Posts Tagged ‘law of Moses’

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 a Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, the Hebrew word torah is found under the heading, ‘law.’  The explanation given for torah: “law, direction, instruction.  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 as ‘law.’   Second, its literal meaning is direction, instruction, and teaching.  Third, it is used in the wisdom literature of Proverbs.

Vines expounds by stating that the instructions given by God to Moses and the Israelites 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 Yahweh, it is torah.

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

God communicated His ‘law’ that Israel might observe 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 or threw to His people to direct them.   If someone desires to go in the direction of God, torah will lead them in His ways.

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

According to 2 Timothy 3:16 “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 adequate, equipped for every good work.”

At the time Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, all Scripture referred to what we call the Old Testament inclusive of Torah or the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These writings teach the history of the world beginning with creation and man’s fall into sin, the flood of Noah and life afterwards on a harsher earth, the birth of the people of faith through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the founding of the nation of Israel from the 12 sons of Jacob to slavery and deliverance in Egypt, to Mount Sinai and wandering in the wilderness until the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

God gave His torah or instructions to everyone from the beginning.   Adam and Eve had instructions about food and blood sacrifice.  Noah had instructions about clean and unclean animals, eating blood, murder and justice.   The mixed multitude that left the land of Egypt were given further instructions for living as God’s chosen people, a holy nation, and a kingdom of priests.  They were given  instructions about what was considered food, guidelines for cleanliness in the camp,  and rules for living morally as families in a community.  There were regulations ordering the days, weeks and months that included requirements for the proper way to worship God through the Tabernacle and a priesthood.  There were commands for celebrating holy days that would honor God and bring glory to His name among the nations.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Torah – תורה

Tav ת – Crossed Sticks means ‘sign or mark’

Vav ו – A Nail means ‘tied together binding, and’

Resh ר – A Head means ‘what is most important’

Hey ה – A Window means ‘reveal or behold’

The Hebrew word picture for torah: “The covenant sign bound to what is most important revealed.”

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

Light –  or אור

Aleph א – An Ox means ‘first or strength’

Vav ו – A Nail means ‘tied together, binding, and’

Resh ר – A Head means ‘what is most important’

The Hebrew word picture for or: “The first strength is bound to  what is most important.”

The Torah for a Physical Nation

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

“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).

The teachings and instructions of God, however, 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 other gods, God desired Israel show their love for 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 worshipped idols.  They did not obey His perfect instructions.  He had a people problem even after 40 years of wandering in the desert  and a loss of a generation.  His people still had hard stony hard hearts that could 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 reveals that one day He would turn their disobedient hearts from stone into flesh.  He would put His Spirit within them so that they could keep His laws.

The Hebrew word ‘laws’ in Ezekiel is mishpat.  This word means judgments, regulations, and ordinances.  Torah encompasses all of the mishpatim that God gave to Israel.

Jeremiah also prophesied about the day when God would not only give His people new hearts, but what He would do with those new hearts.

“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).

The Hebrew word for ‘law’ in Jeremiah is Torah.  According to the terms of the new covenant, the Torah, God’s teachings and instructions, would be written on the hearts and minds of His people.  No longer would there be a need for Torah teachers that could distort God’s Word for everyone would know God’s will through His Spirit. 

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

As Paul states, “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 law [Torah]; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my 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 in regards to this never-ending battle, “who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24).

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 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, he desired the same devotion from his disciples as his Father wanted from the children of Israel.  He wanted them to love him and obey his Father’s Torah just as he obeyed his Father (John 14:15).  He makes it quite clear that the Torah with all its ‘jots and tittles’ will remain until there is a new heaven and new earth.  However, he, too, knew that the heart of man was the problem and went directly to  the heart condition of men and their need for deliverance from the iniquity that caused them to sin.  He taught that murder and adultery were not just sinful actions, but came from a hard heart filled with anger and lust.  Yet, man could not change his heart; only God could make this spiritual change.

Yeshua spoke of this spiritual event when he 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 connect the dots that the good news of being born again would change his carnal nature into a spiritual one and that he would no longer live his life according to his fleshly desires, but by the Spirit of God.

