PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT
1 - What Is A Covenant?
2 - The Covenant with Israel
3 - The Holy Assembly
4 - The Torah
5 - The Sabbath Covenant
6 - The Feasts of the Lord
7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant
8 - The Desecration of the Covenant
9 - The Promise of A New Covenant
PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT
10 - The New Covenant
11 - The Holy Assembly
12 - The Torah
13 - The Sabbath Covenant
14 - The Feasts of the Lord
15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant
16 - The Desecration of the Covenant
4 - The Torah
In chapter two we discussed God's covenant condition that Israel obey him. For the next forty years, God gives Israel his "Torah".
God began giving his Torah to Israel when they arrived at Mount Sinai and continued for the next forty years during their journey in the wilderness. Exodus chapter 20 to Deuteronomy chapter 31 covers this time period. Moses recorded all of God's Torah in a book (Exodus 24:4, Deut 31:24) called "the Book of the Torah" (Deut 31:26).
Within the Torah are all the laws, commands, regulations and ordinances of God. Let us look at each of these parts of the Torah, as we will be seeing them again later.
Laws are the judgements of civil government. One example of a law in the Torah is found in Exodus 21:1,2; "These are the laws (mishpat) you are to set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free without paying anything."
Commands are the dos and don'ts as in the Ten Commandments, "You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:13-15)
Regulations are the religious requirements including sacrifices, worship and priestly duties. "At the Tent of Meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting" (Numbers 3:25) The phrase "responsible for the care" is the Hebrew word "mishmeret". This is a regulation regarding the care of the Tent of Meeting also known as the tabernacle, a mobile temple.
Ordinances are the festivals and a few specific commands. Every one of the ordinances (huqah) identified in the Torah are also identified as an everlasting ordinance. Some of these everlasting ordinances will be seen several times through this book. One example of an everlasting ordinance is found in Leviticus 23:41; "Celebrate [the Feast of Tabernacles] as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance (huqah) for the generations to come." The word "lasting" in this verse is the Hebrew word "olam" which means "eternal" or "everlasting". This is the same Hebrew word used for the everlasting (olam) covenant God made with Noah. We will be seeing this word quite a bit through this book.
When the English translators translated the original Hebrew texts into English, they used the English word "law" to translate the Hebrew word "torah". Because of this translation of the word, many misconceptions about the "torah" have been introduced. "Law" is not a good translation for "Torah" and when we use the word "law" we assume a certain meaning of what God's law is based on our understanding of the English word "law" rather than the Hebrew word Torah.
The word "Torah" is derived from the root word "yarah" meaning "to point". The noun "morah" is derived from this root by changing the "y/y" to a "w/o" and adding a "m/m" in front. A "morah" is a teacher, usually the father of the home, one who points out a direction. The noun "torah" is also derived from this root by changing the "y/y" to a "w/o" and adding a "t/t" in front. "Torah" is the teachings of the teacher/father; the way pointed out by the teacher.
Torah is a set of teachings from the father to his children. Violations of these instructions are disciplined in order to foster obedience and train his children. Notice how the word "Torah" is used in the following passages.
"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's [Torah]." (Proverbs 1:8)
"My son, do not forget my [Torah], but keep my commands in your heart". (Proverbs 3:1)
God's Torah is his teachings and instructions to his children in the same manner.
"Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law [Torah]" (Psalms 94:12)
The purpose of Torah is to teach and bring the child to maturity. If the Torah is violated out of disrespect or defiant disobedience, the child is punished. If the child desires to follow the instructions out of a loving obedience but falls short of the expectations, the child is commended for the effort and counseled on how to perform the instructions better the next time. Unlike Torah, law is a set of rules from a government and binding on a community. Violations of the rules require punishment. Within law, there is no room for teaching.
The Torah is a way of life. The Torah instructed all aspects of Israel's life. From birth to death, God's Torah teaches his people how to live a holy life. The Torah covers such areas as; community structure, medicine, diet, health, clothing, housing, morality, ceremonies, holy days, worship, relationships between family and neighbors and the list is practically endless. The Torah was not to be a book, which sat on the shelf, and pulled out only when someone violated it, it was to be a living word, which instructed Israel every day. It was not only for the priests or King, but also for each and every individual for his personal growth.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the [Torah] of the LORD, and on his [Torah] he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalms 1:1-3)
The Torah was to be taught to the community of Israel on a regular basis.
