Today I am reading Jeremiah 11:1-8. The Lord is reminding Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, about the terms of their covenant. Right away I wondered what those terms were and for about the last two hours I have been making a blessings and curses list, (based on Deuteronomy 28) of what would happen to the Israelites if they obeyed God and what would happen if they didn't. And I have to say, the blessings were awesome! But the curses? Let's just say that I am more appreciative of Jesus' sacrifice for me because these curses are terrifying. They amplify the fact that the Jews would have to be completely ignorant of the laws of God, or a fool to willingly break them. I have created a list of all the blessings and curses for you to download if you like. It is available at the end of this post and it is fascinating.
Reading the list clearly shows the supremacy of God, His authority and His holiness. It also shows us how serious God was about the Jews being His people. They were to be an example to the nations of how people were supposed to live before a Holy God. In a day when other nations surrounding them worshipped idols of wood and stone, the "Jewish" God would be magnified and exalted above all false gods due largely in part by how His people were living and obeying Him. That was the original plan, but unfortunately God's chosen people disobeyed Him, broke their covenant with Him and the consequences were severe. But God had a plan for their redemption and ours by sending Jesus. Which leads to this question:
Did Jesus Abolish the Law?
This is an argument that never seems to go away amongst Christians. One group says, "We are saved by grace through Jesus' blood so we no longer need to obey the laws." The other group says, "Jesus never stopped obeying the laws, so they still apply to us." Which one is right? They both are. Jesus made it very clear that the Laws of God still stand. However, He also made it very clear that He fulfilled them.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20, NIV).
Jesus made it very clear, the laws God gave the Jews have not been abolished. In fact, He said that if anyone teaches others to set aside even the least of the commands, that person will be called "least" in the kingdom of heaven. An example of this kind of disobedience is when the Catholic church changed the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday and encouraged others to obey. They were deliberately breaking one of the ten commandments. Since that time the entire church body, both Catholic and Protestant, have followed in disobeying God by not keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day. However, some might say that if we were truly going to honour the Sabbath then we should also honour all the rules (laws) that the Sabbath brings with it. Changing the Sabbath to another day was a deliberate act to disobey God. Which requires repentance on the part of the church. Stumbling in the law or unintentionally sinning is completely different.Yet Jesus knew that whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). Deliberately sinning is not stumbling. It is a conscious decision to act against God. Stumbling implies not knowing all 613 laws. This is why Jesus said our righteousness had to surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to be able to get into heaven. Which would be impossible. This is why Jesus' sacrifice fulfilled the law and made it possible for all people to be saved (not just those who followed Jewish laws). Ephesians 2:14-16 explains it this way:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
There are approximately 613 laws in the Torah. A majority of them are commandments for priests, but there are laws on purity, cleanliness, how to come before God with an offering, what to eat, what not to eat, and because God knows the heart of a person, He even included laws on what to do if you sin unintentionally against Him. Sin is serious to God. The Laws help us to remember that and show us how holy God is and why He is to be revered. They also show us why Jesus' death was needed. We cannot on our own keep and remember 613 laws, only one man has ever done that and it is why He was the perfect sacrifice. Jesus never sinned and He obeyed all of God's laws thus becoming the fulfillment of them all. So are the laws abolished? No, they still stand and are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Can I share with you an excerpt from my latest book? I am very excited about it because this Bible study is the first in my new Digging Deeper series. The Book of Daniel reveals a man (and his friends) who knew how to stand firm in their faith. But it is also a book that is historical and prophetic in nature.While writing it I stumbled upon something that I had taken for granted for years: that Daniel 9:25-26 was talking about Jesus, our Messiah. What I found however, sent me on a hunt to discover how such an innocent word like "mashiach" was so badly misinterpreted. The following is a snippet on what I found out.
Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince,
(Notice that the word Messiah is missing and replaced with “anointed” in the Jewish version of this verse. This is because the Jews never saw the word “Messiah” in their scriptures. They saw the word mashiach, which means “anointed.” It comes from the root word mashach, which means to “smear, rub, spread a liquid, or anoint.” It does not mean “Messiah” or “Saviour” as we Christians interpret it. It simply means “anointed,” nothing more. In addition, you will notice that the JPS has the word “one” before the word “anointed,” whereas, the NASB says “Messiah the Prince.” The NIV translates this part as “the Anointed One” and places the word “one” after anointed. Why is this important?
