- Leviticus 26:3-27:34
- Mark 5:25-34
- Romans 5:1-6:5
- Colossians 1:19-23
- 1 Peter 1:13-25
Well, hell and heaven on Earth anyway. Maybe not the real Hell and Heaven, but it might seem like it to those who experience it. Leviticus 26 describes seven phases of national existence as they relate to obedience or disobedience to God’s Laws. They only obliquely relate to faith in that faith in God is among his commands.
The Torah is both life and death, depending on how you relate to it. If you obey, it is life. If you disobey, it is death. (In another sense, if you rely for your salvation on your obedience to the letter of the law, then it becomes death again.) The first phase described is of obedience and blessing. Israel is promised an overabundance in every way if they obey God’s Torah.
The next six phases stem from disobedience. Each of these six phases, except perhaps the first and the last, is a seven-fold punishment, complete in itself. Each one represents another chance to repent and return to obedience. Before describing each of phases one through five God interjects an offer of forgiveness:
There is no explicit offer of forgiveness (although the possibility is implied) before phase six, which is exile. The last tribes of Israel entered exile in the sixth century BC, and except for a partial reprieve from 531 BC to 70 AD, she has remained in exile until recently. Even now, the return to the land is not total. As before, only a fraction of the people have returned and the current residents of the land are far from penitent. I believe that Israel will remain in exile until “their uncircumcised hearts be humbled,” they accept their punishment for what it is, and they seek forgiveness.
Some of the rabbis teach that Israel was returned to exile by Rome because of baseless hatred and lashon hora or speaking ill of others. Some of them blasphemed the Holy Spirit when they ascribed Yeshua’s power to Satan. Most of them blasphemed Yeshua when they called him a liar, an antinomian, a heretic, and a bastard. The made the same false accusations against the Twelve Disciples and the Apostles who followed them.
Most of the Jewish leadership is still guilty of those same things, but that is changing. Many rabbis are beginning to back away from those accusations and to realize they treated their Messiah unjustly. Many of them are even beginning to realize that he is their Messiah.
Every eye should be turned toward Jerusalem, because Israel is being drawn back again. Judah is looking again at Yeshua, and Ephraim is finding him and remembering Torah.
The cycle began with obedience and blessing followed by six levels of hell on earth, but God prophesied another level, one of repentance and forgiveness.
I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
This eighth phase of this cycle, the restoration of the people of Israel (not the State of Israel!) and the return of Messiah Yeshua, may be approaching soon: A new beginning in greater obedience and greater blessing. May it be so!
Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:22-43, and Luke 8:41-56 all tell the same story regarding an older woman and a young girl who were both healed by Yeshua. In each account, a pious Jewish man named Jarius asked him to heal his twelve-year-old daughter who was on the verge of death. As Yeshua followed the man to his house, a crowd gathered around him, and a woman who had had an issue of blood for twelve years touched his tzitzit (on the hem of his robe) and was instantly healed. Yeshua acknowledged the woman and then continued on to the man’s house where he brought the young girl back to life.
These seem like two separate events connected only by Yeshua and a shared moment in time, but the Gospel writers deliberately made the older woman’s story a part of the girl’s story by keeping it in the middle. The Gospels aren’t always told in chronological order, so there was no particular reason to maintain the order of events here unless there was a deeper significance. I believe that, while the story is completely true, it is a parable of Israel told through real life events.
In the parable, the woman and the girl both represent Israel, as illustrated by the twelve years, but in different aspects or segments.
The older woman was that part of the nation that was/is conscious of her status as the chosen people of God. Her illness is a reflection of the people’s sterile spiritual state. Long before Yeshua was born in Bethlehem, the Jews had abandoned following much of the Torah as it was given by God to Moses. They still studied and revered it, but they had also adopted “the tradition of the elders,” which, through its myriad rules, rendered the real Torah “of no effect” (Matthew 15:1-20). Still today, the Jews follow their rabbis and traditions in direct opposition to the Written Torah. They claim to follow God’s instructions, yet they don’t.
When the woman touched Yeshua’s garments, she wasn’t just touching the cloth. It wasn’t his clothes that she was after, it was the tzitzit fastened on the four corners. Tzitzit represent God’s Law, the Torah, and whenever we see them, we are to be reminded to whom we owe our allegiance and our obedience. The woman, healed through touching the symbol of the Torah on Yeshua’s garment, represents the Jews (and those from the nations who have joined themselves to them) who were/are being/will be restored to spiritual health by faith in God. Their faith will be evidenced by acknowledgement of Yeshua as their Messiah and returning to Torah as he taught it.
