Valerie’s particular gift is finding what she calls “Yeshua Pictures” in the Old Testament / Tanakh. Here’s how she describes her radio show:
“The emphasis has been to show Yeshua pictures and the walk-out of torah in our personal lives – the understanding we should have to show Yah to the world. There is also an effort to share new truths in the torah, as Yah shows them to us. Because of our background in the traditional church, we can also deal with issues we have all had in basic understanding of torah.”
I am honored that Valerie included a reading of one of my articles, The Just Shall Live by Faith, in her most recent broadcast, regarding the Torah portion ‘Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25). You can listen (for a limited time) at this link:
or you can read the transcript, below.
This is an excellent broadcast discussing the questions: “What does ‘faith’ really mean? What does Yah expect or ‘require’ of us? Did you know He wants our hearts, first, BEFORE action?”
I hope you get to listen to the broadcast, but since the link will not be permanently available (except to people who financially support Hebrew Nation Radio), Valerie has permitted me to publish a transcript of the broadcast here. Enjoy!
‘EKEV Commentary, by Valerie Parham
We discussed in the last week or so [Our Portion and Cup – V’Etchanan], the fact that many believers have some misconceptions about things like ‘How the Israelites were saved’, during what many would call, ‘Old Testament’ times. The Book of Hebrews answers that question, of course. They were saved by faith that ‘motivated’ personal action. The action actually proved the faith, didn’t it?
But, there are some other misconceptions as well, and maybe I could phrase it in a way many of you would understand. One of these has to do with how we perceive others in their personal salvation process. Like, we look at some Christian denominations, and people will say things like – “Those people think they are saved by works.” Others, shooting back, so to speak, will say that some of the others accusing ‘them’ think they are saved by ‘faith ONLY’, whereas James says clearly that ‘faith ONLY’ is something that even demons have [James 2:19] – so you shouldn’t think you can be saved by ‘faith only’…
I would like for us to begin with some thoughts in this direction today, because we want to see if we can understand what might look like a dichotomy to some. And, this idea is something in which many believers ‘judge’ Judah [the Jews] too harshly, I think.
The Book of James is short and would be a good exercise in reading. James calls the torah “the Law of Liberty.” [James 1:25, 2:12] This agrees with the idea of the fact that Yah took the Israelites OUT of SLAVERY into the desert to GIVE them FREEDOM – the LAW of LIBERTY – a betrothal document, an everlasting covenant making us co-heirs as Yeshua’s ‘bride’.
We should try to understand ‘what’ James is speaking about. He had encouraged people to become ‘doers’ of the law in the first chapter and is warning the people about making ‘judgments’ that aren’t right and filled with partiality in chapter 2. He says that you will be judged with the same kind of judgment YOU judge. Like, if you aren’t showing mercy, you won’t be shown mercy – kind of sounds like Yeshua, doesn’t it? (Matt 6:12, etc.)
Let’s look at chapter 2 of this book.
(1) My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Y’shua HaMashiach, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (2) For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, (3) and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” (4) have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
(5) Listen, my beloved brethren: Has Elohim not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (6) But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? (7) Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? (8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; (9) but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (12) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (13) For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(14) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? (17) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(18) But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (19) You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (20) But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (22) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? (23) And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed Elohim, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of Elohim. (24) You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (25) Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? (26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Sadly, there are groups out there today who say things, like, ‘Yeshua kept the torah so I don’t HAVE to’.
If Abraham were saved the same way we are, then why didn’t Yeshua keep him from being made perfect and justified by works along with that faith, as this scripture claims? After all, Yeshua’s sacrifice was made before the foundation of the world, right? (Rev 13:8) Shouldn’t Abraham have been able to make that claim, if we can? Why did he need to ‘do’ anything to show his faith? Why would scripture tell you plainly that you ‘show’ your faith BY your works? Why would the Bible give the analogy of someone asking for food and you just ‘say’, ‘Be warmed and filled’, and that not be enough? It says that kind of faith is DEAD.
