(or More than law-keeping)
By Buel Hallpike
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We must state categorically at the outset, that this writer and the website strongly support adherence to Yahweh’s laws. This article is not hinting at any change whatsoever in our observance of Yahweh’s Torah. It is written in order to emphasise the need to observe Torah in the way Yahshua taught.
Most believers when they are made aware of the many errors in Christendom and the ways in which they had been misled usually become engrossed in a search to find and eliminate all the errors of the past. If this has been your experience, then because obedience to Yahweh’s laws was one of the major doctrines you had not been taught in your former assembly, this will probably become your most important focus. That is good, but a note of caution must be sounded. There are many persons who in their enthusiasm to observe Yahweh’s laws have neglected other equally important doctrines of the Bible.
It is easier to ‘do’ than to ‘become’. You can be so busy like Martha doing all the things you think would please your Master that you forget to sit at His feet and to learn how you can become more like Him. Except you are very careful, you can be so obsessed with searching for the truths you had never known before, that you forget many other invaluable teachings of Yahshua. Your head can be filled with the laws you must keep, while your heart is empty of the essential qualities that Yahshua taught. It is not a choice of one or the other. You need Yahweh’s commandments as well as His attitudes if your obedience is to have His approval.
WHAT YAHSHUA TAUGHT
Yahshua is your main instructor on the meaning and application of the Torah. You cannot obey Yahweh’s commandments in the way He requires without applying the principles that Yahshua taught.
At the start of His ministry, after stating that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it (Matt 5:17-19), Yahshua continued to explain how we should obey the Torah. He said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:20. Yahshua was recommending a level of rectitude that surpassed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. What did He mean? He continued to explain His meaning from verse 21 to the end of the chapter.
In general He was taking the observance of the law from the mere outward performance, to a deeper inner meaning that went to the root of wrongdoing, which is the heart. As we continue to explore Yahshua’s teachings in Matthew 5, keep in mind that He was clarifying and expanding the keeping of Yahweh’s commandments. Do not forget that He is telling you how you should obey Yahweh, or what sort of obedience is pleasing to Yahweh.
Observe that He often prefaced each topic with the words “you have heard that it was said to those of old … but I say to you that …”. In other words, the old way of understanding the Torah must give way to the new correct meaning that He was now teaching. The Torah itself had not changed. All of Yahweh’s commandments still stand, for Yahshua says they will never pass away, “till heaven and earth pass away” Matt 5:18, and these things have not yet occurred.
If you are keeping the Torah according to the old letter of the law, but not according to the intended meaning of the law, as Yahshua taught, you are missing the whole purpose of keeping Yahweh’s laws, and your law-keeping is in vain.
When we hear of gruesome acts of murder such as Adam Lanza carried out at the school in Connecticut or Anders Behring Breivik perpetrated in Norway we experience a sense of revulsion. Not only are such heinous acts a wanton waste of human life, they are also in defiance of Yahweh’s commandment that says, “You shall not murder” Exod 20:13. Yahshua’s explanation of murder went deeper than actually taking someone’s life. Most persons would pass the test of not being a murderer according to the usual concept of what constitutes murder. With Yahshua’s definition, few if any would pass His stringent test.
He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of [the Gehenna] fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” Matt 5:21-24.
Yahshua’s teaching suggests that hatred in the heart is like a seed planted in the soil. The heart is the soil where evil takes root, before it sprouts into the open for all to see. The germinating seed of hatred is as much a plant as the full-grown tree of murder. The seed has the potential elements of the mature plant. It is only at a different stage of development. Yahweh sees its latent possibilities from its earliest stage, and does not differentiate between one stage and another. Hatred equals murder. The apostle John wrote, Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him 1 John 3:15.
In Yahweh's eyes, if you hated several persons, your hatred would be no better than the mass murderers who shock our nations.
Yahshua continued that prior to your gift being acceptable to Yahweh, your anger must be first dealt with, and you must be reconciled to those whom you have offended. As a prerequisite to your obedience or law-keeping being acceptable, evil in your hearts must be eradicated; otherwise you are simply carrying out rituals that have no meaning to Yahweh.
Yahweh said to Israel through His prophet Isaiah,
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says [Yahweh]. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats.
12 When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts?
13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” Isa 1:11-17.
Yahweh was not getting rid of His laws on sacrifices, but because there was sin amongst them, their sacrifices were no longer acceptable. Yahweh no longer delighted in their observance of His Sabbaths. He hated their celebration of His Feasts and rejected anything that they did purporting to be in honour of Him, because their hearts were not pleasing to Him. It was as if they were trying to bribe Yahweh by offering Him gifts, as a substitute for rectifying what was wrong within them.
