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The Love and Faith of Father and Son

The Bible frequently discusses the relationship between God and his people in terms of human relationships: husband and wife, master and servant, father and son, etc. Take this well known verse from Hosea, for example:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
Hosea 11:1

The primary meaning of these and surrounding words is that God loves Israel like a son, but they keep disobeying his instructions that are only meant for their good. They despised all the amazing things that God had done for them and worshiped pagan gods and dead idols instead.

However, Matthew cites a secondary meaning.

Joseph rose and took the child, Jesus, and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Matthew 2:14-15

The context of Hosea 11 is very clearly concerning the nation of Israel, not the foretold Messiah, yet Matthew understood much of the pattern of Israel’s history to be prophetic of the Messiah. He wasn’t saying that Hosea was specifically talking about Yeshua, but that Israel’s exile to Egypt was a prophecy of Yeshua’s brief exile to that same land, and that God’s relationship with Israel is also a pattern of the heavenly Father’s relationship to the Son.

This pattern goes back long before the Exodus from Egypt. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph were also real-life illustrations of the relationship between Father and Son and between God and Israel. This pattern goes all the way back to the sixth day of Creation and our nature as human beings. As Carlos pointed out in this discussion about the fear of YHWH in Proverbs, a child’s relationship with his father will have a profound influence on his later conception of God.

Solomon spoke at length about parent-child relationships in the Proverbs. Consider Proverbs 3:1-12. In v1, he said, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.” The following verses appear to switch from a father’s instruction to God’s instruction, but a closer examination of the literary structure of this passage and its connections to the rest of Scripture show that these are meant to be one and the same.

God has painted pictures of himself all around us.

Parallelisms and a Chiasm in Proverbs 3:1-12

Proverbs 3:1-4

  • A – v1 – Son, don’t forget my torah
    • B – Meditate on my commandments
      • C – v2 – For long life and peace
  • A – v3 – Let not steadfast love (chesed) and faithfulness (emet) leave you
    • B – Meditate on them and make them part of you
      • C – v4 – To find favor and success before God and man

Proverbs 3:5-8

  • A – v5 – Trust YHWH with all your heart
    • B – Don’t trust your own understanding
      • C – v6 – Consider his wishes in everything you do
        • D – He will make your life less complicated
  • A – v7 – Don’t trust your wisdom
    • B – Fear YHWH
      • C – Repent from all sin
        • D – v8 – For healing and revitalization

Proverbs 3:9-12

  • A – v9 – Honor YHWH for all you have
    • B – And with a firstfruits offering
      • C – v10 – You’ll gain even more
  • A – v11 – My son, don’t despise YHWH’s discipline
    • B – Or weary of his rebuke
      • C – v12 – Like a father, YHWH rebukes whom he loves

These three parallelisms might even be intended to be a chiasm:

  • v1-4 – Listen to your father and honor him
    • v5-8 – Trust YHWH’s wisdom above your own
  • v9-12 – Listen to your heavenly Father and honor him

Thematic Connections of Proverbs 3:1-12

In addition to the literary structure, each element is thematically connected to other parts of Scripture as if to emphasize the point by appealing to familiar patterns and lessons.

Verses 1-2 echo the fifth commandment to honor father and mother in order to extend life and prosperity (Exodus 20:12). Verses 3-4 sound remarkably like Eliezer’s description of the relationship between Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 24:27 and 63). Verses 5-6 remind me of Abraham’s trust in YHWH’s promise (Genesis 17:15-16) and instructions (Genesis 22:2), even when they seemed contradictory. Verses 7-8 harken back to the plague of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, when repentance from disbelief brought healing to the Israelites (Numbers 21:8).

A Hierarchy of Fathers and Sons

Solomon’s instructions to his son connect obedience and honor of your earthly father to obedience and honor of your heavenly Father. To an extent, this connection is always true–God’s command to honor your father and mother doesn’t make exceptions for bad parents–but the parallels are much clearer if your parents feared God themselves.

Four hundred years before Solomon, Moses gave Israel the same basic instructions.

Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one. You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Israel is healthiest and most prosperous when she trusts and obeys God, but this is impossible if each generation doesn’t teach the next to continue to walk according to God’s commandments. Every child–especially boys–must be taught the precepts, judgments, commands, and stories of God’s relationship with his people day in and day out. They must be so thoroughly indoctrinated with God’s Torah that it permeates every perception, thought, and action, so that they will pass on this blessing to their own children.

If parents refuse to trust in YHWH and refuse to teach their children according to his ways, that doesn’t mean that the children don’t still honor them, but it does mitigate a child’s responsibility to obey.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

If your father is an atheist or a Buddhist or an antinomian “Christian”, then you must frequently disregard his instructions and obey Yeshua–who taught only the Torah of the Father–instead.

There is an assumed hierarchy of authority in God’s . If there is a conflict, we must always defer to the higher authority, and “higher” might be different in different contexts. For example, when you are in a lawful court, you must obey the judge rather than your parents or husband. But if you are a child in your parents’ house where the judge is a guest, you must obey your parents wherever there is a conflict. And so on, depending on the circumstances.

But in every single case, God’s commandments take precedence. If your father orders you to pray to the dead or bow to an idol, you must disobey. If you know that telling your child that his life choices are hateful and disgusting to God will cause deep emotional pain, you must tell him anyway.

God has commanded you to teach his laws to your children and to hear them from your parents. The heavenly Father taught his Son to keep his Torah, and the Son then taught us to do the same.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate [relatively speaking] his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26

If you love your parents or your children or their sins more than you love God, then you are deserving of none of them and are likely to lose them all.


Here’s a related excerpt from the weekly Bible study at Common Sense Bible Study:

Did Jesus Appoint Peter As the First Pope?

Did Yeshua give Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and make him the first Pope?

Matthew 16:13-20 is chock full of fuel for theological controversy!

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Matthew 16:13-20 ESV

This is one of the primary passages that the Roman Catholic Church will claim as support for their authority. Yeshua (Jesus) made Peter the first Pope and gave him the authority to modify God’s Law as needed, and today’s Pope has inherited that authority in an unbroken line of succession from Peter. Since the Pope has authority to dictate (bind and loose) the rules to Heaven, then when the Pope says the Sabbath is now on Sunday, God has to shift his schedule to suit Rome.

Except that’s not what the Bible says. Not at all. But then again, it’s easy to see how one might conclude that from this text.

Yeshua used several puzzling phrases in this conversation. I’ll address each of them in turn.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

“Son of Man” essentially means “human”. Throughout the book of Ezekiel, angels refer to the prophet as “son of man”, evidently not as a special title, but something more like “descendant of Adam”. However, in some contexts it had a much greater meaning. In the apocryphal books of Enoch, an angel also refers to that prophet as “son of man”, but with the added connotation of “Messiah”.

The author of Enoch probably took his cue from Daniel who described a divine being “like a son of man” who came from Heaven, suffered, and then returned to Heaven with great glory. Daniel’s Son of Man is clearly a reference to the Messiah who would defeat Israel’s oppressors and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeshua clearly had this context in mind as he frequently referred to himself as the Son of Man.

The question Yeshua asks is ambiguous though. Most English translations read “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” but a few follow the King James Version and the Textus Receptus in reading “Who do people say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

While the difference seems slight, it could actually make it a completely different question. The former asks about the identity of the Son of Man, while the latter asks about the nature and identity of Yeshua. I think the disciples’ answer supports the ESV’s rendering more than the KJV’s. They didn’t say “Some say you are John the Baptist…”, but “Some say John the Baptist…” This might more properly be understood as “Some say that Daniel’s Son of Man is John the Baptist…”

Whichever he meant by the first question, Yeshua then turns it around to himself and the disciples. “Whom do you say I am?”

Peter immediately replies “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” by which he also identifies Yeshua as Daniel’s Son of Man. (Also Enoch’s Son of Man, contrary to the text of Enoch, which identifies Enoch himself. Yeshua responds by saying that Peter could only know this because God had especially revealed it to him, and this sets the stage for the next controversial phrase.

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.

First, let me talk about “church”. Yeshua was not establishing a new religion or organization. The English word church translates the Greek word ekklesia, which just means “gathering of people”. The English word build translates the Greek word oikodomeo, which can mean to build from scratch, but it can also mean to refurbish or renovate.

