There really should be a better title than that, I just don’t know how to write one…. it is a challenging question to answer.
The primary, most important commandment in all scripture is generally agreed to be int he following passage.
[Deu 6:4-6 NKJV] 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD [is] one! 5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
In Hebrew it is interesting to note the classic יְהוָ֥ה which isnt a title or the word LORd but the real name…
[Deu 6:4-6 WLC] 4 שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה אֶחָֽד׃ 5 וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃ 6 וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיֹּ֖ום עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ׃
Anyhow… the first part (the “Shema”) is a declaration, and call to submission. Even a simple look at a concordance is helpful on this. It is a call for a response. IT isn’t just a good idea, or a shout out to inform people of something. It is the most assertive, fully qualified attempt to get you to understand the nature of the person giving you directives, and whom you owe a response to.
There is also a lot of discussion about the word one, and what that means. If you want a fun headache, look up ECHAD and watch everyone get into a tizzy….
Verse 5 (in the english translations) explains, directly after a declaration of profound magnitude, that you are to love the person specifically. It isn’t clear whether it means qualitatively, quantitatively, both, or even something more. But from just a simple reading of it it is clearly a purposeful, intentional, deep, and broad context.
The bigger setting for the conversation
If we pull back a bit, there is a serious setup happening just few sentences previous
[Deu 6:1-3 NKJV] 1 “Now this [is] the commandment, [and these are] the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe [them] in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 “that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 “Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe [it], that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you–‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’
It is basically 3 verses, saying, in effect, “This commandment you are about to hear, and the following statutes, are key to the whole promise YHVH wants to give you. Hear them, Hear ALL of them, and submit to them”.
The word for hear is shema, and it carries with it hearing all, and hearing attentively and submissively. It carries with it the idea of attention, consent, agreement, yielding…
to hear (perceive by ear)
to hear of or concerning
to hear (have power to hear)
to hear with attention or interest, listen to
to understand (language)
to hear (of judicial cases)
to listen, give heed
to consent, agree
to grant request
to listen to, yield to
to obey, be obedient
Everything that comes after this must be vitally important. It took 3-4 verses to set up this piece of key information, and without it, you cannot have the promises Yahweh is talking about.
[Deu 6:5 NKJV] 5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Just taking this verse in English, on the surface, there is a lot to consider.
- This is a requirement. You SHALL (or MUST) do this.
- It is about LOVE.
- It is to comprise all of YOUR resource. You do it
The Bad Theology of this is so easy
This isn’t a bash about one faith or another. It is an attempt to define things more accurately, and implement them. In the christian doctrine, love is as much an idea or a feeling as anything. It even gets associated with intangible things such as patience, kindness etc… In reality, those are the outworkings of Love, not the love itself. Unless of course you think loving God is being patient with God? Kind to God? Self Controlled? Gentle?
It is also typically associated with something God does. However in this passage, this is something WE DO. We decide if we wnat to, and then we do it with what really is being expressed here, all of our ability.
This sounds like works! And it is. This sound like legalism…. and I would say in some ways you might be right. No one I know wants to be illegal in their walk with God right? Right?
But what is LOVE?
This is where things get seemingly weird, especially if you are used to a christian doctrinal paradigm. If someone says “I love God”, after first making sure you are talking about the same God (harder to do than you think), the question might simply be “How?”. Stop and think here what your answer is. How do you “Love God”? What do yu think it even is? As I mentioned previously, it isnt 1 Corinthians 13ing at God.
Love is far more about action than modern evangelicals feel comfortable with. It really is as much a verb as an adjective. Especially to Hebrew thought. It is closely tied together with Faith in that they are matter of the Heart, yet only get demonstrated through actions.
You can SAY you love your Wife or your Husband, but if you dont DO anything about it, you really dont.
Loving God is determined by God. God has a standard set, in this passage of scripture, in several other passages, and even in the “New” testament. Jesus says this directly
[Jhn 14:15 NKJV] 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
What commandments is Yeshua talking about? He didnt have a bible. And when he did get to read or hear it, it was at best the “Old” testament, quite possibly only certain pieces of it. A Torah scroll is expensive, even more so then. And not everyone could read. Scribes were very fortunate. They got to read AND study scriptures.
Yeshua was talking about the Torah. The apostolic writers get a disservice by beings translated to say “the Law”. They are the teachings of YHVH to the Hebrew people. Not the Jews, but the WHOLE nation. And these were 1st person, not teachings about what Yahweh said, but what Yahweh said.