David after committing both adultery and murder knew that no sacrifice could take the place of a repentant heart. He cried, ”You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of [Elohim] are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O [Elohim], You will not despise" Ps 51:16-17.
Hatred can only be eradicated, when like David, you admit the impurity of your heart and you ask Yahweh to wash [you] thoroughly from [your] iniquity, and cleanse [you] from [your] sin Ps 51:2.
He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy Prov 28:13.
Still on the subject of hatred, Yahshua said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” Matt 5:43-48.
This is perhaps the hardest of Yahshua’s instructions. It is very easy to love those who love us and to hate those who hate us. Yahshua’s teaching goes against the grain of normal attitudes. According to Yahshua just as Yahweh sends rain and sunshine even on those who are evil, so we must do good, to those who hate us. If we do not then we are discriminating against our enemies, and are practising hatred, which equates to murder. Keeping the commandment, which forbids murder is not so easy after all. In spite of claiming to observe Yahweh’s laws, you could be breaking them if hatred (the seed of murder) is in your heart. Think about that!
Yahshua continued His rigorous teaching on the law with the subject of adultery. He said in Matt 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. He was in effect saying that being able to boast that you had not been to bed with another persons’ spouse was empty, if you lusted in your heart for that person but did not physically carry out the act. The seed of lust is tantamount to the adulterous act. You may seem respectable to all, while quietly engaging in pornography and other extramarital interests to stimulate sexual desire. Yahshua is inferring that such thoughts are adulterous as they fall within the category of lusting.
Exod 20:17 tells us “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” The desire to want to be with someone other than your spouse violates this law. Even if your paramour were unmarried, you would be causing him/her to covet you who already belong to another.
Paul wrote in 1 Cor 7:4 the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Therefore the married person is not at liberty to advertise or hint their availability when they belong to someone else.
You may denounce adulterous acts of others, but how about you, if your lid of secrecy were removed? Would you measure up to the standards of the Bible?
When persons brought a woman caught in adultery to Yahshua, He scribbled something on the ground, and then one by one her accusers left her (John 8:3-11). What is it He may be scribbling on the pages of your heart, which will reveal to you that you are just as guilty as many you would condemn? Remember that lusting equals adultery.
Outward professions or shows of purity mean nothing, if the heart is filthy with sin. Yahweh said to Samuel, “man looks at the outward appearance, but [Yahweh] looks at the heart” 1 Sam 16:7. You can fool others. Yahweh cannot be fooled for He looks right inside you, where others cannot go. Past sins that have been forgiven are not within the category of this discussion, for Yahweh has promised to remember them no more (Isa 43:25). He no longer sees those. But having been forgiven, we must now walk in newness of life Rom 6:4 and not be like a dog [returning] to his own vomit, and, a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire 2 Pet 2:22.
The monster and magnetic pull of illicit sex is bigger than you think and has destroyed the lives and ambitions of many persons. Only Yahweh can deliver you out of this trap. But first you must admit to having the problem, and not try to conceal it by hypocritical acts of obedience in other areas. Yahweh cannot be hoodwinked by your law observances. Covering-up may make you seem good to others for a while, but it does not eliminate the sin. Yahweh demands a genuinely penitent heart that seeks His forgiveness. A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O [Elohim], You will not despise Ps 51:17.
Yahshua’s harshest criticisms were addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. Outwardly they appeared to revere Yahweh, but their hearts were far from Him. In Matt 23:13-33, He denounced their hypocrisy. In verses 25 and 27 He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness”.
It is clear that Yahshua required righteousness that was of the heart, rather than an outward show of uprightness, which was characteristic of the Scribes and Pharisees. Yahshua wanted heart cleanliness, for the heart is the control centre of who we really are. He said, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Matt 15:19.
He told the Pharisees that Yahweh required more than tithing. “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of [Yahweh]. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” Luke 11:42.
Yahshua was teaching that keeping Yahweh’s commandments in one area was not a licence to disobey Him in another. It is easier to meet the routine obligatory requirements of the law, which make no demands on one’s feelings, emotions or character, than to be changed into the person that Yahweh requires us to be. It is easier to avoid eating certain foods than to resist the natural tendency to sin. It is easier to keep Yahweh’s Sabbaths than to keep your heart from all evil. It is easier to ‘do’ works of righteousness than to ‘become’ righteous in Yahweh's sight. Like the Pharisees you too can believe you are better than others because you think you have met the basic demands of the law. Yahweh’s verdict is what really matters.
