Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua
In my last post, we began to examine what I call the Eternal Torah based upon Matthew 5:17-20. I began a brief history lesson as background. In this post, we will look at each phrase more deeply.
“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.” ~ Matthew 5:17
Yeshua said that he had not come to destroy the Torah, but to complete the Torah. That is to say, He came really to bring out the real meaning of the Torah. What was the real meaning of the Torah? Even behind the Oral Torah there was one great principle, which the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim had imperfectly grasped. The one great principle was that in all things a man must seek God’s will, and that, when he knows it, he must dedicate his whole life to the obeying of it. The Torah-teachers and P’rushim were right in seeking God’s will, and profoundly right in dedicating their lives to obeying it; they were wrong in finding that will in their man-made hordes of rules and regulations.
The Torah is an ever-progressing revelation of Yeshua. All of Scripture, from B’resheet to Revelation must be viewed as a whole. Everything that we read in the Torah points us towards the eventual day when God would become man and tabernacle with us. Luke clarifies this for us when he writes: “Yeshua said to them, ‘This is what I meant when I was still with you and told you that everything written about me in the Torah of Moshe, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled” ~ Luke 24:44. Yeshua came not to abolish the Torah, but to complete it!The word “complete” is used in different ways:
- Some say it means He completed it by His own unique teaching.
- Others say it means He completed it by meeting all the Torah’s demands.
- But, the correct interpretation in the light of the whole of Scriptures is that He completed it because He is what the entire Scriptures are all about!
Yeshua completed God’s Torah in every area of His life. He completed it in His birth because as Rabbi Sha’ul says, “when the appointed time arrived, God sent forth His Son. He was born from a woman, born into a culture in which legalistic perversion of the Torah was the norm.” (Galatians 4:4) His parents performed every prescribed ritual for a Jewish boy on Him. He certainly completed the Torah in His life, for nobody was ever able to accuse Him of sin. While He did not submit to the traditions of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, He always did what the Father commanded in the Torah. As Matthew describes on two separate occasions, the Father was “well pleased” with His Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
Yeshua also completed the Torah in His teaching. It was this that brought Him into conflict with the religious leaders. When He began His ministry, Yeshua found the Living Word of God encrusted with man-made traditions and interpretations. He broke away this thick crust of “religiosity” and brought the people back to God’s Word. Then He opened the Word to them in a new and living way.
But it was in His death and resurrection that Yeshua especially completed the Torah. Again, according to Rabbi Sha’ul, “The Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf” ~ Galatians 3:13. Yeshua completed the Torah! He is the Eternal Torah!
“Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened” ~ Matthew 5:18.
This statement is based on the immutability of our God and His Word. God’s word is always true and impossible to change. Yeshua is saying that the Torah has to be completed.
The smallest letter – the letter that the King James Version calls the jot – was the Hebrew letter yud. In shape, it was like an apostrophe, a letter not much bigger than a dot with a tail. The smallest part of the letter – what the King James Version calls the tittle, here called a stroke – is what we call the serif, the little projecting part at the foot of a letter, the little line at each side of the foot of, for example, the letter “I”. Yeshua says that the Torah is so sacred that not the smallest detail of it will ever pass away.
“So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:19
When we look at the Ten Words (or as gentiles call them Commandments), which are the essence and the foundation of all Torah, we can see that their whole meaning can be summed up in two words – respect and reverence. Reverence for God and for the name of God, reverence for God’s day, respect for parents, respect for life, respect for property, respect for the truth and for another person’s good name, respect for oneself so that wrong desires may never master us – these are the fundamental principles behind the Ten Commandments, principles of reverence for God, and respect for our fellow men and for ourselves. Without them there can be no such thing as Torah. On those Ten Words all Torah is based.
That reverence and that respect Yeshua came to complete. He came to show us in actual life what reverence for God and respect for our neighbors looks like. Yeshua came to show men in actual life what it means to give to God the reverence and to our neighbors the respect which are their due.