Yeshua wasn’t building a new Gentile religion, but restoring the remnant of faithful Israel. Whenever the Apostles wrote of “the church”, they meant an assembly of the people of God. Ekklesia is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew words kahal and edah, which are translated as “congregation” or “assembly” in the phrase “the congregation of Israel” throughout the Old Testament.

Peter’s name in Greek is Petros, which is derived from the Greek word for rock, but has been altered to a masculine form suitable for a man’s name. “Rock” on the other hand is the standard feminine Greek word, petra.

The question is, what does Yeshua mean by “this rock”? He frequently changed subjects in the middle of a sentence, using one idea as a segue or illustration of another. Did he do that here, saying “You might be named Rocky, but on this other rock…”? If so, what is the other rock? I think there are three possible interpretations:

  1. The rock is Peter who would be instrumental in the reformation of the assembly of Israel.
  2. The rock is the revelation which Peter received from God concerning the identity and nature of Yeshua, and that revelation would trigger the reformation of the assembly.
  3. The rock is Yeshua, whom the prophets also called “a rock of stumbling”, a “corner stone”, and “the spiritual rock that followed [Israel in the wilderness].

All three interpretation seem plausible to me and in accordance with the rest of Scripture. I think the first and third explanations are most likely, and I lean toward the first–I haven’t always–that Peter himself is the rock on which the assembly of Israel would be rebuilt.

The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it

Does “it” refer to the ekklesia (the assembly) or to the petra (the rock)? I believe it refers to the rock, to Peter himself.

Hell in this verse is the Greek word Hades, which refers to the grave–Sheol in Hebrew–the place where the spirits of the dead are held while they await their ultimate resurrection. “Hell” is a poor translation in modern English, because most people equate Hell with the Lake of Fire described in Revelation, but this is not the same as Hades. (See A Dictionary of Death, Resurrection, and Judgment for more information.)

A city’s gate have two primary purposes:

  1. A defensive structure used to control entry to a walled city.
  2. The center of commerce and the city government, especially the court.

In neither case are gates used in an offensive nature. The implication is that Peter will, in some way, assault the gates of Hades. Stay with me a little while longer and I’ll explain what that means. It is closely tied to the next thing that Yeshua told him.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven

Yeshua did not give Peter the authority to deny anyone access to eternity, to “excommunicate” them. That isn’t what the “keys of the kingdom” are for. Rather, Yeshua told Peter that, because he was the first to recognize him as the Messiah and Son of God, he would also be the first to open the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to others.

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t solely in Heaven. It’s also right here among us. Wherever the citizens of the Kingdom reside, there also is the Kingdom. Yeshua also told us that there are many in the Kingdom who will not be accepted into eternity (see the parables of the good seed, the sower, and the talents, among others), so the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are only about opening access to the Kingdom, not to Heaven nor to eternal life.

In Matthew 16, Peter was the first to announce to the disciples that Yeshua was the Messianic Son of God.

In Acts 2, Peter announced to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot (Pentecost) that Yeshua of Nazareth had come and inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Acts 4, Peter announced to the Sanhedrin and the priests that they had crucified Yeshua of Nazareth, but that same Yeshua had risen from the dead.

In Acts 10, Peter announced to the Roman Centurion Cornelius that God welcomed him and his family into the Assembly and the Kingdom of Heaven.

At least four times, Peter was the first to open the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to a group of people, and this is what Yeshua meant when he said that he would give Peter the keys of the Kingdom. Not to lock anyone out, but to open the gates to all who would give their full allegiance to the King, no matter who their parents were or what language and religion they had been born into.

But in possessing the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Peter opened two gates, not just one.

He also broke down the Gates of Hades so that those who were dead in sin, without hope of every reconciling to the God of the Jews, would be born again. The spiritually dead came to life through Peter’s testimony.

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven

Rabbinic literature uses this concept of binding and loosing to refer to rulings on questions concerning the application of God’s Law. Here again we come to the concept of the “gate” where the elders of a city used to sit and hold court. The Law was written in ink, but the application often requires weighing competing obligations. Should a newborn boy be circumcised on the eighth day as God commanded even if the eighth day would fall on the Sabbath when God said nobody should be working? (See John 7:21-24.)

