we need the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah. By virtue of holding its main worship services on Shabbat or the seventh-day Sabbath, observing holidays and festivals not adhered to by most of today’s Messiah followers, and being concerned about clean and unclean meats—today’s Messianic people do inevitably have some conflict with a great deal of contemporary Christian thought and theology, which teaches that the Torah or Law of Moses has been abolished. In the minds of many Messianics, the idea that the Law has been abolished, has not only been a significant cause of many (claiming) Christians today being engrossed in great sins—ranging from abortion, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality—but has also caused many to be utterly anemic in their approach to the Scriptures, and how relevant the Bible is for their lives.

What did Yeshua the Messiah say about the Torah? In His famed words of the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord communicated, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19, TLV). Many people in today’s Messianic community, either Jewish Believers who originally came to faith via an evangelical Christian experience—and especially non-Jewish Believers who have been drawn into Messianic things—can testify to being convicted by these words. Yeshua the Messiah says that the Torah or Law of Moses remains in effect until our present universe passes away. And, the venerable Apostle Paul, whose writings are often purported to say that the Torah has been abolished, notably did say that proper doctrine must “agree with sound words, those of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and with the instruction in keeping with godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3, TLV).

If Yeshua says that the Torah is to be regarded as valid instruction for His followers, and if Paul says that proper doctrine must be in alignment with the Messiah’s words—then some necessary reevaluation of many Bible passages is in order. Today’s Messianic movement, in addition to simply wanting to have a fully Biblical and holistically Scriptural view, has to have a high view of the Torah of Moses for God’s people today, given its mission involving Jewish outreach and evangelism. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 specifically warned Ancient Israel against any figure who would come and perform signs and wonders for the people, and then teach against God’s commandments. Such a person was to be regarded as a false prophet. Unfortunately, this is precisely how much of Christianity has historically presented Yeshua the Messiah:

“Whatever I command you, you must take care to do—you are not to add to it or take away from it. Suppose a prophet or a dreamer of dreams rises up among you and gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder he spoke to you comes true, while saying, ‘Let’s follow other gods’—that you have not known, and—‘Let’s serve them!’ You must not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams—for ADONAI your God is testing you, to find out whether you love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul. ADONAI your God you will follow and Him you will fear. His mitzvot you will keep, to His voice you will listen, Him you will serve and to Him you will cling” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, TLV).

Many of us, whether we be Jewish or non-Jewish Believers, can testify to how when we informed various friends, acquaintances, or even family members that we were simply attending a Messianic congregation that held its worship service on Saturday, that we were in danger of falling from grace, committed some kind of sacrilege, or at the very least were trying to earn our salvation via works. We have each been confronted with a barrage of accusations, mainly quoting texts from the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, about why the Torah or significant aspects of it, are no longer relevant for today’s Messiah followers. Few are aware of how debated the issue of the Law of Moses has been, for the holiness and sanctification of born again Believers, in Protestant theology over the past three centuries.[7] But more importantly, too many people have been subjected to sub-standard interpretations and approaches to Bible passages, which were issued in a specific ancient context, and to which there might be various transmission debates from the source text into English.

Does the New Testament really do away with the Law? Our ministry has actually produced a substantial book (764 pages) on this issue, The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION. The bulk of this resource examines fifty Bible passages, mainly from the Apostolic Scriptures, which are frequently invoked to claim that the Torah of Moses is no longer relevant for God’s people today. Certainly, while we do stress that we live in a post-resurrection era with new realities that have been inaugurated by the sacrifice of the Messiah,[8] a widescale dismissal of the Torah is untenable—not only given Yeshua’s own words about the matter (Matthew 5:17-19), but also the steadfast reality that the New Covenant He has brought about (Luke 22:20) involves the supernatural writing of the commandments onto the new hearts of those cleansed by His work (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The following is an abbreviated synopsis (Part I) of the fifty Bible passages examined in The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION, addressing common Christian approaches which see the Torah as something for a previous time:

Isaiah 1:13-14: “God hates the Jewish feasts of the Old Testament”
The Lord actually says that He hates people who sacrifice and pray to Him, whose hands are covered with the blood of the innocent (Isaiah 1:15-17). The festivals and observances in view are notably labeled as “yours,” which places a huge burden of proof on the human people observing them inappropriately, not that they have all of a sudden been rejected by God as having value as instructions given by Him. Going through external religious motions, while at the same time facilitating injustice, is the problem.

Ezekiel 20:12-26: “God actually gave His people bad laws that they could not follow”
The Prophet Ezekiel describes the challenges that existed with the Israelites delivered from Egypt via the Exodus, and their children, in their difficulties with obeying God’s Instruction to them (Ezekiel 20:12-24). Their descendants, being engrossed by sin and rebellion against God, were turned over to bad laws (Ezekiel 20:25) such as child sacrifice (Ezekiel 20:26). Such bad laws involved either outright paganism, or a perversion of a good Biblical commandment, such as the dedication of the firstborn (Exodus 22:9).