[The Levites] taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the [Torah] of the LORD; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people. (2 Chronicles 17:9)
It was also the responsibility of the parents to teach this Torah to their children.
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deut11:19-21)
God's desire for Israel was that his Torah be the center of their life, thoughts and actions. As we read through the First Covenant, we see that God is continually reminding Israel to listen to and obey his Torah.
The LORD will again delight in you...If you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the [Torah] and turn to the LORD your God with all your hearts and with all your soul. (Deut30:9,10)
Assemble the people - men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns - so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this [Torah]. (Deut 31:12)
The Psalmist describes the attitude that the man of God should have towards the Torah when he said "The [Torah] from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold" (119:72). The Torah is not meant to be a drudgery of requirements (as the word law implies) but a joy and a delight to the people.
Contained within the Torah are God's blessings and curses. Those who obey are blessed with a good, long, peaceful life, while those who disobey are cursed with pain and strife.
"Joshua read all the words of the [Torah] -the blessings and the curses -just as it is written in the Book of the [Torah]". (Joshua 8:34)
For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deut 30:16)
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today, the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. (Deut 11:26-28)
Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this [Torah] by carrying them out. (Deut 27:26)
If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock - the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you; You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. (Deut 28:1-6, 15-19)
God gave his Torah to his people for several reasons. To establish a government system, to make the nation separate from the other nations, to set boundaries for the people, a means to show obedience and love to God, a means to show disobedience (sin) to God and to promote a healthy lifestyle. Let us look at each of these in closer detail.
Every nation must have a structure in place for the purpose of governing the people. This government, consisting of a leader and officials, enacts laws to protect the people and enforce punishments when the laws are not adhered to. Without this, the nation will fall into anarchy and crumble. When God delivered his children from Egypt, a new nation was created. Immediately following the crossing of the Red Sea and the deliverance from the Egyptian chariots, Moses and Israel sang a song to God (Exodus 15). The song praises and thanks God for their deliverance from the Egyptians. The last sentence in this song says; "The LORD will reign for ever and ever." Israel recognized God as their King. The Torah is the "teachings" and "laws" of the King to his people, Israel.
To make the nation of Israel holy, as we discussed earlier, Israel was to be a "holy nation", set apart from the other nations. God said in Leviticus 20:26; "You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to by my own". How is Israel to be set apart from the other nations? The answer is in the Torah. Many of the requirements found within the Torah are common to the surrounding nations, but some are very unique. Within these unique requirements are the dietary and ceremonial practices. As long as these practices were obeyed, Israel was uniquely different than the other nations because their practices were contrary to the Torah. By this method, Israel was forced to separate themselves from all the other nations and their practices such as idolatry and immorality. Therefore, as mentioned in the first chapter, a person is not only made holy by God separating them from the other nations, but the individual must set himself apart by keeping God's Torah.
To set boundaries
The laws of a nation or the teachings of a father, set the boundaries for the people or family in order to keep order. A nation or family without boundaries is ruled by chaos where the individual decides what is right or wrong. The Torah is the standard of measure used to determine what is right or wrong.
To show obedience
Once the Torah is given, obedience is required. If one chooses not to obey the Torah and has a rebellious heart, he is either cast out of Israel or put to death, depending on the severity of the disobedience. If one chooses to obey the Torah with an obedient heart, then he is blessed by God.
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods. (Deut 11:26-28)
To show love for God
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deut 6:5-7)
And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut 10:12)
How was Israel to show love to God? By keeping his commands and serving him as outlined in the Torah. King David summed it up when he said "Oh, how I love your [Torah]! I meditate on it all day long" (Psalms 119:97).
To show sin
The Torah is the target for obedience to God. It should be the goal of the individual to hit the center of the target. The Hebrew word "chatat" means to "miss the mark" as in Judges 20:16; "Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not [chatat]". Chatat is also translated as "sin". When the individual aims for the Torah and misses, he has "missed the mark", or, sinned.
To promote a healthy lifestyle
The Torah promotes good health, good morals and good relationships. The dietary requirements within the Torah have been proven by modern science to be healthy practices. The moral requirements produce love and kindness toward your fellow man. Not long ago, our nation held to a high standard of morality. Crime Today our nation has attempted to remove the teaching of morality within our families, schools and workplace, resulting in a destructive incline of crime and immorality.