If an authority rules one way or another about whether some thing should be done, he has figuratively bound or loosed the actions of another.

There is also another question of translation. I consulted numerous commentaries in preparation for this article and the attached video, and they were unanimous in saying that a more literal translation of this phrase is “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven.”

Yeshua didn’t tell Peter that he could bind or loose anything in Heaven. No man is authorized to change God’s Law.

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHWH your God that I command you.
Deuteronomy 4:2

Not even Yeshua could take even a single mark away from Torah. (See Matthew 5:17-20.) If he had, then he would have violated the Law and disqualified himself as Messiah. His death would be pointless, his resurrection powerless.

Yeshua wasn’t giving Peter the power of salvation and condemnation, but stating that the Spirit of God working in Peter was reforming Peter’s own heart to be in alignment with God’s, so that Peter would have the power to discern right from wrong even in those cloudy circumstances that confound the wisest men. Peter didn’t become perfect, but he did gain the Law written on his heart so that he could bind on earth what had already been bound in heaven and loose on earth what had already been loosed in heaven.

In fact, in Matthew 18:18, Yeshua told all twelve of the disciples that they would share Peter’s discernments on matters of right and wrong. I don’t think that even the Roman Catholic Church would recognize twelve Popes simultaneously.

This was a blessing and pronouncement of wisdom, not of power. After Peter opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to the nations and reminded the Jerusalem Council of what had happened with Cornelius, he stepped aside and allowed James, the brother of Yeshua, to make the final ruling on minimum standards of behavior for newly converted gentiles.

Tell no one that he was the Christ

If the disciples’ ultimate mission was to tell the world of Yeshua’s identity and mission, then why did he tell them not to tell anyone?

This was a temporary injunction. It might have been because everything had to happen in the right time. The Father planned Yeshua’s incarnation, death, and resurrection so that it would all happen at the most opportune moment for spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world. If the people came to believe that Yeshua was truly the Messiah too soon, how would that have affected the required timetable?

But there is another reason that is more closely related to the conversation that had just concluded: Yeshua singled Peter out as the one who would open the gates of Heaven to the masses. The other disciples had to wait for Peter to fulfill this calling before they could also start throwing open lesser gates.

Peter, the Man

Peter was a great man, but only a man. He was not the first Pope. In fact, there has never been a Pope in the way that the Roman church views that office. There have been pretenders and possibly even well-meaning men who sincerely believed that they were specially appointed to rule God’s people for him and dictate morality to God himself. Sincerely, terribly wrong men who have led many millions into an adulterated mess of pagan superstition mixed with truth.

The Roman church includes many, many good people who are most definitely a part of the Kingdom of Heaven and who will pass on to eternal life, but they will do so in spite of the Pope and Catholicism, not because of them.

Parsha Vaetchanan – Apostolic Readings, Commentary, and Videos

New Testament passages to read and study with Parsha Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11), plus links to commentary and videos.

Readings

  • Deuteronomy 3:23-4:49
    • Luke 7:18-35
    • John 20:26-29
    • Acts 9:1-6
    • 1 Timothy 1
    • Hebrews 3:7-19
  • Deuteronomy 5:1-6:3
    • Matthew 19:16-30
    • John 10:7-15
    • John 17:1-10
    • 2 Corinthians 3:1-15
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-7:26
    • Matthew 7:7-12
    • Mark 12:28-34
    • Luke 4:9-12
    • John 15:18-27
    • Romans 8:31-39

