NOTE: The intended audience of this post is/was the participants of an X44 marriage conference in Mexico on Covenant Relationship, but I think everyone can appreciate the “Challenge!” Regardless of who you are, perhaps imagine you were just on the magnificent white beaches of Mexico with your spouse for a week where you completely focused on is your covenant relationship and now your back to your “previous life” trying to “flip” what you consider your “real” world from a backwards kingdom perspective.
…Well you have been home for almost 2 days now are you doing? Have you been “challenged?”
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 NASB
Well, if you haven’t figured this out yet, I glean a lot from overanalyzing or “over studying” things. You might want even say it is in my DNA and perhaps it is or should also be in yours!
Sometimes knowing Greek and Hebrew is a tremendous blessing, and sometimes it’s a curse! This particular verse, I can’t simply just skim over. I find myself diving in before I can move to the next verse. The problems of syntax!!!
What’s interesting to me (or what makes me stop or get hung up on a verse like this) is the Greek (single) word, proegraphe. The problem is English doesn’t work like Greek and so we probably need five or six words to understand exactly what the single Greek word meant. In Greek syntax, it’s essentially the prefix pro added to the verb grapho. One word in Greek essentially takes on the idea in English of saying, “what was written before this particular time.” You may have interpreted that way, or you may not have.
But when you’re thinking, like a Bible student, you ask the question what was written before this time? Any good Hebrew, listening, or reading from Paul would understand that it must be the Torah. In Hebraic mind it’s the only thing that was written for our instruction, everything else is simply a commentary. When Paul writes the statement, it’s the only established word of God, “the only completed Old Testament” at that time, and New Testament won’t come to existence as we know it or in the way that we read it until several hundred years later. Sure, there are scrolls that are considered sacred (like Isaiah for example), but they aren’t the Torah and much of them are only in oral form to the commoner, so they aren’t studied like the torah was. Interesting to think that what Paul is saying is that simply the Torah (not what we think of the complete Bible) is intended to preserve and encourage us that we might have hope. I bet no one reading this has ever consider that before!!! Most Christians, reading, the Torah simply think it isn’t very invigorating! But perhaps we should consider returning to the original word that God gave for those to follow him each and every day as a recipe for intimacy with God. We just don’t usually sit down with our spouses and start devotionals in Leviticus, but maybe we should! Perhaps that is part of the wayward problem of modern Evangelical Christianity seeming like a watered-down version of the kind of devotion Jesus was asking for.
In the first century, whether you were a Jew or gentile, if you followed Yahweh, you were taught the Torah constantly, and you had most of it, memorized and gave it careful and deliberate practice. When did we lose that?
Paul’s message would’ve sounded like a broken record to those that grew up with it. However, to us 2000 years later, the message is almost lost in translation because we no longer have any idea of what it meant to live in such devotion. This message of devotion should really be more relevant now than ever; but it seems, we’ve walked further and further away from the sacred approach to God and his son Jesus, than we have brought ourselves closer to it. Our Trajectory since the cross was intended to have become more devout as disciples of Jesus but in actuality, we have gone the other way and are less devout than Israel. Thats a problem. The evangelical American church is likely less devout than wayward Israel and has no concept of what Jesus described as leaving everything on the beach to completely follow Him.
Paul’s message is that if we put Torah into our heart, we won’t be hopeless. First century followers of Christ, understood that without being dedicated to the Scriptures stored in the depths of our heart it would be almost impossible to exist and persevere and therefore, hope. The context of all scripture is based in the Torah and gives foundational application for what Jesus taught.
Jesus was a devout observer and teacher of the Torah and encouraged us to live by His example.
People often ask me do we still need to follow the Torah or live by the Old Testament Judaic standards… I usually think what a silly question!!! But to be clear, of course we don’t “have to” we’re complete and free from the law in Jesus… but that’s likely the wrong question for a devout follower of Jesus! Unfortunately, much of the law over 1000 years turned into religious hypocrisy… they completely missed the mark!!!! The law served as a stopgap to hold them sacred and holy until the messiah could complete what was given to them and truly reign in and through their lives. Today since we have the Messiah, it’s important to realize that He still observed Torah. This is what is written in His heart and should also be written in ours.
Some people miss this, but in the Torah context, all of the scriptures were stored in the temple; when our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t just mean that God himself dwells in this place; it means that all of this Word is supposed to do well in this place as well! How are you doing with that? Are you a walking Bible?
Last week, as Pastor Dr. Steve and I preached covenant community, you might have noticed that nearly everything we taught had its roots in the Torah. What’s even “worse” is that some of it seemed brand new! It’s a return to the foundation that God provided for us, that we might live by the covenants in truth that were established to guide us and might be completed and fulfilled and made alive (literally) in the Messiah, King Jesus!
The word of God and specifically the Torah is our access to God’s purposes and our compass for hope.
The goal of the Torah was perseverance and encouragement, and we need that more than ever today…. And you and your spouse in your marriage might specifically need it more two days after a marriage conference than any time before. I bet you’re feeling the pressure already!
I’m sure you’ve never considered the Torah in your life before now, but I want you to consider it as the “you can do it” cheer to your covenant.
A good friend of mine puts it like this,
“Torah is not the 613 regulations. It is the lives, the songs, the stories and the history of all those who previously attempted to follow. They are just like us—in need of motivation and support. You and I are just like them—seeking purpose and meaning in the chaos of life. Paul reminds us that the good news of God doesn’t begin with Matthew. It begins with Moses.”
Perhaps you’re struggling today, perhaps you’re longing for the beach to be intimate with your spouse again…Perhaps you realized that what we call returning to the “real” world is actually just the world you are passing through and your “real” world in this backward kingdom is actually these moments of devotion. This mindset starts with the word of God… perhaps if you’re in turmoil or tribulation today, specifically with your spouse, it’s a reminder to start each day with the word of God and dive in!!! Being completely whole means to study each day… perhaps a five-minute devotion is a good start, but the context of the Torah was more like an hour a day… and the context of Jesus’ discipleship picture for us that the apostles carried out looked more like 4-5 hours of study a day. The way of the Messiah was to be a disciple completely emerged, each and every day in the scripture and intimate relations of the kingdom stored as a temple deep within you that was exuding in life action; that all of your “nephesh” might scream out the image of God to everyone you came in contact with. Together you can encourage and challenge your spouse to be fully devoted, “all in” and on the road to be a disciple, and it starts with a deeper understanding of scripture!
May you be blessed on your journey!