One of the most controversial topics in Jewish and Christian relationships is how to view the Law of Moses or “Torah” (the first five book of Moses). Jews receive it as a gift from God to honor, but many Christians view it as obsolete or inapplicable. At its core, the issue comes down to a misunderstanding of what the Hebrew word Torah means.
Any language is based on its culture. Even when two different cultures have the same language, there are often linguistic differences that, at times, need clarification. The good news is that to learn Hebrew culture, you do not need a Hebrew scholar — all you have to do is simply read the Bible. The Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) was intended to be “God’s culture,” or the way God wanted Israel live to grow, thrive, and interact with Him. By uncovering and applying simple words, we’ll rediscover God’s character and find there is life in the “law.”
Torah is the Hebrew word often translated “Law.” Our western concept of Law is that of rigid regulations and unforgiving rules, resulting in firm consequences for offenders. This is not the heart of the Bible. While “torah” is often translated as “Law” of Moses, look at how “torah” is used elsewhere in the Bible:
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching (torah);” Proverbs 1:8
“Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, For I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction (torah).” Proverb 4:1-2
In these verses, “torah” is used to describe a parent’s loving instructions and guidance. The Torah was given by a loving Father to Moses to guide His children Israel in the best way to live. While there were consequences for not following “the law,” it comes from a different motivation that of a western authority. If Israel did not follow His instructions, God was not waiting to angrily squash them, but had already warned them of where certain actions or attitudes would lead that would be detrimental to their lives. Likewise, today we teach our children our “personal life experience” so they can avoid life’s pitfalls, while giving them the opportunity to make their own choices.
With this understanding in mind, let’s consider other verses that use the word “Law.” When we read the word “law” and think “God’s instructions” and these verses will carry new revelation:
Psalm 119 is about God’s Law:
Jesus said “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17). After all, how could God’s Messiah abolish or reject God’s instructions on how to live without contradicting His character?
Paul wrote in Romans 10:4- “For Christ is the end [or goal] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” In other words, the point of the God’s instructions leads us to Christ.
With new understanding, let’s pray Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” Do the words wonderful and Law go together in our minds? They did for David, a man after God’s own heart, and if we are going to know the Lord and His heart for Israel, they will for us as well.