Now, one thing, if I haven’t lost all listeners or readers yet, I would like to point out, is that the meaning of the word, ‘faith’, in Hebrew, is very different from the English word connotation we seem to have in the 20th -21st century, for sure!
Some years ago, we learned that the word for ‘hear’, as in “Hear, O Israel” (Deut 6:4), is actually a word that has multiple part meanings, and it isn’t complete until the ‘parts’ are completed. The Hebrew word is Shema.
It is interesting that the word mimics a little what a cow (who is kosher) does: A cow has four digestive kinds of ‘stomachs’, if you will. But when a cow eats, it takes the food in and chews it. It then swallows and brings it back up to chew some more and continues this digestion process until the food makes it into the cow’s bloodstream to give it strength and energy. Maybe this is one reason Yah created the cow for us – to look at this ‘process’.
In the word, Shema, we see in the Hebrew that we are to (1) actually physically hear, and then (2) consider what we heard (mull it over, so to speak, consider what it should mean to us), (3) take it to heart, and THEN, (4) walk it out. The process isn’t actually complete until we walk it out. To say all those words each time you say ‘hear’ would be an ordeal, but the people who understand the [Hebrew] language know that all these things are necessarily involved in that word.
Well, guess what? The same kind of process is true in the word, ‘faith’, in Hebrew. I have to give credit to my friend, Sue Wyatt, for bringing this up in a torah study with our group in the last year or so. I want to share her blog with you since she did the work on this. She starts with the scripture Habakkuk 2:4 and elaborates. Let’s read the whole verse of Habakkuk 2:4 before we begin.
“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.“
by Sue Wyatt (The Lamb’s Servant Blog)
The second half of Habakkuk 2:4 (…the just shall live by his faith) is quoted three different times in the New Testament epistles: Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11 and Heb 10:38. That makes it a pretty important verse – one that every believer should take pains to understand. When I studied this verse in the original Hebrew, I was astonished by the unexpected results! This verse offers a much deeper understanding of Paul’s teaching.
Who is the Just Man?
The word translated as ‘the just’ is the Hebrew word צַדִּיק (tsaddiyq) and means just, lawful, righteous.
- This word was [and is] commonly used as a title: a tsaddiyq was a man who faithfully followed Torah, because, as Moses taught, it shall be our righteousness [tsĕdaqah], if we observe to do all these commandments before YHVH our God, as he hath commanded us. (Deut 6:25) His behavior was just because he followed the just instructions (Torah) of YHVH.
- Y’shua’s brother, James, was known as Ja’acov HaTsaddiyq (James the Just) because he was famous for his careful adherence to Torah. As a result, James was not only the head of the Jerusalem Church; he was also considered the top spiritual leader in all of Israel, even by the Pharisees. (See Hegesippus)
We can see this usage in the Greek NT, too:
Then Joseph her husband, being a JUST [Greek: δίκαιος dikaios – righteous, observing divine laws] man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. (Matt 1:19)
And they [the parents of John the Baptist] were both RIGHTEOUS [Greek: δίκαιος dikaios – righteous, observing divine laws] before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of Adonai blameless. Luke 1:6
This scriptural view of righteousness was summed up by Moses, who wrote, as we have seen, it shall be our righteousness [tsĕdaqah], if we observe to do all these commandments before YHVH our God, as he hath commanded us. (Deut 6:25)
To be accounted righteous means, in scriptural terms, to have shown oneself desirous to be conformed to the Torah of YHVH out of love for Him and His Ways.
Here is the patience [Greek: ὑπομονή hypomonē – steadfastness; loyalty] of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, AND the faith of Y’shua. Rev 14:12
‘Faith’ meant something different to First Century Believers, too
In the modern church, we tend to equate ‘faith’ to a mental belief in something. This was not true for the apostles and their Hebrew converts to Messiah (the first Christians). In Hebraic thought, ‘faith’ was a verb!
We see this in Habakkuk 2:4, where the second half of the verse offers an even more interesting and significant phrase: “… shall live by his faith.” The word translated as ‘faith’ has nothing to do with mental belief. It is the Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (em·ü·nä’) and means firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness.  [We just saw the Greek version of that word, (ὑπομονή hypomonē – steadfastness) in Rev 14:12.]