That reverence and that respect did not consist in obeying a multitude of intricate rules and regulations. They consisted not in sacrifice, but in mercy; not in legalism but in love; not in prohibitions, which demanded that we should not do things, but in the instruction to mold their lives on the positive commandment to love.
The reverence and the respect, which are the basis of the Ten Words, can never pass away; they are the permanent stuff of our relationship to God and to each other.
There is a proper ministry of the Torah (1 Timothy 1:9ff) that is not contrary to the glorious message of God’s grace. Yeshua wants us to know more of the righteousness of God, obey it, and share it with others. The Torah of God has not changed.
We do not obey the Torah out of fear. No, Believers today obey the Torah and live because of love. The Ruach HaKodesh teaches us the Word and enables us to obey. Sin is still sin, and God still punishes sin. In fact, we in this present age are more responsible because we have been taught and given more!
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 5:20)
This statement by Yeshua would have been shocking to the Jewish people, and a deep offense to the religious leadership. A Jewish saying of that time was “If only two people go to heaven, one will be a Torah-teacher, and the other a P’rushim.” The righteousness of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim was based upon outward appearance, adherence to oral tradition, self-righteousness, and neglect of inward worship and obedience to God alone.
The true intention of the Torah was that we exceed the righteousness of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim. The Torah was to govern our attitudes as well as our actions. The Torah-teachers and P’rushim were the most “religious” people in the country. The Torah-teachers read and interpreted the Torah of God for the people (Ezra 7:10). After the Babylonian captivity, the common people could no longer read the Hebrew language, and they depended on the Torah-teachers for the interpretation of the Torah. The P’rushim put the emphasis on the outward observances of the Torah and ignored the inward Torah of God. They obeyed the Torah with the wrong motive – wanting to be seen by men. As we will learn over the next few weeks, the remainder of Matthew 5 affirms the fact that God is more concerned with the proper attitudes that lead to the right actions.
In this passage Yeshua definitely warns men not to think that being a Believer is easy. We might say, “Yeshua is the end of the Torah; now I can do what I like.” We might think that all the duties, all the responsibilities, all the demands are gone. But it is Yeshua’s warning that the righteousness of the Believer must exceed the righteousness of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim. What did He mean by that?
The Jewish people aimed to satisfy the Torah of God; and to the demands of Torah there is always a limit. The Believer aims to show his gratitude for the love of God; and to the claims of love there is no limit in time or in eternity. Yeshua set before men, not the Torah of God, but the love of God. Long ago Augustine said that the Believer’s life could be summed up in the one phrase: “Love God, and do what you like.” But when we realize how God has loved us, the one desire of life is to answer to that love, and that is the greatest task in all the world, for it presents us with a task the likes of which no one ever dreams of, and with an obligation more binding than the obligation to any Torah.
Our righteousness before God hasn’t been established through our own actions; it is based upon our faith in Yeshua as the fulfillment of the Torah for us (see Romans 10:4; Galatians 5:4; Acts 15:7-20). Yeshua has completed the righteousness of the Torah. God has imputed that righteousness to those who believe on Him. If righteousness could come only by obeying the Torah, then the death of Yeshua wouldn’t have been necessary (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:10: Romans 5:20, 6:1,2,12; Galatians 2:20).
Because of our new relationship with God through Yeshua, God is giving us the power to will and to do of His good pleasure in us (see Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 10: 16).
How can we complete the Torah? We complete the Torah by yielding to the Ruach HaKodesh and allowing Him to work in our lives (Romans 8:1-3). The Ruach HaKodesh enables us to experience the “righteousness of the Torah” in daily life. This does not mean we live sinlessly perfect lives, but it does mean that Yeshua lives out His life through us by the power of His Spirit (Galatians 2:20).
In my next post, we will continue to explore the Eternal Torah by examining the ‘Morality Code’ of Yeshua.