I go on to discuss this issue further in the book if you want to look at it further. One Amazon reviewer said:
"I gave this book five stars not because it is thoroughly researched, although it is very thorough indeed. It gets five stars not because it interprets Daniel in the light of scripture in its entirety from Genesis to Revelation, although it does that very well. It gets five stars because it is a theologically sound book you can hold in one hand with your Bible in the other hand and say, "Ah, now I see: I always wondered what that meant." This is not a book of Ms. Davis opinions. Every significant statement is backed up with proof - she lets scripture interpret scripture. - Dave F.
If you are interested in purchasing a paperback copy of Unlocking the Truth of Daniel visit www.amazon.com and let me know you purchased it. Why? Because I will send you a free ebook of my last book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today and I will also throw in an ebook of Unlocking the The Truth of Daniel so that you can read it on your tablet as well.
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)
The above verse is probably the most familiar verse in the Bible. On Sunday mornings in many churches it is the final benediction or blessing before people leave the service. On the Sabbath (Saturday) in synagogues around the world, this particular blessing is also used as a way to end the service. However, it doesn't stop there, but is also carried on into the home. For example, on Friday night when the Sabbath starts, parents say this blessing over their children. Today, Jews who are in attendance for morning prayers will have this blessing said over them by the rabbis.
Do you remember when Spock would say, "Live long and prosper" when addressing someone in the Star Trek universe? Leonard Nimoy (the actor who played Spock) was Jewish, and it was from the rabbis in his synagogue that he first saw the sign of the spread fingers. In fact, he told a story where, as a young boy, he was admonished never to look at the rabbis while they were saying this prayer. Why? According to Jewish tradition, the Divine presence would shine through the fingers of the priests as they blessed the people, and no one was allowed to look out of respect for God. Interestingly, the symbol of the spread fingers is the letter Shin in the Hebrew alphabet, which is the first letter in Shaddai (El Shaddai means the All Sufficient God) and it is the prayer above where the priests/rabbis would spread their fingers.
But what is so special about this blessing in particular? This blessing is said in Jewish traditions a number of times. For example, besides being used as a benediction, it is used during Jewish weddings when the couple stand under a chuppah (a canopy), where they would be blessed by their parents or the rabbi in attendance. It is also used during the circumcision ceremony (brit milah) when a baby boy is eight days old. So there are many ways the blessings is used, but it began with a command from God to Aaron (Moses brother) that it was to be a blessing from God said over the people of Israel. Originally, it was said only by the priests (the kohanim) of God, but nowadays it is accepted that people will use it as a blessing on their loved ones.
So let us look at this verse closely, because I want you to be able to grasp the important significance of such a blessing. One thing I want to stress is that the priests were not giving their own blessing. This was a blessing from God Himself. The priests/rabbis were merely the means in which to transmit this blessing. This is confirmed by the verse immediately following the blessing. "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them" (Numbers 6:27).
There are three parts to this blessing:
The Lord Bless You and Keep You
What does it mean "to bless"? The word bless in Hebrew conveys the idea that our weaknesses are strengthened by God's strength. In fact, the root word for bless is barukh and means to kneel, or humble ourselves as an act of adoration. So in our weakness we kneel before God and He blesses us, or strengthens us through His mighty power. The blessing above when said as a benediction at the end of a service is meant to convey the idea of sending us out into the coming week with the strength of God resting on us. To accomplish what we cannot do on our own, because we are weak.
Most Hebrew prayers begin with Barukh atah Adonai, "Blessed are You Lord," which reminds us of God's power and strength, at the same time humbling ourselves before Him. So, Numbers 6:24-26 does not mean that God is humbling Himself, it means He is imparting His strength to us by passing on His blessing of strength. And the first verse goes further. Not only is God blessing us with His strength but He is "keeping" us within His care. 'Keep' in Hebrew is shamar and means to "keep, watch over, guard or protect." So these first words of blessing from God mean, quite simply, that God is blessing us with His strength and watching over us. This does not mean we will never experience tragedy. It simply means God's eye is upon us, watching over everything we do and blessing us as we carry out His work here on earth.
