November 2012 Yavoh

Turning to the Torah

There is an interesting geometric trick that illustrates how a diverse group of people can be in unity. First, you take a group of people, no matter how scattered they are, and pick one place for them to walk to. It matters not if the place is beyond the group or in the midst of the group; as each individual turns to the selected place and begins to advance they will discover that no one intersects in a crossing fashion to get there. Every person’s path is either the same or parallels one another. It is a simple illustration that explains how all believers of the Messiah can follow Him and not collide in conflict with one another.

Not every person of faith is at the same starting place. We all are individuals with differing experiences and levels of understanding, but that does not separate us as we walk toward the common goal. Instead, as we walk we tend to come closer and closer to one another without a collision.

Many in the Messianic movement would like to see more unity among the brethren. I agree that it is needed and desired. The problem with achieving that unity is how we go about it. Some leaders think that calling all brethren to rally on them is the solution. Like the joke on compromise I heard, “Let’s compromise; do it MY way.” Some try to suggest that not rallying at all (each person does his own thing seeking the Lord) will bring about spiritual unity. Based on my observations and life experience, neither of those suggestions work.

There is no question that the Lord desires us to be better unified and more cooperative with one another. But with all of the different opinions and groups, how can we find our way to such a goal?

I believe that if the Lord wants us to be unified that He Himself will prescribe how to accomplish that. I believe He has already done exactly that, given to us through two prophets. One, the prophet Isaiah, was a prophet to the House of Judah. The other was the prophet Micah, a prophet to the House of Israel. It is fitting that these two prophets, speaking to the great division in Israel, would offer the same instruction. This same instruction, therefore, defines the future unification of the two houses of Israel and how it is to be achieved. I submit that these same words are the source of unification for the entire Messianic movement as well.

Isaiah said this to the House of Judah (the southern kingdom).

And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. ISA 2:3-4

Micah said this to the House of Israel (the northern kingdom).

Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. MIC 4:2-4

The call to unity and the method of how to get there is consistent between these two prophets.

Everyone in the modern Messianic movement today has a testimony of how God personally called them out of whatever spiritual confusion they came from. Each of us can testify as to how the instruction of the Torah suddenly became simple and understandable. Each of us had the same hunger and appetite for truth and righteousness. Each us sensed the Messiah’s leading away from confusion and restrictions in religion to the freedom of just spiritually walking before Him.

It seems paradoxical at first, but the rule of law (commandments) establishes freedom. When there is no law, no one is free. When we are under religious laws (the laws of men), then we are oppressed and not free. That is the very definition of legalism! But God’s law is the definition of freedom for all men and nations. Even the United States uses God’s law for the very definition of freedom on the nation’s Liberty Bell.

The words, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” are affixed to that bell. These words come from Leviticus 25:10 when the Torah gives the commandment to keep the 50th year of Jubilee.

This message of freedom in the Torah was the same one quoted by the Messiah from the Prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; ISA 61:1

The Torah and the Messiah are all about liberty and freedom. As I said before, when Messianics turn to the Torah and the Messiah they experience the taste of freedom. This freedom has been granted for a specific purpose, not to pursue individual desires. Instead, this freedom is what grants us the opportunity to walk in the direction of the Lord Himself and join others doing the same.

But let us go back and examine more closely with the prophets said. Those same prophets acknowledge an important fact about the world we presently live in. We are not unified, God’s law is not accepted by all men, and the Messiah is not accepted by all men. Without that acceptance there is no unity, yet the prophets say that there is a day coming when acceptance of both the Torah and the Messiah will be achieved. It will come in the last days!

And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. MIC 4:1

These are words that precede the Scripture of unity. The mountain that we are to be called to is yet to be established. It will be established when the Messiah returns, but it is yet future. No wonder we are so diverse and unable to be unified now. We are in transition, the world is in transition. We all are awaiting God’s work of restoration! Does that mean that we should throw our hands in the air and give up on the goal of unity? Of course not! But it does explain why it has not been achieved yet and why no man can make it happen.

We know that the mountain being discussed is Jerusalem. The prophecy is clear that Jerusalem is to be raised up as chief of mountains upon the Lord’s return. The unity message both Isaiah and Micah are referring to is the mountain and Jerusalem at the same time. For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. But consider Zechariah as he speaks to this very point.

