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Ten Commandment Conundrum
Here in America, we hear a great deal of talk in the Christian world about the Ten Commandments. True, there are statues in our Supreme Court of Moses carrying the sacred tablets and the Ten Commandments can be found in the halls of many of our oldest universities and courts of justice. Christian parents can often be heard commenting about how bad things have gotten in the USA “ever since they took the Ten Commandments out of the schools.”
THE TORAH: PRAISE THE LAW!
“Torah” is a Hebrew word that means teaching, instruction or law. The Torah is also known as the Law of Moses as well as the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), also referred to as the Pentateuch (Greek for “five containers,” which refers to the scroll cases in which books were being kept). The Torah is the central and most important document of Judaism revered by Jews for centuries. The Torah is written in Hebrew, the oldest Jewish language. Torah primarily refers to the first section of the Tanakh- an acronym, based on the letters T (for “Torah”), N (for “Neviim,” the Prophets), and K (for “Ketuvim,” the Sacred Writings). It is the collection of the teachings from God to human beings in written form – which is sometimes used to refer to Judaism’s written law and oral Law, encompassing the entire spectrum of authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history, including the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Midrash, and more.
For Jews, the Torah was traditionally accepted as the literal Word of God as given to Moses. For many, it is the primary guide to the relationship between God and man, and the whole meaning and purpose of that relationship, a living document that unfolds over the generations.
To the Hebrews, it explains what God requires of them regarding the manner in which they live their lives and the things they should do, can do, and should not do. It spells out the manner in which God was to be approached and how the Hebrews were to keep the Law. The acid test for the chosen people of God was and is their conformity to these Laws.
IS “GOOD” GOOD ENOUGH?
In case one wonders what it is God requires in the Torah, there are HUNDREDS of Laws and statutory requirements revealed there. There are civil laws for functioning as a community, ceremonial laws regarding the sacrificial system and atonement for sin, and there are the moral laws, the Ten Commandments, that are intended to help one live righteously before God.
With so many laws, one cannot help but wonder if ANYONE can actually keep even PART of them. After all, with our propensity toward evil-doing, surely there are NONE among us who could now, or ever, have towed the line.
Let’s say I was “good enough” to obey 100 of 300 statutes of the Law. I didn’t speed or spit on the sidewalk, for example. Is my keeping of that small portion of the Law enough to merit the favor of my Holy Creator? How would I ever know? Do we then humanize God and hope that He will grade us on some sort of Celestial Curve and assume that He merely requires us to do the best we can?
GUARANTEE: No one will gain God’s favor by their own ability to keep the Law because we humans are unable to keep it. 1 John 3:4 says “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” No, self-righteousness simply won’t cut it with God. Isaiah says “our righteousness is filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Leviticus 19:2 declares, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Are YOU holy? God is. He has no unrighteousness in him but the Scripture says, “There is no one righteous, not even one, (Romans 3:10).” According to my Hebrew Lexicon, the Hebrew word for “unrighteousness” is pronounced “eh’-vel” and is defined as “unrighteousness, violent deeds of injustice, injustice of speech or injustice generally. It refers to evil actions, speech, or even unspoken thoughts.
A drop of unrighteousness will forever stain that which is righteous. Holiness is moral perfection. It is being perfect and completely righteous. To sin even once is to NEVER regain perfection again. The Hebrew word “holy” (qodesh) means “separateness.” We use the word “sanctified.” We are to “come out from among them and be separate” from the fallen world, holy vessels of the Lord. We are required by God, according to the Torah, to be holy as God is holy.
How’s that coming, by the way?
Isaiah wrote that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of Hosts,” (Isaiah 6:3). I learned in Bible College that, any time God uses a word or phrase more than once, He’s using a phrase of exclamation, trying to call attention to its supreme importance. God requires us to be holy. Impossible? NOT if we keep the Law perfectly.
You go first.
It’s easy. All you have to do is never sin. Just keep that Law perfectly at every point without fault and you will merit a true holiness before God.
Try not to think of a long, red, unlit candle. You can’t do it? Me neither.
Now, try not to sin. Even if that were possible, one would get prideful about their ability to be perfect.
That’s sin, too.
How can anyone keep the Ten Commandments perfectly? If we covet our neighbor’s goods – find ourselves wishing we had a dress or a truck like theirs, then we have broken the whole Law. James 2:10 states, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Remember, God requires us to be perfectly holy just like Him for “without holiness no one will see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:14).
Since the sin of Adam, we have all been sinful, imperfect people. That’s why God gave us the Torah as a guide to be more holy. Since God requires perfect holiness, he initiated the sacrificial system so that we COULD be holy. When the Law is broken, we are to offer a blood sacrifice for our sins. After all, there was no other way to eradicate the effect of sin except by blood. “. . .Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins,” (Hebrews 9:22). This shedding of blood indicated that the penalty for sin had been paid; a life had been sacrificed for the lives of all who have sinned. The sacrifice was an example of how God’s wrath was either poured out onto either you and me OR or upon the sacrifice. Jesus Christ’s willing submission to the massacre on the cross paid the price for our sins and affected the means of reconciliation. “Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God’s sight,” (Romans 5:19).
Our sins will never be forgiven unless blood is shed in our behalf. The temple in Jerusalem is now a Muslim temple. Because nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does God reveal that His sacrificial system has ceased operations, it’s apparent that God still requires a Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Though there may be modern Rabbis that say something contrary to this, God does not say that. God’s people can not, will not be forgiven without the shedding of the blood of the lamb, and without the transference of the sins of the people to the goat, the sins of the people are not forgiven.