Loving God = Keeping God’s Commandments
To go even deeper, lets use Jesus at his own words.
[Mat 5:17-20 NKJV] 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches [them], he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
If there is still a heaven and an earth, this is still in force.
The Vicious Circle
But it is now the Law of Love! We walk in Love! We “Love God and Love one another”.
Again.. how? God says Love is obeying. IF you love God, you will obey what God commands. God did say “Love your neighbor as yourself”. But when it comes to loving God, it is obeying God.
So someone says “Im fulfilling the Law by love” and the questions is “How do you know what you are doing is actually LOVE?”. Is it a feeling? Is it an idea? Is it charismatic experience or signs and wonders? Is it proper theology and doctrine?
Can you prove it? Because one day, God will prove it:
[Mat 7:22-23 NKJV] 22 “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?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
That word lawless is a real key. In greek it is anomia, the negative of nomia. Nomia is from nomos, which meand laws or commands. In Hebrew it is Torah. In the Greek Septuagint (the greek “Old Testament”) Nomos is the word used for the Hebrew word Torah: commands, laws etc…
If you PRACTICE not keeping Gods commands, God will prove to you you dont love God.
Deeper down the Rabbit Hole
At this point, another real crisis happens. It is all about doing things. Figuring out calendars, keeping feast days, keeping sabbath etc… YOu find a lot of the Torah doesnt even apply to you, and the parts that do are sometimes hard to adapt to, others are wonderful like justifying taking holidays off int he middle of the week!
But it easily descends into a set of outward behaviors. The behavior themselves become crucial. And now it becomes easy to differentiate between those who do it, and not (at least in your mind). Even deeper who does it right nor not.
Much of christian rhetoric talks about the New Testament being about “Grace”. Or even about “The heart”, as in “The letter of the law vs the spirit of it”. The thoughts or actions at the expense of the actions themselves.
However, go back to the original verse… it talks about Heart. Whole Heart. In fact, when you realize this, the “Old Testament” is so full of heart oriented obedience it isnt sever-able.
Yah wasnt looking for an outward obedience, even from the beginning. God was looking for Heart oriented obedience.
It is EVERYWHERE.
So assuming I havent lost you yet, and you even maybe agree with me that Love is Obedience, it becomes all the more clear that Obedience isnt what God wants. God wants a HEART CENTERED obedience. Willful, Intentional, Whole HEARTED obedience to Gods directives. Whether they are about doing something (like caring for widows, resting on Sabbath etc..) or not doing something (stealing ,cheating, lying etc…).
In fact, the famous “Sermon on the Mount” by Yeshua had always been to me about this incredible transition from the “letter” of the “law”, to the “heart” of it. Until I realized that all he was doing was reminding them that originally, the commandments were about the heart and had turned into a rabbinic, doctrinal driven version based on doing it all right on the outside. Jesus wasnt making something new up, Jesus was calling for the depth Yahweh had asked for. It isnt enough to jsut not kill your neighbor. The obedience to not murdering God looks for was not in the actions, but in the HEART.
Breaking Torah commands is a HEART issue first. Readjust this little piece with this idea in mind….
[Mat 5:20-22 NKJV] 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
The Promise for the Heart
Now this is hard territory. This idea of heart felt obedience was there all along. Our own wickedness jsut turned it into an outward thing so we didnt have to come to grips with the real problem. We separated obedience in action, from heart posture. But they wer never separate to God. In fact, the amazing thing is, Torah shows us our hearts, and explains to us what God is like, what God expects, and when we miss it. But Torah was never designed to fix the problem itself. In and of itself, it isnt the power to change your heart. You can become so good at behavior modification, you can get to the level of obedience to the law on an action level. And once you trust in your ability to perform the do and do nots, it becomes very hard to believe you missed something.
But way before Yeshua, back back into the Torah, and then later the prophets, we see the hints of the solution. Moses calls it “circumcision of the heart”. Not just the cutting of the outside, but then inside. Later on it gets associated with God working on and in us. We start hearing about the Spirit of Yah doing things inside us, where we begin to desire to obey from within. We WANT to find ways to obey.
This promise was talked about by Jesus, and the apostolic writers too. It doesnt do away with the commands, it fills them up full. It takes over where the Torah seems to stop. Torah shows us God, and Gods heart. The Spirit of Yah births us anew inside. It starts a process of conversion the ends up with a new life.
