"The voice of one crying in the desert, 'Prepare the way of YHVH; make straight in the desert a highway for our Elohim. And the esteem of YHVH shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see it. For the mouth of YHVH has spoken." Isaiah 40:3,5
The story of Ruth and Boaz is a beautiful story of redemptive love and devotion. It is a story that demonstrates the redeeming power of love, devotion, and obedience. The story of Ruth is commonly read during Shavuot for several reasons. The first reason is the physical harvest that occurs in story. The “courting” of Ruth and Boaz takes places during Shavuot. The second reason is the spiritual harvest that takes place in the story. This is demonstrated when Ruth accepts and joins herself to Torah, and simultaneously the God of Israel, and becomes grafted into Israel. Through the union of Ruth and Boaz, not only did we receive Messiah Yeshua, but we can also glean much insight into the season of counting the omer and Shavuot.
A Few Things from Torah Before We Begin
Before we begin, there are a few things we need to first understand from Torah.
Laws of redemption (Lev. 25:32-55)
Laws of Shemittah and Jubilee years (Lev. 25:4, 10, 23)
Laws of family inheritance (Num. 27:8-11): if a man died without a son, the inheritance would be transferred to the daughter, and since Ruth was the widow of Machlon, she was the legal heir of the line of Elimelech. In other words, if Boaz could be persuaded to marry Ruth, then he could redeem the land and save the family from being obliterated in Israel.
Laws of yibbum or “levirate marriage” (Deut. 25:5-10): Naomi understood that Boaz was a “near kinsman” to her husband Elimelech, and therefore he was qualified to redeem her land from those who presently were leasing it. Recall that the Torah allowed for the redemption of land based on its pro rata value before the year of Jubilee. The “law of redemption” required that a next of kin had the duty to redeem (buy back) the land of their close relative if the relative was in such financial difficulty that he was forced to sell it: ‘If your brother becomes impoverished and sells some of his property, then his near redeemer shall and redeem what his brother has sold” (Lev. 25:25). Since Naomi was destitute, she needed to persuade a close relative to redeem her land for the legacy of her family’s name in Israel.
Various farming laws regarding leaving food for the poor and the stranger (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19)
God’s repeatedly stated commandment that Israel must be holy and not assimilate with surrounding cultures (Exod. 34:12; Deut. 7:1-6; 14:2, etc.). This restriction applied not only to the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 7:1; 20:17-18), but also to the descendants of Lot (i.e., Amnonites and the Moabites), since they showed enmity to Israel when they first came to the land (Deut. 23:4-6).
Indirectly, then, the story of Ruth provides a strong message to Christians: to understand the story of redemption, you must first understand the Torah and its commandments!
The Story of Ruth
The story takes place during the time when judges ruled Israel, before the monarchy was established. In Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, there was a man named Elimelech who lived with his wife Naomi and his two sons Machlon and Chilyon. There came a great famine in the land and Elimelech decided to lease out his land and move his family to the land of Moab, where he died shortly thereafter. His sons each married a Moabite woman; Chilyon married Orpah and Machlon married Ruth. Soon, Elimelech’s sons died too, leaving Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth as widows.
Naomi decides to go back to the land Israel and urges her two widowed daughters-in-law to return to their fathers’ homes. Orpah returns to her people but Ruth remains devoted to Naomi. Despite Naomi’s warning that Ruth would be regarded as an outcast in Israel who would likely remain a perpetual widow, Ruth refused to be dissuaded. Once Naomi understood Ruth’s heartfelt resolve, she accepted Ruth’s decision, and the two women arrived in Bethlehem in the early spring, during the time of the barley harvest in Judah.
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” Ruth 1:16-17
Naomi sends Ruth to glean in the fields. Boaz sees Ruth while she is working and is immediately drawn to her BUT he doesn’t yet know if he has a claim to her…..that will be revealed to him later. But he does decide to keep her close to him…and good thing he does because YHVH eventually reveals to him (with a little help from Ruth and Naomi) that he is, in fact, the kinsman redeemer for Ruth!
Boaz and Ruth have a type of courtship during weeks of the barely harvest – during the counting of the omer. Boaz was a “near kinsmen” to Naomi’s late husband Elimelech (perhaps the son of Elimelech’s brother), so he had a legal claim to redeem the land. Moreover, Boaz had a legal entitlement to marry Ruth, but he needed to be persuaded to do so.
Ruth also had a legal right to ask for Boaz to perpetuate the family line in Israel by marrying her. Before Boaz could do so, however, Ruth had to express her “legal intent” by claiming him as her “near kinsman.” In preparation of this significant event, Naomi instructed Ruth to beautify herself and present herself before Boaz at the end of the harvest, when the harvesters would be joyfully celebrating God’s provision – during the holiday of Shavuot. After the feast, Ruth was told that Boaz would sleep at the threshing floor and was instructed to lay at his feet and pull his covering over her feet to symbolize her claim.
And Boaz ate and drank, and his heart was glad, and he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. And she came softly and uncovered his feet, and lay down. And it came to be at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself, and saw a woman lying at his feet! And he said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your female servant. Now you shall spread your covering over your female servant – for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “Blessed are you of YHVH, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, not to go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. All that you say I do for you, for all the people of my town know that you are a capable woman. And now, it is true that I am your redeemer. However, there is a redeemer nearer than I. Stop over tonight, and in the morning it shall be that if he does redeem you, good – let him do it. But if he is not pleased to redeem you, then I shall redeem you, as YHVH lives! Lie down until morning.” Ruth 3:7-13
Boaz then discusses the matter with the man that is the nearer kinsman redeemer in the presence of the town elders. The nearer kinsman redeemer refuses as it would jeopardize his own inheritance. And Boaz said to the elders and to all the people,
“You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Kilyon’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Na‛omi. And also, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance, so that the name of the dead should not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses today.” And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “Witnesses! YHVH make the woman who is coming to your house as Rachel and as Leah, the two who built the house of Israel. And prove your worth in Israel and proclaim the Name in Bethlehem. And let your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, of the seed which YHVH does give you from this young woman. And Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” Ruth 4:9-13
The blessing given to Boaz suggests that God’s plan of blessing overcame the weakness and frailty of all the people involved. Isn’t it encouraging that no matter what your struggle, no matter the battle that wages all around you, God is more than able to accomplish the promises He has made?
Lessons About the Counting of the Omer and Shavuot
As you can see, there are many things that the story of Boaz and Ruth reveal to us about this season of counting the omer and Shavuot. Here are just a few:
Joining Ourselves to YHVH, Israel and Torah
It is a time to leave our old ways behind us and join ourselves wholeheartedly to the God of Israel…to YHVH. It was through Ruth’s obedience to the laws of Torah that allowed her to find life, love, and blessings beyond that of anything she could have imagined. Once Ruth vowed to join herself to YHVH, the ways of Torah, and to the people of Israel, she was able to fulfill her destiny of bringing forth the line that would bear the Savior of the world. In the same way, we too will never be able to fully walk out the calling on our lives until we join ourselves to YHVH and His ways.
Care and Provision
Once we fully and completely join ourselves to YHVH and walk in His Torah, the blessings and provisions that YHVH promised would follow can now freely flow forth. Ruth was obedient not only to Naomi and Boaz, but also to YHVH. Through her obedience and servitude, YHVH’s care and provision were afforded to her. She was obedient in her time of mourning and her time of waiting. She didn’t jump the gun and she didn’t question the instructions given to her. She was obedient and was richly blessed because of it.
