For the week of July 17, 2010 / 6 Av 5770
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22
Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27
Torah Is Good for You
In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them... (Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:3; ESV)
In the New Covenant scriptures we read:
When Paul wrote the words, "all Scripture", he was referring to the Tenach, which is the Hebrew name for the Old Covenant Scriptures. Tenach is an acronym for Torah (the five books of Moses), Nevi'im (the Prophets), and K'tuvim (the Writings). While this reference, by extension, applies to the New Covenant Scriptures, he most likely only had the Tenach in mind, since the New Covenant Scriptures were only at their very early stages of development.
So according to Paul, the Tenach is not only inspired by God, but it is profitable for followers of Yeshua in the ways he lists. The Old Covenant Scriptures are not to be treated like a religious shrine that marks extraordinary events and to which we visit only to trigger memories and evoke feelings. The Tenach is truly profitable for God's people today. And note that he doesn't say some Scripture, but "all Scripture". The whole Tenach is profitable, not just parts of it.
Of course this doesn't mean that every verse is relevant to every single person in every situation. Verses that apply exclusively to women only don't apply to men. God's directives to kill Canaanites don't apply today even if you happen to meet one. Any part of the Bible must be understood not only in its immediate context, but also within the context of the rest of the Bible. The descriptions and regulations of the various sacrifices, for example, are meaningful in many ways, even though the sacrificial system is no longer in force. Directives to kings were specific to the ancient Israelite monarchy, yet there are aspects that are instructive to leaders in general.
There are certain references in the New Covenant writings that sound very negative on the Old Covenant Books of Moses. But those passages are more concerned with relating to the Torah as a system, than with its specifics. Adherence to Torah was never intended as the basis upon which people are made right with God, This is only accomplished through faith in the Messiah. This was also true for those who lived before Yeshua's coming in that their faith was in anticipation of God's provision of salvation through him.
Confusion exists because there is more than one way that Torah can be understood. Torah in a general sense means God's teaching or direction. For the people of Israel this became associated with the covenant given at Mt Sinai through Moses and the five books associated with him. So during the era between Moses and the coming of Yeshua, Torah was synonymous with the Sinai covenant. But in fact they are not one and the same thing. When the New Covenant was promised through Jeremiah, we read that while the people of Israel broke the Sinai covenant, God would put his Torah in their hearts. The New Covenant is not an internalized Sinai Covenant. It includes an internalized Torah, meaning that God's direction for life would not be something that exists externally on stone tablets. Instead, God's direction would spring forth from a new inner nature due to the forgiveness of sins (See Jeremiah 31:31-33).
Since for followers of Yeshua the Torah has become an inner reality, there remains the question as to what are the Torah's specifics for us today. There is no sense anywhere in the Bible that faith automatically and unconsciously results in godly living. It is through the study of the entire Scriptures and reliance on God's Spirit that we learn how God wants us to live today. As we do that we will see, as I have already mentioned, that certain directives don't apply or don't apply directly in the messianic age. On the other hand, there are many directives that are eternal, including don't murder or steal, and stipulations about building safety (Devarim / Deuteronomy 22:8) or fair business practices (Devarim / Deuteronomy 25:15). How to determine what applies to today and how it applies is not always straightforward, but it is a blessing to delve into God's written Word to discover his ways, especially when our hearts delight to do God's will.
Of course, much of both the Old and New Covenant Scriptures are not directives. They also include history, songs, and prophesy, etc. Most if not all of this is relevant to us today in that they help us to get to know God better. So we can be confident that these words from Tehillim (Psalms) are as true today as they were when they were first written:
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