Was the Torah given to Israel, a new Torah from God? Or a reminder of his Torah given before Israel came to Mount Sinai? Is it possible that this Torah was given previously to Abraham, Noah or even Adam? We cannot give a yes or no answer to these questions because the bible does not specifically answer this, but we can look at the book of Genesis and say that at least portions of the Torah were known to Adam, Noah and Abraham.
Let us look again at the blessing of Abraham, discussed in chapter 2, to determine why God blessed Abraham.
I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements (mishmeret), my commands (mitzvot), my decrees (huqah) and my [Torah]. (Genesis 26:4,5)
We can see that even Abraham kept God's Torah over 400 years before Israel came to Mount Sinai. Notice that the Hebrew words used here is the same as those we looked at earlier. According to this passage Abraham kept the same type of Torah which God gave Israel. He kept the same judgments (mishmeret), do's and don'ts (mitzvot) and everlasting ordinances (huqah), God's Torah.
Throughout the Book of Genesis we see example after example of God's commands being kept and broken. These same commands can be found in the Torah given to Israel. In most cases, we can read of an individual's response to the command, but the command itself is not recorded. With this in mind, we cannot say for certainty when the command was given.
Let us look at some of the commands found within the Torah then look at cases in the book of Genesis where they are obeyed or disobeyed.
You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
This command is first given at Mount Sinai with the giving of the 10 commandments, but was first broken in Genesis.
While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)
You cannot condemn a man for an action unless that action has been determined to be wrong and the command not to do that action is communicated to the people. If my son takes a piece of candy from a store without paying for it, I cannot punish him unless I have not previously taught him that this is a wrong action.
In order for God to punish Cain for taking the life of his brother, he had to have been taught at one point by either God or, his father Adam (who would have been instructed by God) that murder is a sin.
"Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it." (Exodus 20:24,26)
This is the first command given in the Bible for the construction and regulations concerning the building and use of altars. Compare the similarities of the above passage with the ones below from the book of Genesis.
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Genesis 8:20)
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west of Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:7,8)
That night the LORD appeared to [Isaac] and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you..."Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 26:24,25)
Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." (Genesis 35:1)
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. (Exodus 17:15)
Above are five incidents where each passage contains a portion of the command given in Exodus 20; Sacrifices of burnt offerings are placed on the altar, altars are erected where the name of God is honored, and the altar is erected where the presence of God and his blessings appear.
I give to the Levites (the priests of Israel) as their inheritance the tithes (a tenth) that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. (Numbers 18:21)
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram...Then Abram gave him a tenth (tithe) of everything. (Genesis 14:18,20)
This stone that I (Jacob) have set us as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth. (Genesis 28:22)
Abraham and Jacob understood the command to tithe their possessions to God and his priests just as God commanded Israel in the Torah.
Sacrifices and Offerings
When you sacrifice a thank offering to the LORD, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on you behalf. (Leviticus 22:29)
[Jacob] offered a sacrifice there in the hill country. (Genesis 31:54)
When [Jacob] reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. (Genesis 46:1)
"All the firstborn are mine.... Whether man or animal. They are to be mine, I am the LORD." (Numbers 3:13)
If he offers an animal from the flock as a fellowship offering to the LORD, he is to offer a male or female without defect ....All the fat is the LORD's. (Leviticus 3:6,16)
The two Torah commands above can be seen in Abel's sacrifice.
Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. (Genesis 4:4)
Abel's offering must have been presented in obedience to the command as God accepted it as verse 4 concludes with; "The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering".
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30)
Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. (Genesis 4:3)
Evidently Cain's offering was done in disobedience because verse 5 tells us; "but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor".
The Bible does not explain why he looked with favor on one but not the other. If God did not outline the requirements for the giving of offerings prior to this, he could not have held either of them accountable for their offerings. Therefore, Cain and Abel must have known what the requirements were for the offerings. Prior to the giving of the commands concerning sacrifices and offerings to Israel at Mount Sinai, there is no mention of sacrificial requirements. We can assume that, since Cain was held accountable for his disobedient sacrifice, the requirements were known prior to Mount Sinai but were not recorded in the book of Genesis.
Clean and unclean
"These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten." (Leviticus 11:46,47
Leviticus chapter 11 is a complete list of all the clean and unclean animals. Although this is the first time the distinction is made between the clean and the unclean, it is not the first time they are mentioned.