Shavuot is a season of rejoicing in YHVH’s provision and guidance. Through Ruth’s story, we see that the counting of the omer is a season of waiting. Shavuot is the subsequent celebration and fulfillment of the promises we have anticipated and prepared for.
Finding Favor with Our Bridegroom
Ruth did not go after other lovers – even in her precarious situation. She had dove’s eyes for Boaz. We too need to have dove’s eyes for YHVH. We cannot go after other lovers but instead seek to please YHVH and find favor with Him alone.
Redemption Through Our True Kinsman Redeemer
When we think of redemption in the story of Ruth, we tend to focus on Ruth alone being redeemed. However, there were actually several things that were redeemed in this story. The land that belonged to Elimelech’s family – to include Ruth and Naomi – was redeemed. Naomi’s family line and lineage was redeemed – and even produced King David and Messiah Yeshua! Last, but certainly not least, both Naomi and Ruth were redeemed from a life of widowhood. They were taken from a season of death and mourning to a season of life and rejoicing! So you see, redemption of persons was not the only thing that needed to be redeemed by Boaz. Through Boaz’s willingness to be the kinsman redeemer, we see that property, family lineage, and people were all redeemed. This shows that YHVH is not only concerned with our spiritual welfare but our physical as well. In the end, everything we have is His and YHVH will not let His treasured possessions be lost forever; He will redeem what is His and restore all things.
Ultimately, the story of Ruth provides a powerful message to believers: to truly understand the story of redemption, you must first devote yourself to YHVH and His commands!
In my last post, I began the topic of Shavuot by showing how we all as believers in Messiah are made part of the House of Israel by being grafted into the olive tree. As members of Israel, the Torah –or God’s Word—is, indeed, for us too! In this post, we will talk about the giving of first fruits at Shavuot and how we can offer our own first fruits to God.
Leviticus 23 summarizes the feasts – or appointed times – that YHVH calls us to celebrate. The below verses are describing Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the bringing of the first fruits at Shavuot (highlighted portion).
“These are the appointed times of YHVH, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times. ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings, is the Passover to YHVH. And on the fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Unleavened Bread to YHVH – seven days you eat unleavened bread. On the first day you have a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work. And you shall bring an offering made by fire to YHVH for seven days. On the seventh day is a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work.’
“And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I give you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH, for your acceptance. On the morrow after the Sabbath the priest waves it. And on that day when you wave the sheaf, you shall prepare a male lamb a year old, a perfect one, as a burnt offering to YHVH, and its grain offering: two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to YHVH, a sweet fragrance, and its drink offering: one-fourth of a hin of wine. And you do not eat bread or roasted grain or fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim – a law forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
“And from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, you shall count for yourselves: seven completed Sabbaths. Until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath you count fifty days, then you shall bring a new grain offering to YHVH. Bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread, of two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour they are, baked with leaven, first-fruits to YHVH. And besides the bread, you shall bring seven lambs a year old, perfect ones, and one young bull and two rams. They are a burnt offering to YHVH, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet fragrance to YHVH. And you shall offer one male goat as a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old, as a peace offering. And the priest shall wave them, besides the bread of the first-fruits, as a wave offering before YHVH, besides the two lambs. They are set-apart to YHVH for the priest. And on this same day you shall proclaim a set-apart gathering for yourselves, you do no servile work on it – a law forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Leviticus 23:4-21
Counting of the Omer
The counting of the omer begins on the first Shabbat after Passover. An omer is a unit of measurement. During the counting of the omer, an omer-measurement of barley was offered in the Temple every day until Shavuot. You count 7 full weeks…meaning you count 49 days. The 50th day is Shavuot – many might know this as Pentecost which is Greek for “50” or “the 50th day”; in Hebrew Shavuot means “weeks”.
The importance of counting the omer is oftentimes overlooked. But one way to look at it, is that counting the omer is an important part of preparation for Shavuot. It was on Shavuot when the children of Israel received the Torah and, later, the prophetic outpouring of the Spirit read about in Acts 2.
One thing we as Americans have a hard time understanding is the concept of preparation and the time we spend waiting as we prepare. We want to rush through seasons and don’t understand the profound nature of waiting. As we count each day of the omer, it creates a sense of expectancy within us. If we truly take the time to count the omer, we will not try to rush forward from Passover to Shavuot and miss the lessons that can only be found in the waiting of preparation. Instead, we will learn to walk out each day and live in every moment as we wait for the appointed time. It makes waiting seem less difficult as we begin to see the importance of every, single day and the role each day plays in getting us to the ultimate goal.
Shavuot is the day that the children of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is a holiday that in modern times is unfortunately overlooked. However, this is certainly no small festival and there is great reason to rejoice and celebrate. In fact, this is one of 3 feasts that YHVH required us to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate; sounds like this feast is VERY important to YHVH.
In order to come before YHVH, the children of Israel had to prepare for 49 days, including having to refrain from anything that would make them unclean in the final 3 days. For those that were obedient, their reward was the gift of the Torah. We talked last week how important the Torah is; how Torah tells us what sin is, how it lights our path, directs our steps, and allows us to draw closer to YHVH. No wonder Shavuot is so important to YHVH.
Later, we read in Acts 2 of the disciples who, just days before had been walking with the resurrected Messiah, were celebrating Shavuot. We are told they were all gathered together of one mind to celebrate Shavuot. Had they not been keeping Torah and been obedient to YHVH’s commands to keep His feasts, they would not have been at the right place at the right time in order to receive the prophetic spirit of Joel 2. We will talk more about this in another post.
In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks (49 days) and was a season of gladness. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest. During this time of first fruits, an offering of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest is made on Shavuot.
Ceremony of First Fruits, Bikkurim
Shavuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruits) to YHVH. The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species for which the Land of Israel is praised in Deuteronomy 8:8: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.
In the primarily farming society of ancient Israel, Hebrew farmers would tie a reed around the first ripening fruits from each of these species in their fields. At the time of harvest, the fruits identified by the reed would be cut and placed in baskets woven of gold and silver. The baskets would then be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and who were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As the farmer and his entourage passed through cities and towns, they would be accompanied by music and parades.
The ceremony of Bikkurim conveys the children of Israel’s gratitude to God for His provisions, for the first fruits of the field, for His guidance throughout the year in their own lives, and for His guidance for the nation as a whole.
Shavuot & Firstfruits in Our Own Lives
Are we offering YHVH our best? Are we offering Him our firstfruits? Are we giving Him our best or are we scraping the bottom of the barrel? Psalm 106 is a good reminder to us to stop allowing other things to take precedence over YHVH. It is a reminder to offer up to YHVH our first fruits from a thankful heart; not just on Shavuot, but every day.
