Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Proverbs 3:18 Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.
God placed two distinct trees in the Garden of Eden and told Adam that he could eat of one–the Tree of Life–but not the other–the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. You know the story. Adam ate from the wrong tree and died spiritually, condemning all mankind with him. He was exiled from the Garden.
God’s Law (aka Torah) also is a tree of life. Moses said that those who keep it will live and those who do not will be cursed. In Deuteronomy 29:18-20, he described a man who chose the other tree, who said, “I know better than God what is good for me. I don’t need a book to tell me what is good and evil, and I will be blessed despite my flagrant disregard of Torah.” Moses said, “God will not overlook his transgressions. God’s anger and jealousy will smolder against him, and all the curses of the Torah will settle on him, and God will blot out his name from under heaven.”
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Choosing to keep Torah is choosing to submit to God and acknowledge his lordship and superior understanding. Rejecting Torah is claiming to be greater than God or, at the very least, to be equal. This was the same temptation Satan used to persuade Eve in the Garden.
If obedience to God’s Law brings life, as God and his prophets clearly stated many times in Scripture, why then was Israel rejected? Why were they scattered and persecuted as if they had not obeyed?
Paul wrote that Israel followed after “a law of righteousness” in their Zeal for God, but they never attained it. (Romans 9:31) They didn’t really submit themselves to God because they didn’t really have faith in him. The had faith in themselves and submitted to a law mostly created by men. They said, in effect, “If obedience is good, greater obedience must be better,” and added a host of rules on top of God’s commands.
The Jewish teachers rejected the essence of Torah, and chose love of knowledge and tradition over love of God and man. In trying to gain life, they rejected it in favor of self, and they lost both. They failed to see that, although Torah can enhance one’s life in the here and now, its ultimate end is the salvation of the soul. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.”
The story isn’t over, yet, though. We have all been redeemed from Adam’s sin if we repent. Just so, God promised to restore Israel and punish those who persecute her. As Israel repents and elevates her love and fear of God over her love of tradition, she is even now being regathered from her long exile.
Deuteronomy 30:1-6 And it shall be when all these things have come on you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and when you shall call them to mind among all the nations where YHWH your God has driven you, and shall return to YHWH your God and shall obey His voice according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, with all your heart, and with all your soul, then YHWH your God will turn your captivity. And He will have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the nations where YHWH your God has scattered you….And YHWH your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed, to love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.