“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)

Once the heart of Nicodemus was circumcised by the Spirit and he was born again, he would become a spiritual man. God’s Torah would not just be used for pointing out sin and making him feel like a failure every time he fell short, it would bring life.  With the Spirit of God writing the Torah on his circumcised heart, he would have the power to obey it with all their 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).

When the spiritual man looks into the spiritual Torah,  there is no  longer a wall that separates him from God’s instructions. He sees the Torah as God’s divine guidelines for living a holy life, no longer producing condemnation and judgment. The spiritual Torah becomes a covenant of lovebetween the spiritual man and his spiritual Father (Deuteronomy 7:12).  When he looks intently, or studies, the perfect Torah, he sees its freedom and blessing as a doer of the righteous works it requires.

“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).

Through the Spirit of God, the spiritual man receives a new life based on repentance, forgiveness and restoration.  The Torah begins to show the spiritual man ways to express his love to the One, who in His great mercy and grace, delivered him from the law of sin and death.   The power to obey Torah comes only from the Spirit of God  in the new heart that convicts and guides into all truth which is all that God, as a Father, wants from His children.

“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).

Love Psalms to the Torah

As King of Israel, David was filled with the Spirit of God implying that he had a circumcised heart and was born again (Psalm 51).   Not only did he have to write out Torah as king,  it was the only way he knew of guarding God’s Word in his heart (Deuteronomy 17:18).   David delighted in God’s Torah and it had an important place in his life.   The light that came from Torah became the ‘sign that bound David to the headship‘ of God.    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 promised covenant of an eternal Kingdom.

“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).

To be a man or woman after God’s own heart, we must be like King David, who was filled with the Spirit and loved the Torah commandments of God.  He loved them and embraced them so intently that he wrote Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 dedicated to the blessing of understanding and obeying Torah.

According to Paul, how we view and receive the Torah reveals the condition of our own heart; we are either spiritually minded and obey it or carnally minded and reject a foundation of our faith.  We either fight it with our flesh or embrace it with our spiritual man.

Contrary to many modern-day church teachings, there are rewards in the Kingdom. One of the rewards is determined by how Torah is taught.  According to Yeshua, whether we are great or least in the Kingdom is determined by our faithfulness to teach others the Torah.  Whatwill be the reward in the Kingdom of God for those who teach that Torah has been abolished?

©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.  

The Flesh of Swine

“I made myself accessible to those who didn’t ask for me, I let myself be found by … a nation not called by my name. I spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people … who follow their own inclinations; a people who provoke me to my face all the time … they eat pig meat and their pots hold soup made from disgusting things” (Isaiah 65:1-4).

It’s not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, it’s what comes out.  Jesus made all foods clean in Mark 7.  Read Acts chapter 10 if you don’t believe me.  Peter ate with gentiles so he had to have eaten pork.  What about the Council of Jerusalem?  There were only four requirements for gentiles.   The broken record continues to skip, skip, skip.

Rightly Dividing Mark 7

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of law Torah who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Yeshua and saw some of his disciples eating food with ‘unclean‘ – that is, ceremonially unwashed- hands” (verse 1).

When reading verse 1, notice two things.  First, the disciples were eating food.  The word ‘food’ in this verse is the Greek artos and means ‘bread.’  The disciples were not eating just any food, they were eating bread.  Second, they had not washed their hands.

“The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders” (verse 2).

Verse 2 specifically states that hand washing was a prerequisite to eating food, in this case bread.  Hand washing had become a tradition that even involved a certain way to wash the hands.

“When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash.  And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles” (verse 3).

Verse 3 explains the tradition was not just about hand washing, but about everything in Jewish tradition. The rituals of the elders made cooking and eating a burden because of all the rules, including the ritual of hand washing.

“So the Pharisees and teachers of the Torah asked Yeshua, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean‘ hands?” (verse 4).

The question asked in Verse 4 by the Pharisees is not about what the disciples were eating, but why they were not following the tradition of the elders in regards to hand washing. According to these leaders, the disciples were eating with unwashed or ‘unclean’ hands.

“Yeshua replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men….’  And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (verses 6-8).

At this point, there is no further mention of food, bread, artos – clean or unclean.  The issue being disputed in Mark 7 is the traditions of the elders or manmade Jewish laws that nullify the commandments of God, specifically in reference to hand washing.   

