Torah – A Foundation

“Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let’s go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the house of the God of Jacob! He will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion will go forth Torah, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-4).

“Teach me, LORD, the way of your laws; keeping them will be its own reward for me. Give me understanding; then I will keep your Torah; I will observe it with all my heart. Guide me on the path of your commands, for I take pleasure in it”  (Psalm 119:33-35).

Torah Defined

Using Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, the Hebrew word torah is found under the heading, ‘law’ and is defined as ‘law, direction, and instruction.’ The explanation continues, “In the wisdom literature, torah signifies primarily direction, teaching, instruction: ‘The law [Torah] of the wise is a foundation of life, to depart from the snares of death’”
(Proverbs 13:14).

Three interesting concepts are learned from this definition of the Hebrew word torah. First, it is translated into English as ‘law.’ Second, its literal meaning is ‘direction, instruction, and teaching.’ Third, it is considered ‘wisdom.’

Vines further states that the instructions given by God to Israel became known as ‘the law’ or ‘the direction.’ In hundreds of verses in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word ‘law’ should have remained torah, for wherever there is a ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’ from God, it is torah.

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law [Torah] of the Lord’ (Psalm 11:1).

With His own finger, God wrote His ‘law’ that Israel might observe it and live: “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law [Torah] which I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:8)

The word torah has another meaning according to Vines. It comes from the Hebrew word yarah and means ‘to cast, throw, or direct.’ Torah is that which God ‘cast’ to His people to direct them. If someone desires to go in the direction of God, Torah will lead them into His ways.

“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4). 

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequately equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). At the time Paul wrote this letter “all Scripture” referred to Torah or the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books teach the history of the world beginning with creation and man’s fall into sin, the flood of Noah and the beginning of life afterwards. It chronicles the birth of the people of faith through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the founding of the nation of Israel from Jacob’s 12 sons. They cover Israel’s slavery in Egypt and their miraculous deliverance, the receiving of God’s Torah at Mount Sinai, and the nation’s wandering in the wilderness until they enter the Promised Land.

God gave ‘instructions’ or torah to everyone from the beginning. Adam and Eve had ‘instructions’ about what to eat and what not to eat, and blood sacrifice. Noah had ‘instructions’ about ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals, eating blood, murder, and justice. The mixed multitude of Hebrews and Egyptians that left Egypt were given further ‘instructions’ for living as God’s holy nation and a kingdom of priests. They were given ‘instructions’ about what was food and what was not, cleanliness in the camp, and living morally as families in the community of Israel. God gave Israel ‘instructions’ for ordering days, weeks, and months that included guidelines for the proper way to worship God through the Tabernacle. He gave ‘instructions’ for celebrating holy days that would honor Him and bring glory to His name among the nations.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Instructions or Torah – תורה

ת Tav – Crossed Sticks means ‘sign’ or covenant.’

ו Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’

ר Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’

ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’

The Hebrew word picture for torah: The covenant sign binding to highest authority.

The Hebrew root word of torah is or meaning ‘light.’

Light or  or – אור

Light – or – אור

א Alef – An Ox means ‘first’ or ‘strong.’

ו Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’

ר Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’

The Hebrew word picture for or: The first strength binding highest authority.

The Torah for a Physical Nation

God gave His chosen people unique ways to remember His Torah because He wanted them to be different from the nations around them. By giving them outward physical symbols and ‘signs,’ He expected Israel to guard His Torah. He commanded them to write His commands on their doorposts, bind them to their heads, and wear tzizzit or tassels on the corners of their garments (Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).

“You will have these tassels (tzizit) to look and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes” (Numbers 15:39).

However, the ‘instructions’ of God were not meant to be only outward and physical, they were to be embraced in the heart. Because He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt and its gods, God desired Israel show their love and faithfulness to Him through obedience.

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).

Unfortunately, the people strayed from God’s commands and worshiped idols. They did not obey His divine ‘instructions.’ Even after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, He had a people problem. They still had stony hard hearts that would not obey Torah.

Circumcision of the Heart

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them.  I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26-27).

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God revealed that one day He would turn their hearts from stone into flesh. He would put His Spirit within them so that they would keep His laws. The Hebrew word ‘law’ in Ezekiel is the singular mishpat. Mishpatim means judgments, regulations, and ordinances. Torah encompasses all of the mishpatim that God gave to Israel.

“But this is the new covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law in their minds on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD… ‘“ (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Jeremiah prophesied about the day when God would make a “new covenant” with Israel. The Hebrew word for ‘law’ in these verses is Torah. According to the terms of the new covenant, God’s ‘instructions,’ the Torah, would be written on the hearts of His people.

