“Things which are hidden belong to Adonai our God. But the things that have been revealed belong to us and our children forever, so that we can observe all the words of this Torah” (Deuteronomy 29:29, CJB).
Since 1995, our family has been committed to a Messianic approach to our faith in Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. While many evangelical Christian Believers have heard about the Messianic movement, Hebraic Roots, Jewish Roots, ancient paths, etc.—and in various degrees have been enriched by this perspective—our family is among the many thousands who have moved beyond enrichment, and have made things like the seventh-day Sabbath, appointed times of Leviticus 23, and kosher a part of how we live our lives. We take God’s Word, and especially the Law of Moses or the Torah (the Biblical Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), very seriously. Having been called into not only a Messianic walk of faith, but also Messianic ministry, gives us a unique perspective on various issues that many of your average Believers do not have.
We are of the sure conviction that as we edge closer and closer to the Lord’s return, that many more people are going to come to the same conclusions that we have. As many Jewish people have come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah Yeshua, many non-Jewish Believers have come to a tangible appreciation of their Hebraic Roots. Of extreme importance, for all Messiah followers to understand, is how in His Sermon on the Mount the Lord asserts that His mission was not one of abolishing the Law or Moses’ Teaching, but rather one of fulfilling it:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19, NASU).
Just as Yeshua came “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15, NASU), so did He come to fulfill the Torah and the Prophets, living forth their true meaning in Himself and telling His followers to likewise appreciate them. As born again Believers, each of us is called to value Moses’ Teaching as much as our Savior and Rabbi did, recognizing that those who teach against it will have some kind of penalties issued against them. One does not get the impression at all from Matthew 5:17-19 that Yeshua came to “fulfill and thus abolish” the Law, especially given the clear word: “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets” (Matthew 5:17, HCSB).
Lamentably throughout much of Christian history, too many Believers have been convinced that the Law of Moses has either been terminated by the work of the Messiah, or was somehow nailed to the cross. Appearing in Romans 10:4, the term telos is too often mistranslated with “Christ is the end of the law…” (NASU), although this is fortunately changing with versions offering the better renderings of “culmination” (TNIV) or “goal” (Common English Bible). In Colossians 2:14, where we see how “the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us” was “nailed to the cross” (NASU), it is pretty obvious that this is speaking of the curse of the Law upon sinners (cf. Galatians 3:13), and not God’s high and holy standard represented by His commandments. Yet, a particular view of verses like these, excluding the Apostle Paul’s steadfast reminder in Romans 3:31, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (RSV), has kept many Believers away from God’s Instruction in the Torah and ignorant of a great deal of how He expects us to live.
What are the results of those who ignore the Law of God, and are perhaps even a little defiant when wanting to hear its commandments? While our gracious Heavenly Father is the only One who knows the true heart intent of any person and their salvation, when His people do not adhere to His directions, it is most easy to see how their collective effectiveness in the work of His Kingdom is minimized—if not eliminated. Anyone who competes in an athletic contest knows the rules in order to win (2 Timothy 2:5; cf. 1 Timothy 1:8). How much more significant is this for men and women who claim to serve the Creator? What happens if those who profess to be Believers expel no time, effort, or energy to understand the rules of engagement? Certainly while understanding the rules, statutes, ordinances, and commandments of God can take a lifetime, it should go without saying that those who think that they have no relevance to their lives in any manner are deceived.
What has happened in much of evangelical Christianity in the past several decades? I think it is safe to say that two of the biggest controversies the institutional Church has suffered with include the issues of abortion and homosexuality. Why are these issues even debated? Murder of a child and people involved in same-sex relationships are strictly prohibited in the Scriptures, and most especially in the Law of Moses. This is more than obvious when you read passages about not sacrificing children to Molech (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-4), or about the judgment issued upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-29). Yet for a Christian community that often incorrectly hears about how the Torah was abolished in the New Testament, you would be surprised how many of today’s professing “Believers” do not know this. Not only does this neuter them from being able to effectively wage the spiritual war present in our fallen world, knowing that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), but in remaining largely ignorant and unaware of the Torah’s instructions (and also those in the rest of the Tanakh or Old Testament), such people are unable to fully understand the mysteries of the Kingdom. If you do not know what God’s expectations are for His people in how to live—and this extends far beyond just the issues of abortion or homosexuality—then you will not be able to battle the Devil and His minions. As Yeshua once described, He taught in parables so that those who wanted answers would have to really press into the Lord to get them. Only then could they be wise and knowledgeable in battling the forces of evil:
“As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, ‘To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN [Isaiah 6:9-10]’” (Mark 4:10-12, NASU).