Hosea 2:11: “God has put an end to the Old Testament Sabbath and feast days”
The Northern Kingdom of Israel practiced syncretism, where Biblical practices such as the Sabbath were kept in conjunction with the worship of pagan deities. Its disloyalty to God is depicted as an act of harlotry (Hosea 2:1-7), with the people not realizing how their prosperity came from the Lord and not Baal (Hosea 2:12-13). The religious observances that will cease are notably labeled as “her new moons, her Sabbaths” (Hosea 2:11), an indication how they had been taken up into the idolatry of the Northern Kingdom.

Matthew 5:17: “Jesus fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law”
The Messiah’s expressed purpose in association with the Torah of Moses was precisely not “to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17, NKJV). Whether Yeshua’s fulfillment of the Torah be viewed as His proper interpretation of Moses’ Teaching, and/or His fulfillment of Messianic prophecies, our Lord says that “not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass” (Matthew 5:18, TLV), and that the present Heaven and Earth must disappear in order for the Torah to be regarded as unimportant.

Matthew 11:13: “The Law of Moses was only in effect until John the Baptist”
What is actually said is, “For all the prophets and the Torah prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13, PME). With the arrival of John the Immerser, a shift in salvation history was taking place. The arrival of John was prophesied, and subsequently the Messiah and the new realities He would inaugurate would follow (Matthew 11:12). No disparagement of the Tanach Scriptures or Torah of Moses is intended here, but what is intended is that they are incomplete without the Messiah they anticipate.

Mark 7:1-23: “Jesus Christ declared the dietary laws to be obsolete”
There was a controversy present because Yeshua’s Disciples did not ritually wash their hands before eating, as did various Pharisees (Mark 7:1-5). Yeshua highlights some significant hypocrisy present here (Mark 7:6-13), and then addresses how what enters into a person does not defile him (Mark 7:14-15), as what is spoken by someone is what truly defiles (Mark 7:20-23). In informing His Disciples that what proceeds from a person is what truly defiles (Mark 7:18), Yeshua said, as is properly translated from the Greek of Mark 7:19, “because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and goes out into the latrine, purging all the foods [katharizōn panta ta brōmata]” (PME). Ultimately, what is eaten is excreted from the human body.

John 1:17: “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth realized through Christ”
Speaking of the arrival of the Messiah on the scene of history, John 1:16 narrates, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (NASU). It is then stated, “Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah” (John 1:17, TLV). The Torah of Moses is actually to be regarded as a revelation of God’s grace, but its grace has now been surpassed—as God’s grace is continuous—with the grace available in the work of the Messiah. This does not abrogate the Torah of Moses, but does reveal its incompleteness without the presence of Yeshua.

John 13:34: “Jesus Christ gave us a new law of love to replace the laws of the Old Testament”
Responsible Bible readers are aware that the commands to love God and neighbor are actually a part of the Tanach or Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). When Yeshua directed, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another” (John 13:34, TLV), this can be taken as either (a) a new quality of demonstrating love for others, as seen in the Messiah’s own ministry, or (b) a love manifested via the power of the prophesied New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Acts 10:1-48: “Peter was shown a vision nullifying the dietary laws”
Peter did see a vision of a sheet of unclean animals, which he was commanded to eat (Acts 10:9-13). God told Peter not to regard as unholy that which He cleansed (Acts 10:14-15). Following this, Peter goes to declare the good news to the Roman centurion Cornelius, informing him, per his vision, that “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28, ESV). The main intention of Peter’s vision was to communicate how all human beings have been made clean by the sacrifice of Israel’s Messiah, and that as a Jew Peter should not fear interacting with those of the nations.

Acts 15:19-21: “The Apostolic decree says nothing about new Christians observing the Mosaic Law”
The Jerusalem Council specifically met to answer the claim of some hyper-conservative Jewish Believers, that the new, non-Jewish Believers had to be circumcised and keep the Torah of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5). Peter made it clear that all are saved by God’s grace (Acts 15:7-9, 11), and that a heavy yoke or burden was being unnecessarily imposed (Acts 15:10). James the Just testified that the salvation of the nations was prophesied in the Tanach, per the restoration of the Tabernacle of David (Acts 15:14-18; Amos 9:11-12). The Apostolic decree mandated only four things, which could have been construed as a “burden” (Acts 15:28), requiring immediate changes from those turning to the Messiah of Israel (Acts 15:20). When followed, these new Believers would be cut off from their spheres of social and religious influence in Greco-Roman paganism. Far from these people being “order[ed]…to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5, ESV) by demanding mortals, Tanach prophecy and the plan of God were to instead be facilitated (Acts 15:15). This would necessarily involve the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Instruction (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4), a work that could only take place at the prompting of the Holy Spirit per the Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 New Covenant.