The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You, and be Gracious To You
The Lord said in Exodus 33:20 that no one could look at Him at live (survive). So what does it mean when He wants to "make His face shine upon us"? This is an incredible statement from the God of creation to His children. 'Face' in Hebrew is paniym and it has a variety of meanings, like "favour, countenance, presence or person". So in this blessing from God, He is making His presence or favour shine upon us. God's Holy Spirit, is an ever present light within our hearts that searches out and knows us intimately. Nothing can be hidden from Him. 'Gracious' in Hebrew is chanan and means "to show favour or mercy." So, the second half of this blessing is God bestowing His light or presence upon us and showing us His mercy or favour.
The Lord Lift up His Countenance Upon You, and Give you peace
The same word for face is also the same word for countenance. So what is the difference here? Picture a father lifting his child up into his arms and gazing lovingly upon him. That is what God our Father is doing here. He is lifting his face, his countenance upon us with that same kind of love. And what does a father who loves his children want for them above all else? Peace, contentment, joy, good health. This blessing from God is an amazing example of how He views His children. How can anyone who believes in God therefore, not reciprocate with complete adoration and praise to the One who blesses us so freely? The next time you hear this benediction in church let the importance of who this blessing is from wash over you. It is not just something the minister or priest says as the end of the service. This is a blessing from God above, meant for His children. Receive it with joy and thanksgiving and take it with you throughout the week, remembering that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are His child and He loves you very much.
"Baruch At Hashem, Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam, Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu La'asok B'divrei Torah."
"Blessed are you, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments, and commanded us to actively Study Torah."
The above is a blessing of the Torah that Jews pray every morning. I have been learning about Jewish prayers through Rabbi Gidon Ariel of Root Source. This morning the Rabbi said something in his lesson that really struck a chord with me. He explained that one of the reasons the Jewish people pray this prayer is because they have a holy commandment (a task) to actively study the Torah. As a nation, the Jewish people should therefore, actively be studying the Torah. The Rabbi then asked, "So, what happens if you don't actually learn anything? If it goes in one ear and out the other?" It then becomes, according to the Rabbi, a blessing that shouldn't have been said. For example, the blessing above is a commandment from God to the Jew to actively study the Torah. If the blessing is simply repeated without putting it into action, than you have said the whole blessing in vain.
Did you catch that? If the blessing is not put into action you are saying it in vain, and by doing so taking God's name in vain. The Hebrew translation of the word "actively" is La'asok and it literally means to "occupy yourself with". Jews are commanded to "occupy" themselves with the words of Torah. I loved the Rabbi's explanation of this. He said, "Even when a doctor is not healing, he is "occupying" himself with his medical profession. So as a professional occupies themselves with their profession, the Jewish people occupy themselves with their profession. And their profession is the Torah."
How then does this apply to the Christian when studying God's Word? God wants everyone in the world to know Him. We can each have a unique relationship with God. But the Jewish people are different. Yes, they can have a personal relationship with God, but they are unique in that they have a national relationship with God. They have been called as a nation to actively study the Torah. It is their responsibility as a nation therefore to have a relationship with God. How do they get this relationship with God? Through the study of the Torah. This is why the Jewish people are so unique. No other nation on the face of the earth, since time began, has ever been called to do this. For the Christian then, the key to having a relationship with God, to truly know Him, is also to study the Torah (God's Word). If you go to church every Sunday and never pick up your Bible the other days of the week, you are not actively seeking a relationship with God. It is going in one ear and out the other! Like the Jews, we need to "occupy" ourselves with the Word of God.
To truly know God and to grow in your relationship with Christ, there is no other way but to study His Word. The Jews were commanded to obey all of God's laws and ordinances. To learn them they had to study the Torah. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, "Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." It is the same for anyone who wants to pursue a relationship with God. Read His Word, study it, teach it to your children. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, "when you lie down and when you get up." In other words, occupy yourself with the Word of God all the time. Memorize it and keep it in your heart. Knowing God's Word keeps you from sin and in a right relationship with our Lord.
The Jewish people have been commissioned as a nation to study the Torah. Christians have also been commissioned. We are to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20). So while the Jewish nation has a unique calling to occupy themselves with the Torah, so too do those who profess Jesus as their Messiah. If you are not studying the Word of God, how can you fulfill the Great Commission set before you? If you have ever struggled with your identity in Christ and what He expects from you - that is it in a nutshell. Study His Word, learn from it, put it into practice and then share it with others. Don't keep it to yourself or the blessing that comes from reading it will be in vain.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19-7-11, ESV).