Spiritually speaking, it is clear from reading the Bible that our enemy is very clever and crafty, and that through a wide variety of temptations he is able to powerfully influence people, cultures, and ways of thinking. This is why it is so important that those who comprise the forces of light know not only the Scriptures in general, but specifically the Law of God! The Apostle Paul describes how we have been given Divine weapons in order to attack the enemy, his minions, and Satanic ideologies:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Messiah’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Messiah, so also are we. For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame” (2 Corinthians 10:3-8, NASU).
The main battle for human souls occurs in a person’s thought life and with what transpires in the mind. Messiah followers possess weapons of warfare which “are not merely human, but divinely potent to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NEB). Simply imagine what it would be like if you were a general or an admiral in a theater of combat; you would surely have to know how all of your guns, tanks, planes, missiles, and ships worked. You would have to review not only different maps and intelligence reports, but also know quite a bit about the history of warfare and previous engagements in order to win. If you did not do this, you could lose, or you might win but with your casualties unacceptably high.
When it comes to battling things in the spiritual world, it should be second nature to us to know the key role that God’s Torah plays within His Word, as we seek to employ the weapons, tools, and skills that are necessary to stop the Devil. Can we truly win if we try to fight the Adversary without knowing the foundational principles of God’s Law? My father was a Naval Academy graduate and Navy aviator, and he would have never been a good officer without following regulations. But for some reason or another, many Believers today think that they need no such guidelines, and perhaps just some vague and undefined way of “following the Spirit” is all that is necessary.
Since the battle in the spirit world is largely unseen, it is imperative that those who have been called out to be used by the Holy One to accomplish His will, must know the Scriptures. It is only by a well-rounded Bible study where we hone not only our knowledge of God, but also our wisdom, discernment, and strength. Knowing the rules of engagement, Messiah followers are to seek the counsel of the indwelling Holy Spirit, especially when complicated circumstances arrive where the text of the Bible can only take us so far. I cannot overemphasize how serious this is for us. Turning to the letters of the Apostle Paul, we see the great purpose that those who trust in the Messiah of Israel are to live forth. I hope that this selection of verses will really stimulate you to seek the Lord, and ask Him where you may presently be lacking:
- “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEART, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM [Isaiah 64:4; 52:15]” (1 Corinthians 2:3-9, NASU).
- “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Yeshua the Messiah, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Yeshua the Messiah, be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27, NASU).
- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Messiah, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Messiah would be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:7-12, NASU).
- “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Messiah, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Messiah, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the [assembly] to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:4-10, NASU).
As important as all of these verses are, the cosmic significance of what those who profess faith in the Messiah of Israel are to do is emphasized by Ephesians 3:10: “The purpose is that all the angelic powers should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out” (Phillips New Testament). Whether this is God’s angels seeing what redeemed human beings can do, or fallen angels that perform the enemy’s assignments being stopped, born again Believers are to take advantage of that great mystery “Messiah in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). If we can understand the mystery of the ages, requiring us to trace God’s plan of salvation from the very beginning and now having reached its climax in Yeshua, then we should be empowered to fight and wage the ongoing war with skill and prowess. While it is most common for Christians today to talk about wearing the full armor of God, take serious note how the elements of such armor are taken directly from the Tanakh:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 11:5; 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:12-18, NASU).