Thus says the Lord, “I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.” ZEC 8:3

The Lord returns at the end of days and His return is to a mountain that has been raised up as chief of mountains. The city on this mountain is Jerusalem. We will go to this Holy Mountain and to this City of Truth to worship the Messiah in His kingdom.

Our call to this mountain, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob,” is the first step toward unity in faith. Everyone has been called to turn toward one single place. Like my earlier geometric example, no matter where we are in the world, once we lock in on one agreed location, we can all journey there without crossing one another’s path and suffering conflict. This is the same logic employed by the prophet Amos.

Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment [are agreed]? AMO 3:3

Unity is based on the parties hearing the same goal from the Lord and agreeing to pursue the same goal. We have all been called by the Lord to go to one particular place. You want to know why Messianic brethren are not in unity yet? We refuse to listen to God’s call so that we can agree on where we are going.

Let’s examine another point give by Isaiah and Micah.

That He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths. For the law [the Torah] will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. ISA 2:3

If we are willing to hear the call to “come,” then we should also be willing to hear “His instruction and teaching.” But this too is where disunity emerges among us. I have heard some Messianic brethren, especially those not enjoying unity, argue that faith in the Messiah is something different from the instruction of the Torah. Here is the irony. “For the Torah shall go forth out the Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” is one of the greatest prophetic truths of the Messiah. This statement means that the Messiah is the greatest Torah teacher of them all. It means that in His kingdom, we will be instructed by the Messiah from the Torah. So, how is the Torah something different from the Messiah?

If we won’t listen to the same voice and the same words spoken by that voice, then how can we be unified? Different teachings send us to other destinations and consequently crossing paths of disunity. If we can’t understand that the Messiah and the words of the Torah are one and the same, then we can’t get there from here. I’m sure that you know the following passage was spoken by the Messiah.

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. MAT 5:17

There is a dispute over what the Messiah meant when He said “to fulfill.” Some make it a completion to the point of no longer valid. The Messiah’s definition is as Isaiah and Micah said.

For the law [the Torah] will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem is the instruction of the Messiah. That is His definition of to fulfill the Torah. It is to teach Torah to all tribes, peoples, and tongues of the world. This is why He is even greater than Moses, the giver of the Torah.

Here is a confirming argument from the Messiah on this point.

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? JOH 5:46-47

Many Messianic believers are familiar with these passages from Matthew and John. They were mostly likely referred to when they (as new Messianics) struggled with faith in the Messiah and turned to the instruction of Torah hungering for truth and righteousness. But they are also the same words that we who have been in the Messianic movement awhile are striving for more unity among ourselves.

Instruction in the Torah teaches us what the Messiah was teaching. We cannot understand and believe the words of the Messiah unless we first understand and believe the words written by Moses (the Torah). For us, the Torah going out of Zion and word of the Lord from Jerusalem has already begun. We have already turned to the place of that mountain in faith, believing that He will make it the chief of mountains. Our journey is a long one, so we have already begun to walk in faith, not by sight, toward that mountain.

The prophets continue.

And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; ISA 2:3, MIC 2:4

There are two fundamental points made here. First, Messiah God is the ultimate judge of mankind. Men think that they have the right to judge themselves and others. They are wrong. The Lord is the One and only True Judge. The best judgment that man can make is to acknowledge and be in agreement with the Almighty. Exercising their own judgment is an attempt to usurp the True Judge. Therefore, proper judgment by a man is that which agrees with and confirms what God has already said. It is never the assertion of a man apart from God. Secondly, He is the One who decides who lives and who dies. He decides who is correct or incorrect. He renders the decision.

These fundamental points must be accepted and understood before we can understand the authority of God’s anointing. If God is the True Judge and He is the One who renders decisions, then His anointing carries the same authority. This is why the Messiah is the Anointed One! It is the authority of the anointing that we see in Yeshua of Nazareth exercising the authority to return and carry out the Day of the Lord.

It also follows that God’s call and anointing upon other servants of God is so profound. Moses was anointed of the Lord. He was not a perfect man and his authority to lead the children of Israel was not based on his perfection; it is was based upon God’s anointing.