“Praise Yah! Oh, give thanks to YHVH, For He is good! For His kindness is everlasting.Who does relate the mighty acts of YHVH? Or declare all His praise? Blessed are those who guard right-ruling, Who do righteousness at all times! Remember me, O YHVH, in the acceptance of Your people; visit me with Your deliverance, to see the good of Your chosen ones, to rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, to make my boast with Your inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers. We have acted perversely; we have done wrong. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember Your many kindnesses, but rebelled by the sea, the Sea of Reeds. But He saved them for His Name’s sake, to make known His might. And He rebuked the Sea of Reeds, and it dried up; And He led them through the depths, through a wilderness. And He saved them from the hand of the hater, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but greedily lusted in the wilderness, And tried God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness within their being. They forgot God their Savior, the Doer of great deeds in Egypt.” Psalm 106: 1-15; 21
We read throughout the Bible of YHVH’s faithfulness and loving-commitment; we read of how He never fails us and we tend to focus on that when we need something. But do we ever stop to think about how we fail Him? How we don’t always show Him the same loving-commitment or faithfulness He shows us?
We put others before our relationship with Him. We let other things get in the way of drawing near to Him. We let our emotions cloud our vision till it’s so small there isn’t room for anything else. And then, after we have reached a point of desperation, we remember Him. We remember His faithfulness and His loving-commitment. He has been there the whole time waiting for us; beckoning us to draw ever-nearer to Him.
Why don’t we wait? Why do we let so many other things get in the way? Why do we so easily forget the wonders He has done in our own lives? We read how the children of Israel forgot the wonders and miracles of YHVH and we think that we could somehow do a better job than they did. But there is nothing new under the sun…would we really be any different?
“They then despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, and they grumbled in their tents, they did not listen to the voice of YHVH. So He lifted up His hand in an oath against them, to make them fall in the wilderness”Psalm 106: 24-26
“They did not destroy the peoples, as YHVH had commanded them, but mixed with the surrounding nations and learned their works, and served their idols, and they became a snare to them. And they slaughtered their sons and their daughters to demons, and they shed innocent blood; the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they offered to the idols of Canaan; and the land was defiled with blood. So they became unclean by their own works, and went whoring by their own deeds. And the wrath of YHVH burned against His people, and He loathed His own inheritance.”Psalm 106:34-40
Put aside the iPhone. Turn off the TV. Get off the couch. Stop letting family and friends interrupt your time with YHVH. Put Him first and see what a difference it makes. What would happen if we cultivated our relationship with Him as much as we do our Facebook “friends?” Why do we faithfully watch our favorite TV show and never miss an episode but constantly miss or cut short our time with God? Why do we always have time for the things that don’t really matter but never seem to have enough time to worship our King? I am guilty of all these things too.
“Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their own plans. So they were brought low for their crookedness. But He would look on their distress, when He heard their cry, and remember His covenant for their sake, and relent according to the greatness of His kindness. And He would let them find compassion, before all those holding them captive. Save us, O YHVH our Elohim, and gather us from among the nations to give thanks to Your set-apart Name. To exult in Your praise. Blessed be YHVH Elohim of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Praise Yah!”Psalm 106:43-48
We cannot let the distractions of this life trip us up. Why do we think we are the exception to the rule? That we can put other things before YHVH and not call them an idol? Why do we think we are invincible or that the rules and standards somehow don’t apply to us? Time is short and our calling and purpose too important. If we are not prepared, YHVH will find another. He won’t have time in the middle of the battle to call a time-out and get you prepared; you have to be trained and ready to go when the battle begins!
When the battle starts, I want to take my place fighting alongside my King! I don’t want to be put on the side lines, thinking the entire time how if I had just shut off the distractions or gotten off the couch I could be fulfilling the role and destiny I was meant to play. How incredibly sad would that be? Let’s vow to be ready. Let’s make more of an effort to build, strengthen, and prioritize our relationship with YHVH. Isn’t He worth it? Doesn’t He deserve more than our half-hearted attempt?
Shavuot is rapidly approaching and as we get closer to this momentous feast day, it’s important that we don’t miss all the important lessons YHVH is trying to teach us in this season. This post will be the first of 5 posts addressing Shavuot. At the bottom of this article, I will link up the other posts in the series as they are completed.
Before we can begin the topic of Shavuot, however, we need to address a very crucial question: “Who is Israel?”
You might be thinking, “Why does it matter who Israel is?”
Jeremiah 31:34-47 tells us why it is so important to understand who is Israel.
“And no longer shall they teach, each one his neighbor, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know YHVH,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares YHVH. “For I shall forgive their crookedness, and remember their sin no more. Thus said YHVH, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the laws of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who stirs up the sea, and its waves roar – YHVH of hosts is His Name: ‘If these laws vanish from before Me,” declares YHVH, “then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus said YHVH, “If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I would also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done,” declares YHVH.
The reason this is the starting point is because Shavuot is the time we celebrate the giving of the Torah. There are MANY lessons and themes to glean from this harvest festival, but the main even that took place on the very first Shavuot at Mt. Sinai was the giving of the Torah to Israel.
Who is Israel?
So back to our original question. It’s very important to understand who Israel is because the Torah is for all of Israel. If you asked five different people this question, you would probably get about 7 different answers. So we won’t ask people’s opinions…we’ll just go straight to the Word of God.
Exodus 19:3-8 tells us that if we obey YHVH’s commands then we will be His treasured possession.
“And Moses went up to God and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say to the house Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: ’You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. And now, if you diligently obey My voice and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the people – for all the earth is Mine – and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and set-apart nation.’ Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Israel.” And Moses came and called for the elders of the people and set before them all these words which YHVH commanded them. And all the people answered together and said, “All that YHVH has spoken we shall do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH.
We can conclude from this scripture that ALL those who obey His commands (Torah) will be His treasured possession.
Leviticus 24:22 says, “You are to have one right-ruling for the stranger and the native-born, for I am YHVH your God.”
Even Yeshua taught that the Torah/Old Testament pointed the world to Him:
“For if you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, since He wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My words?” John 5:46-47
And again in Matthew 5:13-19
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes tasteless, how shall it be seasoned? For it is no longer of any use but to be thrown out and to be trodden down by men. You are the light of the world. It is impossible for a city to be hidden on a mountain. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it shines to all those in the house. Let you light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens. Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. For truly, I say to you , till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. Whoever, then, breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens.”
Some would say that these Laws are only for the Jews or for Israel, but we, as believers, know that we have been grafted into the House of Israel.
Romans 11:24-27 speaks of this grafting into the olive tree.
“For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not wish you to be ignorant of this secret, brother, lest you should be wise in your own estimation, that hardening in part has come over Israel, until the completeness of the gentiles has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it has been written, “The Deliverer shall come out of Zion and He shall turn away wickedness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
These verses tell us we must be grafted into the house of Israel; not replace Israel but join ourselves to them and be a part of Israel. How can we be grafted into the house and think the rules don’t apply to us?
Our attitude should instead be like that of Ruth.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you, or to go back from following after you. For wherever you go, I go; and wherever you stop over, I stop over. Your people is my people, and your Elohim is my Elohim. Where you die, I die, and there I shall be buried. YHVH do so to me, and more also – for death itself parts you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
When we choose to follow after God with all our hearts and with all our soul and with all our strength, that means leaving our old ways behind and adopting HIS WAYS. We should never make God conform to our ways but instead, we should conform to His ways.
Ephesians 2:17-22 confirms that we are all ONE house in Messiah Yeshua.
And having come, He brought as Good News peace to you who were far off, and peace to those near. Because through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the set-apart ones and members of the household of Elohim, having been built upon the foundation of the emissaries and prophets, Yeshua Messiah Himself being chief corner-stone, in whom all the building, being joined together, grows into a set-apart Dwelling Place in YHVH, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of Elohim in the Spirit.