Once again, we can see how too many of today’s Christians, who read this, are unfamiliar and under-informed in the whole of the Scriptures. What does it mean to really grasp a hold of something as elementary to spiritual warfare as, “The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies” (Isaiah 42:13, NASU)? We need to understand what the Tanakh surely says if we are to be emulators of God (Ephesians 5:1).We also all need a greater appreciation for how our Messiah Yeshua is the Word, or the “Torah” made flesh (cf. John 1:1), perfectly embodying its instructions and commandments in Himself.
When Paul wrote Timothy “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASU), this is principally a reference to the Torah and Tanakh, and testifies to how Timothy had been properly raised (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy was encouraged, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:15-16, NASU). Only by being submitted to God’s Word and understanding it properly, can one ever hope to “avoid irreverent, empty speech” (HCSB), that does more to serve the interests of the world, the flesh, and the Devil (1 John 2:16; 2 John 7) than the cause of the gospel. Those who have partaken of the good news of salvation are attested by Paul to have been saved not only by grace, but for the purpose of accomplishing good works:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Messiah and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, NASU).
Despite the wiles of the Adversary, who is out to rob, steal, and destroy, it is our duty and responsibility as anointed representatives of the Holy One of Israel to live forth the good works of His Kingdom (cf. Colossians 1:21-22). But how does a person do this if he or she is constantly being blocked by various teachings and theologies which deride the ongoing validity of God’s Law? How many are unaware of the fact that the good works (ergois agathois) expected of Messiah followers are detailed in the Torah of Moses? Within his correspondence to the Corinthians, Paul notably details how the events that occurred to the Exodus generation led out of Egypt by Moses experienced things that were written as tupikōs, “as an example/ warning” (BDAG, 1019), for those who would live in the Last Days:
“Now these things happened to them as an example [warning, RSV], and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12, NASU).
The Message, most observably, paraphrases 1 Corinthians 10:11 with, “These are all warning markers—DANGER!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes.” Too often, it is thought that studying the Torah is only having to review various rules and regulations and codes, when much of it is actually reviewing accounts of how God’s people disobeyed Him and are severely chastised and penalized for their sin. If one does not study the foundational stories of how people originally interacted with their Creator, then how can any of us today learn not to continue what appears to be an ongoing cycle of sin? I would argue that many of today’s Believers, who sincerely know Jesus as their Savior and really do want to obey Him, commit errors because they have not been molded that much by the Law of Moses. They know Scripture, but their understanding of it definitely needs improvement and should be much deeper than it is. They have not dedicated as much time and energy as they should have, allowing it to more fully mold their psyche and the way they conduct themselves.
It is so basic when you really think about it. If we do not know the rules of engagement, then how will we ever achieve victory? A simple illustration from the sports world goes like this: Imagine playing the game of football without really knowing the rules of the game. What would happen if you did not know that a touchdown was six points? Just how successful are you going to play? Will you win—or be able to formulate winning strategies? Almost immediately upon commencing the game, you are probably going to be penalized as flags indicating rule violations begin to fly in the air. The referees note violation after violation of the rules. Pretty soon if you continue to break the rules, you might be thrown out of the game and be ordered to the bench. If you choose to make a disruptive verbal ruckus because of your ignorance of the rules, the officials might just send you to the locker room. If you continue to choose to be obstinate, you could have a severe fine issued against you. Worse yet, if you continue to show disrespect for the league in which you play, you could be banned from ever playing again.
How much more serious is spiritual warfare? The Adversary has the Word of God completely memorized, and has been around since before the Creation. Often known as the Accuser of the brethren (cf. Revelation 12:10), Satan can use legal methods to point out the sinful actions of God’s people, and if unrepentant use the consequences of such sin to his advantage. Sadly, for a variety of complicated spiritual and theological reasons, with many of today’s Believers lacking knowledge of God’s Torah and the rules He expects us to honor and obey, too many are being constantly penalized or neutralized in the game of life. All of us recognize “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7, KJV). So what happens when people disobey God’s commandments, and often do not only remain unaware of what the Torah says, but they are obstinate when it is pointed out to them? Without confession and repentance of sin, and pleading for God’s forgiveness, the enemy can exploit people for His purposes. While only the Lord knows if one is truly saved or not, those who fail to deal with any lawless activities are certainly limited in being able to be used for His work on Planet Earth.