Habakkuk is telling us that the man who steadfastly (faithfully) observes Torah will live!
And Y’shua agreed: … But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. (Matt 19:17 b) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. [Heaven and earth are still with us.] Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:18-19)
Paul certainly understood this – He was a well-trained Pharisee and knew the scriptures intimately. His traditional understanding of Habakkuk is apparent in his statements to the Roman believers:
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness [… thy Torah is the truth. Ps 119:142] ; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made [including Mankind], even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [Rom 1:17-20 KJV]
Paul is telling us that the wrath of God will come against any man who does not live according to God’s ethical (Torah) standards (righteousness), because the principles of His character and ethical standards have been made plain to all through His creation: they are without excuse. If any one ignores that plain revelation, he will die. If he does know the specifics of Torah and still willfully and unrepentantly transgresses it, then Torah will testify against him and he will die.
This is why Paul tells us a little later in Romans 2:12, For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law…, and (Rom 6:23), … for the wages of sin is death [implied: for all men]. Thus Torah affects every man, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Rom 3:19) God “will repay [pay in the same coin] each person according to what they have done.” (Rom 2:6, where Paul is paraphrasing Ps 62:12 and Prov 24:12, both of which refer to Torah)
Praise God that – for those in Y’shua – His Torah instructions still inform us of what HE considers to be righteous, so that we can be conformed to HIS ways, but Torah no longer has the power to condemn the ‘faithful’ to death! (Rom 8:1) Paul spends a lot of time explaining this!
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Rom 7:12
… [but] the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law [Torah]…. Rom 8:7
Paul echoes his Master’s teaching when he says:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or [slaves] to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Rom 6:16
Y’shua [said] No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Luke 16:13 Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. John 8:34
Paul continues: You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness…. Rom 6:18
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law. Rom 7:25 (That’s a GOOD thing!)
But if Messiah is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. Rom 8:10
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.. Rom 8:13
The misdeeds of the body are sin, and John tells us, Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law [Torah]. 1John 3:4 John agrees with Paul and Moses that righteousness is submission to Torah – the Law of God. Rom 8:7
That the righteousness of the law [Torah] might be fulfilled [Grk πληρόω plēroō: accomplished, performed] in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. Rom 8:4-5
What is the Spirit’s part in this? Among other things,
“… the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.“ John 14:26 NIV.
He can’t teach (explain) or remind us if we have not taken the first critical step of STUDYING the Word. It is for this reason that we are often instructed to
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [correctly teaching and using] the word of truth.” (2Tim 2:15, NKJV)
Remember that when 2Tim 2:15 was written, the only “word of truth” available was the Tanakh (Old Testament). We are expected to have THAT Word (as well as Y’shua’s teachings) in our memory so that the Holy Spirit can use it to direct us. As we meditate on it, he leads us into a deeper understanding of the Word.
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11, NKJV)
There is MUCH more to this teaching, but I will not take the space to discuss it here. We are in the process of writing an article entitled The Book of Romans as part of our series, What Did the Apostles Teach? and will post it as soon as possible. In the meantime, I welcome your questions and urge you to read some of our other articles (published at The Lamb’s Servant Blog) that discuss this concept.
© Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, 2014. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Lamb’s Servant Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 In Hebrew understanding, faith is something we DO – it is, as the Book of Hebrews says, … the substance [the tangible result of action] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1) (The things not seen refers to our otherwise invisible belief in Messiah.)
[VALERIE PARHAM – CONTINUED]
So, want to thank Sue for that, and I think you can begin to see what I am trying to say here.
‘Faith‘ is an ACTION word – what we, in English, understand as a verb. It, like Hebrew ‘hearing’ or Shema, is not complete until the words cause ‘action’. Hebrew is a verb-al language. Maybe this is one of the reasons we come up with so many divergent and even bizarre religious ideas compared with what our brothers [the Jews] have understood for 3500 years! We look at words as subjects or objects first, rather than ‘doing’ first – and only then, taken to other words, which are descriptions of the ‘action’.