Who is to Obey Torah?
Most Christians say Torah is not for them but only for the Jews. In reality, the Jews are only 1 of 12 tribes that make up the whole House of Israel. They come from the tribe of Judah, but throughout the exiles and diasporas, the term “Jew” has become a catch all for anyone who once belonged to the House of Israel. So to say that Torah is only for the Jews, it still leaves out the other 11 tribes of Israel. But that’s a whole separate article.
The truth is that the Torah is for all those who come under the covering of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for all those who are grafted into the House of YHVH; all those who, like Ruth, joined herself to the House of Israel.
Why is the Torah so important? Torah tells us what sin is. Without Torah, we have no way to know what sin is, and conversely, what pleases our Father. Let me make this clear: obeying Torah is not trying to earn salvation, but rather it is the fruit and evidence of our salvation.
I have often tried to figure out what the big deal is about Torah and why people are so against obedience to it. After all, it is God’s Word and I thought we all agreed that we are to live, walk, and obey God’s Word? So what’s the problem? The only thing I have been able to come up with, is that we are taught to be wary, skeptical, suspicious, and distrustful of “Torah” because we don’t understand it. We are told that it is dangerous; that it leads to legalism, and it somehow negates the faith of our salvation. But if that’s the case, why even keep it in our Bibles? Why not just get rid of the entire “Old Testament”, start the Bible at the Book of Matthew, and just be done with it? It doesn’t apply to the majority of Christians anyway, right?
Wrong. Torah has become so unfamiliar to us that we steer clear of it altogether; it’s the fear of the unknown. But that’s the problem…it’s not supposed to be unknown. We should know the Word of God and have it hidden in our hearts. The Word of God should be so much a part of us that it becomes the very essence of who we are.
Growing up in the church, some of the very first verses I learned were,
“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 and
“I will hide Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
Why is Torah So Important?
So why would the enemy of our salvation want to keep us as far from Torah as possible? Because Torah tells us what sin is. Without Torah, we become lawless – literally….one translation of “Torah” is “law.” If we are lawless, we cannot draw near to YHVH.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:41-43
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:28
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:12
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. Romans 6:19
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions. Hebrews 1:9
I encourage you to look up these scriptures and read them for yourselves; don’t just take my word for it. And don’t just read these verses, read the other verses surrounding these ones to give you more context and understanding.
Remember, the Torah is for all those who live under the covering of YHVH, the God of Israel; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Torah is for all of Israel…even the wild branches that have been grafted into the natural olive tree.
Our natural inclination of the flesh is to avoid the law and do what we want. Our flesh doesn’t like being told what to do; we don’t want rules and boundaries. But what YHVH asks of us is that we submit ourselves to obedience to His Word and His desires. Just as a wife submits herself to her husband out of love and respect, so we too, as the Bride of Messiah, must also submit ourselves to our loving, faithful Bridegroom.
Are you in the midst of a struggle? Maybe you feel as if you are losing a battle that will never end. Have you ever felt hurt and confused with God? You’re not alone.
Like me, do you find yourself asking YHVH the tough questions?
“Why have You not acted on my behalf?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“When is this battle going to end?”
“Do You even hear me?”
“Are You even there?”
Sometimes, when I have given everything that I have and am completely emptied out, I ask, “Why?” Just why.
I ask it to no one in particular and I’m not even sure what I’m asking about anymore, but nonetheless, I ask. I hope one day I will have answers to the millions of questions that flood my mind.
Probably not….but I still hope.
I was listening to this song by Bethel today. The lyrics are familiar words: “It is well with my soul.” I thought to myself as I sung the words, “but things aren’t well with my soul. And I’m not happy with the way things are. I don’t like the situation I’m in and I certainly don’t want it to be like this forever.”
But then I heard the gentle whisper of the Spirit telling me, “Choose for it to be well with you even when things are not well.”
It was a concept I hadn’t considered before. I could choose that YHVH’s way, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be, is well with me…even if my current circumstances aren’t perfect. I could choose to say His way is the best way for me…even if it is the harder, more difficult path. Because the end result of whatever YHVH is working in my life will be so worth it. That’s the prize I seek. That’s the hope I cling to. That’s the promise I wait for.
Choose for it to be well, even when things aren’t well.
Consider the lyrics from Bethel’s song “It Is Well”:
Grander earth has quaked before Moved by the sound of His voice Seas that are shaken and stirred Can be calmed and broken for my regard
Through it all, through it all My eyes are on You Through it all, through it all It is well
Far be it from me to not believe Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
Through it all, through it all My eyes are on You Through it all, through it all It is well
So let go my soul and trust in Him The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
When we choose to say it is well even when things aren’t well, we are reaffirming our trust and belief in YHVH El Elyon…YHVH the Most High God. We are returning Him to His rightful place as Ruler of Our Life and Director of Our Steps. We are confirming His power, wisdom, and ability to save and defend us. We are choosing to focus on Him and Him alone, rather than focusing on our situation.
YHVH is our refuge and strength, a help in distress, soon found.
Therefore we do not fear, though the earth reels and mountains topple into the heart of the seas.
Let its waters rage, foam; Let mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
A river whose streams make glad the city of YHVH, the set-apart dwelling of the Most High.
Elohim is in her midst, she does not topple; Elohim does help her when morning turns.
The nations shall rage, kingdoms shall topple; He shall give forth His voice, the earth melts.
YHVH of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Come, see the works of YHVH, the ruins He has wrought on the earth,
Causing all fighting to cease, unto the end of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariot with fire.
Be still, and know that I am YHVH; I am exalted among nations, I am exalted in the earth!
YHVH of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
– Psalm 46
Thus says the Master YHVH, the set-apart One of Israel, “In returning and rest you are saved; in stillness and trust is your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15
So today, in the midst of trials, doubts, and questions, let us choose to say, “it is well….”
Exodus 19: 3-8 — IF you follow my commands THEN you shall be my treasured possession
“And Moses went up to God and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say to the house Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: 4’You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 And now, if you diligently obey My voice and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the people – for all the earth is Mine – 6 and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and set-apart nation.’ Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Israel.” 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people and set before them all these words which YHVH commanded them. 8 And all the people answered together and said, “All that YHVH has spoken we shall do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH.
Matthew 5: 13-19 — came not to abolish the Law
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes tasteless, how shall it be seasoned? For it is no longer of any use but to be thrown out and to be trodden down by men. You are the light of the world. It is impossible for a city to be hidden on a mountain. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand and it shines to all those in the house. Let you light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens. Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. For truly, I say to you , till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. Whoever, then, breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens.”
– Some would say that these Laws are only for the Jews or for Israel
– but we, as believers have been grafted into the House
Who is Israel?
Romans 11:24-27 — grafted in
“For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not wish you to be ignorant of this secret, brother, lest you should be wise in your own estimation, that hardening in part has come over Israel, until the completeness of the gentiles has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it has been written, “The Deliverer shall come out of Zion and He shall turn away wickedness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
Ruth 1:16-17 —“your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God”
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you, or to go back from following after you. For wherever you go, I go; and wherever you stop over, I stop over. Your people is my people, and your Elohim is my Elohim. Where you die, I die, and there I shall be buried. יהוה do so to me, and more also – for death itself parts you and me.”