This is the HEART PART. Now righteousness isnt JUST a behavior coming from an outside source of direction (i.e. the letter), but the underlying heart of the matter out to the behavior.
This is salvation. This is Yahweh being the Master of your Life. It is repentance, by turning TO God, and Gods own Spirit changing you inside. The Spirit that made the Torah, is the Torah inside you.
This is the difference between believing in God, and repentance. It says in the book of James that demons believe God is one, but they dont do anything to change themselves about it. If we dont repent, we are just like them. But once we do…. the very life of God becomes the difference.
So many “Old Testament” verse mean so much more, and make so much more sense to me now. And Im just catching up with these ideas. Nothing was done away with like so many believe. The renewing of the covenant is now the delivery of the life of God to the inside of us so that we may LITERALLY obey with our whole heart!
I dnt think I have even come close to a good explanation of this concept and what it mean to me. Late night stumbling through writing in crazy circles trying to explain something internal doesnt do it justice. I can only hope something in this will spark soem light on to a trail and you will run down it as fast as you can! Until then, I want to pursue joy filled, heart felt, obedience. Not because I have to obey, but because I get to, and want to. Because it is life itself fromt he inside.
[Deu 6:24-25 NKJV] 24 ‘And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as [it is] this day. 25 ‘Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.’
It occurred to me how problematic seeking knowledge is… It relates as well to meeting needs….
Seeking knowledge isn’t the prescription in scripture. There is a lot of people slogging through their humanity as they seek to be a part of the Kingdom of Yah, and along the way there is much exchange of information. It isn’t always real, or accurate, in fact most is opinion and interpretation. We find some kind of odd comfort in acquiring knowledge because it seems to make us feel internally like we have some kind of mastery over something.
It is a completely false thing.
In fact, I would even suggest it is part of the problem. Knowledge exposes us to things we cannot do anything about. Knowing I have a problem isnt the same as addressing it. Not even close. After years of addictive behaviors, there was a window of time where much of the internal motivations and impetus for behavior X was revealed. I do X because of Y and that leaves me in state Z.
This is helpful for a very short, and specific time. It turned out my job was to take Y, and find a solution. Knowing it was there gave me language, context, and understanding of the problem. But it wasnt the solution. The solution was whatever the God I called upon would/could do for me.
I wonder if a huge part of the “fall” of Adam and Eve was simply the exposure to information. They had an option, and now there was opportunity. They couldn’t manage their response to it. It became a serious problem.
I am exposed to so much teaching, and glad to have the help to process scripture. But a lot of this becomes a way to procure knowledge. And it is fun to look at things, and examine them and see connections. It helps to bring understanding. But even understanding isn’t the goal.
The goal is to do something right about what I know. And that isn’t the purview of knowledge, or even my own power. While it does involve my choices, it becomes clear in scripture choices weren’t enough. In scripture you begin to hear a chorus of the prophets talking about something new coming and taking the instructions,t he information, the ideals and the constructs of the Kingdom, and putting them down inside us, past knowledge, past understanding, past choices and deep into the core of our being. Down into motivation and desire.
It is the very same Spirit of the God who created all things. YHVH created the constructs. Yah is not just the most kind and generous and patient “person”, Yahweh IS Patience, Kindness, Generosity etc… The substance of what God is can only be describe by us in terms of attributes. But they arent just attributes. We see the color Red, Red is an attribute. But that is just the spectrum of light coming back. We dont actually see the light itself. We experience it, it interacts with us. But the substance of it we cannot even comprehend, so we simply think of it in terms of what we experience of it, and what it does.
It is becoming clear to me how badly I need this promise in my life. I am gaining knowledge daily. I see all sorts of amazing things in the scriptures, yet by the time Yeshua comes to the earth, there is a serious challenge, with only one answer.
I can obey the commandment to not murder. It is within my ability to not do this. But the substance of the commandment was about hating. Or even more deeply, not loving. Not being like God. On the inside, not the outside. From deep within my substance, not just the external attributes people see.
For a long time the Spirit of God has been presented to me (and i willingly bit) based on attributes and experiences. I must admit, I enjoy them. At some point in my life, Yah will sort me out on which ones were real and which ones were false. But something got stopped far too early, and far too shallow.
The goal isn’t what the Spirit of Yah does that you can see. We need miracles and signs and wonders. But that is a lot like knowledge. They provide a revealing of something, and the next step is a decision. Now that we have seen the information, do we want to be taken deep down under the brokenness, motives, and paradigm and allow the same “person” who saved us, delivered us, healed us, loved us cleanly for the first time in our life, unlocked our heart etc…. do we want that same thing down deep under our own self?