I’d like for us to look now and compare a couple of passages of scripture. The first passage is from Deuteronomy 10 and the second is from the prophet, Micah. We’re going to discuss what Yah ‘requires’ of you.
Deuteronomy 10:12-22 (NASB)
12 “Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your Elohim require from you, but to fear Yahweh your Elohim, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep Yahweh’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to Yahweh your Elohim belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15 Yet on your fathers did Yahweh set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. 17 For Yahweh your Elohim is the Elohim of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome Elohim who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear Yahweh your Elohim; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21 He is your praise and He is your Elohim, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now Yahweh your Elohim has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
The rabbis connect this Micah 6 passage [below] with our Deuteronomy verses above, because the language contains a similar statement. (In fact, notice the ‘heading’ the NASB puts in the text below.) However, in Micah, the prophet uses a different Hebrew word about ‘requiring’. In the Deuteronomy passage, the word ‘require’ is a word that is more like “What does Yahweh ‘ask’ of you?” Whereas, in the Micah passage, the word ‘require’ shown here is more like ‘seeking’, or ‘searching for’.
Micah 6:6-8 (NASB)
What Elohim Requires of Man
6 With what shall I come to Yahweh
And bow myself before the Elohim on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
With yearling calves?
7 Does Yahweh take delight in thousands of rams,
In ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does Yahweh require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your Elohim?
I believe that Micah is trying to show the people something about the ‘heart’ (already stated in Deuteronomy). Yahweh is interested in the intent of our hearts. He wants to help us understand right motivation in our obedience. We are not able to ‘save ourselves,’ and no one in Bible history has ever been able to do that. And, even if we were trying to ‘justify’ ourselves, we won’t have much help from Yahweh in that.
I saw a great commentary on the Aleph Beta website of Micah’s ‘list’ of these ‘do’s’ a person might try, to be ‘right enough’ with Yah, essentially. All of these ‘steps’ (shown below for those reading) point to a person that is trying to go beyond the necessary commands to make himself ‘better’ in Yah’s eyes.
[To obtain a copy of the actual chart and/or the transcript, please email your request to Valerie at ValerieParham@ymail.com]
Welcome back to “Our Portion and Cup”! This is Valerie Parham.
In the first half today, we were talking about ‘faith‘ and the fact that it’s a verb and that it’s more than just a mental understanding of the fact that there’s a God; and we were discussing the details about that. We’d also started discussing this week’s torah portion and the things that Yahweh really expects of us, and we were comparing Deuteronomy with Micah.
There is a chart that I have included in my teaching, that I just mentioned as we were leaving the last section. If you would like this, you can get it, but I’m going to describe it to you. If you want it, again, just email me.
This came from some commentary on the Aleph Beta website of Micah’s list of ‘do’s,’ like a person who might be trying to make himself ‘right’ enough with Yah, essentially, and all of these steps that I’m going to show below point to a person who’s trying to go beyond the necessary commands to make himself ‘better’ in Yah’s eyes.
It’s a ‘staircase’ that leads to (my commentary here now) – the necessity of Yah’s sacrifice of Yeshua – the firstborn son we see mentioned here.
You can’t ‘save’ yourself. You would run out of resources! The top step we see listed in this little staircase is the ‘fruit of MY body for sin of my soul’. Ultimately, it is ‘you’ that would have to be sacrificed (after you sinned by having your child killed), and YOU couldn’t recover from that – i.e., sacrificing yourself – you just fell off those steps! YOU can’t resurrect yourself. But, what a picture. Yeshua DID that for you… Since you can’t do that last step on this pyramid, does it help you to understand that YOU can’t SAVE yourself? The pyramid breaks down near the top. This is OLD TESTAMENT teaching…and, of course, it is because the Word is designed to show you Yeshua and YOUR NEED for a savior.
Here’s the list. Start at the bottom of the steps to see it clearly.
