Category: Walking Torah
Restoring that which was lost!
D. Thomas Lancaster
There is an interesting commandment found in the Torah (Law of Moses) that implores us to return "anything lost by our countryman which we have found..." The same passage further instructs us not to allow for our own neglectful behavior in such matters, but rather exorts us to "restore to him that thing which he has lost." (Paraphrased from Deuteronomy 22:2-3)
Well, guess what? I think I have found something that you have lost, and I hope to restore it to you! The thing I have found is the Torah. It is the same Torah that the disciples of Yeshua possessed.
The writings of the New Testament are clear about this. The followers of Yeshua were Torah people. Yeshua Himself was a Torah teacher. He told His disciples to keep and teach the Torah, and He encouraged them to demonstrate their love for Him by being faithful to the commandments. His disciples were once described as many myriads, "all zealous for the Law [Torah]."  But through the long years of waiting for His return, we have wandered far, forgotten much and lost some things that once were of great value to us. In some ways, we have lost the Torah and forgotten that it ever belonged to us.
Torah for Christians
Torah is for Christians. The proof is that Christians keep Torah. You may not be entirely aware of it, but it is true. Just by living the Christian life, you are keeping most of the Torah. It is pretty obvious when you think it over. Consider the Ten Commandments, for example. Things like honoring one's father and mother, marital fidelity and basic honesty are all commandments of Torah. The commands to love your neighbor as yourself, care for the orphan and widow, look after the poor and extend a helping hand to a brother in need–those are all precepts of Torah. Prohibitions on violence, injustice, theft, homicide, sexual deviancy and occult practices are all examples of the basic moral statutes that comprise the laws of Torah. Faith, grace, repentance, confession, prayer and baptism are all found in the Torah, too. The things that define Christian life are Torah-based. For the most part, the Christian life is one of Torah lived out.
True, there are a lot of commandments in the Torah that are not part of the normal Christian life. For example, there are the numerous animal sacrifices of the Temple worship system. Christians don't bring sacrifices. But wait! Did you know that the Torah forbids us to bring sacrifices? According to the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, sacrifices can only be made at the Temple in Jerusalem.  There has not been a Temple in Jerusalem since the days of the Apostles. It would be a sin to offer animal sacrifices today. The Bible says so. Therefore, every time we do not offer up burnt offerings in our backyard, we are keeping a commandment of the Torah: the commandment not to offer a sacrifice outside of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Similarly, the strict measures of Torah justice–stoning and the like–are not applicable unless one is in the Land of Israel under the authority of a duly ordained Torah court of law like the Sanhedrin. Since there has not been a functional Sanhedrin wielding civil authority in almost 2,000 years, there has not been a capital case tried in just as long. As much as we might sometimes like to stone someone, the Torah forbids us from vigilante justice of that sort. Most of the laws of Torah that Christians do not keep are laws that do not apply to us in the modern world. This is not to say that those laws are irrelevant or done away with, but under current circumstances, they cannot be practiced.
Meanwhile, Christians are busily keeping the weighty matters of the Torah all over the world. Christianity has spread the faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to all nations. Christians everywhere are working to see justice done, to see the oppressed relieved, to see the hungry fed and to see the Kingdom of God advanced. Christians are famous for offering care and assistance to the stranger, orphan and widow. The world may not want to admit it, but Christians are known for their high level of integrity, their moral character and their scrupulous honesty. The Church has some dark chapters in its history, and there are always a few bad eggs in the basket, but overall, Christians are respected, even if not appreciated. And the reasons why are because Christians are obediently abiding by the instructions found in the Torah.
It seems that Christians are Torah-observant without even knowing it–well, almost. There are a few discrepancies that have arisen over the years–a few elements of Torah that we have forgotten. They are things that we lost in the early years of persecution.
Some Things Were Lost
We lost a few things early in the development of the religion. The young, emerging Christian church was deeply impacted by the First and Second Jewish Revolts against Rome.  In response to the Jewish uprisings, the Roman government under the Flavian emperors and again under Trajan and Hadrian unleashed punishing persecutions against Judaism. Heavy taxes combined with anti-Torah legislation, arrests and persecutions made it very unpopular to be identified with Torah or Judaism. At certain times, a person could be arrested for keeping the Sabbath or any other obvious Jewish practices. At the same time, there was a concentrated effort within Judaism to push the Messianic believers out of the synagogue. The result was that Christianity lost much of her connection to Torah and the Jewish people. This happened in fulfillment of the Master's words.
Yeshua predicted the persecutions, and He predicted the coming time of lawlessness. He told His disciples:
They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness [Torahlessness] is increased, most people's love will grow cold. (Matthew 24:9-12)
The love which He spoke of was the love of God–the greatest commandment. According to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, love for God is demonstrated by obedience to His commandments. Similarly, 1 John 5:3 states that "...the love of God [is] that we keep His commandments." When we began to turn away from the commandments, our love for God diminished, and as our love for God diminished, we turned from the commandments.
However, many Christians held on to Torah. The writings of the Church Fathers and the writings of the rabbis attest to the existence of Torah-keeping believers well into the third century and beyond. But most of us were assimilated into the mainstream of acceptability in the Roman world. This meant leaving behind some of the old ways.
The Biblical Sabbath
Every Friday night I watch my six-year-old daughter light the Sabbath candles to welcome the Lord's day of rest. The house is full of good smells: hot soup, a pie in the oven, fresh bread. As dusk settles on the neighborhood, the boys are reading through the weekly Torah portion, preparing to contribute something at the Sabbath table. Guests arrive at the door. My wife finishes the final preparations in the kitchen. She will not need to cook again for more than twenty-four hours. At the table, prayers are said, blessings are dispensed, songs are sung and words of Torah are exchanged. The day of rest, the Lord's day, has begun.
God commands His people to cease from labor on the seventh day of the week. This day of rest is called the Shabbat or the Sabbath. In the gospels, Yeshua told us, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Luke 6:5) Paul says that the Sabbath is a shadow of things to come and the substance of Messiah.  Both of them are saying the same thing–that the Sabbath is about the Messiah. Therefore, the Sabbath is for the followers of Messiah.
Blessing and Holiness
Out of all those things in this vast and unreachable reality that we know as the creation, the Sabbath was the very first thing that God set apart as holy. The Sabbath stands from the beginning of time as the first institution of godliness. Before there was a temple or an altar, before there was a Bible or a commandment, before there was a church or a single hymn, there was the Sabbath.
For believers who keep the Sabbath, it is our delight, the day of our joy. It is our treasure and prized possession. It is the oldest heirloom we have inherited from the family of God.
As followers of the Master, when we begin to enter into His Sabbath, we encounter Him in fresh, new and delightful ways. The Sabbath is not burdensome as some suppose. The Lord of the Sabbath declares, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
For us, the Sabbath is a gift, not a despotic ruler demanding our submission. It is gentle and beckoning, subtle and sublime, wrapped in garments of light, inviting us to meet with the Lord. We delight in the Sabbath because we encounter Yeshua within it.
1. Matthew 5:17-20; John 14:15-21
2. Acts 21:20
3. Leviticus 17, Deuteronomy 12
4. 70 and 135 CE respectively.
5. Colossians 2:16-17
Adapted from messiah magazine #87. Â© 2012 First Fruits of Zion. All rights reserved. We encourage you to share this material with your friends for further personal study. However, this material may not be republished, in print, electronically, or any other form without our prior permission.
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