Yeshua continues on the message of Jeremiah and the others by saying there is a sign more personal than circumcision of the flesh, but circumcision of the heart. A truly submissive cutting away of something. Down to the very essence of things. This not only a promise, but a requirement. Only those led by this are actually in the Kingdom. It doesn’t say those who experience ecstatic interactions, but those who are led by it. Directed, Motivated, Fundamentally controlled.
I have to submit to being immersed in this Spirit, and let it change me.
The danger with knowledge is that I now know a lot about what I should do. Im learning a lot about who God is, and what God is like. Just reading last night with my children in a part of Deuteronomy, and a rather dry part at that, I was stunned that God was basically describing being very proactively generous to each other. On the surface it sounds nice. Be nce. But what isnt clear is how this is simply trying to align us with God. God is like this. And God commanded the people who claim Yahweh to be like this. God knows they cannot without a command. They have to be told to do it. But it is also very clear even with the command, they need something far deeper to truly fulfill it.
It is time for me to truly begin to receive the promise deep down. Not just know more stuff.
This post builds on the basic assumptions listed in Learning from the Mo’edim
This time around we were 2 days later than the traditional Jewish observance so it put us out there as far as celebrating with others. The general idea of this holiday is a communal thing, and we really just don’t seem to have experienced that.
Sukkot as a public HolyDay
One of the things we did is set up our “sukkah” which in reality is simply a temporary car port we bought from Harbor Freight. It is quite big, with a cover and it fits a big table for us. We used it again this year, and set it up int he front yard/driveway. I feel this is more appropriate for us, as I believe conceptually this is a public event. There is an edge to this where building the tent, and seeing all the other booths that other people build would be amazing. I have this gut feeling that it is somewhat a testimony itself just celebrating it. As well, I have this feeling that there are loads of jewish people who walk around and know what Sukkot is, but dont celebrate it. Somehow they need a reminder, and perhaps that is part of it.
We bought some LED lights, and strung them inside and it was fun. So we plan on buying more, and it is a great way to use up those xmas lights! We want to make some decorations we can reuse, like paint some banners, and paint the name of our God on the tent itself. It is funny, but this reminds me more of what people do on christmas!
Sukkot is more than a tent…
The first step is a booth/tent etc… but in reality a big part of this is reminding us about the time YHVH led the hebrews in the wilderness in tents for 40 years. Not 1 week, not 30 days, not 40 days… not even a year. They were a mobilization of upwards of 3 million people, for 40 years. They lived in the tents. They lived FROM the tents… and they picked up and moved when they needed to.
Ive been focusing on building one, but honestly Im pretty much wimping out. It isnt a big deal to pull this out, and pack it away. But simply going out there in the evening to eat isn’t really capturing the idea. We currently were fighting with having a mouse in our garage, and I smelled a skunk the other morning. Im not even remotely thrilled with the idea of sleeping outside, on a concrete driveway, with critters all around. And this is in a city. All night long and early am, cars are driving up and down the street etc…
And Im using this as a reason and resistance to sleeping in the tent. I really dont want to. But God doesnt ask me how I think or feel about it. Im responsible todo what I believe, and this year Im realizing that Im needing to put a priority on doing this next year.
The way the holidays played out, we had extra sabbaths this month, and it was wonderful. But it also was a little hard to manage. There were 3 sabbaths falling on Wednesday. It was great to have all sorts of rest. However I did start getting bored! Isn’t that crazy????
And with the feasts of Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and now Sukkot, within 2.5 weeks we have a lot of activity. Next year Ill need to plan more for that. It would be a great idea to basically take 3 weeks off in September. The uniqueness fades a bit by the Sukkot holiday. In modern culture, we arent busting our butt working all summer harvesting etc… so there isn’t as much of a rest in this. I can see how if I were a farmer or a shepherd, by this time, it would be great to have a rest. Lately, I’ve been lacking work, so I haven’t hit that intensity that I’m totally beat with work and need a break.
So at this point, I think i recognize the lack, and want to really ask for grace and help to do these in more and more focused and fruitful ways. And i also want to make sure Im not becomign more and more dogmatic. I dont accept judaism, but I do want to remember Im stumbling through this and learning more and more each year. I need ot be more and more excited ANYONE is keeping feasts, and engaging these. God has grabbed us and directed us and each year we are adjusting and adapting.