Yeshua continues to give other examples where the Pharisees and teachers of Torah “nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (verse 13).

“Again Yeshua called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’” (verse 14).

In Verse 14, Yeshua never mentions food, bread.    He says that nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ referring to something greater outside of the Jewish tradition of hand washing.

“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, the disciples asked him about this parable.  ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked.  ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?  For it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then out of his body (into the latrine)” (verses 17-19).

Yeshua does not ever mention food when he explains the parable to his disciples.   He says that ‘no thing’ that enters a man from outside can make him ‘unclean.’  Consider at this point the issue being discussed: ceremonial hand washing.  Yeshua’s disciples had come from the marketplace or a grain field or even the Sea of Galilee.  Their hands were dirty and they were eating bread (artos).  This offended those leaders who held to the tradition of the elders in regards to ritual hand washing.  According to the tradition, no one is supposed to eat food, in this case bread, with dirty hands.  Yeshua tells his disciples that dirty hands don’t make a man dirty or unclean in his heart.   The dirt that may enter his mouth on the food (bread)  or his hands will go through his body and out into the toilet.

Verse 19 causes all the confusion. “In saying this, Yeshua declared all foods clean.”  In some Bible versions, there is a footnote clarifying that this parenthetical statement was added later by translators meaning  that some translator was injecting an opinion rather than taking the Scriptural events at face value.

However, on some level, what the translator wrote is true.  Everything created by God for food is clean.  However, the specific food spoken about in this passage,  artos or bread, has always been, and always will be clean.  Some versions of Mark 7 have translated artos as ‘meat’ taking this discourse into a very different direction than what was asked, Yeshua explained and his disciples understood.

What God Considers Food

Leviticus 11:1-23 outlines what God considers food and what He does not.  These verses are often referred to as ‘clean and unclean’ laws or the dietary regulations. They are not for the Jews alone because they are God’s dietary laws; not Jewish tradition.  Non-Jews who put their faith in Yeshua and are adopted into the commonwealth of Israel are not excluded from obeying these rules as part of God’s Kingdom.

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud.  “‘There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you.  The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

“‘Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales.  But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean.  And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean.  Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.

“‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle,  the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite,  any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,  the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

“‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.’”

It is interesting to note that there are more animals mentioned in Leviticus as ‘unclean’ than just the pig.  There is the rabbit, the camel and the hyrax.  There are creatures in the ocean without both fins and scales that are not considered food.  Birds such as vultures, ravens, hawks and owls are not considered food.  Insects that walk on all fours are also not considered food.  Verse 11 clearly states that ‘unclean’ means ‘not food’: “And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat.”

Noah Ate Everything, Right?

Noah lived before God gave dietary instructions to the Israelites.  Before the flood and during his lifetime,  people ate only what they produced from the earth.   According to the book of Enoch where more details are given to the ‘days of Noah,’ the Nephilim ate everything:  every animal, bird, and creature.  They even drank the blood of men.  They devoured the earth and defiled humanity.  God not only saw the lawlessness of the Nephilim, but also every evil inclination in the heart of mankind.  He decided to wipe the human race from the earth and with them, the animals, the birds and creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 6:5-7).

Within this context, Noah was commanded to build an ark.  He was also told to take with him into the ark “seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).

“Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah” (Genesis 7:8).

Two times it is mentioned that Noah took ‘clean and unclean animals’ with him on the ark.  Because Noah had never eaten the meat of animals, he  probably did not know the difference between ‘clean and unclean’ so God brought the animals to him. From what he was shown in pairs of two or seven pairs of two, he learned and understood the difference immediately.

After the floodwaters subsided and the Ark rested on Ararat, Noah and the animals left the Ark.   At this time, Noah worshipped the LORD by offering a sacrifice.  He took some of the clean animals and birds, but none of the unclean. 

“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done” (Genesis 8:19-21).

“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.  Just as I gave you green plants, I now give you everything” (Genesis 9:3).

It would seem that after the flood, Noah could eat the mean of every animal that came with him on the Ark because ‘everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.’ However, if he ate one of the pigs or rabbits or hawks, they would have immediately become extinct since there were only one male and one female of every ‘unclean animal.’

