Father’s Torah and Man’s Heart
By Angus and Batya Wootten – May 1999
As redeemed Israel, how does the Father want us to walk? In particular, how does He want us to handle the issue of “law versus grace”?
We must answer these questions because, as we labor to restore both “Judah and Ephraim” as brothers, we continually encounter two primary problems, both of which have to do with the “partial hardening” of “both the houses of Israel” (Romans 11:25; Isaiah 8:14; Genesis 48:19).
These problems are:
Because Israel’s restoration primarily begins with Ephraim’s actions (Isaiah 11:13; Jeremiah 31:18-19; Romans 11), we focus on his problem with “Torah.” For, with this Issue, we wish to begin a series of “Torah Studies.” However, we want them to be of a different spirit than most Torah studies we have seen thus far.
So, in our attempt to rebuild “David’s fallen house,” we will first establish the “types of materials” we will use, and we will define a certain “framework.”
To begin, we see that in the parable of the prodigal, Yeshua tells of a father who has a younger “prodigal” son, who in turn has an older brother who is not happy about the wanderer’s return home (Luke 15:11-32).
This story well depicts Ephraim’s and Judah’s present state. For, in our day many of Believing Ephraim (Genesis 48:19) are coming to a place of repentance (Jeremiah 31:18-19), and they want to return “home” to their “roots.” However, in many cases, the older son, “Judah,” is not happy with Ephraim’s emersion from the pig sty.
Again, we seek to reunite the Father’s “two brothers.” And in our article “From Orphans to Heirs,” we explained that the “how do we reunite them” answer is for Ephraim to “celebrate.”
To provoke the older brother [Judah] to jealousy, Ephraim must “make merry and be glad;” he must “celebrate and rejoice.” For our Heavenly Father wants Judah to “join the party.” He even wants those of Ephraim to make Judah “want” to join the celebration.
Yes, that is the job long ago assigned to Ephraim: Make Judah want what you have! To have Ephraim (they being the formerly “wild olive branches”) provoke Judah to “jealousy” was, and still is, the Father’s plan of salvation for “all Israel” (Jeremiah 11:10, 16; 2:18, 21; Romans 11).
The problem is, to accomplish this divine assignment, Ephraim, who has for so long seen himself as an orphan, needs to see that he too is an heir. For, then, he will cease to be “jealous” of Judah (Isaiah 11:13; Jeremiah 31:18-19). Then, he will see Judah as a “member of the family.” Then, the whole house of Israel will find total healing and restoration. And thus, Ephraim needs to see that the parable of the prodigal offers a solution to the reunion problem.
To Make Jealous – Make Merry!
In this parable, the older brother was provoked because – his younger brother was “celebrating and rejoicing,” or “making merry.” This is translated from euphraino, euphraino (yoo-frah ‘ee-no), which means, to be in a good frame of mind, to make glad, to be or to make merry, to rejoice.
Thus we see that legalism and religion will not provoke Judah. Celebration will (which explains why so many non-Jews feel an unexplainable urge to “celebrate the Feasts of Israel”).
So, as we seek to rebuild David’s fallen tent (Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16), we will not use any form of legalism. It will have no place in this project.
Under the Law?
As we build, we will categorically refuse to have anything to do with putting people “under the Law” (Romans 2: 12).
But . . . on the other hand, we do not want to subject anyone to a bad translation of Scripture.
And, we question whether most people understand what Paul actually meant when he spoke of people being “under the law.” Paul said, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law” (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Was Paul saying he was a two-faced chameleon who felt the end justified the means? Or, is Paul’s statement better translated in David Stern’s Jewish New Testament?
With Jews, what I did was put myself in the position of a Jew, in order to win Jews. With people in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah, I put myself in the position of someone under such legalism, in order to win those under this legalism, even though I myself am not in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah.