– when we choose to follow after God with all our hearts, and with all our soul and with all our strength, that means leaving our old ways behind and adopting HIS WAYS
– we should never make GOD conform to our ways but instead, we should conform to HIS
Leviticus 24:22 “you are to have one right-ruling for the stranger and the native-born, for I am YHVH your God.”
John 5:46-47 — Even Yeshua taught that the Torah/Old Testament pointed the world to Him
“For if you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, since He wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My words?”
Ephesians 2:17-22 – We are all one house in Yeshua Messiah
And having come, He brought as Good News peace to you who were far off, and peace to those near. Because through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the set-apart ones and members of the household of Elohim, having been built upon the foundation of the emissaries and prophets, יהושע Messiah Himself being chief corner-stone, in whom all the building, being joined together, grows into a set-apart Dwelling Place in יהוה, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of Elohim in the Spirit.
Jeremiah 31:34-47 Israel will never cease to be His chosen people
“And no longer shall they teach, each one his neighbour, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know יהוה,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares יהוה. “For I shall forgive their crookedness, and remember their sin no more. Thus said יהוה, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the laws of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who stirs up the sea, and its waves roar – יהוה of hosts is His Name: ‘If these laws vanish from before Me,” declares יהוה, “then the seed of Yisra’ĕl shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus said יהוה, “If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I would also cast off all the seed of Yisra’ĕl for all that they have done,” declares יהוה.
Why Does it Matter?
Who is the Torah for? Christians say not for them but only for the Jews
– The truth is that the Torah is for all those who come under the covering of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for all those who are grafted into the House of YHVH; all those who, like Ruth, joined herself to the House of Israel
Why is it important to know who Torah is for?
– Torah tells us what sin is
What is sin?
James 1:16-27 – Being doers of the Word of God, which makes us perfect and blessed
Do not go astray, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of turning. Having purposed it, He brought us forth by the Word of truth, for us to be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of Elohim. Therefore put away all filthiness and overflow of evil, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your lives. And become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror, for he looks at himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what he was like. But he that looked into the perfect Torah, that of freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer that forgets, but a doer of work, this one shall be blessed in his doing of the Torah. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is worthless. Clean and undefiled religion before the Elohim and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Luke 6:46-49 – Obedience; Building house on strong rock foundation
“But why do you call Me ‘Master, Master,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who is coming to Me, and is hearing My words and is doing them, I shall show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock. And when a flood came, the stream burst against that house, but was unable to shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But the one hearing and not doing, is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream burst, and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”
Matthew 7:21-23 (13-27)
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. [the disobedient will be banned from heaven] Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
In Context: Matthew 7:13-27
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. [eager for your money] You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (see Gal 5:19-24) Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. [the disobedient will be banned from heaven] Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,
In Context: Mat 13:37-43
He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
1 John 3:4
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
2 Corinthians 6:14
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
2 Thessalonians 2:7
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
We don’t want to walk in lawlessness or in darkness
1Blessed are the perfect in the way, Who walk in the Torah of יהוה!
2Blessed are those who observe His witnesses, Who seek Him with all the heart!
3Yea, they shall do no unrighteousness; They shall walk in His ways.
4You have commanded us To guard Your orders diligently.
5Oh, that my ways were established To guard Your laws!
6Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commands.
7I thank You with uprightness of heart, When I learn the right-rulings of Your righteousness.
8I guard Your laws; Oh, do not leave me entirely!
9How would a young man cleanse his path. To guard it according to Your word?
10I have sought You with all my heart; Let me not stray from Your commands!
11I have treasured up Your word in my heart, That I might not sin against You.
12Blessed are You, O יהוה! Teach me Your laws.
13With my lips I have recounted All the right-rulings of Your mouth.
14I have rejoiced in the way of Your witnesses, As over all riches.
15I meditate on Your orders, And regard Your ways.
16I delight myself in Your laws; I do not forget Your word.
17Do good to Your servant, Let me live and I guard Your word.
18Open my eyes, that I might see Wonders from Your Torah.
19I am a sojourner in the earth; Do not hide Your commands from me.
20My being is crushed with longing For Your right-rulings at all times.
21You rebuked the proud, cursed ones, Who are straying from Your commands.
22Remove from me reproach and scorn, For I have observed Your witnesses.
23Though princes sat, speaking against me, Your servant meditates on Your laws.
24Your witnesses also are my delight, My counsellors.
25My being has been clinging to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.
26I have recounted my ways and You answered me; Teach me Your laws.
27Make me understand the way of Your orders; That I might meditate on Your wonders.
28My being has wept from grief; Strengthen me according to Your word.
29Remove from me the way of falsehood, And favour me with Your Torah.
30I have chosen the way of truth; Your right-rulings I have held level.
31I have clung to Your witnesses; O יהוה, do not put me to shame!
32I run the way of Your commands, For You enlarge my heart.
33Teach me, O יהוה, the way of Your laws, And I observe it to the end.
34Make me understand, that I might observe Your Torah, And guard it with all my heart.
35Make me walk in the path of Your commands, For I have delighted in it.
36Incline my heart to Your witnesses, And not to own gain.
37Turn away my eyes from looking at falsehood, And revive me in Your way.
38Establish Your word to Your servant, Which leads to the fear of You.
39Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Your right-rulings are good.
40See, I have longed for Your orders; Revive me in Your righteousness.
41And let Your kindnesses come to me, O יהוה; Your deliverance, according to Your word,
42So that I answer my reprover, For I have trusted in Your word.
43And do not take away from my mouth The word of truth entirely, For I have waited for Your right-rulings;
44That I might guard Your Torah continually, Forever and ever;
45That I might walk in a broad place, For I have sought Your orders;
46That I might speak of Your witnesses before sovereigns, And not be ashamed;
47That I might delight myself in Your commands, Which I have loved;
48That I might lift up my hands to Your commands, Which I have loved; While I meditate on Your laws.
49Remember the word to Your servant, On which You have caused me to wait.
50This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.
51The proud have utterly scorned me, I did not turn aside from Your Torah.
52I remembered Your right-rulings of old, O יהוה, And I comfort myself.
53Rage has seized me because of the wrong Who forsake Your Torah.
54Your laws have been my songs In the place of my sojournings.
55I have remembered Your Name in the night, O יהוה, And I guard Your Torah.
56This has become mine, Because I have observed Your orders.
57You are my portion, O יהוה; I have promised to guard Your words.
58I have sought Your face with all my heart; Show me favour according to Your word.
59I have thought upon my ways, And turned my feet to Your witnesses.
60I have hurried, and did not delay To guard Your commands.
61The cords of the wrong have surrounded me, Your Torah I have not forgotten.
62At midnight I rise to give thanks to You, For Your righteous right-rulings.
63I am a companion of all who fear You, And of those guarding Your orders.
64O יהוה, Your kindness has filled the earth; Teach me Your laws.
65You have done good to Your servant, O יהוה, According to Your word.
66Teach me good sense and knowledge, For I have trusted in Your commands.
67Before I was afflicted I myself was going astray, But now I have guarded Your word.
68You are good, and do good; Teach me Your laws.
69The proud have forged a lie against me, With all my heart I observe Your orders.
70Their heart has become like fat, Without feeling; I have delighted in Your Torah.