Acts 20:7: “The early Christians met on the first day of the week, a clear abolishment of the Jewish Sabbath”
Scholars debate what is intended by “first of the week” (Acts 20:7, PME), as to whether this was a meeting “on Sunday to worship” (The Message) or “On the Saturday night” (NEB/REB) after the Sabbath or Shabbat had closed. This could make the meeting in Troas “Motza’ei-Shabbat” (CJB/CJSB), a get together of the Believers remembering the departure of the Sabbath.

Romans 3:19-22: “Through the works of the Law no one will be justified.”
Traditionally, Romans 3:19-22 has been interpreted as meaning that human action in association with the Law of Moses will not bring one a status of redemption. Alternatively, various scholars have proposed that “works of the Law” involves ancient Jewish halachah, and that “justification” here primarily involves membership among God’s people. The actual purpose of the Torah is not justification; instead “through the Torah comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20b, PME).

Romans 3:28: “Justified by faith apart from works of the Law”
Even with components of “justification” likely involving membership among God’s people, the purpose of the Torah is not to provide justification. Justification is to take place via faith, for both Jewish people and those of the nations (Romans 3:29-30). Yet as Paul also asserts, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31, RSV).

Romans 4:5: “God justifies those who do not work”
A bad interpretation of Romans 4:5 would conclude that God is not concerned about born again Believers demonstrating good works resultant of their faith. The issue instead is people thinking that their human actions will merit some kind of justification, forgiveness, and a declaration of innocence before God—like a laborer would receive his wages (Romans 4:4).

Romans 6:14: “We are not under law, but under grace”
Born again Believers not being “under the law” is commonly interpreted as meaning that they should not concern themselves with the commandments of God’s Torah. The actual status of “under the law” is something contrary to being “under grace,” meaning being forgiven and remitted of sins. Many Protestant theologians throughout history have advocated that being “under the law” is a status possessed by non-Believers, who stand condemned as unrighteous sinners by God’s Torah—a clear antithesis to being “under grace.”

Romans 6:23: “Eternal life is a free gift”
Salvation is a free gift that human actions cannot earn. Debates always ensue about the behavior and obedience required of those who receive salvation—activities which are to result because of the supernatural action of God’s Spirit on the hearts of the redeemed.

Romans 7:1-25: “We were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ”
The main bulk of the discussion in Romans 7:7-25 describes the status of someone who recognizes the high value of God’s Torah, but cannot quite seem to keep it due to innate human limitations. Paul says that born again Believers have been “made dead to the Torah through the body of Messiah” (Romans 7:4, PME), which is like how a widow “is discharged from the law concerning the husband” (Romans 7:2, PME; cf. Numbers 5:20, 29). The relationship of the unredeemed person is like the law of marriage being applicable to a wife. When the husband dies the law or instruction pertaining to marriage is no longer applicable to the wife—but this hardly means a widescale abandonment of the Torah’s code in other matters. Just like the law of marriage is not applicable to a widow, so is the Torah’s condemnation of sinners no longer applicable to the redeemed, and what Believers are actually “made dead” to is the Torah’s condemnation, which was taken upon Yeshua the Messiah.

Romans 8:1-4: “The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death”
“The law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua” is a spiritual law or constant demonstrated within a person, who recognizes Yeshua as Lord, is declared free of guilt and condemnation from Torah disobedience, is spiritually regenerated, and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. A second spiritual law or constant, “the law of sin and death,” is that once a person commits sin, he or she will die spiritually and experience a condition of exile from the Creator, and exist in a permanent state of condemnation and punishment if never rectified. A definite purpose of being saved and set free from sin is “that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us” (Romans 8:4, NIV).

Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”
Longstanding theological debates have ensued over the word telos in Romans 10:4, a term which can also mean aim, purpose, or goal, as witnessed in various alternative translations: “Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God” (Common English Bible).


NOTES

[1] Consult Louis Jacobs. “Torah, Reading of,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica. MS Windows 9x. Brooklyn: Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd, 1997.

[2] Flavius Josephus: trans. William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 805.

[3] Philo Judeaus: trans. C.D. Yonge, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 397.

[4] John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 24.

[5] Jon D. Levenson, “Torah,” in Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1.

[6] W.D. Davies, “Law in the NT,” in George Buttrick, ed. et. al., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 3:96.

[7] Consult the varied perspectives presented in Wayne G. Strickland, ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).

[8] Consult the article “The Significance of the Messiah Event” by Margaret McKee Huey and J.K. McKee, appearing in the Messianic Torah Helper.