Consider also that though Noah had eaten ‘all green plants,’  he probably didn’t eat poisonous mushrooms or poison ivy or the green leaves of rhubarb.   Just as some plants were not edible or created as food, some animals had purposes other than food.  The camel is a beast of burden as is a horse.  A hawk cleans up dead animals on the earth while shrimp and crabs clean up the dead, decaying creatures on the sea bottom.  God saying that just as Noah had green plants to eat so he has all animals is not all inclusive given the information God has revealed to him regarding the number of animals brought onto the Ark and the command to multiply on the earth.

Part of the sacrificial or offering system that was eventually established by God with Israel had to do with feeding the Levitical priesthood.  They had been given no land of their own, no livestock, no farms.  They were fed from the sacrificed animals, all of which were ‘clean’ animals or those that God created for food.   It  is the same for Noah.  He did not sacrifice and eat unclean animals; he sacrificed and ate the clean ones which had been shown to him as he entered the Ark.  He knew what God meat considered food and what He did not.

Making all foods clean was not the purpose of Noah’s deliverance from the polluted world of the Nephilim nor was it the message of  the Prophets(Moses), the Gospel preached by Yeshua or the Apostles. It was not the purpose of Peter’s vision nor the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem.

What ABOUT Peter’s vision?

“About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.  He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.  It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” (Acts 10:9-21).

This Biblical account in Acts is about a vision, a trance, not an actual event.  Just as Joseph’s dreams didn’t literally come true, but had spiritual meaning, so does Peter’s vision.

Peter went to the roof to pray.  He was hungry and had a vision of a sheet filled with all kinds of unclean animals.  (In the KJV, this sheet was bound at the four corners suggesting that it was a talit or prayer shawl which adds another dimension to the spiritual meaning of the vision.)

When God tells Peter to ‘get up, kill and eat’, Peter’s first response is, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

Peter’s first response is refusing to eat  animals that are not considered food. This seems like a strange response from one of Yeshua’s disciples.  Peter would have been with Yeshua when he ‘made all foods clean‘ in Mark 7 if, in fact, that is what Yeshua actually did.  Of course, after dissecting Mark 7, it is pretty clear that Yeshua was not talking about ‘clean and unclean’ foods, but the tradition of ritual hand washing.   If Yeshua had, during his lifetime, made all foods (meats, included) clean,  Peter, of all his disciples, would have known and should have had a different reaction to the voice of God.   If Yeshua had, after his resurrection, made all foods clean, Peter, of all the Apostles, surely would have known and should have had a different first response.

God speaks to Peter a second time because Peter is not understanding the vision.   Even after the second time, he doesn’t understand and God speaks to him a third time.  It is interesting that many well-meaning, but untaught Christians immediately conclude that this vision was about eating everything as food; however Peter, who experienced the vision, was still wondering about its meaning even after being told THREE TIMES!  While Peter is still thinking about the vision, some men come to visit him.

A tradition at this time was that a Jewish person would not step foot in a gentile’s home. This was an  understood tradition and one that Yeshua himself honored. He never went into a gentile’s home. NEVER. The Centurion in Matthew 8 understood this tradition and told Yeshua he did not need to come to his home.  He knew Yeshua was a man of authority and that whatever Yeshua asked would be done.  Yeshua commended him for having greater faith than those in Israel.  There was also the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 who had a demon-possessed daughter.   She asked Yeshua for help and was told it was not right to take food from [the Jewish] children and give it to the dogs [gentiles].  Her response was that even the dogs eat the crumbs from under their owner’s table.  She, too, was commended for her great faith.

It isn’t until the following day at the house of a gentile man, a Roman centurion named Cornelius, that Peter begins to understand the vision.  Cornelius wasn’t just any gentile.  He was God-fearing and righteous. He was respected by all the Jewish people with whom he came in contact.   In the presence of Cornelius, Peter is finally able to  interpret the vision. He begins to understand the message of Yeshua, the message of salvation, is to go to the nations that were represented by the four-footed unclean animals in the sheet.

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34).