71It was good for me that I was afflicted, That I might learn Your laws.
72The Torah of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
73Your hands have made me and formed me; Make me understand, that I might learn Your commands.
74Those who fear You see me and rejoice, For I have waited for Your Word.
75I know, O יהוה, That Your right-rulings are righteous, And in trustworthiness You have afflicted me.
76Please let Your kindness be for my comfort, According to Your word to Your servant.
77Let Your compassions come to me, That I might live, For Your Torah is my delight.
78Let the proud be put to shame, For with lies they perverted me; But I study Your orders.
79Let those who fear You turn to me, And those who know Your witnesses.
80Let my heart be perfect in Your laws, So that I am not put to shame.
81For Your deliverance my being has pined away, For I have waited for Your word.
82My eyes have pined away for Your word, Saying, “When would it comfort me?”
83For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, Your laws I have not forgotten.
84How many are the days of Your servant? When do You execute right-ruling On those who persecute me?
85The proud have dug pits for me, Which is not according to Your Torah.
86All Your commands are trustworthy; They have persecuted me with lies; Help me!
87They almost made an end of me on earth, But I, I did not forsake Your orders.
88Revive me according to Your kindness, That I might guard the witness of Your mouth.
89Forever, O יהוה, Your word stands firm in the heavens.
90Your trustworthiness is to all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.
91According to Your right-rulings They have stood to this day, For all are Your servants.
92If Your Torah had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
93Let me never forget Your orders, For by them You have given me life.
94I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your orders.
95The wrong have waited for me to destroy me; I understand Your witnesses.
96I have seen an end of all perfection; Your command is exceedingly broad.
97O how I love Your Torah! It is my study all day long.
98Your commands make me wiser than my enemies; For it is ever before me.
99I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your witnesses are my study.
100I understand more than the aged, For I have observed Your orders.
101I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I might guard Your word.
102I have not turned aside from Your right-rulings, For You Yourself have taught me.
103How sweet to my taste has Your word been, More than honey to my mouth!
104From Your orders I get understanding; Therefore I have hated every false way.
105Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
106I have sworn, and I confirm, To guard Your righteous right-rulings.
107I have been afflicted very much; O יהוה, revive me according to Your word.
108Please accept the voluntary offerings Of my mouth, O יהוה, And teach me Your right-rulings.
109My life is in my hand continually, And Your Torah I have not forgotten.
110The wrong have laid a snare for me, But I have not strayed from Your orders.
111Your witnesses are my inheritance forever, For they are the joy of my heart.
112I have inclined my heart to do Your laws Forever, to the end.
113I have hated doubting thoughts, But I have loved Your Torah.
114You are my hiding place and my shield; I have waited for Your word.
115Turn away from me, you evil-doers, For I observe the commands of my Elohim!
116Support me according to Your word, That I might live; And put me not to shame Because of my expectation.
117Sustain me, that I might be saved, And always look to Your laws.
118You have made light of all those Who stray from Your laws, For falsehood is their deceit.
119You have made to cease All the wrong of the earth, like dross; Therefore I have loved Your witnesses.
120My flesh has trembled for fear of You, And I am in awe of Your right-rulings.
121I have done right-ruling and righteousness; Leave me not to my oppressors.
122Guarantee Your servant’s well-being; Let not the proud oppress me.
123My eyes have pined away for Your deliverance, And for the word of Your righteousness.
124Do with Your servant according to Your kindness, And teach me Your laws.
125I am Your servant – make me understand, That I might know Your witnesses.
126It is time for יהוה to act! For they have broken Your Torah.
127Therefore I have loved Your commands More than gold, even fine gold!
128Therefore all Your orders I count as right; I have hated every false way.
129Your witnesses are wonders; So my being observes them.
130The opening up of Your words gives light, Giving understanding to the simple.
131I have opened my mouth and panted, For I have longed for Your commands.
132Turn to me and show me favour, According to Your right-ruling, toward those who love Your Name.
133Establish my footsteps by Your word, And let no wickedness have rule over me.
134Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I might guard Your orders.
135Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your laws.
136Streams of water have run down from my eyes, Because they did not guard Your Torah.
137Righteous are You, O יהוה, And Your right-rulings are straight.
138You have commanded Your witnesses In righteousness and truth, exceedingly.
139My ardour has consumed me, For my adversaries have forgotten Your words.
140Your word is tried, exceedingly; And Your servant has loved it.
141I am small and despised; I have not forgotten Your orders.
142Your righteousness is righteousness forever, And Your Torah is truth.
143Distress and anguish have found me; Your commands are my delight.
144The righteousness of Your witnesses is forever; Make me understand, that I might live.
145I have called with all my heart; Answer me, O יהוה! I observe Your laws.
146I have called upon You; Save me, that I might guard Your witnesses.
147I rise before dawn, and cry for help; I have waited for Your word.
148My eyes have gone before the night watches, To study Your word.
149Hear my voice according to Your kindness; O יהוה, revive me according to Your right-ruling.
150Those who pursue mischief have drawn near; They have been far from Your Torah.
151You are near, O יהוה, And all Your commands are truth.
152Of old I have known Your witnesses, That You have founded them forever.
153See my affliction and deliver me, For I have not forgotten Your Torah.
154Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.
155Deliverance is far from the wrong ones, For they have not sought Your laws.
156Your compassions are many, O יהוה; Revive me according to Your right-rulings.
157My persecutors and adversaries are many; I have not turned aside from Your witnesses.
158I saw traitors and was grieved, Because they did not guard Your word.
159See how I have loved Your orders, יהוה, revive me according to Your kindness.
160The sum of Your word is truth, And all Your righteous right-rulings are forever.
161Rulers have persecuted me without a cause, But at Your word my heart stood in awe.
162I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure.
163I have hated falsehood and loathe it, Your Torah I have loved.
164I have praised You seven times a day, Because of Your righteous right-rulings.
165Great peace have those loving Your Torah, And for them there is no stumbling-block.
166יהוה, I have waited for Your deliverance, And I have done Your commands.
167My being has guarded Your witnesses, And I love them exceedingly.
168I have guarded Your orders and Your witnesses, For all my ways are before You.
169My cry comes before You, O יהוה; Make me understand according to Your word.
170Let my prayer come before You; Deliver me according to Your word.
171My lips pour forth praise, For You teach me Your laws.
172My tongue sings of Your word, For all Your commands are righteousness.
173Your hand is a help to me, For I have chosen Your orders.
174I have longed for Your deliverance, O יהוה, And Your Torah is my delight.
175My being lives, and it praises You; And Your right-rulings help me.
176I have strayed like a lost sheep; Seek Your servant, For I have not forgotten Your commands.
It’s that time of year again! Spring is upon us and the flowers are blooming, folks are coming out of their winter hibernation, and the sun-filled days last a little longer. Everywhere you turn people are anxious with spring fever! This is also the time when people pull out the bunny decorations, dye Easter eggs, and wish each other a “Happy Easter!” But where is the connection between chocolate, bunnies, colored eggs, and the resurrection of our Messiah? I know I’m going to step on a lot of toes with what I’m about to say but I encourage you to read this to the end before you make your decision.
Have you ever wondered what bunnies and chocolate and dyed eggs have to do with the resurrection of our Messiah? Seriously, take a minute and think about the connection. < pauses to think> Come up with anything? Don’t feel too bad….neither could I.