The rich ruler
Yahshua illustrated to the rich ruler that it requires more than strict adherence to the Torah to make it into the Kingdom.
Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” … 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother.’”
21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” This man falsely believed that with his adherence to the commandments from his youth, he was on his way to inheriting eternal life. So can you, if your emphasis is merely or mainly on the perfunctory observance of Yahweh’s commands.
22 So when [Yahshua] heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
24 And when [Yahshua] saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of [Yahweh]!
25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of [Yahweh]” Luke 18:18, 20-25.
Yahshua gave to this man a rigorous test in order to see how much he really wanted to have eternal life. The rich ruler, who claimed to have kept all the commandments from his youth, failed the test for he was too attached to his possessions. His wealth meant more to him than the welfare of others. Is it possible that you also could be enthusiastic to have eternal life and meticulously keep Yahweh’s commandments, but have no compassion for others?
No substitute for love
In 1 Cor 13:3 Paul goes a step further than merely doing good to the poor. He wrote, though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. This is very serious. Giving all your possessions to feed others, and then surrendering your life, as a martyr would be a far greater sacrifice than keeping the commandments. Yet Paul is saying you could still lose out in the end if you lacked love.
Your most wholehearted obedience to Yahweh would be of no value if you are brutish toward others or care little about their feelings. We are reminded of our earlier reference to the Israelites in Isaiah’s day whose celebration of Yahweh’s Feast were rejected because of the evil in their hearts (Isa 1:11-17).
Yahshua in teaching His disciples how to observe the Torah stressed the need to love, when He summarised the commandments as love to Yahweh and to our fellowmen. He said, “you shall love [Yahweh] your [Elohim] with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no other commandment greater than these” Mark 12:30-31. However carefully one may strive to keep the commandments, if the effort omits love, then such a person is not observing Yahweh’s laws as Yahshua taught.
In another instance He told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35. Except persons who claim to be Yahshua’s disciples have love for one another, they are not exhibiting the qualities of true disciples.
Yahshua went much further than loving your brethren, He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” Luke 6:27;
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” Luke 6:32;
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil” Luke 6:35.
Yahshua demonstrated that high quality of love when He died for those who despised Him, and prayed for those who were putting Him to death, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” Luke 23:34.
Yahshua’s adherence to the Torah was not a ritualistic observance. He was the epitome of the Torah, for He was the Torah. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth John 1:14.
More than simply doing what the law demands, we should all strive to become like Yahshua. Yahshua’s obedience of Yahweh’s commandments was an expression of the love He had for His Father. Your keeping of Yahweh’s laws is not to be a replacement for cultivating the beautiful attitudes Yahshua taught us in Matt 5:3-12.
Do not judge others
Yahshua said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” Matt 7:1-5.
By Yahshua’s explanation, none of us is fit to judge others, for no one is perfect. Even if we were, we do not know all the motives or underlying circumstances of others. Have you ever hooted a driver in front of you who you thought was being dilatory, and then found he had slowed to allow someone to cross the road? In this case your impatience was the plank in your own eye. The woman caught breaking the commandment that forbids adultery was judged by others to be worthy of death, but Yahshua who is perfect did not accuse her.
Prejudice is the most odious form of judging, since without even knowing a person, adverse judgement or opinions are made beforehand based solely on some generic category and not on specific knowledge or examination of that person. It is inseparable from hatred, which Yahshua defined as murder.
It is easier and more satisfying to criticise, ostracise and condemn others than to remedy your own faults. The emotional lift you may experience by putting down some one else is deceptive. It inflates your ego only until Yahshua’s words prick your bigheaded balloon. Paul wrote in Rom 14:4 who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for [Yahweh] is able to make him stand.
James wrote, there is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? Jas 4:12.
Yahshua had much to say about forgiving others. It is so important that He included it in His model prayer. He explained that, “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” Matt 6:14-15.
When we begin to realise that we are all imperfect we will understand the necessity for Yahweh to forgive us all. Yahshua says that except we forgive others, then our heavenly Father will not forgive us. If we are not forgiven, then our sins remain, and WE WILL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, since sin cannot enter the kingdom. In our own interest therefore, we do not have a choice but to forgive others. In answering Peter’s question of how often we should forgive, Yahshua showed there was to be no limit to how many times we you should forgive someone Matt 18:21-22.
He then illustrated the serious consequences of failing to forgive others. He said “the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’
29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘you wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” Matt 18:23-35.
