The Christian Torah in A Nutshell ~ A Wrap-up

Since December 9, 2015, other than during the Jewish feasts and festivals, most of my teachings have concentrated on sitting at the feet of Yeshua and listening to Him as He taught His talmidim.  Our source document has been the Gospel of Matthew (Mattityahu).  The “Word in Life Study Bible” calls the Gospel of Matthew the Christian Torah.”

It’s time for us to move on from here and dive deeper into God’s Word.  However, since we have several new followers who haven’t been here from the beginning of this study and for those of us who may have forgotten what we learned, I want to take this opportunity to summarize where we’ve been.

Needless to say, this post will be rather lengthy given that I will be summarizing almost 80 posts.  So, here is the link to the PDF version.

I started my defining what a Biblical talmid is:

  1. One who is following the Messiah – has made Yeshua the Lord of their life. (Luke 9:3; John 8:31)
  2. One who is being changed by the Messiah – is becoming like the Messiah in attitude and action. (John 15:8; Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:19; 5:22-23; John 13:35)
  3. One who is committed to the Mission of the Messiah.  (Messiah’s mission is to save a lost world by installing a ministry of reconciliation and service to others.) (John 15:8; Matthew 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Continue reading “The Christian Torah in A Nutshell ~ A Wrap-up”

Fasting and Wealth

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We continue exploring the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6.  Yeshua has just finished teaching His talmidim how to pray and now continues with instructions on fasting and dealing with material possessions.

Before getting into the subject of material possessions, Yeshua shares His thoughts on fasting.  “Now when you fast, don’t go around looking miserable, like the hypocrites. They make sour faces so that people will know they are fasting. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already! But you, when you fast, wash your face and groom yourself, so that no one will know you are fasting – except your Father, who is with you in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:16-18)

The only fast that God actually required of the Jewish people was on Yom Kippur (see Vayikra 23:27).  However, the P’rushim fasted every Monday and Thursday (see Luke 18:12) and did so in such a way that people knew they were fasting.  Their purpose, of course, was to win the praise of men.  Not good – wrong motive!

It is not wrong to fast, if we do it in the right way and with the right motive.  Matthew records that Yeshua fasted (see Matthew 4:3); so did the members of the early Messianic community (see Acts 13:2).  Fasting helps to discipline the appetites of the body (see Luke 5:34) and keep our spiritual priorities straight.  But fasting must never become an opportunity for temptation (see 1 Corinthians 7:7).

Simply to deprive ourselves of a natural benefit (such as food or sleep) is not of itself fasting.  We must devote ourselves to God and worship Him.  Unless there is the devotion of the heart (see Zechariah 7) there is no lasting spiritual benefit.  In other words, while you are fasting you should be using that time to mediate on the Word of God.

As with giving and praying, true fasting must be done in secret; it is between the believer and God.  To “go around looking miserable” would be to destroy the very purpose of the fast.  Here is a basic principle of spiritual living:  Nothing that is truly spiritual will violate that which God has given us in nature.  God usually does not tear down one good thing in order to build up another.  If we have to look miserable to be considered spiritual, then there is something wrong with our views of spirituality.

In Jewish practice, fasting had three main ideas.

  1. Fasting was a deliberate attempt to draw the attention of God to the person who fasted.
  2. Fasting was a deliberate attempt to prove that penitence was real. Fasting was a guarantee of the sincerity of words and prayers.
  3. A great deal of fasting was vicarious. It was not designed to save a man’s own soul so much as to move God to liberate the nation from its distresses.

Today, I believe that fasting has gone almost completely out of style.  Yeshua condemned the wrong kind of fasting, but He never meant that fasting should be completely eliminated from life and living.  Remember, He told the talmidim that some spirits were only exorcised after much prayer and fasting. (see Matthew 17:21)   We would do well to practice it in our own way and according to our own need.

Yeshua now directs our attention to material possessions.  “Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal. Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal. For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)

We are accustomed to dividing life into the “spiritual” and the “material or physical”; but Yeshua made no such distinction.  In many of His parables, He made it clear that a right attitude toward wealth is a mark of true spirituality (see Luke 12:13ff; 16:1-31).  If we have the true righteousness of Messiah in our lives, then we will have a proper attitude toward material wealth.

