The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.[Psalm 119:72]
Have you ever felt like something significant was missing from you life, only to discover that it was right in front of you all along? Have you ever stumbled upon a valuable treasure in your possession that for years you assumed was worthless?
What changed? The value or importance of these things never changed. Only your understanding and perspective changed, allowing you to see its worth for the very first time. And the moment you came to the knowledge of the truth, you were filled with overwhelming joy and gratitude!
That is exactly what has happened to me.
I recently discovered a precious gift from God — an ancient treasure of immense value — that has been in my possession for decades, only I failed to see it and appreciate it for what it was.
What could be so valuable and yet remain hidden for so long?
I am talking about Torah … the eternal truth of God revealing His love for His people.
What is Torah?
I know what some of you may already be thinking. If Torah is so important and so valuable, then why doesn’t the church emphasize it? Why has orthodox Christianity ignored it for 2,000 years? Why doesn’t my pastor preach on it? Why haven’t I heard anything about it?
Even for those in modern mainstream evangelicalism who at least have some surface-level knowledge, the Torah remains totally foreign as old laws that only apply to the Jews anyway. What does God’s law have to do with me — a Gentile Christian? Torah sounds so Old Testament. Aren’t we living under the New Covenant?
Yes I know. I am well aware of the common objections, knee-jerk reactions, and visceral emotions that emerge whenever the controversial topic of Torah is broached among brothers. I know because I once felt the very same way. I will address all of these unfortunate assumptions in due time. For now, however, I would like to start by providing a Biblical definition of Torah.
The Hebrew word torah — תּוֹרָה — is used about 200 times in Scripture and simply means “law or laws.” Over time, the Torah primarily became identified with the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), yet sometimes it generally can refer to God’s word as a whole. At its heart, however, Torah represents one thing — the heart of God for His people.
Torah is God’s eternal value system that He revealed as a blessing to His people. Torah simply is the way to live according to God.
Many times in Scripture, God provides a litany of words that represent the comprehensive nature of His Torah. These often include His instructions, His ways, His laws, His commandments, His statutes, His principles, His ordinances etc…
Consider the following passage from Deuteronomy 30 as a prime example [emphasis mine].
And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and follow all His commandments I am giving you today. 9So the LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the offspring of your livestock, and the produce of your land. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your goodness, as He delighted in that of your fathers, 10if you obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and statutes that are written in this Book of the Law and if you turn to Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 11For this commandment I give you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12It is not in heaven, that you should need to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it for us and proclaim it, that we may obey it?’ 13And it is not beyond the sea, that you should need to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and proclaim it, that we may obey it?’ 14But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it. 15See, I have set before you today life and goodness, as well as death and disaster. 16For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and increase, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.[Deuteronomy 30:8-16]
Notice all the ways God describes His Torah.
- God’s voice
- God’s commandments
- God’s statutes
- God’s laws
- God’s word
- God’s life
- God’s goodness
- God’s ways
- God’s ordinances
- God’s blessing
The Bible speaks of Torah as eternal (Psalm 119:89), as perfect (Psalm 19:7), as light (Proverbs 6:23, Psalm 119:105), as joy (Psalm 19:8), as holy and righteousness (Romans 7:12) — even as the way, the truth, and the life (Psalm 19:19, Proverbs 13:14).
So if we are willing to start with God’s word and His very own definition of Torah, we logically must come to one conclusion alone.
The law of God is good. The law of God is perfect. The law is true. The law is eternal. God does not change nor does His word!
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.[Apostle Paul — Romans 7:12]
But Hasn’t God’s Law Been Abolished?
The Torah has been there all along, on virtually every page of my Bible from beginning to end, and yet for most of my Christian life I dismissed it — even shunned it — and read right over it because I had been taught by men that the laws and instructions of God did not apply to me anymore.
I had been taught that the law was nailed to the cross, done away with, abolished by Jesus and was no longer of any use or purpose to Christian living. I even was told that the law was bad and to make any attempt to obey God’s law was at best legalism and at worst a false gospel potentially resulting in my eternal damnation.
I had been taught that the law was a burden, and certainly not a blessing. I had come to believe that the law was only for the Jews under the Old Covenant, but now I was set free from the heavy yoke of the law by Christ.
But then again, there were those 10 Commandments? At least some of them still apply right? And the Levitical laws about sexual immorality. Those seemed to still be in play for Christians. And what about Jesus and the Apostles? They clearly lived Torah-observant lives, and aren’t we told to follow their example?
It just seems like either God’s testimony is unclear and confusing and even misleading, or at the least Christians are very confused and don’t understand God’s word.
So my question is … which is it? It cannot be both. If God never changes and His word never changes, then what do we make of this apparent tragic contradiction in Scripture. Either God’s word is wrong, or our understanding of God’s word is wrong, and I think we all know the answer to that.
Either the law is good or it is bad.
Either the law is true or it is false.
Either the law is a blessing or a burden.
Either the law is light or darkness.
Either the law is freedom or bondage.
Either the law is perfect or defective.
Either the law is life or death.
As you can see, we have some serious sorting out to do, and that is precisely what I aim to do in this series. I will address the primary objections and common misunderstandings surrounding this controversial subject, and I hope to help you begin to see and discover the very same treasure that I have found in God’s word.