People’s ideas on how to get close to Yah (from Micah 6:6-8):
——————————-Fruit of MY body for sin of my soul
—————————Firstborn for my sin
———————-10,000 rivers of oil
————–1000’s of rams
In the Micah passage, Micah doesn’t actually go into the listing of the firstborn son discussion, but ends the section with the idea that you can boil it down to the fact that Yah is ‘seeking’ those who understand the ‘weighty matters’ of the teaching of Yah. These would be:
- Do justice.
- Love kindness.
- Walk humbly with Elohim (or the God of justice, creation)
And if you can see, back as we were looking at those steps, if you were close to the top – even if you could, and you had all of the money and resources to give all of these offerings — you get up there and closer to God and you realize you’ve got to have the firstborn of something or someone and/or the fruit of your body for your sin or to get closer to Yahweh, and neither of those can you produce – however, Yahweh, of course, can, and He did that with Yeshua!
Yeshua actually uses the terms that get translated as ‘weighty matters’ of torah in Matthew 23. This chapter contains a discussion about doing what the leaders of the people demand of others, what they do themselves and whether the people should do what they say. The leaders were so careful with torah that they were tithing down to their mint, dill and cumin (yeah!), BUT they were neglecting the weighty matters. They were somehow ‘missing the point’, themselves, it seems.
So, Yeshua talks about what kind of leaders they ‘should’ be, that people ‘should’ do what they say, and that they shouldn’t be doing many things, including our point – ignoring the weightier matters of torah – justice, mercy and faithfulness.
I am going to include the whole chapter [of Matt 23] here because it talks about how to be a good leader among people even by what it condemns. Yeshua’s words hearken right back to Micah’s conclusion – do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Elohim. See, this idea is an idea FROM what most Christians call the OLD TESTAMENT. Wanting your heart in worship and obedience has ALWAYS been a requirement of Yah. Yah wants us to understand that there is a spiritual intent behind the commandments. We should be looking for meaning.
Matthew 23 (NASB)
1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Messiah. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
14 [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of Elohim and by Him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF YAHWEH!’”
Now, interestingly enough, we see that we all need a Savior, because we fall short of Yah’s commands and understanding the intent of the commands sometimes. ‘What if’ we found ourselves trying to earn our own righteous standing? We would need a Savior. And, ‘what if’ our heart was ALWAYS right? This is REALLY what Yeshua / Yahweh wants from us… BUT, we would still need a Savior because of the commandments we failed to keep – even like ‘knowing to do good’ and not doing it… One definition of sin is ‘falling short’ of keeping the commandments. We are told that Moses wrote all the laws down so that we would know what sin ‘is’ according to passages like Galatians 3:19 and Romans 3:20. No human, except Yeshua, has been able to keep the ‘heart’ and ‘full letter’ of torah. HE is the only one who ever ‘deserved’ to be saved. And, interestingly enough, the steps we looked at earlier [in the chart] have self-sacrifice as the ultimate step. So, if salvation could truly BE earned, He DID it for Himself.
The nation HAS a firstborn son, who could also offer Himself – Yeshua.
Abraham made the first ‘picture’ of this for us in his willingness to offer Isaac on the altar at Moriah. Pagan religions even understand the power of this firstborn sacrifice idea. Molech, among other gods, had child sacrifice, and many Israelites throughout the centuries fell for it. Even some of the kings had children passed ‘through the fire’. Some modern commentators have pointed out that in abortions today, most of those babies are passed through the fire (their remains are burned as required for hazardous waste). The god now is usually ‘self-interest’ on the part of the parents, or the worship of ‘self’ over another. We all need forgiveness and Yeshua can give it to us with HIS sacrifice.
An ‘injustice’ was done when He was sentenced to death for us. Because an injustice was done to Yah’s son and Yeshua Himself, THEY get to decide what the justice will be to ‘correct’ the injustice. Guess what it is? His punishment, already performed, is extended to everyone who calls upon His Name for that salvation. He PAID the penalty for you. So, the modern Christian phrase, shouldn’t be – ‘He kept torah so I don’t have to’, but something more like, ‘He took my punishment, so I don’t have to!’ Now, THAT’S a HalleluYah! My thankfulness should cause me to be the kind of ‘servant’ He wants, doing His will, keeping MY part of His agreement with me…because of the gift He gave me that I can’t repay. I can’t stop ‘owing’ Him for His loving kindnesses.