Deuteronomy chs. 27&28, which detail blessings and curses that the Ancient Israelites were to declare forth at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, are frequently not read—much less examined—by many of today’s Believers (including some Messianics). I would encourage each of you to take some time to see the specific actions that would merit Ancient Israel God’s blessing and provision, and those which would merit curses and penalties. Most of what you encounter here are key ethical and moral instructions, that no reasonably thinking Christian can dismiss as being unimportant for God’s people to ignore. Unfortunately for much of modern Christendom, and despite the fact that born again Believers are indeed to be covered by His atoning blood, the thought that those who may even unknowingly sin brings consequences with it, has caused many problems. While I have known many individuals in my life who need to simply pray and ask for forgiveness, being returned to a more proper path of faith—theologies and doctrines which have dismissed the Law of Moses as being important to study and follow, have had a devastating impact on the corporate effectiveness of the ekklēsia. Saying that the Torah has been abolished has gotten us to the point where many so-called “evangelicals” are wondering not only whether homosexuality is sin, but even if it is acceptable to ordain gays and lesbians as clergy!
The Adversary knows the rules better than us as limited mortals. Satan and his demons are eagerly watching today’s Believers to witness how far we deviate from the instruction manual of the Bible, and whether we are truly committed to living forth good works of obedience to God’s commandments. Those who remain in ignorance, whether by omission or deliberation, to the directions of God’s Torah, will continue to wonder why they are not being as effective in His service as they should be. Those who commit themselves to a course of greater obedience and submission to the Word, not only following His commandments but letting the Torah and Tanakh mold their understanding of the Messianic Scriptures, could very easily see some of the greater works promised by the Lord become reality (John 14:12).
How can you begin to be a more useful vessel in the tasks and assignments of God’s Kingdom? How about taking the time and effort to engage in a more comprehensive understanding of the Holy Scriptures, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21? This will surely not occur instantaneously, but it has to be accomplished bv daily and weekly disciplines. One of the easiest places to begin is in examining the weekly Torah and Haftarah portions, which are considered every week in the Jewish Synagogue and in Messianic congregations all over the world. They typically only compose 3-4 chapters of text, so that in the scope of a year, you have examined the entire Torah. The associated Haftarah, which is typically only a chapter or so long, is taken from the Prophets or Writings, and usually builds upon a common theme from the Torah portion. I really do believe that if you make the effort to read through the Torah like this for a few years, that your understanding of the rest of Scripture—and especially the Apostolic Writings or New Testament—will truly flourish!
Our family can definitely testify that some unique and special things are occurring in our day, as the Messianic community continues to grow, and Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are being brought together as one in Messiah. While there have always been Christian theological traditions which have valued the Law of Moses as a guide for ethics and morality (i.e., Calvinism, Wesleyanism), things are really beginning to change as much more is being considered. For the first time since the days of the Apostles, we are really witnessing Jewish Believers and Believers from the nations, come together as the “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15, NRSV/CJB), and be guided by Moses’ Teaching. Things are coming together as God’s people are being prepared for the final stage of history, with the restoration of all Israel and Yeshua’s return getting closer. With such Believers being far more conscious of the instructions of God’s Torah, they are able to more easily resolve any remaining sinful issues in their lives, and close any open doors they have that have allowed for demonic harassment. The voice of the Holy One is becoming much clearer to hear!
The key to experiencing success in the work of God’s Kingdom is to understand and properly apply the rules of engagement. Without such knowledge, and possessing the right wisdom, discernment, and spiritual intuition—Messiah followers will fight a losing battle. Let us wake up and arise, for the battle rages on as the days are shortening!
“Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into you. Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:1-2, NASU).
Study and apply the rules of engagement, so that the promised victory will come soon!
Advancing His Kingdom, until the restoration of all things…