Jesus was perhaps the greatest Torah teacher of his day.
Think about that for a moment. We do not often consider the fact that Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) taught from the Torah, and that he was recognized by Jewish leaders as a great teacher. It began in his youth, when at the age of 12 he astounded the doctors of the Law (Torah) in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). When he entered into public ministry, the teacher of Israel himself came to inquire of Yeshua about spiritual matters (John 3:1-21). His greatest oration, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29), was in fact an extensive midrash on the Torah and its application in daily life. That is why Yeshua stated early in that sermon that he had not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it – meaning to teach it correctly and live out its full meaning (Matthew 5:17-20).
This should lead us to the conclusion the Torah was given not only to the Jews, but to all of God’s people. In fact, the Torah applies to every person on earth, or at least it will when Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. How else are we to understand such passages as this one from Isaiah?
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days thatthe mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4 NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice the key to Isaiah’s oft-quoted prophecy: universal peace does not happen until after the nations of the earth submit to the judgment of YHVH’s Messiah and learn and obey the Law (Torah) which he shall teach.
Language is a perilous thing. It can unite us, but quite often it does the opposite. That, by the way, was God’s intent. We know that from the story of how He created the different languages of the earth as presented in Genesis 11:
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9 NASB, emphasis added)
Ever since then that curse of language has been with us. And, by the way, so has the curse of nations.
Curse of nations? Yes, it does seem to be a curse. It would seem that the Lord did not intend for humanity to be scattered and separated across the face of the planet in competing factions. Nevertheless, nations were His idea. The story of the Tower of Babel explains why. You’ll notice that mankind also had an idea of uniting themselves as one people, but their idea was not the same as the Almighty’s. They wanted to be a single, unified power that could challenge YHVH for sovereignty over this planet. Since these people lived in the generations immediately after the Great Flood, we can suppose that some of them harbored a little resentment at God’s destruction of the pre-Flood civilization. Maybe they thought they could do things better than their ancestors, perhaps by building a strong defense that could ward off any further Divine intervention in human affairs. Now since our God does not change (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), and since the eternal governing principles of the universe which He established do not change (Psalm 119:44; II Kings 17:37; Matthew 5:18, 24:34-35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33), He had to do something about this blatant rebellion. There can only be one God, after all.
The problem with sin is that it seeks to create many gods – in fact, as many as there are human beings on the earth. That is at the heart of Satan’s insidious deception spoken to our mother Eve: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5 NASB) Tragically, the way our Creator dealt with the deception before the Flood was to destroy humanity. I would surmise He had little choice in the matter since all of humanity apparently was united as a single people, most likely under satanic leadership (not unlike the world we are anticipating at the end of this age when Messiah returns). To make sure He did not have to make a complete end of the human race this time around, the Lord God created nations and then scattered them across the earth. If they were divided in language, they would soon be divided in every other imaginable way, and the resultant wars and rumors of wars would ensure that a united human empire would not arise to defy the Living God until the end of days. In the meantime the Living God could go about the process of cultivating His redemptive work in human hearts while they remained in the nations.
Having walked this path of faith for several decades, I have come to understand that the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not require His people to do anything that He Himself is not prepared to demonstrate by example. In other words, whatever requirements He places on us in the form of commandments will have some corresponding requirement He has placed on Himself. For example, in the famous Akedah, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19), YHVH calls on Abraham to take his only son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice. Abraham obeys, and on the way to the place Isaac asks him where the lamb for the burnt offering is. Abraham answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). Many centuries later, we find that Messiah Yeshua fulfills that role of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-36, Revelation 5:1-14), just as prophesied in Isaiah 53. The holy example is that God Himself gave the His very own Son, withholding nothing to redeem mankind, and therefore demonstrating that those who choose to follow Him must hold nothing back in their obedience to His will.
If this principle of “heavenly reciprocity” is true, then there should be some equivalent to the Lord’s requirement of His people to love Him and love one another. Yeshua identified these as the two greatest commandments, and the authorities who questioned Him had no disagreement on that point:
If Treasure Island is any indication, a young person’s transition to adulthood has always been awkward and painful. At least it was so in the 1880s when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his story for boys. Stevenson’s adolescent hero, Jim Hawkins, has resonated with youth ever since. What boy does not dream of adventure, travelling to exotic places, deciphering mysteries, and overcoming danger? Such dreams have motivated boys for millennia in the hope that they can find their courage and discover their place in life. If the opportunities are not forthcoming then boys will invent them, if for no other reason than to establish a place for themselves in their own minds and, hopefully, in the minds of their peers.
So it is with Jim Hawkins. As the son of an innkeeper he has little hope of adventure until a strange turn of events sets him on a hazardous sea voyage in search of hidden pirate gold. Jim proves to be the hero, thwarting the mutinous plot of rebellious sailors led by Long John Silver, saving the lives of the captain and loyal crew members, and discovering the treasure. Not bad for an 18th century version of an underprivileged wayward teen.