Spiritual Torah vs. Carnal Man

“Having one’s mind controlled by the old [carnal] nature is death, but having one’s mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom.  For the mind controlled by the old [carnal] nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s Torah — indeed, it cannot. Thus, those who identify with their old [carnal] nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).

“The law [Torah] is spiritual, but I am unspiritual ” (Romans 7:14).

The problem between Torah and man is that Torah is spiritual and man is carnal, living by his fleshly desires. Paul describes the carnal man as worldly, full of jealousy and strife, walking like a mere human being in the world. Each time the unspiritual, carnal man is confronted with the spiritual Torah, he hits a solid wall that he cannot penetrate. This man is constantly reminded of his failures and inability to overcome them because of his carnal flesh. A battle ensues between the man’s inner desire to obey Torah and what actually happens –– falling short and sinning.

Paul relates his own personal struggle with his carnal nature: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s Torah; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my carnal mind and making me a prisoner of the ‘law of sin and death’ at work within me. What a wretched man I am” (Romans 7:10, 18-20). Paul cries out for deliverance from this never-ending spiritual-flesh battle, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

Yeshua, The Living Torah

“For what the Torah could not do by itself, because it lacked the power to make the old [carnal] nature cooperate, God did by sending his own Son as a human being with a nature like our own sinful one [but without sin]. He executed the punishment against sin in human nature [death], so that the just requirement of the ‘law of sin and death’ might be fulfilled in us who do not run our lives according to what our old [carnal] nature wants but according to what the Spirit [of God] wants” (Romans 8:3-4).

In Vines, the Greek word kataluo is translated  ‘abolish’ and means ‘to reduce to inactivity, overthrow, subvert, annul, destroy. ’  Yeshua says TWICE that he did not come ‘destroy or annul’ the Torah and no one should even consider it.  The Greek word genomai is used in Matthew 5:18 and is translated ‘fulfill.’ It means ‘to be performed and begin to be received’ and is used in reference to the work Yeshua did on the cross.   The Greek word pleroo is used in Matthew 5:17 and is also translated ‘fulfill.’  Pleroo means ‘to abound, render perfect and to cause God’s will (as made known in the Torah) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment.’   Using these definitions of ‘abolish and fulfill’, Yeshua said in Matthew 5:17-18:

“I did not come to (kataluo) overthrow, render vain, subvert or annul the Torah, but to cause it to (pleroo) abound, be made perfect, and to cause God’s will to be obeyed as it should be; and on the cross (ginomai) this will all come to pass, happen, be performed and begin to be received.”

In Rabbinical discourse during this time, the words ‘abolish’ and ‘fulfill’ had another meaning.  Abolish meant to ‘wrongly interpret’ while fulfill meant to ‘rightly interpret.’   By using these words, Yeshua is is saying to Israel that as a Rabbi, he has come to correctly interpret the Torah thus removing all manmade misinterpretations  that caused the Torah to be burdensome. He confirms to the Jewish people listening that he really is the Messiah because the ‘anointed one’ would never transgress God’s Torah.

Yeshua, the Living Torah

“For what the Torah could not do by itself, because it lacked the power to make the old [carnal] nature cooperate, God did by sending his own Son as a human being with a nature like our own sinful one [but without sin]. …He executed the punishment against sin in human nature [death], so that the just requirement of the ‘law of sin and death’ might be fulfilled in us who do not run our lives according to what our old [carnal] nature wants but according to what the Spirit [of God] wants” (Romans 8:3-4).

Yeshua is the Torah in the flesh, the Living Torah. As the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:16), he desired the same devotion from his disciples as his Father wanted from His children. He wanted them to love him and obey his Father’s Torah just as he obeyed his Father (John 14:15).

He makes it clear in Matthew 5:17-20 that the Torah with all its “jots and tittles” will remain until there is a new heaven and new earth. However, he knew that iniquity in the heart of man was the issue causing sin. He spoke directly to that heart condition when he taught that murder and adultery were not just sinful actions, but came from a heart filled with the iniquity of anger and lust.

“Yeshua answered, ‘Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born from the flesh is flesh, and what is born from the Spirit is spirit. Stop being amazed at my telling you that you must be born again from above! The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. That’s how it is with everyone who has been born from the Spirit’” (John 3:5-8)

Yeshua told Nicodemus that everyone who wants to enter the Kingdom of God must be born again. Though Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, he didn’t understand that being born again was more than converting to Judaism; a spiritual rebirth would change his carnal nature into a spiritual one, and he would no longer live his life according to his fleshly desires, but according to the Spirit of God.

