Thursday, April 15, 2010

Christians and the Law [Torah]

Bringing the doctrine of the one God to the attention of believers is an essential element in the restoration of biblical faith. I am convinced, however, that we face an equal challenge in the matter of legalism - the confusion of the Old Testament Mosaic system with the freedom of the New Covenant taught by Jesus and Paul.

The question is this: Can the current semi-Mosaic systems being offered as New Testament Faith by some Christian organizations be reconciled with the worldwide commission of the Assembly of God?

Jesus announced the Messianic mission in Luke 4:43-44: "I must proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do. So he proclaimed the gospel in the synagogues of Judea."

The same saving gospel of the Kingdom was later directed by Jesus to all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). The urgency of the task had been underlined by the Messiah Jesus, who challenged a half-hearted disciple in Luke 9:60 to "go and announce the Kingdom of God everywhere."

I have never been in a situation where the Mosaic system of holy days or food laws affected me personally. But there are parts of the world where citizens would be risking life, loss of education, starvation of their children and possibly jail time for attempting to live by the sem-Mosaic system espoused and imposed by some Christian organizations.

With this in mind we had better be very sure of our ground before asking others to risk their lives for refusing to eat pork. Such demands may have been made of Jews under the law of Moses in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, but did Paul make this demand of his Gentile converts?

The good news of a coming Kingdom, entrance into which required one to keep parts of a Levital system in a world totally out of sync with it, would not be good news at all, but would be a lead to unnecessary and burdensome struggle and opposition. Not that adverse conditions induced by faithful obedience make a system wrong. I am simply asking you to consider whether in fact Paul would endorse in any way a partial Mosaic version of the faith.

There are a number of laws taught to Israel in the Mediterranean which are quite awkward for the rest of the world. I will mention a only a few. Harvest-related festivals and holy days in the down-under world of Australia and South Africa do not fit at all with the seasons. They are backwards in southern climes. Spring festivals in the fall, Feast of Tabernacles in the spring. Israel’s Levitacal rites lose their meaning. Surely there is no need to elaborate.

What about the denial of the rather healthy seal meat and whale blubber diets to Eskimos? We have substitued the sugar-loaded, teeth-rotting Western diet, and the results have been disastrous. Are Eskimo believers bound to come under the food laws of Leviticus 11? And where are the instructions for the irregular sunsets in the extremes of latitudes? The prescribed days are well suited to the Mediterranean world. As for observing holy days or the Sabbath in Saudi Arabia, their problem would be immediate and short-lived. They could be subject to the death penalty in parts of the Islamic world or at least severe persecution.

Would the preaching of the Good News to the Muslim world be enhanced by following Moses as well as Jesus the Messiah? Is God looking for a company of martyrs for the cause of Moses and the Old Covenant?

None of these problems arose in Israel, since all the laws governing religion, agriculture, food, vacations, child-rearing, hygiene, education, judicial system, etc., were clearly defined and reasonable. The package was for a total way of life within a chosen nation. It was quite feasible for the family of Israel. But just how practical are these laws for the citizens of other climes in widely dissimilar circumstances?

Just how do we get the message of the Kingdom of God to people who are faced with governments hostile to outside influence? Does their salvation depend on adherence to a semi-Mosaic system advocated by some Christian organizations? Would a tithing system that applied to the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant really enhance the spreading of the gospel in India or other parts of the world? What about a man in Malawi who is one of the few who holds down a job? Is he to tithe ten percent on the $30 dollars he makes a month teaching school? The answer should be obvious.

A conference was held to consider what should be required of the Gentiles in reference to the Mosaic system. Acts 15:5 states that "Some of the Pharisaic party who had become believers came forward and declared, ‘Those
Gentiles must be circumcised and told to keep the law of Moses."

The whole Mosaic system was waived. James declred the following in Acts 15:28-29: "It is the decision of the holy spirit, and our decision, to lay no further burden opon you [Gentiles] beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from meat that has been offered to idols, from blood, from anything that has been strangled, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves free from these things you will be doing well." It was obvious that these prohibitions were partly in deference to the Jewish converts. An additional warning to the Gentiles on the endemic problem of fornication was specifically included.

Were the Gentile believers thus deprived of the blessing of the Mosaic Torah. Hardly. Peter had said to his Jewish opponents: "Why do you put God to the test, putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our father or we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10).

The ability of some Christian organization to obsure the obvious meaning of these plain statement and obliterate them by obscuring their obvious meaning is marvelous.

The standard of conduct for believers given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5,6,7) clearly states the core beliefs for all converts whether Jew or Gentile.

Jesus had come to fulfill or "full with full meaning" the whole of the Old Testament [the "Law" and the Prophets"]. He had not come to reinforce in the letter the Old Testament covenant under Moses. If he had, then Pual would be plainly a false prophet. (This is a view taken by some who accept Jesus but not Paul - without realizing that such a view is an impossibility.) Certainly the Hebrew Bible has not lost any of its validity, but it is to be understood in the light of the New Covenant. For example, whle physical circumcision was absolutely required of Jew and Gentile within the old covenant (Gen:17:9-14), Jesus, speaking through Paul, made it clear that circumcison is now to be understood in a non-physical, spiritual sense - of the heart, internally and not externally. That is a major revision of the letter of the old covenant law (Torah).

