I confess that, early on, we were watchful and tentative about our exploration of “Hebrew Roots.” We had made the decision to explore, but I think we were still wearing a lot of “protective gear” (figuratively), just in case we encountered something toxic. We felt the need to keep our guard up; to wear hazmat suits and carry lots of sanitizer. We reserved the right to run away. Two primary things drew us forward: 1) the spirit of those with whom we were meeting, praying, singing, sharing – they bore witness with our spirits; and 2) clear evidence in the Word of God, despite decades of training and practice in alternate interpretations. Truthfully, we sought the LORD continually as we stepped onto this path; and we still do.
Once we had made the decision to search and study, we first examined and then accepted the idea that Torah had not ceased to be applicable to our relationship with YHVH. There are several passages that make this clear. One of the most persuasive (to me) is Matthew 5:17-20, in which Yeshua, in the midst of one of his most beloved “Kingdom Treatises” – the Sermon on the Mount – declares that he did not come to abolish Torah or the Prophets. He goes so far as to say that until heaven and earth pass away, nothing about Torah will change, and that those who disobey Torah and teach others to disobey Torah will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
What disturbed Yeshua was not Torah itself, but how it was abused and misinterpreted by the “scribes and Pharisees.” The leaders were binding the people up with extra laws beyond Torah. Yeshua wanted the people to be free from the legalism and harsh restrictions placed on them by the additional laws imposed by the religious leaders. By adding these laws, the leaders were in fact violating Torah. In D’varim (Deuteronomy) 4:2, they are instructed not to add anything to or take anything away from Torah.
When the apostle Paul discusses these things, which he does on several occasions, his point is always that we are free from the CURSE of the law. The bulk of his letter to the Romans is about the importance of Torah and Israel. He makes a thorough case for the endurance of Torah and its role in understanding Messiah’s victory over sin and death, from which we are now free. In the midst of this discussion, he states in Romans 7:14, “For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave.” Sin is the enemy; not Torah. Torah helps us understand the nature of sin.
We know that we are not saved by Torah or by the observance of Torah or by any obedience we might accomplish. It is faith that saves us, which is in itself a gift of God. “By grace you have been saved through faith, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift. You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast. For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) What is the “life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do”? Torah.
Hebrews further explains salvation through faith. Nearly all of those listed in the eleventh chapter – the Hall of Faith – walked with YHVH before he had delivered Torah through Moshe at Mount Sinai. It was their FAITH that brought them into relationship with YHVH. Leading up to this list of the Heroes of Faith, in the tenth chapter, the author quotes Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 31:32, the voice of YHVH, “…I will put my TORAH on their hearts, and write it on their minds…” – speaking of the time after the arrival of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in power. Far from saying the Torah will be done away with, he says he will place it even deeper into our beings. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Torah is of the Spirit,” then he proceeds to explain the benefits of living and walking “by the Spirit.” In order to walk according to the Spirit, one must walk according to Torah. Not in a legalistic way; not according to a fleshly understanding, but according to an understanding enlightened by the Ruach haQodesh.
Torah does not save us. Faith saves us; and we are set free by Yeshua’s victory over sin and death through the shedding of his blood. And the infilling of the Ruach haQodesh empowers us to die daily to the ruination of sin. Chapter fifteen of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a brilliant discussion of dying to sin so that we can live by the Spirit. “Come to your senses! Live righteously and stop sinning!” (15:34). Yeshua gave us the example of righteous living when he demonstrated life according to the unaltered Torah. He himself is The Living Torah.
We made the apparently radical decision to start reading Torah as a living, powerful thing, instead of seeing it as a book of history only. Let’s face it. If we truly thought Torah was put to death and is no longer efficacious, why would we even let it remain in our Bibles? We cannot remove it because YHVH himself has ordained it as enduring instruction for our life with him. Once we start seeing Torah – reading, studying, discussing – as applicable to our present daily lives, it begins to come alive with beautiful and amazing truth. As the Casting Crown song proclaims, the “Word Is Alive.”