Additional Reading

Videos Related to Parsha V’etchanan

  • Plow today. Harvest…next year? – Proverbs 20:4. YHVH is a God of order, patterns, and covenants. We work hard today with no expectation of immediate rewards–or even rewards in this lifetime–because God has created a world in which even an atheist can have faith that one thing inevitably follows another.
  • Fathers above and below in Proverbs 3:1-12 – A set of three parallelisms in this passage are arranged in a chiasm that compares the relationship of sons to their earthly fathers to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
  • What are the Keys to the Kingdom in Matthew 16? – Matthew 16:13-20 is chock full of controversial bits. Son of Man, Peter the Rock, Gates of Hell, keys to the kingdom, binding and loosing, etc. There is so much here to misunderstand if you don’t approach the passage thoughtfully.
  • The Escalating Quest for Wisdom in Proverbs 2:1-8 – This passage describes a progression from being willing to hear wisdom to actively hunting it down. God rewards that zealotry with knowledge of his character and ultimately to wisdom itself.
  • Leveling Up in Wisdom – Proverbs 8:1-4 mentions four places where Wisdom cries out to those who are willing to hear, but they are arranged in a specific order, from beginner level to expert.
  • Proverbs 22:15 and the Disciplining of a Child – People say that children are born pure and innocent, that prejudice and violence must be taught. We know from experience and Scripture that this is utopian nonsense. We are all born at war with our own evil inclinations and righteous behavior must be taught through wise discipline and repetition.
  • A Heritage of Wisdom – The first half of Proverbs 4 reveals a key ingredient to a long-lasting, peaceful nation…and some interesting hints at Solomon’s early home life and ascension to the throne.
  • The Wealth and Poverty of Self-Sufficiency in Matthew 19:16-26 – When Yeshua told the rich young man that he needed to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor, he was actually telling him that he needed to stop relying on himself for his own salvation. If this had been a desert-dwelling ascetic, Yeshua might have told him to start a business and earn a lot of money in order to be saved. Wealth, poverty, obedience, traditions, and even self-reliance can be good things in the proper context, but if you are relying on any of them to earn you a place in the Kingdom of Heaven, you will be terribly disappointed when the gates are locked to you. Whatever it is that you feel makes you “good enough” is the one thing that you need to give up.

The Multifaceted Law of God

1 Timothy 1:9 is a favorite verse of those who say that the Torah doesn’t apply to believers in Jesus. It’s a very poorly thought out position, however, because it’s contradicted by the very same verse.

(8) Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, (9) understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, (10) the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, (11) in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
(1 Timothy 1:8-11)

What does this passage actually say?

  1. The Law is good if it is used according to its intended purpose.
  2. The Law was written down (“laid down”) for those who didn’t already keep it, because only those who don’t already keep the Law need it to be spelled out for them.
  3. Anyone who practices or teaches anything that is contrary to sound doctrine still needs the Law.
  4. Sound doctrine is in harmony with the gospel that Paul taught.
  5. All of these things are contrary to both sound doctrine and the gospel: a) not keeping the Law, b) disrespecting parents, c) murder, d) sexual immorality, e) slaving, f) lying, g) oath-breaking.
  6. The “just” behave in a way that is in accordance with sound doctrine. They keep the Law, they respect their parents, et cetera.

In other words, the Law was written down because people weren’t keeping it, therefore the Law no longer applies to us and we don’t need to keep it. Wait…what? That doesn’t make sense! How did this very clear passage come to be understood to say something completely opposite of what it actually says?

Paul often wrote of one aspect of Torah or another, assuming that his readers understood the context. This can be very confusing for people separated by enormous barriers of time, culture, and language. We only have one side of these conversations and partial records at that.

The truth is that Torah serves multiple purposes. It is tutor, friend, and jailor. It is both life and death. Which role it fills at any given moment depends on where you are in your life’s journey and how far you are from your Creator.

The Hebrews’ journey from Egypt to Canaan illustrates some of Torah’s shifting roles. They were slaves in Egypt until God saved them by making a way through the Red Sea. In the wilderness, they received the Torah, developed a relationship with God, and trained in the ways of faith and righteousness. Finally, God made a way through the Jordan into Canaan to take possession of their inheritance and begin fulfilling their true calling in God’s plan.

The roles of TorahThe slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt is like the slavery we all suffer under sin. Torah reveals our low state and prompts us to cry out to God for mercy. It leads us to a knowledge of our need for a Savior, and if we don’t reach out to Him, it is a witness against us at the final judgment. The Hebrew slaves didn’t yet know the details of God’s commands, but like the sinner who hears the call to repent, they knew that they weren’t free. Only when we become aware of our chains and beg forgiveness does God lead us to freedom. He doesn’t demand anything of us at that point except humility and faith. “Stand back,” Moses said at the shore of the Sea, “and behold the salvation of Adonai!” With nothing but faith to walk, they crossed the Red Sea and left the defeated Egyptians behind. Sinai was still ahead in the wilderness.

