For the week of February 9, 2008 / 3 Adar 5768
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 25:1 - 27:19
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 5:26 - 6:13
Is the Torah for Today? - Part 2
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Shemot / Exodus 25:8; ESV)
Last week I explained that while the Torah is generally thought of as the covenant God gave the people of Israel through Moses at Mt. Sinai, it is more accurately a way to refer to God's directives in general. For ancient Israel, from the time of the wilderness wanderings until the coming of Yeshua the Messiah, keeping Torah was synonymous with keeping the Sinai Covenant. But as for the rest of the world (except for those non-Jews living among Israel during the period of the Sinai Covenant), Torah has always been a more basic set of regulations. These regulations were understood by godly people of various nations prior to the giving of the Sinai Covenant. Since they apply to all people in all places, they are also included as part of the Sinai Covenant.
Any attempt to establish Torah on the basis of the Sinai Covenant today is a lost cause. Foundational to this covenant was the sacrificial system centered in the mishkan (English: tabernacle) and later the temple. With the loss of the sacrificial system in the year 70 C.E. the very basis of the Sinai Covenant was lost. The coming of the Messiah forty years prior anticipated the end of the Sinai Covenant era and the beginning of the Messianic New Covenant era as predicted by Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34). It is this covenant that established the very things anticipated, yet never realized, by the Sinai Covenant: an internalization of Torah, an intimate relationship between God and his people, and the forgiveness of sins.
I closed last week's message by saying that the question we need to ask is not do we need to keep Torah, but rather what is the Torah we need to keep?
The New Covenant writings (New Testament) are instructive in this regard. It is within its pages that we learn how we are to live godly lives in light of the Messiah's coming. This in no way diminishes the importance of the Hebrew Bible. Far from it! The Hebrew Bible, including the Books of Moses, are God's foundational writings and the basis for the New Covenant. The Hebrew Bible provides us with an understanding of who God is and his purposes for the world. It informs us as to who we are as human beings, created in God's image, yet in desperate need of his restorative power. The Hebrew Bible teaches us that God is holy and that people, as his special creation, are to live accordingly, yet we are unable to do so. That is why he sent the Messiah to save us. Under the New Covenant we no longer relate to God on the basis of our need of restoration, but in response to it.
As a result, the New Covenant writings help us to discern God's Torah for today, which it does in two ways. First, it does so explicitly in that its pages are filled with very clear directives for godly living. Second, it also does so implicitly as it demonstrates how the Messiah is the fullness of what the Sinai Covenant anticipates. Christians who are enthusiastic about trying to adapt the customs of the Sinai Covenant to this era need to be careful not to undermine the reality of what Yeshua has accomplished.
The New Covenant perspective on Torah is well expressed through Jeremiah's prophecy, when he says "I will put my Torah within them, and I will write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33). Under the New Covenant the Torah of God (not the Sinai Covenant) has been internalized. The Sinai Covenant was an external imposition of a system to demonstrate to the world our desperate need of God. The New Covenant is the actualization of the restoration of God and the internalization of God's ways among those who participate in that restoration. We should not be surprised therefore that while there is significant continuity between the two covenants, there are also significant differences. Recognizing both the continuity and the differences is the key to discerning God's Torah for today.
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