Paul is explaining that, when he encountered a Jew who was in bondage to legalism, he empathized with him. He identified with him. He tried to speak his language. But . . . Paul himself was not in such bondage.
Instead, Paul explains what he does identify with:
He says, “With those who live outside the framework of Torah, I put myself in the position of someone outside the Torah in order to win those outside the Torah – although I myself am not outside the framework of God’s Torah but within framework of Torah as upheld by the Messiah.” (1 Corinthians 9:21 JNT)
Messiah’s Torah Framework
The “framework” upon which Messiah hung the Torah is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
“Love” is the framework upon which all Torah instruction must hang. For if we “know all mysteries and all knowledge,” but “do not have love,” we are “nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
All Torah teaching must first be based on a true love of God and neighbor (Leviticus 19:18).
But even that is not enough. . . .
Teachers of Torah must always point to and lift up Messiah Yeshua. For, all things are being “summed up” in Him. He “fills all,” is “in all,” and must always be our focus (Ephesians 1:10-11, 23; John 12:32).
Moreover, “if we are led by the Spirit, we will not be under the [perverted system that distorts the truth of the) Law.” (Galatians 5:18) Further, we will not subject ourselves, nor allow others to subject us to, the perversion of legalism. We will not submit to it for a minute (Galatians 2:5).
But on the other hand . . . It is not wise to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water – which is what Ephraim has done in the past.
The perfectly good “baby” we have thrown out is called “Wisdom.” For our Father says of His Torah Instructions: “Keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding.” (Deuteronomy 4:6)
Wisdom is translated from the Hebrew word chokmah (khok-maw). It speaks of good sense, of being skillful, of acting wisely.
Surely we do not want to throw out good sense. And so in our restoration process we will honor good sense by looking to the Torah for answers (2 Timothy 3:16). However . . . we also must have the good sense to know that we cannot boast about being a “Torah keeper.” For, it is impossible for anyone to truly “keep” Torah because its sacrificial system has been abolished. We cannot keep all of Torah. Because, to “keep” Torah, we must keep all of Torah (Romans 2:25; Galatians 5:3; Jeremiah 9:25).
So, boasting about observing Torah principles is not something we can use in this rebuilding program.
Besides, we should have the “good sense” to realize that if our Father laid down certain laws, and then it became literally impossible for us to keep those laws (i.e., Deuteronomy 16:2; Exodus 30:19-20), then we can only conclude one of two things: Either He is impotent and asleep at the switch, or, He is trying to send us a message.
The answer is the latter, and the message is, by the power of His Ruach HaKodesh He will write His New Covenant Torah on the tablets of our formerly stony hearts. Thus, the work is done by the Holy Spirit – not by boasting about our keeping Torah (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).
Returning to our question, “How does the Father want Israel to walk?” it appears the supposed “answers” are primarily divided into two camps:
- “Law” that leads to “legalism”
- “Grace” that leads to “licentiousness”
Legalism versus licentiousness. Self-righteousness versus self-indulgence. Both are excesses. Both lead to a pit. So, what is the answer?
To begin, we try to define “Law and Grace.” And, grace is simply, unmerited favor. However, the Hebrew word Torah – usually translated law – means a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch, and it comes from yarah, a root word meaning, to flow as water (i.e. to rain); to throw, especially an arrow (see 2 Chronicles 26: 15), to shoot; to point out, to teach, to direct, inform, instruct, show, teach.
However, the English word law primarily means, “a rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority . . . rules and principles governing the affairs of a community . . . a legal system . . . justice . . . legislation; legal action, proceedings, litigation . . . absolute authority. . . .” (The American Heritage Dictionary).
What we miss through our use of the word law is the Hebrew root of Torah, meaning the emphasis of, to flow as water, to be like an arrow, to point out, to direct, to inform, instruct, to show, to teach.