What now? After all, we are inherently selfish and evil and cannot keep the Law. Gossip, jealousy, lust, rage, hatred, theft…a single evil thought against our neighbor breaks the whole Law. If we are all being honest with ourselves (trust me, God already knows us in our most secret depths of our souls), we ALL break the Law constantly. I have never kept the Law and neither have you. I am certainly not holy as God is holy. Therefore, I’ve decided I will drag a lamb into church on Sunday and slaughter it in front of God and everybody. Right?
The Torah says (Deuteronomy 6:5), “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Why don’t any of us actually do this? Because we sin! This verse describes the sum or the Law, that we are to love God in this way. If we do not, then God says, just a few verses later (Deut 6:13-15), “You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15 (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.”
Wow! God says that those who are imperfect will be “destroyed.” This is a horrible dilemma for us all. We have no more blood sacrifices in the temple, and have not had one for centuries. God has never told us we could cease sacrificing animals for our sins. So, what’s a sinner to do?
Stay with me…
The Galatians had the same problem we have today. They were a congregation of Jews who decided to follow Jesus as Messiah over 1900 years ago. They were not holy, and they were trying to keep the law as best they could to “become” holy and merit eternal life. Problem? They had broken the Law from day one! Face it, no one ever has to teach a baby to steal or be selfish.
These Galatians received a letter from the Apostle Paul who showed them how they could be in a right relationship with God through the atoning blood of God’s perfect Lamb, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. He wrote: (Galatians 2:20) “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Jesus had died as the only possible sacrifice that humanity would ever need. His blood sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God has done away with the issue of sin. Through Christ, we can all be free from sin for it has all been washed away. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” (Isaiah 1:18). God has since chosen to forget our sins, “casting them into the Sea of Forgetfulness, “as far as east is from West.” Galatians 3:29 states, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.” The promise? Yes, the promise of redemption, abundant life, eternal life with God is all available in Jesus. He has redemption to give all who call upon Him by faith.
ARE YOU HOLY? YOU BET HIS LIFE YOU ARE!
Yes, Jesus has taken away our sins, and His perfect holiness now belongs to US! Feeling holy yet? You were crucified with Him and reborn with Him. His righteousness has, therefore, become YOUR righteousness as well, in God’s eyes AND in Satan’s. Far too many people pray very sincere, pious-sounding prayers where they say, “Lord, I am not worthy.” To these I say, “Friends, the cross was good enough for YOU, too! There are NO V.I.P. Sinners. Jesus was all you ever needed. Receive that truth by faith!”
Jesus lived a perfect life without sin. He willingly gave up His life to free people from the Law which showed us what sin is. As Paul said, “I would not have known sin is if the law did not show me.” The Law is a stern taskmaster showing no mercy and forces those who see themselves as “good” to point an accusing finger at others who they perceive to be “bad,” creating an ungodly caste system even within the Church.
God makes use of the Law to kill but not to bring life. He makes use of the Law to strike dead all of a man’s hopes of happiness by the deeds of it. But it is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, that He uses to encourage, comfort and, yes, RESURRECT us. The Law never empowered us for service; it merely showed us our wickedness. It never gives us the strength to perform what it requires of us. We cannot merit eternal life by keeping the Law and doing its works. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ which we can gain eternal life. Paul wrote: “you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit,” (Romans 7:4-6).
Galatians 3:13, he wrote, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:” We cannot fulfill the Law for ourselves because we are wicked. Jesus Christ has done it FOR us. He is, therefore, the end – the fulfillment – of the Law. He is our Deliverer, delivering us from our inability to keep the Law. Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who suffers and dies as the only needed blood sacrifice required by God for sin. Verse 5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Jesus saves us through His death. Through His resurrection, we can have Eternal Life. Psalm 16:10 says, “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” God would not let His servant suffer corruption so He raised Him up from the tomb.
Do you believe this stuff? It’s called “grace” (Ephesians2:8-9), defined by many as the “unmerited favor of God. ” I prefer the definition, “the power to do what God calls us to do.” You must simply believe it just as you believed for your salvation, forgiveness…everything. After all, Habakkuk 2:4 says, “…the just shall live by his faith.”
Live free of the bondage of Religious rule-keeping that only leads to acts of self-righteousness. Live a life that’s free from the constant hoop-jumping like some sort of trained circus animal, always looking over your should in hopes that the Father noticed that last good deed for the day. The word “religion’ is defined as a “return to bondage.” Jesus came to set us FREE! The world has us all programmed and functioning in a Performance Mode from cradle to grave. That’s NOT how one’s relationship with God was ever intended to be.
EVERYTHING you’ve ever done, or ever WILL do, has been forgiven. Think about it: Jesus took ALL our sins upon Himself 2000 years ago and nailed them to a cross. How many sins had you committed at that time? None. How about 1500 years later? None. How about 120 years ago? For most of us, none. So, why would those sins from five years or five minutes ago, or five years from TODAY be any different? He gives you His righteousness so that you may be perfectly holy in God’s eyes.
Lest anyone think this gives us a license to sin, fact is, we don’t NEED one – we’re going to sin ANY WAY. Will there be consequences if we do? Absolutely. Galatians 6:7 warns us: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Though this is absolutely true, that we will reap as we sow – so, sow carefully – there is NOTHING that will ever separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
Fall in love with Jesus for His grace alone! There is a overwhelming, grateful kind of love that causes people to want to live their lives on His behalf, because they believe in His cause and because they cannot wait to tell others what they’ve received from Him. Freedom from sin! Freedom from bondage of legalism! These are things worth shouting about – things all of humanity is actually dying to hear.
Do YOU have that kind of love for Jesus? Is it motivating you to do great things for this King?
Or are you still serving a institution rather than the Incarnation of God?
Religion offers no life.
Relationship with Jesus DOES for He is Life itself.
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