Observe that in verse 35, Yahshua said we should forgive from our heart. ‘Forgiveness’ could be hypocritical if we say we forgive others, because we know it is the right thing to say, but have not really forgiven from our heart. It would be just an outward show. Only genuine forgiveness is acceptable to Yahshua. Otherwise we are deceiving ourselves and trying to deceive others. This is another of Yahshua’s painful but necessary lessons. He provided no exemptions to this teaching. Therefore this will include forgiving everyone who has done us wrong. He demonstrated this when He asked Yahweh to forgive those who were unjustly putting Him to death. This level of forgiveness is much harder than ritualistic observance of the Torah. Pharisaical adherence to the Torah cannot begin to rise to such heights of inner perfection as Yahshua taught.
Other right attitudes
There is so much Yahshua and the rest of the Bible teach about the right attitudes we should have, that it would require a book rather than an article to study each of these in detail. Here are some more: In Matt 5:3-11 Yahshua gave examples of the attitudes that will have the approval of Yahweh. These are called the Beatitudes (‘Be-attitudes’). They tell us the persons we ought to be. They are some of the qualities, which should become part of our new nature. Yahshua highlighted the qualities of humility (verse 3); penitence (verse 4); mildness, gentleness, compassion (verse 5); strong desire to be in right standing with Yahweh (verse 6); being kind and merciful (verse 7); having purity of heart (verse 8); being makers and maintainers of peace (verse 9); and finally, those who endure persecution (verse 10).
Paul said in Gal 5:18-21 that persons who are led by Yahweh’s Spirit do not manifest the sinful deeds of the flesh. On the contrary, living by Yahweh’s Spirit, they would be examples of His Spirit, displaying love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Gal 5:22-23.
Sadly, there are many persons who are very keen to observe Yahweh’s laws, but are silent about acquiring the virtues that Yahshua and other truth teachers in the Bible expounded.
If we are to do the things that Yahshua taught and practised, we should not only focus on all He said about keeping Yahweh’s laws, but we should also embrace ALL of His other teachings. Yahshua told His disciples, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL things that I have commanded you” Matt 28:19-20. You are not obeying His commands, if you concentrate on some aspects of His teachings and ignore others. ‘All’ means each and every one, everything – nothing excluded.
The last verses of the book of Revelation include this blessing: Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city Rev 22:14. You can be absolutely certain that this blessing is not for those persons, who keep the commandments of Yahweh in a Pharisaical manner, for Yahshua denounced such hypocrisy.
He taught His followers, “Unless your righteousness exceeds (goes deeper than) the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:20.
Those who will have a right to eternal life will be persons who believed and applied ALL of the teachings of Yahshua. This includes His gift of salvation, as well as having the commandments of Yahweh deeply planted in their heart as explained and expanded by Yahshua. Lip service or pretence will not get you or anyone else into the kingdom. You need heart surgery. Only a new, clean and spotless heart that serves Yahweh in spirit and truth will make it, for no sin will inherit Yahweh’s holy kingdom.
You have read this article. Let this be the beginning of a new approach to keeping Yahweh’s commandments. Your life can be transformed. Wrong attitudes can be replaced with new ones. You no longer have to be a slave trapped by your sinful nature. You can be set free when you sincerely repent of the old way in which you have been obeying Yahweh half-heartedly. The time has come that you must make a definite commitment from this day forth, to be fully yielded to Yahshua’s teaching on how to keep the commandments of Yahweh.
From now onwards, outward shows of obedience must give way to a genuine commitment to walk in ALL [of Yahweh’s] ways, to keep [ALL] His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with ALL your heart and with all your soul Josh 22:5. As from today, your emphasis must be on BECOMING righteous, as Yahshua has taught us and not merely on doing ritualistic righteous deeds. Your righteous deeds are filthy rags except they are renewed and constantly cleansed and saturated with Yahshua’s right attitudes.
The writer of this article makes no claim to being perfect. This article is not written because he has attained the level of faultlessness. We are all unfinished works of art with different defects, but we all need to be made fully aware of the very high standard that is required of us, and of our shortcomings, so that we will be motivated and committed to submit ourselves daily to spiritual heart surgery.
There is far more involved in obeying and pleasing Yahweh than a mere mechanical keeping of His laws.
If anyone is in [the Messiah], he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new 2 Cor 5:17. The new YOU, will be far better than the old one when you start to keep the commandments Yahshua’s way.
"Our beliefs must fit in with the Scriptures especially when the Scriptures do not support our beliefs". Buel Hallpike
© Buel Hallpike January 2013