The same is true today with regard to spiritual leaders. A true spiritual leader is not one based on résumé and position; it is based on God’s calling upon him. Sadly, many leaders refer to the “anointing” like it is a certificate one receives for simply being present.

God’s anointing is much different and God’s people who are truly seeking the Lord Himself can tell the difference as well. Those who have turned to the Torah in the Messianic movement are looking for those who have turned to Zion and Jerusalem in a fresh way. They have not been called to a Jewish culture, they have been called to the instructions in righteousness that are purposed for all the families of the earth.

For those of us who have turned to the Torah, a future has been set before us. I have always said that when we follow the Torah, we are a people who have a past and we have a future. If you don’t have the Torah, you are stuck in the present. Your past and future are uncertain.

Have you ever heard your normal church-going Christian friends ignore the past (acting like what has happened in the past is just the history of others) and spurn any discussion of the future (no one knows what will happen and it doesn’t apply to them)? I am sure you have. This is symptomatic of those who do not believe the Torah nor hold to its ways.

Concerning the past, they don’t see themselves as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The promises made to the fathers and their descendants are ignored or shuttled over to Israel alone, definitely not them. They do not identify with YHVH, the God of Abraham. They dismiss all that history and try to redefine God’s whole plan by their rendition of Jesus. As a result, they don’t share in the same kingdom of God – Israel. Even though Yeshua is the King of Israel, the Lord of the Sabbath, and the Ancient of Days returning to Jerusalem, they block it out like a horse with blinders pulling a wagon down the street. The best they can say is He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Their blindness ignores the very Father who sent Him.

When it comes to the future, ignoring the prophetic message of Torah leads to a complete distortion of God’s future plan. If you ask your average Christian about the future, he is not sure whether he is going to be floating on clouds with babies shooting arrows or be in some gigantic apartment building full of mansions built by the Messiah. Those who did well will get suites while those who didn’t do so good will get studios where the couch doubles as a bed. I am using hyperbole to make a point.

God’s plan for our future has some very well defined elements. They include the very bodies we will have. Where on earth will we worship the Lord? How we will worship the Lord and what we will be doing in His kingdom? In fact, the passages by Isaiah and Micah are part of that definition.

…and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. MIC 4:4

Many men and women grow up and serve their country through military service. Every citizen is aware of this type of service and understands that our countries exist because of the security provided by those in the military. We honor those who serve our country in that way and honor them and the job they do so that we might have liberty and freedom. We know that freedom is not free and requires payment in resources, time, and the lives of many young people. It is the very nature of the world that we presently live in. But the kingdom will be different.

There will be only one government in the kingdom (not to be confused with the worldly “one world government” that was prophesied to be foisted upon all nations). There will only be one King, one Law, and one people – the people of God. As a result, we will no longer build a better gun or missile. We will use those skills to grow and harvest things better. We will be immortal and outlast the life cycles of plants and trees.

They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and another inhabit, they will not plant and another eat; for as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, and My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands. ISA 65:21-22

The future Messianic kingdom is not a dream that can never be reached. It is not a lofty goal or aspiration beyond our grasp. It is our future when the Messiah returns. The fact is that every Sabbath we practice to dwell in the future Messianic kingdom and with every festival we tell the great story of our Messiah’s work of redemption and restoration.

Even Moses knew that the ancient story of the Egyptian exodus was a prophetic picture for the last generation, the generation that would see the Messiah establish His kingdom, when they would make an exodus out of the nations to His kingdom. His words are as dramatic today as the parting of the Red Sea and God speaking from Mt. Sinai was then.

...then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. DEU 30:3-5

Sadly, many believers today have no idea that God’s future for us involves another exodus and a journey to the very promised land of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Unity among the brethren is achievable. It is not vague and theoretic; it is simple and practical. It begins with the voice of God calling us to Him. It is His instruction in righteousness and doing things His way. It is giving all authority to Him and relinquishing all decisions to Him and His Anointed One. It is honoring our past and anticipating our future and holding onto both at the same time. This is the unity that God wants with us. This then is the definition for our like-minded brethren.

Let us return to the Lord our God, obeying Him with all of our hearts and souls according to all that He has commanded us today! Let us renew the weekly instruction of Torah this year.