The young girl was that part of the nation which remained scattered among the nations. They lived in idolatrous unbelief and had forgotten their identity as children of Jacob. Her father was an Israelite, and she lived twelve years in his house, but her life and awareness was gone by the time Yeshua reached her. Her descendants in the world today are being restored to life through Yeshua along with multitudes of gentiles, but they are neglecting God’s instructions. Like the Jews, they elevate man-made traditions above the commandments of God. The only difference in this respect is the specific set of traditions that have supplanted Torah.
I want you to notice two other things about this story:
First, only those who were conscious of their illness were healed. Someone had to be willing to say, “Yeshua, heal me!” (or in the case of the young girl, “Heal my daughter!”) before they could be healed. People who don’t know that they are sick or who refuse to acknowledge their degraded spiritual state will never call out for salvation. Yeshua once sarcastically told the Pharisees that “Those who are well have no need of a physician.” A very large segment of the physical descendants of Jacob have been cut off and will never return because they refuse to acknowledge their illness and need of a Savior.
Second, after Yeshua raised the young girl, he didn’t tell her to go her way as he did with the older woman. He instructed the people of the house to feed her. In Scripture, food often represents spiritual instruction (See John 21:16-17, 1 Corinthians 3:2, and Hebrews 5:12-14). When the spiritually dead have been brought to life in Yeshua, it is vital that they be taught from the Scriptures or else they will die again. They must be made into disciples, taught to live as Yeshua lived.
Whether native born Israelites or grafted in from the nations, we have all inherited lies from our ancestors, traditions that confuse or entirely eclipse God’s commandments. “By your traditions, you have made the commandment of God of no effect.” We are saved from damnation by the grace of God and not our obedience to Torah. However, once saved, we require nourishment in the form of sound teaching and obedience to sustain our lives.
There will come a day when the New Covenant is in full effect and no person needs to instruct another in the ways of God, but that day isn’t here yet. We are obligated to love one another by keeping the commandments ourselves and by teaching others to do likewise.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving YHVH your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that YHVH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
For more on the divided house of Israel watch my Who Is Israel series:
Have I mentioned that I love chiasms? (Technically, I think it’s supposed to be chiasmi, but you know what? I’m sticking with chiasms.)
I do. I love chiasms and I have another one for you. This one is in Psalm 66, which begins and ends with praise to God and a call to the nations to worship the God of Israel, but is centered on the trials and restoration of Israel.
Hard times come and go for everyone and sometimes it seems like there’s more coming than going. I don’t know what is happening in your life or what trials you have faced or might be facing now or in the future. I won’t pretend that I understand your suffering or that I’ve been there. Chances are very good that I haven’t. Overall, my life has been pretty good. I have been fortunate in having been spared most of the horrible things that many people must endure. I pray that God is merciful to you, that your burdens are as easy as they can be and still accomplish God’s purposes.
“God’s purposes? You mean God is doing this to me?”
Probably, yes. Again, I won’t pretend to know everything. Maybe the things you have endured are strictly from the Adversary and not from God at all, but the weight of Scripture is on God causing your suffering.
Many people are under the false impression that God never does anything bad to anyone or that he only did that in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, there are a large number of examples in both Testaments of God inflicting suffering on both the wicked and the righteous, and, as he told Malachi, “I am YHVH. I change not.”
Psalm 66 says
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. (Psalms 66:10-12 ESV)
Clearly God inflicted great hardships on Israel. Enslavement in Egypt, oppression by the Philistines and others, conquest by Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome…all brought on Israel by God. The Scriptures and the ancient sages of both Judaism and Christianity are agreed on that point.
Each person suffers for different reasons at different times. Some are wounded and sick so that God can be glorified through their healing. Others, as the Psalmist points out, are afflicted so that they will be refined. And still others so that their lives may become catalysts for the salvation of many more.
Although all peoples have suffered, because of the Scriptures and the scholarly traditions of Jewish culture, we have a more thorough record of the trials of Israel and the Jews than of any other people. Whether they have suffered more or less than others, I can’t say, but after all that they have endured, it is truly remarkable that they still exist as a people at all.
For almost 2000 years they were homeless sojourners all over the world in lands where they were alternately blessed and cursed by their hosts. They have been subjected to genocide after genocide, purge after purge, and yet they persist long after the Philistines, Hittites, and Midianites have vanished from all but stone and parchment.
Because God is faithful.
God promised Israel–the physical descendants of Jacob, not anything called the Church–that he would always preserve a remnant of them for his own purposes. He made covenants with Jacob, Moses, and Pinchas (among others), that their descendants would always be a people before God, and that all the fires, nets, and burdens of the ages could not eradicate them, but would refine them like silver in a crucible.
As we who have submitted ourselves to Messiah Yeshua are grafted into the tree of Israel, we become joint heirs of the promises and prophecies it contains, both good and bad. Refinement by fire is part of being Israel. If we are to be citizens of the Kingdom, then we must be willing to bear our crosses alongside Yeshua, whatever crosses God might have in store for us.