Stevenson could not have envisioned the retelling of his story as a space travel adventure in which his hero is not merely underprivileged, but rebellious, sullen, introverted, and destined for a life at odds with society. That is the Jim Hawkins of Treasure Planet, the 2002 animated feature by Walt Disney Pictures. This space age Jim reflects the jaded, self-absorbed youth of the post-modern world. We follow Jim’s transformation from wide-eyed, joyful toddler to embittered youth. It is not a transformation he undertakes willingly. It is not his fault that his parents quarrel, but he suffers incalculably on the morning his father walks out. In an instant Jim is abandoned by the one person who could set him on the right course, leaving him to cast about for someone or something to give him purpose. In time Long John Silver the pirate fills that role as the two of them develop a relationship that proves redemptive for them both. There is a happy ending after all, but not without anguish along the way.
Jim’s angst is the subject of I’m Still Here, a song written for the film by John Rzeznik. It is an anthem for an alienated generation which does not know its identity. Cast adrift to find their own answers, these young people feel (with some justification) that their elders would rather they remain silent and invisible until they are able to join the adult world. Yet how are they to do so if no one makes the effort to guide them? Thus the youth have only two alternatives: either despair and end their miserable lives, or hang on in defiance against all expectations. Rzeznik’s lyrics tell us the option Jim Hawkins selects:
And you see the thing they never see,
All you wanted, I could be,
Now you know me, and I’m not afraid, And I wanna tell you who I am, Can you help me be a man? ,
They can’t break me,
As long as I know who I am.
The song ends with Jim’s defiant, yet hopeful, refrain, “I’m still here!” His defiance is not unlike Job’s defiance in the face of what he perceives to be unjust accusations by his friends:
Teach me, and I will be silent; and show me how I have erred. How painful are honest words! But what does your argument prove? Do you intend to reprove my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind? (Job 6:24-26 NASB)
Among the many things for which I frequently thank YHVH is that I got to grow up in a Southern Baptist church and a Presbyterian school. From an early age I came to appreciate the doctrinal positions of both and their roots in Arminianism and Calvinism. Concerning the key elements of free will and predestination, I concluded long ago that they are not mutually exclusive. I do not understand exactly how they work, but I do know that both are part of God’s operation in human affairs. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility intertwine in very complicated and intricate ways to produce outcomes that YHVH declares from the beginning, but which finite mankind must play out in faith and obedience – or in ignorance and despair, depending on one’s perspective.
But what if predestination means something different from what we suppose? What if it refers to the fate of a nation rather than individuals? Consider this: YHVH has promised from ancient times to establish permanently the seed of Abraham on the Promised Land in the form of a nation called Israel. Moreover, He has promised to open the way for people of all nations to come into that holy nation and be part of His eternal covenant of peace. What if predestination refers to YHVH’s intent to do this thing just as He said? If “nation” is the real object of predestination, then we have no need to speculate about whether God has chosen certain individuals for salvation and others for damnation. The way of salvation is open to all individuals through the nation He has predestined as His vehicle of salvation.
This line of thinking requires far more development than is possible in a short blog post. However, it is unquestionable that God, through Messiah Yeshua, has opened the way for every person on earth to exchange his or her identity of birth for an identity as Abraham’s children, and therefore as Israelites. This is a point Ephraim Frank explores in the following commentary.
Trust you all had a wonderful Succot celebration. I’m sure you have heard about the various happenings here in the land, with the spirit of violence manifesting again through Israeli Arab citizens, Arab residents of Jerusalem, and others, in the Palestinian territories and Gaza (while this spirit is not totally sidestepping Israelis either). Thank you for your prayers during these troublesome times.
As we continue into the unpredictable future (a phrase that some may take exception to), our faith and confidence in a faithful covenant keeping Elohim should reach new heights of revelation-understanding. Yeshua’s purpose in returning to the heavens was to send the Spirit of the Kingdom into the hearts of those elected and predestined for the promise of this Spirit, as is evidenced by the following: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…” (Ephesians 1:11). “For whom He [the Father] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). He also “predestined us to the adoption as sons by Yeshua the Messiah to Himself [the Father], according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6).
The question that arises from the above scriptures is, who are the predestined ones that have been called, foreknown and chosen beforehand, justified, glorified and adopted for His purposes? The apostle states very clearly in Romans 9:4-5a, when he makes reference to those “…who are Israelites, to whom belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Torah, the service of Elohim, and the promises; of whom are the fathers…“
Most of the Israelites (those who are not Jewish) have lost their identity, but as prophesied have become multitudes in many nations. Those from among them who are still lacking the knowledge or realization of their true identity will not fully understand the New Covenant, their destiny and the reconstitution of nationhood, nor the above-cited predetermined characteristics, even though what is written in Ephesians 2:11-13, concerning those who were “once far off”, but who are now part of the “commonwealth of Israel” should cause them to at least question their present (“gentile”) identity.
However, through Yeshua the Kinsman Redeemer, and the working of the Holy Spirit many are now embracing Torah, and as a result their hearts are turning back to the forefathers and to the identity (or, conversely, for others, the discovery of the identity is what restores them to the forefathers and the Torah). The light of this revelation points to the importance of reconciliation within the House of Jacob (which is the whole House of Israel). Hence efforts are being made toward the re-gathering of our nation. One such meeting took place last May in Ariel, Israel, in the form of the “B’ney Yosef National Congress”, and now follow-up summits are due to occur in Texas, Germany, and Florida. The next B’ney Yosef National Congress will be held, Yah willing, once more in Ariel Israel October 26-31, 2016.