Once Nicodemus was born again, his heart would be circumcised by the Spirit of God and he would become a spiritual man. God’s Torah would not be just point out his sin making him feel guilty every time he fell short, the Torah would now bring the fullness of life. With the Spirit of God in his heart, he would have the power to obey Torah with all his heart, mind, and soul.

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law [of sin and death] so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code [legalistic observance of man’s laws]” (Romans 7:6).

Spiritual Torah and Spiritual Man

“Because the Torah of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the ‘law of sin and death’” (Romans 8:2).

“But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

The spiritual man receives a new life that begins with repentance and forgiveness and ends with complete restoration. When the spiritual man looks into the spiritual Torah, there is no longer a solid wall separating him from God’s ‘instructions.’ He sees the Torah as God’s divine commandments for living a holy life showing him the ways to express his love for God who, in His mercy and grace, delivered him from ‘the law of sin and death.’ When he studies the perfect Torah, he sees its freedom and blessing from sin’s bondage when he does the righteous works it teaches. The spiritual Torah becomes a covenant of love between the spiritual man and his spiritual Father (Deuteronomy 7:12).

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:2-4).

The Rabbi and the Torah

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law [Torah] until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

In Vines, the Greek word kataluo is translated ‘abolish’ and means ‘to reduce to inactivity, overthrow, subvert, annul, destroy.’ Yeshua says two times that he did not come ‘destroy’ or ‘annul’ the Torah. The Greek word genomai is used in Matthew 5:18 and is translated ‘fulfill.’ It means ‘to be performed and begin to be received’ and is used in reference to the work Yeshua did on the cross. The Greek word pleroo is used in Matthew 5:17 and is also translated ‘fulfill.’ Pleroo means ‘to abound, render perfect, and to cause God’s will (as made known in the Torah) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment.’ Using these definitions of ‘abolish’ and ‘fulfill,’ here’s what Yeshua taught in Matthew 5:17-18:

“I did not come to (kataluo) overthrow, render vain, subvert or annul the Torah, but to cause it to (pleroo) abound, be made perfect, and to cause God’s will to be obeyed as it should be; and on the cross (ginomai) this will all come to pass, happen, be performed and begin to be received.”

When rabbis taught Torah, the words ‘abolish’ and ‘fulfill’ had a different meaning. ‘Abolish’ meant to ‘wrongly interpret’ while ‘fulfill’ meant to ‘rightly interpret.’ As a rabbi, Yeshua is stating he has not come to ‘wrongly interpret’ Torah, but has come to correctly interpret it by removing all man-made misinterpretations that caused God’s instructions to be burdensome. He confirms to the Jewish people that he really is the Messiah because the ‘anointed one’ can never transgress, remove, or nullify God’s Torah.

King David

King David was filled with the Spirit of God, implying that he was born again and had a circumcised heart (Psalm 51). Not only was he commanded to write out Torah every year of his reign, he loved Torah in his heart (Deuteronomy 17:18).

David delighted in God’s commandments and they held a prominent place in his life. He embraced them so intently that he wrote Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 dedicating them to the blessing of understanding an obeying Torah. The instructions that came from Torah became the ‘sign’ that made David a worshipful man. Writing Psalm after Psalm about his love for God’s Torah, its ordinances, statutes, and precepts were part of what made David a “man after God’s own heart” resulting in the covenant promise of an eternal Kingdom (1 Samuel 13:14).

Love Psalms to the Torah

“The law [Torah] of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;  they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.  By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the Torah of the LORD, and in His Torah he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prosper” (Psalm 1).

“Oh how I love your Torah!  I meditate on it all day long.  Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.  I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.  I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.  I have not departed from your Torah, for you yourself have taught me” (Psalm 119:97-102).

“For the commandment is a lamp, Torah is light, and reproofs that discipline are the way to life” (Proverbs 6:23).

“The mouth of the righteous articulates wisdom, his tongue speaks justice.  The Torah of his God is in his heart; his footsteps do not falter” (Psalm 37:31-31).

Yeshua teaches our faithfulness to teach others Torah will determine whether we will ‘great’ or ‘least’ in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19). What position is there in the Kingdom for those who teach that Torah has been abolished? How each of us views and obeys Torah reveals the condition of our own heart. We either fight it or embrace it. We are either carnally minded and reject the foundation of our faith or we are spiritually minded, like King David, and love, guard, and embrace the foundation –– Torah.

©2011 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.  

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