Remember that Yeshua said it was not the Romans or the Jews who crucified him, but he gave up his life willingly according to God’s will. And we know that, just like the suffering recounted by the Psalmist, his suffering was for the good of the whole world. His shed blood opened the way to our adoption into the House of Israel. Without his suffering we would be lost, and without our own suffering, we would remain impure, incomplete and incapable of fulfilling the role that God has for us to play in his great plan.
The chiastic pattern in Psalm 66 tells us what God wants us to do with our suffering: he wants us to praise him, to trust him, to tell the world about his great deeds and how he is faithful to bring those who trust in him through any trial, no matter how severe.
God’s plan might be impossible for us to see from where we stand, but the essence of faithfulness is trusting in him despite whatever evil happens in the world around us, to us or to others. The faithful are preserved, while those who cling to their sin are burned off like dross and cast aside.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. (Psalms 66:18-19 ESV)
Keep the faith, because God’s purpose is not to destroy his people, but to refine them. Recall what Paul wrote to Timothy:
The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful [to the faithful, according to his word]– for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV)
And what Yeshua said to the disciples:
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13 KJV)
Suffering must come, but those who reject God because of it will in turn be rejected by him. Those who endure, however, will be restored in mercy and rewarded appropriately. Stand tall or fall on your face before the almighty, whichever seems right to your circumstances. You are in good company.
Someone once wrote, “It is absolutely bizarre that some Christians are still under the impression that they have an obligation to abide by Jewish Law.”
I completely agree.
If that surprises you, then you might be operating under the same lexical error as the original writer. The problem is a confusion of terms. Most Christians will read this phrase and actually understand it to mean “It is absolutely bizarre that some Christians are still under the impression that they cannot be saved unless they obey the Law given to Israel at Sinai,” and that’s probably what the writer meant too, but it’s not what the words, as written, mean at all.
Take the word “obligation” for instance.
If I am obligated to abide by posted speed limits everywhere in the United States, does that mean I will lose my citizenship if I exceed the limit at any time or even if I ignore them altogether? Of course, not. That’s absurd. It only means that I’ve broken the law and thereby placed myself under the jurisdiction of the local justice system, often colloquially known as “The Law”.
At no time before, during, or after my speeding episode was my citizenship in jeopardy. Likewise, no one is under any obligation to keep Torah in order to earn salvation, nor is anyone who is already “saved” or grafted into the nation of Israel obligated to keep Torah in order to keep that status. Which is not the same thing as saying that he is not obligated to keep Torah.
Anyone who claims to be grafted into the tree of Israel is obligated to keep Torah because God commanded Israel to keep it forever. Yeshua (Jesus) said further that anyone who refuses to keep it and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Notice that the offender is still “in the Kingdom,” but has been demoted by his disregard of God’s commands.
Be careful also of the term “Jewish Law.” It’s confusing because it’s often used to describe contradictory ideas. For example, many people are under the mistaken impression that Torah requires ritual handwashing before eating bread. Matthew 15 describes an incident in which a group of Jewish religious teachers asked Yeshua why his disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating as required by the “tradition of the elders.” Yeshua responded with a question of his own: “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” There is no commandment in Torah to wash one’s hands before eating. This was a “tradition of the elders” only. It was Jewish Law, but not God’s Law, and God isn’t concerned with Jewish Law.
“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9 & Isaiah 29:13)
This was the same battle that Paul fought all through his ministry. He was constantly correcting people who were conflating Jewish Law with God’s Law. People who say believers in Yeshua shouldn’t keep “Jewish Law” are making the exact same mistake the Pharisees did: they replace God’s commands with man’s. Either they reject God’s Law and keep a new “Christian” set of laws against drinking, swearing, and smoking, or they reject God’s Law because they don’t want to make the mistake of keeping “Jewish” law, not understanding that they are not the same.
Is God’s Law Jewish? Only if you use the term “Jewish” to refer to all things related to Hebrews and Israel. It’s not technically accurate, since the term originally only applied to the Kingdom of Judah and not to the Kingdom of Israel and the tribes that were scattered by the Assyrians, but human language is rarely technically accurate. Referring to all Israelites as Jewish has a long history–even Paul did it at times–so I won’t quibble with that too much. Just be aware of the difference and be aware that the writings of the Jewish sages, the Talmuds, and the Jewish traditions are NOT the same as the written Torah. They are commentary, and often they are even very good commentary, but they cannot change, add to, or remove anything from God’s Law.
If you are grafted into Israel as Paul described in Romans, then the Law that God commanded the Israelites to keep applies to you. If you are not, then nothing that Yeshua said applies to you either, since he said that he came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Yeshua and Torah are a package deal. Either you’re in or you’re out. Either Yeshua and Torah both apply to you or neither do.