Because so many people seem to think that the Jews today think they are saved by what they ‘do’, I want to read a little bit of commentary to you from a modern day Jewish rabbi (this one, David Milston, in his Devarim commentary called The Three Pillars). Now, of course, the modern-day rabbis quote the more ancient rabbis. There isn’t a ‘whole’ lot of original thinking in the sense that they won’t stray too far from the way scripture has been understood for 3500 years. But, it is COMMON in their commentary to give what most of us would understand as New Covenant understanding of scripture. There MAY be people in Judaism (individual families or persons) who do not understand Yahweh’s ways nor study His Word. Many Orthodox Christian believers follow tradition more than scripture and we see people even in Christianity who think they are ‘saved’ by what they do. But, I would suggest to you that the people who ‘seek’ the Father in ‘spirit’ and ‘truth’ see what we know.
But, before I read some comments to you, I need to do a set-up for this discussion in this particular commentary.
Every day, the Jews recite the ‘Shema’ twice. The Shema is the passage that starts out with ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD, Our God, the LORD is one’. The first paragraph is in last week’s portion, Deuteronomy 6:4-10. To recite this is considered to be a positive commandment of Yahweh.
Deuteronomy 6:4-10 NKJV
4 “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one! 5 You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 10 “So it shall be, when Yahweh your Elohim brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build.
The second part of the recitation is from Deuteronomy 11:13-21 (NKJV)
13 ‘And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love Yahweh your Elohim and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. 15 And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.’ 16 “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, 17 lest Yahweh’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which Yahweh is giving you. 18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
(By the way, this is the second time in just a few chapters, the command is repeated, from ‘putting these words in your heart and soul’ to ‘wearing them,’ to ‘teaching your children’ at all hours and in all activities and to ‘write them on your doorposts and gates,’ etc. Repeated commands SHOW they are important…)
The concluding paragraph of the Shema is from Numbers 15:37-41.
37 Again Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of Yahweh and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your Elohim. 41 I am Yahweh your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim: I am Yahweh your Elohim.”
For those who are not familiar with these ‘tassels’, they are called tzitzit in Hebrew [plural: tzitziyot]. They are attached to some reinforced corners of a garment. They are tied in knots to represent the 613 commandments of Yah. [They are tied in such a way that the four tzitziyot include a total of 613 knots.] From ancient times, they say they have been consistent in even the ways they have been tied, with two ways being the most recognized.
Here is a picture for those of you not familiar with the tassels. We have been told that about 50% of the men wearing them, in Israel, even, may have them tucked inside their shirts and pants. You will see them most predominantly on their prayer shawls they wear in the synagogue, and 50% of the religious men will be wearing them ‘exposed’.
(I got this picture from the Wikipedia article entitled Tzitzit).
The Chazal (the ancient commentators from around 300 years before the time of Yeshua to around 600 AD) believe that each section of the Shema has important messages and that the whole ‘unit’ is for educational purposes.
Even concerning the ‘order’ of these paragraphs, the commentators said that it is important that a person accept upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, and ONLY then, take up the yoke of the commandments. The order has to do with taking up the kingdom of heaven, the second passages has to do with commands for the day and night, and the third section, for commands performed only in daylight hours.
The first section has to do with belief in the Creator/God/Elohim/Yahweh.
AFTER we internalize the belief, we put the belief into action concerning the commandments. I liked this sentence in this commentary – ‘A theoretical commitment without practical application remains a good idea at best’.
The third paragraph talks about what we call tzitzit, those tassels/fringes on the corners of the garments. Tzitzit are a constant reminder of Yah’s instructions, to help us remember to indeed fulfill
Yah’s commands properly and consistently.
Now, HERE, it gets really good. But, remember, this kind of commentary is TYPICAL in my experience. I do NOT believe that most Jews believe they are saved by what they DO.