Once across the water, God began to teach the Hebrews how to live. “Keep the Sabbath,” He said, then He led them to Sinai where He tried to write His Law on their hearts. They weren’t ready to receive it as their hearts where still too hard and scarred from sin, so He wrote it on tablets of stone and instructed Moses to write it in greater detail in a book. They spent forty years wandering in the wilderness in the direct presence of God, learning day to day how to live by His standards. This is like our first years as a new believer, learning the basics of righteous behavior and trading old habits for new. It takes time, practice, and discipleship to mature us into adults who can stand on their own.

Finally God said, “You have been wandering on this mountain long enough. It’s time to grow up.” God doesn’t want us to stay in the wilderness forever; it’s just basic training for life in the Promised Land. Israel never could have fulfilled her calling by continually wandering in the desert. Having accepted God’s salvation and then learning His Law, they had to cross the Jordan, dispossess the Canaanites (who had rejected God’s Law), and occupy the land.

When the conquest was complete, Torah would take on a whole new meaning. Many commands state, “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving to you, you will…” These commands could not be fully obeyed in the wilderness. No longer having to develop a godly culture from scratch, the Israelites were now to live it in full. Torah gives us the framework and the power to fulfill our true callings in God’s Kingdom, to live productively as a people serving God and as a priesthood to the world. Without it, our relationships flounder and our ministries decay, like the people of Judah before King Josiah revived Torah-living and created a program to reteach it to the nation.

  • While we are in slavery to sin, God’s Torah convicts us and drives us to call out to Him.
  • While we are new in our relationship to the Father, Torah teaches us and prepares us for ministry.
  • When we are adults, living out our divine calling in the world, Torah gives us answers to tough questions, keeps us from getting too far from the right path, and continually challenges us to climb higher, to live ever more righteously.

In different stages of our lives, God’s Law serves a different purpose. It can’t enslave someone whom God has set free, nor can it free anyone who is enslaved. Torah is the slave-master of sinners and a wise counselor to the righteous, death to the disobedient and life to the obedient. As Paul wrote, “Now we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully.”

The Needs of the Kingdom Come First

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26
Matthew 23:29-39

Deuteronomy 3:23-26 Then I pleaded with YHWH at that time, saying: 24 ‘O Lord YHWH, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? 25 I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ But YHWH was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So YHWH said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.’

There have been few men as close to God as Moses, so it seems incongruous that God would not heed his heartfelt prayer. Why doesn’t God grant every prayer every time? Charles Capps says one thing, Marilyn Hickey says another, and Henry Wright says something else again.

“Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” really is one of the most disturbing and puzzling questions a person can ask. Maybe He just doesn’t like the motives of the people at the whywontgodhealamputees website, refusing to jump through hoops at the demand of mortals who have already decided He doesn’t exist. However, that doesn’t work for the many thousands or millions of true believers who are maimed and ill and unhealed, people who don’t care about proving anything to God or anyone else. They just want to be healed. To be perfectly honest, I can’t claim to understand why God responds to some prayers and not others, but I’m sure there are at least as many reasons as there are people.

When I was in the Air Force, they used to tell me that I could pick any job or assignment I wanted (within reason), and they would try to give it to me with this one caveat: The needs of the Air Force come first. If I wanted to go to England and if having me in England fit with the Air Force’s mission, then there was a good chance that’s where I’d go. But if the AF needed me in Japan, then I was going to Japan.

I believe that God operates the same way. He leaves most of the details of our lives completely up to us, but routinely throws trials and tasks in our path because those things are important to Him. Maybe they will help us to become the people He needs us to be or maybe they will serve the overall mission of His Kingdom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be pleasant or have any resemblance to what we want. I believe He answers the prayers of the righteous (not so much those of the unrighteous), but that He frequently answers us in ways that we don’t like. If we believe, we can cause a mountain to be moved into the sea, but only if such a move aligns with God’s plans and our lives are aligned with Yeshua.