The reason we couldn’t come up with a connection between the “symbols” of Easter and Messiah’s resurrection is because…there aren’t any. You see, while these symbols have become a staple of spring time and the modern Christian holiday of Easter, that wasn’t always the case. They were originally the images of the pagan festival of Ishtar (pronounced “easter”). Chocolate is the only exception here…hopefully there is no pagan association with chocolate!!! But other symbols such as hot cross buns, the “sunrise service”, searching for dyed eggs, and the traditional Easter ham are all associated with ancient pagan traditions.
In fact, there are numerous pagan fertility celebrations of death and resurrection with which these icons were associated. For instance, the Babylonians worshipped Tammuz and Ishtar. The Phrygians (modern day Turkey) worshipped Attis and Cybele. The Phoenicians and Greeks worshipped Adonis and Astarte. The Egyptians worshipped Osiris and Isis. The Canaanites worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. This Canaanite system of worship eventually seeped into Israel which resulted in the splitting of the nation of Israel and the eventual diaspora/captivity of both nations. Similarly, the Anglo-Saxons worshipped Eostre or Ostara. These are just a few of the different gods and goddesses that tell the same pagan story of fertility celebrations of death and resurrection that have pervaded history…and infiltrated modern Christianity.
Let’s go through the basic story together. We’ll use the story of Tammuz and Ishtar (again, pronounced “easter”). As we go through the ancient myth, I will put emphasis on elements that we might recognize as part of our modern-day worship or that will be important later. Also, keep in mind that another name for Ishtar is Ashtarte.
The story begins with Nimrod, a man-god in ancient Babylon. Genesis 10:8-10 tells us of Nimrod, “And Kush brought forth Nimroḏ, he began to be a mighty one (i.e. “god”) on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before YHVH, therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimroḏ the mighty hunter before YHVH.’ And the beginning of his reign was Baḇel, and Ereḵ, and Akkaḏ, and Kalnĕh, in the land of Shin‛ar.”
According to legend, Nimrod married his mother Ishtar, the fertility goddess of ancient Babylon known as the “Mother of God” and the “Queen of Heaven”, whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Ishtar claimed she had been miraculously conceived and that she came to earth in a giant moon egg that fell into the Euphrates River, which came to be known as “Ishtar’s egg.”
One day, Nimrod was killed and his body was cut up and sent to various parts of his kingdom. Ishtar claimed that he had ascended to the sun and was now to be called “Baal,” the sun god. She also claimed that he would take theform of fire when used in worship. At the time of the spring equinox, Ishtar“miraculously” became pregnant by the rays of the sun (her husband, Nimrod, reincarnated) and gave birth to a son she named Tammuz.
Tammuz was eventually killed by a wild pig and Ishtar told the people that he had ascendedto his father, the sun. Ishtar also claimed that some of his blood fell on the stump of an evergreen tree and the stump grew into a full new tree overnight. This made the evergreen tree sacred in Babylonian worship. Ishtar proclaimed that a period of mourning for Tammuz must occur before the anniversary of his death. During this time of mourning, people were to refrain from eating meat, meditate on the mysteries of Baal and Tammuz, make the “T” sign of Tammuz in front of their hearts as they worshiped, and they also made sacred cakes with the “T” on top. The “T” sign of Tammuz eventually evolved into a cross-like symbol.
In order to bring Tammuz back from the dead, legend says that Ishtar (who, by the way, had married her son Tammuz by this point) descended into the underworld and had to pass through the seven gates of Hades. At each gate, Ishtar had to remove one symbol of her power, either clothes or jewelry, until she stood at the last gate completely naked. Once the Queen of Heaven humbled herself before her sister, the Queen of Hades, she is plagued over her entire body. She is then sent back through the gates of Hades, picking up her items along the way. The Queen of Hades then tells Ishtar that she has ransomed her husband-son and that Tammuz can return for 6 months out of the year to her, but that he must return to Hades for the other 6 months.
Every year, on the first Sunday (sun worship, remember?) after the first full moon of the spring equinox, a celebration was made to celebrate Tammuz’s resurrection or rebirth. At this celebration, a pig was eaten to remind them the pig had killed Tammuz. Tammuz’s death is usually commemorated at the time of his birth on December 21, the time of the winter solstice. There is a connection to Christmas here but I think our hands are full enough for right now. We will discuss this connection as the Christmas season approaches.
How Did This Happen?!
Ok…do I still have you? These pagan myths get extremely confusing and convoluted very quickly! That is why it is so important to remember that YHVH never changes and He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” I encourage you to do some research on your own about this topic. However, be aware that when dealing with ancient myths about gods and goddesses, there are usually several versions of the story where the main theme stays the same but some minor details might change.
So how did all this paganism infiltrate early Christianity? The Roman Catholic Church had a practice of incorporating pagan festivals and symbolism, replacing them with “Christian” names, and then calling them “Christian.” This was done to make Christianity more palatable and familiar to heathen worshippers, whom the Church was trying to attract.
It can now be better understood why the apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians to beware of the subtle deceit of “another Yeshua whom we have not preached.” He said,
“But I am afraid, lest, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Messiah. For, indeed, if he who is coming proclaims another Yeshua, whom we have not proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different Good News which you have not accepted, you put up with it well enough!” — II Corinthians 11:4
So the question is now, do the pagan roots of our modern worship really matter? The answer is “YES!”
Why is This Important?
Now that we understand the pagan ritual and myth associated with Ishtar and Tammuz, let’s take a look at some scriptures where the pagan festival of Ishtar (again, pronounced “easter”) is explicitly condemned. Again, keep in mind Ashtarte/Ashtaroth is another name for Ishtar.
“Then the children of Israel did evil in the eyes of YHVH, and served Baal, and forsook YHVH Elohim of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went after other mighty ones, of the mighty ones of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them, and provoked YHVH. So they forsook YHVH and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the displeasure of YHVH burned against Israel. Therefore He gave them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them. And He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, and they were unable to stand before their enemies any longer.” – Judges 2:11-14
“The children are gathering wood, the fathers are lighting the fire, and the women are kneading their dough, to make cakes for the queen of the heavens, and to pour out drink offerings to other mighty ones, to provoke Me…But this word I did command them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I shall be your Elohim, and you be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels, in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.” – Jeremiah 7:18, 23-24
“And He said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each one in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘YHVH does not see us, YHVH has forsaken the land.’ And He said to me, ‘You are to see still greater abominations which they are doing.’ And He brought me to the door of the north gate of the House of YHVH, and I saw women sitting there, weeping for Tammuz. Then He said to me, ‘Have you seen this, O son of man? You are to see still greater abominations than these.’ And He brought me into the inner court of the House of YHVH. And there, at the door of the Temple of YHVH, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the Temple of YHVH and their faces toward the east, and they were bowing themselves eastward to the sun. And He said to me, ‘Have you seen, O son of man? Is it a small matter to the house of Judah to do the abominations which they have done here? For they have filled the land with violence, and turn back to provoke Me. And see, they are putting the branch to My nose. Therefore I shall indeed deal in wrath. My eye shall not pardon nor would I spare. And they shall cry in My ears with a loud voice, but I shall not hear them.’” – Ezekiel 8:12-18
Do We Need to Change Our Ways? I know that this might seem like a drastic change or that I’m suggesting to abandon the celebration of our Messiah. But please, hear the Father’s heart on this. I am certainly not suggesting that we no longer celebrate the victory of our Messiah on Calvary. I am, however, saying that it is time to repent and turn away from our wicked ways.