Nowhere does Yeshua magnify poverty or criticize the legitimate gaining of wealth.  God made all things, including food, clothing and precious metals.  God has declared that all things He made are good (B’resheet 1:31).  God knows that we need certain things in order to live (Matthew 6:32).  In fact, He “richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)  It is not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.  The sin of idolatry is as dangerous as the sin of hypocrisy!  There are many warnings in the Bible against covetousness (Sh’mot 20:17; Psalms 119:36; Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15ff; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

Yeshua warned against the sin of living for the things of this life.  He pointed out the sad consequences of covetousness and idolatry.  Materialism will enslave the heart (Matthew 6:19-21), the mind (Matthew 6:22-23), and the will (Matthew 6:24).  The material things of life can shackle us, but we ought to be liberated and controlled by the Spirit of God.

If the heart loves material things, and puts earthly gain above heavenly investments, then the result can only be a tragic loss.  The treasures of earth may be used for God.  But if we gather material things for ourselves, we will lose them; and we will lose our hearts with them.  Instead of spiritual enrichment, we will experience impoverishment.

It’s difficult to know our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 119:23-24).  If we examine our treasures, we’ll find out whether our hearts are in spiritual things or in earthly things.

What does it mean to lay up our wealth in heaven?  It means to use all that we have for the glory of God.  It means to “simplify” when it comes to the material things of life.  It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world.

How do we lay up our wealth in heaven?  In the parable of the unjust steward recorded in Luke 16, Yeshua commended the wisdom of the man who planned for his future by using his position to his advantage (Luke 16:1-12).  In the same way, we should use what God has entrusted to us and the places He has put us in for spiritual enrichment rather than for temporal gain.  We’re not to put our trust and security in our earthly possessions, for they’re so easily lost.  Instead, we’re to trust God to provide for all our needs while we devote ourselves to the things of the world where we’ll spend eternity.

Yeshua gives us three images of wealth in Israel.

  • He tells us to avoid the things that the moth can destroy. In the Middle East, part of a person’s wealth often consisted in fine and elaborate fabrics. When Elisha’s servant, wished to make some forbidden profit out of Na’aman, after his master had cured him, he asked him for a talent of silver and two festal garments (2 Kings 5:22). But such things were foolish things to set the heart upon, for the moths might eat them when they were stored away and all their beauty and their value would be destroyed. There was no permanence about possessions like that.
  • He tells us to avoid the things that rust can destroy.       The word, which is translated ‘rust’, literally means to eat away. In the Middle East, many a man’s wealth consisted in the corn and the grain that he had stored away in his great barns. But into that corn and grain there would come worms, rats and mice, until the store was polluted and destroyed. In all probability, the reference is to the way in which such vermin could get into a granary and eat away the grain.       There was no permanence about possessions like that.
  • He tells us to avoid the treasure that thieves can break in and steal. In Israel, the walls of many of the houses were made of nothing stronger than baked clay; and burglars could gain entry by literally digging through the wall. The reference here is to the man who has stashed a small pouch of gold, only to find when he comes home one day, that thieves have dug through his flimsy walls and that his gold is gone. There is no permanency about a treasure, which is at the mercy of any enterprising thief.

The Jewish people were very familiar with the phrase ‘wealth in heaven.’  They identified such wealth with two things in particular.

  1. Deeds of kindness (tzedakah) that a person did upon earth became his wealth in heaven. (Mathew 6:1-4)
  2. A person’s character. The only thing that a man can take out of this world is himself; and the better the self he takes, the greater his wealth in heaven will be.

Yeshua ends this section by stating,where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  If everything that a man values and sets his heart upon is on earth, then he will have no interest in eternity; if all through his life a man’s eyes are on eternity, then he will evaluate lightly the things of this world.  If everything which a man counts valuable is on this earth, then he will leave this earth reluctantly and grudgingly; if a man’s thoughts have always been on eternity, he will leave this world with gladness, because he goes at last to the Father.

In my next post, we will pick back up on this topic of wealth.

Click here for PDF version.

The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 6

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

In this post, we wrap up our examination of the Disciple’s Prayer.  In His final petition, Yeshua instructs us to pray: “And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.” (Matthew 6:13)

I’m extremely gratified that Stern’s uses the word ‘testing’ and not ‘temptation.’  We know that God does not lead us into temptation, but he does allow us to be tempted and tested.

When we read the story of the temptations of Yeshua, it begins: “Then the Spirit led Yeshua up into the wilderness to be tempted by the Adversary” (Matthew 4:1).  If we take the word ‘tempt’ here in the sense of ‘to seduce into sin’, it makes the Ruach HaKodesh a partner in an attempt to compel Yeshua to sin.  That’s a ridiculous interpretation!  Time and again, we find that the word tempt has the idea of testing in it, at least as much as the idea of seeking to lead into sin. Continue reading “The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 6”

The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 5

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We continue in our exploration of the Disciple’s prayer, but we will take the petitions out of order to concentrate on the issue of forgiveness.

“Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.” Yeshua goes on to say, “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.”  (Matthew 6:12,14-15) [We’ll come back to verse 13 in my next post.]

God wants us to have a forgiving attitude toward others.  Yeshua often emphasized the importance of forgiveness in His parables (see Matthew 18:21-35).  Verse 12 is a petition for the needs of our souls.

Before we can honestly pray this petition of the Disciple’s Prayer, we must realize that we need to pray it.  Before we can pray this petition, we must have a sense of our own sin.

When we see the reality of sin, we come to see that it is a universal disease in which every person is involved.  This is a petition of the Disciple’s Prayer, which every one of us needs to pray.

Not only do we need to realize that we need to pray this petition of the Disciple’s Prayer; we also need to realize what we are doing when we pray it.  Of all petitions of the Disciple’s Prayer, this is the most frightening.

“Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.” The literal meaning is: “Forgive us our sins in proportion to those sins we have forgiven that were committed against us.”  In Matthew 6:14-15, Yeshua says in the plainest possible language that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us.  It’s quite clear that if we pray this petition with an unhealed heart or an unsettled quarrel in our lives, we are asking God not to forgive us.

If we say, “I will never forgive so-and-so for what he or she has done to me,” if we say, “I will never forget what so-and-so did to me,” and then go and take this petition on our lips, we are quite deliberately asking God not to forgive us.  Our forgiveness of each other and God’s forgiveness of us cannot be separated; they are interlinked and interdependent.  Let’s be honest here, if we really, really think about what we are saying when we take this petition on our lips, there would be times when we would not dare utter it.

If we are to have this kind of forgiveness in our lives, three things are necessary.

  1. We must learn to understand. There is always a reason why a person does something. If he is rude and cross-tempered, maybe he is worried or in pain. If he treats us with suspicion and dislike, maybe he has misunderstood, or has been misinformed about something we have said or done.       Maybe his temperament is such that life is difficult and human relations are a problem for him.       Forgiveness would be very much easier for us, if we tried to understand before we allowed ourselves to condemn.
  2. We must learn to forget. So long as we brood upon a slight or an injury, there is no hope that we will forgive. We so often say, “I just can’t forget what so-and-so did to me,” or “I will never forget how I was treated by such-and-such a person or in such-and-such a place.” These are dangerous sayings, because we can in the end make it humanly impossible for us to forget. We can print the memory indelibly upon our minds. We may not be able to always forget, but by His grace and inner healing, we can erase the emotional baggage that is tied to the remembrance.
  3. We must learn to love. We have already seen that Messianic love, agape, is that unconquerable benevolence, that undefeatable good-will, which will never seek anything but the highest good of others, no matter what they do to us, and no matter how they treat us. That love can come to us only when Yeshua, who is that love, comes to dwell within our hearts – and He cannot come unless we invite Him.

To be forgiven we must forgive and that is a condition of forgiveness, which only the power of Messiah can enable us to fulfill.

When we pray, we need to ask God to search our hearts and reveal any sin.  We need to confess it.  We need to ask God to reveal anyone who we have not forgiven.  We need to forgive them…for what they did, said, how we allowed them to make us feel, the effect of their sin on our life, and any other harmful impact of their sin.

In my next post, we will wrap up the Disciple’s Prayer by returning to examine the petition in Matthew 6:13.

Click here for PDF version.


The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 4

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We have been studying the Disciple’s Prayer found in Matthew 6.  We learned that the first three petitions have to do with God and His Glory.  We learned that when we pray, we are to worship Father God for who He is and exalt His name.  We learned to pray for His will to saturate our life, our family, our congregation, our community, our region, our state, our nation, and the world.

The second part of the prayer, which deals with our needs and our necessities, is a marvelous unity.  In these three brief petitions, we are taught to lay the present, the past, and the future before the footstool of the grace of God.

Not only is this a prayer, which brings the whole of life to the presence of God; it is also a prayer, which brings the whole of God to our lives.  When we ask for bread to sustain our earthly lives, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Father, the Creator and the Sustainer of all life.  When we ask for forgiveness, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Son, Yeshua our Savior and Redeemer.  When we ask for help for future times of testing, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Ruach HaKodesh, the Comforter, the Strengthener, the Illuminator, the Guide and the Guardian of our way.

“Give us the food we need today” ~ Matthew 6:11 Continue reading “The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 4”

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