Ultimately, I believe that it comes down to this. God is His own person and isn’t answerable to anyone, not to you or me or the Director of the National Security Agency. He is the absolute, end-of-the-line boss of everyone in every circumstance. Most importantly, He makes his own decisions for His own purposes, and there is no reason to assume that we are the center of His world or that our good is His primary purpose. He is concerned with our good, of course, and He wants us to be healthy and happy, but that doesn’t mean that what’s good for you and me is the only thing He wants or that it’s the most important thing in His world. His view is bigger than that.

God is to be the center of our universe, not the other way around.
God is to be the center of our universe, not the other way around.

 13 Who has directed the Spirit of YHWH,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.

Isaiah 40:13-17

To Believe, To Love, and To Overcome

Believe + Love + Obey = Victory in Yeshua
Believe + Love + Obey = Victory in Yeshua

Climber on top pitch of Fionn Buttress (Doug Lee) / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Modified

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
(1 John 5:1-5)

All those who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah are the children of God. John did not mean the mere intellectual assent to the idea that Yeshua is the Messiah, but full acceptance and submission to Him as the Lord of the Kingdom of God. James wrote that even demons believe that God is one, yet they do not believe on Him. If they did, they would not have fallen. Likewise, we do not become children of God merely by believing that Yeshua is the promised Messiah, but by believing on Him as Messiah and Savior.

Whoever loves the Father, must also love His children, as any father will attest. If you attack a man’s children, you as good as attack the man. Likewise, if you bless a man’s children, you bless the father. If you claim to love your neighbor, yet treat his children spitefully, you are a liar, for a man’s children are an extension of himself into the world.

We know that we love the children of God if we love God and keep His commandments, for keeping His commandments is the very meaning of loving God. Yeshua said that the greatest commandment is to love God and that the second greatest is to love your neighbor. All the rest of the Law and the Prophets depend upon and these two. He was quoting from the Torah.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses explains that all of the commandments that make up the Torah are given for our good and the good of the whole people. He said that we should be careful to keep them, to meditate on them, and to teach them to our children. He commanded us to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” The very clear implication is that “these words,” the commandments of Torah, are both the instrument and the product of our love for God. If keeping God’s commandments brings blessings (as He told us multiple times), extends our lives, and is good for the whole community, then if we love our neighbors, we ought to be striving to keep God’s commandments. We keep them because we love God, and we keep them because we love His people.

His commandments are not difficult to keep, because all of His children are overcoming the world. Despite what you may have been told by people who refuse to believe the words of Moses (and Yeshua said that if you do not believe Moses, you won’t believe Him either), the commandments of God are not a burden. The Torah is not a curse. Rather, the commandments that men pile on top of God’s commandments are a burden. That is the thing that “neither we nor our fathers were able to bear”, not the commandments of God, which He described as “not too hard for you, not far off nor in heaven, not beyond the sea, but very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it.”

I don’t mean to imply that anyone can obey God’s Law perfectly–No one but Yeshua has ever been able to do that–but God never expected perfection. His Law contains numerous provisions for what we are to do when we fail, so rather than threatening eternal damnation for the slightest infraction, it assumes our evil inclination and tells of God’s eagerness to forgive. Obedience is in the heart, and God is graceful to forgive those who turn to Him with an obedient spirit despite the failings of the flesh.

Our victory over the world is by our faith. Because we have faith in God’s grace to forgive our sins and to work in our hearts as we seek to obey Him, we can be assured of victory over the world. He has already won the victory for us, and the only thing we need to do to obtain it is to put our trust in Him. So long as we live this life, our victory is not completely realized, but we are overcoming the world and our sinful nature through our faith in Messiah Yeshua.

Who else has overcome the world except he who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God? No one! Without Yeshua, there is no victory, there is no eternal life or forgiveness of sins. Through His shed blood, we are brought near to God and pulled away from the world. Through His broken flesh, one day our sinful flesh will be remade in His image, perfect and sinless. This is the ultimate victory of our faith and by our faith.

Because we believe in the victory He has purchased for us, we will behave as victors over the world and over our flesh. Because we love God, we will love His children. Finally, because He has taught us what it means to love by His commandments and by His example, we will obey Him.