The LORD said to Noah..."Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate." (Genesis 7:1,2)
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Genesis 8:20)
Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, "you must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off." (Leviticus 17:13,14)
Compare this with the following passage.
"But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. (Genesis 9:4)
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work. (Exodus 20:8-10)
This command to observe the Sabbath is given at Mount Sinai with the giving of the 10 commandments. This command was given previously as we see in Exodus 16:23 during Israel's journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai.
[Moses] said to them, "This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD.
This passage gives a clear indication that God did give commands to his people prior to Mount Sinai.
In all the passages above we can see evidence that the commands concerning; murder, altars, tithes, sacrifices and offerings, clean and unclean animals, abstaining from the eating blood and the Sabbath were in existence long before Israel arrived at Mount Sinai. The observance of Torah commands in the book of Genesis are few compared to great number of commands found in the Torah. But we can see hints of Torah keeping also in the book of Genesis, such as; Honor your Father and Mother, do not steal, do not worship false gods, and many others. There is no way of saying with certainty just how many commands and requirements of the Torah were kept during the time of the book of Genesis, but it is possible that much of the Torah was given to man before the nation of Israel ever existed. We did see that Abraham kept all of God's Torah, is it not also possible that Adam and Noah also kept God's Torah? With this in mind, we could then say that the Torah given to Israel was actually a renewal of the Torah.
The Bible does tell us that the Torah with its laws, commands and regulations are eternal.
"I remember your ancient (olam) laws" (Psalms 119:52)
"Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever (olam)." (Psalms 119:152)
"All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal (olam)." (Psalms 119:160)
The Torah is not a document to be placed on a shelf and feared, it is God's instructions to his people. God did not desire a people who obeyed his Torah out of fear, but rather, a people who put his Torah in their hearts and obeyed him because they love him.
When God gave His Torah to Israel, He instructed them to take this Torah and place it within their heart.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (Deuteronomy 11:18)
My son, do not forget my [Torah], but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:1-3)
Keep my commands and you will live; guard my [Torah] as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 7:2-3)
If the Torah is not written on the heart, then the Torah is only an obligation, a set of rules that one must live by and therefore a burden. But once the Torah is written on the heart, that person will keep the Torah with love, joy and gladness.
I desire to do your will, O my God, your [Torah] is within my heart. (Psalms 40:8)
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your [Torah] and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. (Psalms 119:33-35)
I touched on this when we discussed the purposes of the Torah, but I will go into greater detail. Love and Torah are inseparable. If one keeps and obeys the Torah, he is showing his love to God.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)
Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. (Deuteronomy 11:1)
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today - to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will send rain on your land in its season. (Deuteronomy 11:13)
If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow - to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him - then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you. (Deuteronomy 11:22)
For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 30:16)
Observance of the Torah is not only the means by which one show love to God, but it is also the means by which one shows love to his neighbor. Many of the commands in the Torah deal with the relationships with the family, fellow Israelites and foreigners.
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:17-18)
Obedience and disobedience of the Torah is more than just keeping or breaking the Torah, it is the condition of the heart of the individual or the nation as a whole. No one in the First Covenant was able to keep all of the Torah perfectly, yet men such as Abraham, Moses and King David were considered righteous, not because they kept the Torah perfectly but because their heart desired to obey God and his Torah.
The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. (1 Chronicles 28:9)
We often think of Grace as a New Covenant word. The grace, "chen" in Hebrew, of God existed long ago. We see God's grace throughout the First Covenant, such as Noah who was saved from the floodwaters by the grace of God.
Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8)
God chose Israel to be his people, not because of their greatness or size, but only because of his grace that he chose to give them. God delivered Israel out of bondage by his grace, even before he gave them his Torah.
You will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (Malachi 3:18)
Righteousness (tzedikah) and wickedness (rasha) are opposite in meaning. From this passage alone, we can see that the righteous serve God and the wicked do not. How was Israel commanded to serve God? By keeping his Torah.
And if we are careful to obey all this Torah before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness. (Deuteronomy 6:25)
Not only are those who obey Torah righteous, but the Torah itself is righteous.
And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of Torah I am setting before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:8)
If keeping the Torah is righteousness, then wickedness is violation of the Torah.
If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil (rasha, wickedness) in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods. (Deuteronomy 17:2,3)
Copyright © 2004
Jeff A. Benner
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