Yahveh says of His Instructions: “Keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” And, “You shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land.” (Deuteronomy 4:6; 11:8)
If with a right heart attitude, we seek to walk in these commands, then, we will be made strong – courageous, able to conquer, of good courage, mighty, able to prevail, to behave valiantly.
However, if we are legalistic and self-righteous about our being so “mature” that we are now “keeping” Torah, we will be used by the evil one to blind others to the strength and wisdom that flows forth from Torah. We will cause our Father’s people to miss the benefit of truths that teach His finer ways – truths that help them flow in the right direction, and to overcome life’s adversities.
Thus, in our studies we will seek to destroy every destructive implement of the evil one that we can find. And, we will seek to build up by using every wise Torah tool available to us.\
Laying Down the Law of Grace
Concerning “Grace only” teachings, we find that, if we lay down a “law” that “gives the answer,” then we have created yet another “law.” This is so even if we say there is “no law, but only grace.” For then, “grace only” becomes our “law.”
While we are saved only by “grace” (Ephesians 2:8), still, the fact remains that our Messiah has eternal laws (John 12:48-50). Moreover, it also is a fact that He shows mercy to lawbreakers.
Law and Grace. Both are true. Both are depicted in their true harmony in the life of Messiah Yeshua. For, He kept all the Father’s law, and yet was and still is, the personification of Grace.
Does grace have to necessarily do away with Torah? Can we not use the truths of both law and grace to rebuild David’s fallen booth?
Yes, we can and we will. However, to settle this ancient dispute, we must realize that, it is not really an argument about law “versus” grace. Instead, it is an issue of the “attitudes” of the proponents of either side. For, transgression first proceeds from the heart: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false Witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19)
Thus Hebrews 4:12 explains, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Our Father’s Word is an ever-acting critic of the thought-life, motivations, and purposes of our human hearts. It reveals the hidden things. Thus, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4: 13)
This is true even if we are ignorant of the Father’s teachings. For, “The requirements of the law are written in our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness, and our thoughts now accusing, now even defending us.” (Romans 2: 15)
The Ruach HaKodesh is always at work in us, either bearing witness in our hearts that what we are thinking or doing is correct, or attempting to convict us of our error.
Thus, the argument is not one of “law versus grace.” Instead, heart attitude is the issue. And, the “heart” of the New Covenant promised to Israel is that, Yahveh will put His “laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.”
Our Father promised to “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not like the covenant . . . made with their fathers . . . which they broke.” Instead, He says, He will make a new covenant only with “the house of Israel.” Of it, He says, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
Our Father found “fault” with both houses: Israel (Ephraim) and Judah (Hebrews 8:8-10). And, when they fully enter into His new covenant, they are “Israel.” He no longer accepts their divided state. Instead, He makes a new covenant only with a reunited “Israel.” (Ephesians 2: 14)
Further, this covenant will not be totally fulfilled until the millennial age – for, at that time, “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:11)
Until that time, the Father is still attempting to write His Torah truths on the hard hearts of His scattered Israelite children.
Accepting the Yoke of the Holy One
In the past, Ephraim had a bad attitude toward Torah, and, the Father said of him, “Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, they are regarded as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:12) And, “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim.” (Hosea 10:1 1)
So, He sent Messiah, and He told us to, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
Once the veil is lifted from Ephraim‘s heretofore blinded eyes, once he is properly “instructed” (Jeremiah 31:18), then in Messiah Yeshua, Ephraim will accept the “yoke” of a Torah that is based on love. For, Messiah’s Torah yoke is a gentle yoke that brings rest to the weary soul.
Thus, in our rebuilding program we will not use tools of pagan trade, nor build with “traditions of men,” be they from Rome or Babylon. Instead, we will seek to destroy all deviant teachings – Christian and/or Jewish (Isaiah 27:9).
With our Torah study we issue a call to all Israel to, “Come up higher.” For, if we will respond to this call and begin to build in true righteousness, we will soon see David’s glorious, fully restored tent!
So . . . Let the building program begin!