‘Before we enter the world of deeds, we must first understand they not ends in themselves. They are external expressions of an internal belief. Without the first section’s prerequisite of belief, a life of Mitzvot (meaning “keeping commands or doing good deeds” – my note) as reflected by the second paragraph will lead us to the terrible reality of Chazon Yeshayahu, where our Judaism becomes a superficial and false way of life.”
And I’m just going to remind you here, this sounds a little bit like James [see the discussion of James 2, above, esp. James 2:26].
I also need to explain Chazon Yeshayahu, I bet!
Do you remember from our discussions that the Shabbat before the 9 th of Av was called Shabbat Chazon? On the 9 th of Av, you might remember that the two temples were destroyed and other calamities for the nation of Israel. Isaiah 1 is the chapter read as the haftarah on that day. In it, you can see that the calamities have been caused by the people’s rebellion and refusal to put their hearts into Yah’s ways. They have made religious practice ‘theirs’ and not HIS.
Let’s just read that here to make the point. Notice also that the definition of pure religion per the New Covenant scripture (James 1:27) is listed here.
Isaiah 1 NKJV – Chazon Yeshayahu – The Vision of Isaiah
1 The vision [chazon] of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For Yahweh has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me;
3 The ox knows its owner
And the donkey its master’s crib;
But Israel does not know,
My people do not consider.”
4 Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken Yahweh,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.
5 Why should you be stricken again?
You will revolt more and more.
The whole head is sick,
And the whole heart faints.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
There is no soundness in it,
But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores;
They have not been closed or bound up,
Or soothed with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire;
Strangers devour your land in your presence;
And it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard,As a hut in a garden of cucumbers,
As a besieged city.
9 Unless Yahweh of hosts
Had left to us a very small remnant,
We would have become like Sodom,
We would have been made like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of Yahweh,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the law of our Elohim,
You people of Gomorrah:
11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
“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;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.
21 How the faithful city has become a harlot!
It was full of justice;
Righteousness lodged in it,
But now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
Your wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebellious,
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes,
And follows after rewards.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.
24 Therefore the Lord says,
Yahweh of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,
“Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries,
And take vengeance on My enemies.
25 I will turn My hand against you,
And thoroughly purge away your dross,
And take away all your alloy.
26 I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
27 Zion shall be redeemed with justice,
And her penitents with righteousness.
28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together,
And those who forsake Yahweh shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees
Which you have desired;
And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens
Which you have chosen.
30 For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades,
And as a garden that has no water.
31 The strong shall be as tinder,
And the work of it as a spark;
Both will burn together,
And no one shall quench them.
Now — our commentary continues to say –- we are mistaken if we thought that the first two paragraphs of the Shema are sufficient. Even if inner commitment precedes our deeds, this will prove inadequate if we do not constantly remind ourselves who we are and what we are here for (my emphasis). Tzitzit is a commandment established for that very purpose.
Even actions preceded by forethought require revisiting. Once the initial excitement has worn off, it is so easy to fall into the trap of routine. It is probably one of the most fundamental issues Orthodox Jewry has to deal with on a daily basis.
I am going to skip some detail to continue with some points they make. They compare our relationship with Yah as unconditional love – comparing it to the love of husband and wife – no deals, no conditions, absolute loyalty and total affiliation. We do whatever it takes to affirm our love, even if the price is our life, itself. Since the second paragraph has commands in it, then we understand that we should not be like servants who serve the master on condition of receiving a reward, and that the fear of heaven should be upon us. These two concepts should help us with the ideal level of truth.
The utopian relationship in the first part of the Shema is given concrete action to help us serve Him until we can reach the utopian model. There’s more and maybe I can finish it up a little next time.
(Be sure to tune in to Valerie’s radio broadcast: Our Portion and Cup, Hebrew Nation Radio. She broadcasts on Saturdays and Tuesdays. You can also sign up to receive podcasts, or listen to — and even download — the recordings at the link: Our Portion and Cup .)