Notice what Peter states: God accepts people from every nation who not only FEAR Him, but DO what is right.  What does this mean?  To be a God-fearing gentile meant  that gentile obeyed God’s commandments.  To do what is right is nothing more than living rightly before God, being righteous.

Cornelius was both a God-fearing and righteous gentile.  From his interactions and relationships with the Jewish people around him, he already understood their God, His commandments, and what was food and what was not food.  Cornelius’s eating habits were probably similar to those of the Jews who respected him and considered him righteous!   No one in Cornelius’ house, including Peter, ever mentioned food and eating pig or shrimp because food was never the meaning of Peter’s vision.  It was about going to the gentiles and entering their homes with the message of Yeshua.  It was the removal of a tradition that kept the gentiles separated from the Jewish community.  Now, through the vision it was understood that by putting their faith in the Jewish Messiah, Cornelius and his family could become part of the commonwealth of Israel.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit and immersed in water.  Soon after this event, word spread throughout Judea that gentiles were receiving the salvation of God, not having pork roasts. 

Let’s suppose for a minute that Cornelius did eat unclean foods as many Christians would argue  Would not  his new-found faith in the Messiah of Israel along with the righteous condition of his heart give him the desire to learn the Scriptures and obey God’s commandments?  Would not Peter have taken the time to teach him God’s ordinances or, even more so, the Spirit of God that now filled his heart write them on Cornelius’ heart?  Being a gentile was and is still never an excuse for disobedience after receiving the Spirit of God and being immersed.

After this event, Peter went up to Jerusalem and was criticized for entering the homes of gentiles and eating with them.  Again, it wasn’t about what Peter was eating, but with whom he was eating!  Table fellowship bound people together and the leaders in Jerusalem were worried that the Scriptures were going to become watered down if Peter fellowshipped with gentile believers in their homes.   Peter had to explain that the gentiles were coming to faith in Messiah and living lives of repentance.  Repentance in Hebrew is shuv and means returning to the ways of God which would include obeying the dietary regulations in the Scriptures.

“Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story …” (Acts 11:4).  When they heard that God had baptized the gentiles with the Holy Spirit, they had no further objections to fellowship between Jewish and non-Jewish believers.

“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

It is a serious distortion of Scripture to think that Peter, a faithful Messianic Jew, would suddenly eat animals that were not created to be food in order to win gentiles to faith in Messiah.  In reality, it was the gentiles who were coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah that were challenged to leave behind their pagan, unBiblical practices and live according to the commandments of God.  No one ever mentioned from the first moment of Peter’s vision through its interpretation in Jerusalem that suddenly it was acceptable to eat all animals, ‘clean or unclean.’ Instead, they were rejoicing that the gentles were being saved and grafted into the Kingdom of God.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Council of Jerusalem

Some time after Paul began his ministry to gentiles, certain people came from Judea in Israel to Antioch in the diaspora and were teaching believers that unless they were circumcised they could not be saved.  This caused dissension within the Body of Messiah, as well as between Paul and Barnabas.  They decided to go to Jerusalem to present the matter to the apostles.

The apostles considered the question and resolved that  gentiles did not have to be circumcised in the flesh in order to be saved meaning that gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism through a ritual circumcision, but could remain as gentiles.   Because the elders heard that God was purifying the gentiles’ hearts and anointing them with the Holy Spirit, they concluded that justification is by faith in Messiah alone.  From these spiritual truths, they developed a ‘judicial statement’ and decided they should not make it difficult for gentiles to turn to God.   They outlined four beginning requirements.

“Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood” (Acts 15:20).

These four requirements were given to gentiles coming from a  pagan culture who were turning to the God of Israel through repentance.  Each of these requirements were part of pagan ritual worship and had to be removed from their lives so as not to pollute the growing Body of Messiah with the ways of the nations.    This was to be the beginning of how to turn to God not the only forever requirements they had to do in their walk of faith.   In fact, these four requirements encompass nearly all Torah commands given to Israel: dietary laws, sacrificial laws, sexual morality/immorality laws, and idolatry.

The next verse is rarely quoted with the four requirements, but is just as important, if not crucial, to the growth of every new believer then, as well as now:

“For the Torah of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21).