“and if My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I shall hear from the heavens, and forgive their sin and heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14
Now that we know the truth, it is our responsibility to make a choice about how we will live our lives. We can no longer live unaware of the truth. For far too long we have been erroneously taught that the pagan roots don’t matter; that somehow these things YHVH calls evil have been redeemed and are a worthy offering to bring before Him. That we can go on living life and worshipping God our way. NO MORE!
The time has come to repent and draw near to YHVH! To leave our wicked ways behind us and RUN towards His glorious face! He is waiting for us with open arms, if only we would repent and humble ourselves and turn from the wicked ways of the world. Yes, it’s true that we have been lied to and deceived, but now we know the truth. Don’t let your stiff neck keep you from receiving the blessings YHVH so desperately wants to bestow upon you! Don’t miss everything He has planned for you.
“Truly, then, having overlooked these times of ignorance, Elohim now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, having given proof of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17: 30-31
The time is now. The time has come to rise up and be the Bride of Messiah! He is looking for a spotless Bride; one who has not tarnished herself with the evil of this world. A Bride who has humbled herself and can admit she was wrong. That is the mark of a strong, warrior Bride; someone who is not so prideful that they refuse to correct their wrong and begin to walk a new path.
But we never walk alone, especially when we walk the path of YHVH. He is always with us; teaching us, correcting us, encouraging us. People may not understand your decision. But it’s not people you must stand before on Judgment Day. It is not people who will say “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” We do not seek to please man, but, rather, we seek to please our heavenly Father who has so graciously given us His instructions that we may live a life pleasing to Him.
Passover…It’s Not Just for the Jews
The story of Passover is one of repentance, restoration, and forgiveness. It begins in the book of Exodus with Moses going before Pharaoh with a message from YHVH: “Let My people go!” Pharaoh refuses and the ten plagues are sent on the land of Egypt. What most people don’t realize is that the ten plagues had several purposes. Not only did they each attack an Egyptian god, but they also served as signs to the Hebrews. Click here to read my notes on the Exodus story.
You see, for four hundred years, the Hebrews had lived in the midst of the Egyptians. They had been so steeped in the pagan traditions they didn’t even know who YHVH was! Don’t we find ourselves in a similar situation? We too have been so steeped in a pagan culture that we don’t even know who YHVH truly is. If we did, we would know that YHVH does not desire these pagan ways but, instead, desires we live our life according to His Torah. So, in order to introduce Himself to the Hebrews, He sent the plagues on the Egyptians. Let’s not push YHVH to the point of sending plagues on our “host nation” ok? Perhaps we should just humble ourselves now instead of making Him humble us.
As the Hebrews fled from Pharaoh, they didn’t have enough time to let their bread rise so they instead ate unleavened bread. When Pharaoh chased after them, YHVH parted the waters of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) and swallowed up their adversaries. You see, when we turn from our wicked ways and obey the voice of YHVH, as the children of Israel did when they covered the door to their homes with the blood of the lamb, YHVH fights for us! He hears our cry and never leaves us defenseless!
After all this takes place, the children of Israel begin their 40 years in the desert until they eventually enter the Promised Land of Israel! They are redeemed from the hand of the enemy and from the pagan ways that kept them in bondage. But the story doesn’t end there.
You see, fast forward to the time of Yeshua and you can see the Passover story of redemption, restoration, and forgiveness continuing. But it’s not really a “new” story, but rather, another layer or a continuation of the one started all those years ago in Egypt. It is here that we see the fullness of YHVH’s plan being accomplished.
Yeshua, the blameless, spotless Lamb came to earth and was our Passover sacrifice so that we could be restored to our Heavenly Father. He redeemed us from a life apart from Him and from the man-made laws that keep us in bondage. The Torah of YHVH is not man-made but God-breathed. The man-made laws are the additions and subtractions made to this perfect, life-giving Torah that can still be seen today. On one side of the aisle we see rabbis that tell us there are many more laws we must keep and obey. On the other side, we see pastors that tell us we no longer have any laws to keep. Both are wrong. Both are sin. And both keep us from understanding the simple truth of YHVH:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love YHVH your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His right-rulings. And you shall live and increase, and YHVH your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess. Choose life, that you and your children may live and not die!” — Deuteronomy 30:19
Passover is not just for the Jews. It is for all the children of God who seek to live in His house and live a life that is pleasing to Him. The Jews are only 1 of 12 tribes that make up Israel. The complete 12 tribes are made up of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah (the Jews), Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph (Manassah & Ephraim), and Benjamin.
The Bible speaks of being “grafted in” to the House of God. Have you ever taken time to think about what that really means? It doesn’t mean that we are automatically in some spiritual House of God. It literally means we become a child of Israel. Only a son/daughter will receive the blessing of the father. Only the heir will inherit from the father…to him who has ears to hear, let him hear what the spirit is saying. If we do not consider ourselves part of Israel, we are not a legitimate child and we have no claim on an inheritance.
“And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, have been grafted in among them, and came to share the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. And if you boast, remember: you do not bear the root, but the root bears you!” – Romans 11:17-18
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of Elohim, and if children, also heirs – legitimate heirs of Elohim, and co-heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him, in order that we also be exalted together.” – Romans 8:16-17
So How Do I Keep Passover?
Each of YHVH’s feasts has a theme or a message for us. Let’s take a look at some of the themes of Passover.
During Passover, which lasts 7 days, we are not to eat of leavened bread. Leaven and leavening agents symbolize pride which puffs up (leavening is what “puffs up” bread). So for him who has ears to hear, we rid our homes of leaven for these seven days and we also take time to rid our hearts of any pride that may be hiding. Everything that is done in the physical must also be done in the spiritual. If there is no spiritual application, then it simply becomes a ritual and we know that the “Word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through even to the dividing of being and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
At our Passover Seders, we recount the miracle of the first Passover and how YHVH brought out our forefathers with a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm!” In the same way, we ask YHVH to reveal any “spiritual Egypts” in which we may still be living in bondage. Remember, Passover is a season of miracles and redemption. If there are any areas of your life that you are struggling to be free in, this is the time to petition YHVH to free you! Of course, you can be free any time but this is the special season in which He has chosen to reveal His redemption.
His redemption also came in the form of Yeshua. We celebrate and praise Him for sending Yeshua our Messiah to be the Passover lamb whose blood covers us and keeps the angel of death away from our lives. We thank YHVH for providing His lamb and praise Him for the miracles He has done in the lives of those who have gone before us and in our own lives as well.
Passover, like all the feasts of YHVH, is a time to be with family and friends. It is a time to reflect on the miracles YHVH has done and is doing in our lives. It is a time to remove pride, which so easily ensnares, from our lives and families. It is a time to do some spring cleaning in our homes and hearts. It is a time to be free from the things that keep us in bondage. We are a free people! We are not meant to live in bondage!
It is a time to celebrate and praise YHVH for His miracles that bring about our repentance, restoration, and forgiveness. It is a season of redemption!
“And when these matters begin to take place, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” – Luke 21:28
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and guard what is written in it, for the time is near.” – Revelation 1:3