This final statement embodied the life of every believer whether Jew (circumcised) or non-Jew (uncircumcised) in the first century.  Born again non-Jews who were turning to God attended synagogues  every Sabbath, not churches.   They heard the teachings and instructions given to Moses known as Torah and were being convicted and challenged regarding their sinful lifestyles. Through the Spirit their new circumcised hearts and minds were transformed and renewed. This joining and unification of ‘circumcised’ Jew and ‘uncircumcised’ gentile believers in the synagogues that testified to  the ‘one new man’ in Messiah.

For the first 30 years after Messiah’s resurrection, the Messianic community including all gentile believers were taught and instructed in the first five books of the Bible.   They did not  have Acts chapter 10.  They did not have a New Testament gospel called Mark from which to make doctrines about God.  They only had the Torah with which to learn the commandments.  They only had the Prophets and Writings to understand their new covenant Messianic faith.

At the Council of Jerusalem, there was nothing mentioned about foods and dietary changes based on what was happening with the gentiles coming to faith.   No one suggested that eating pork, camel or dog was now acceptable because “Jesus had died on the cross.”   In fact, quite the opposite was true.  Sacrificing and eating unclean animals along with idol worship was not to be among the gentiles who were living lives of repentance.  New believers from the nations obeyed these requirements because Yeshua’s death and resurrection had brought them into the Kingdom of God and had given them a new life, a life they wanted to embrace.

The Real Problem with ‘Porky the Pig’

Did you know that Jewish people who were forced to convert to a new religion called Christianity (via Roman catholicism) were called maranos?   This word in Spanish means ‘damned, accursed, banned   and HOG.’   It was applied to Spanish/Portuguese Jews when they succumbed to eating the flesh of swine in order to save their lives.

Pig in the form of  pork, sausage or bacon has been used throughout Christian history to force Jewish people to convert to Christianity on pain of death.  Jewish people converted to this foreign religion to avoid cruel and inhumane persecutions based solely on the fact that they obeyed Yahweh’s commandments: did not eat pig, circumcised their sons, and kept the Sabbath along with the  Feasts of the LORD.  They were forced with threat of death to disobey God’s commands in order to reside within the Christian community as a marano ‘pig’ convert.

The whole issue of eating pork, the flesh of swine,  has been and continues to be used by the enemy to keep Jewish people from truly knowing the love of God through their own Messiah.  It is used (and eaten) most explicitly by people who say they know and love Jesus Christ!  This is unfortunate because Jewish people are looking for a Messiah who will teach the Torah in proper perspective as Yeshua did.  They do not recognize a pork eating Christian Jesus as their deliverer and they never will.

The Millennial Kingdom

“Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens behind one of their temples and eat the flesh of pigs, rats and other unclean things – they will meet their end together with the one they follow,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 66:17).

This Scripture from Isaiah is about the time before the new heavens and earth during the Millennial Kingdom when Yeshua will judge the nations.  One of the judgments is against those who eat the ‘flesh of swine’ behind their temples.   Pig roasts, along with pulled pork and every other kind of meat  portion from the pig, have become more and more prevalent in church pot lucks today as Christians fight for and defend eating the flesh of swine.  Bacon has become an almost revered food and flavors nearly everything offered in main and side dishes. If eating pig was no longer considered something ‘unclean’ in the eyes of God, then Isaiah would not have prophesied that those who eat this meat ‘behind their temples’ will meet their end with the one they follow.

Yeshua did not make all bread clean for he did not have to; it was already a clean food and always will be.  Noah understood the difference between which animals were considered food and which were not based on the number of pairs of animals God brought to the Ark.   God’s dietary outline for Israel had no mention of health or undercooked meats.  The only requirement was their faith being expressed through obedience.  Peter’s vision did not remove ‘unclean’ foods from a god-fearer’s diet,  but was revelation that the promise to Abraham was being fulfilled, the good news of  salvation was going to the nations.  The Council of Jerusalem laid the foundation for gentiles who were coming to faith in Yeshua which  included obeying the Torah commands about idolatry, sexual immorality the eating of blood (kosher food).  Finally, Isaiah prophesied what will happen to those in the future who rebel against God and His commands by eating the flesh of swine.   They will meet their end with the one they follow who cannot be the Messiah of Israel.

©August 2010 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.