That brings us to other biblical evidence. Paul says: Eph:2:11-22:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands; remember that you were at that time separated from the Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in the Messiah Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Paul’s remarks address our initial question. Can we ignore the very plain statements in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians?

The Temple veil was rent and access to God was no longer gained through the Levitical system but through God’s resurrected Son and the New Covenant which he ratified with his shed blood. "This cup is the New Covenant sealed by my blood" (Luke 22:20).

Consider the question of being estranged from "God’s covenants and the promised that go with them," These covenants and promises had been made to Israel through Abraham, Moses and David. A major component of the Mosaic system was of course the priesthood given to Levi. Hebrews 8:6 is enlightening: "But in fact the ministry which Jesus has been given is superior to theirs [the Levites], for he is the mediator of a better covenant, established on better promises." There are two different covenant, two different ministries involved; one instituted by God through Moses and a different one by the same God through His son Jesus.

The later says, "The time has arrived; the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15) the command to believe and obey the gospel is quite clear, readily understandable, and available to the entire world. It is accessible to all in its simplicity, unhindered by any act of circumstances, legislative, geographic, or otherwise. It is a matter of the mind not a matter of physical ordinances. the rite of circumcision best illustrates the enourmous
change. Circumcision has not been abolished! But they physical is no longer required. It has given way to the spiritual. We must still all be circumcised in our heartss. "The real Jew is one who is inwardly a Jew, and his circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; he receives his commendation not from men but from God" (Romans 2:29). Here, one of the lynch pins of the Old Covenant requirements is finished, but it has retained its meaning in a fulfilled sense. The Old Testament was, as in so many other cases, a shadow of the substance of the Messiah who has now come.


The Day of Atonement: Legalism or "Illegalism"?

The first covenant commands a yearly fast day as a reminder of sin. It was annual because there was no lasting effect or freedom of conscience which is a prerequisite for permanent and unhindered acces to God. This can be achieved only through the sacrifice of the Messiah. This spiritual truth is declared by the writer of Hebrews. "The law contains but a shadow of the good things to come, not the true picture" (Heb:10:1). The Day of Atonement we now enjoy on a continuing basis through the Messiah’s sacrifice. Hebrews continues: "With the same sacrifices offered year after year for all time, it can never bring the worshipers to perfection… First he says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings …. You do not desire or deight in,’ although the law procribes them. Then he adds, ‘Here I am: I have come to do Your will.’ He thus abolishes the former to establish the latter. And it is by the will of God that we have been consecrated through the body of Jesus once for all" (Heb:10:1-10). Who on the basis of this teaching, can maintain that an abolition of Torah, in one sense, has not occurred? Did we not earlier read in Ephesians 2:15 that Jesus "abolished the Torah of commandments in dogmas"? If this is a new concept to you, please give it your serious attention.

Hebrews 3, while pointing out the faithfulness of Moses in God’s household, states of the Messiah: "he is faithful as a son, over the household. And we are that household, if we are fearless and keep our hopes high" (verse 6). The ‘today’ of the next verse signals a fresh moment of history which is always conditioned by our response of obedience or disobedience, or faith or unbelief.

It is something for "now" with all its difficulties and something to be perfected in the future.

But what is the subject of "today"? It is the entrance into God’s "rest". This "rest" can be experienced even now by union with the person of Jesus the Messiah. "But Jesus holds a perpetual priesthood because he remains forever; that is why he is able to save completely those who approach God through him, since he is always alive to plead on their behalf" (Hebrews 7:24-25)

Brushing cupboards and floors bare of leaven, removing residue from a trip to MacDonald’s seem a bit short of the mark when we grasp what the Messiah’s sacrifice has already done for us: "May the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of an eternal covenant, make you perfect in all goodness" (Hebrews 13:20-21). This and not our domestic cleaning activity during the annual Feast of Unleavened Bread is the real solution when it comes to our sinful nature. It seems to me that Paul would be highly agitated by a return to the shadow now that the Messiah has appeared as our High Priest (Hebrews 9:11). "One greater that the Temple, and its institutions, remains with us" (Matthew 12:6).

Paul does not treat lightly this issue of mixing two systems and undermining the work of the Messiah with works which he does not require: "Your self-satisfaction ill becomes you. Have you never heard the saying, ‘A little leaven leavens all the dough?’ Get rid of the old leaven and then you will be a new batch of unleavened dough. Indeed you already are, [why and how?] because the Messiah our Passover has been sacrificed. Therefore let us be keeping the Feast [not the present continuous verb, which does not point to a single annual observance], not with the old leaven of depravity and wickedness but only the unleavened bread which is sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-9).

Something seems terribly wrong with any adherence to a system that has been superseded by a New Covenant under the Messiah. Moses was a magnificent servant of God, but he is dead. The Livitical priest hs been replaced by a unique member of the tribe of Juday, not Levi!

As the writer to the Hebrews said: with a chance in the priesthood there is of necessity a change of the law, yes, a change of Torah! Jesus is our Intercessor and High Priest at the right hand of the Father. It is not a though there are two names listed (Jesus and Moses) under heaven by which we can be saved. Just one, Jesus! Our point is underlined by the fact that a new priest has risen:

"But a change of the priesthood must mean a change of law… Fro here is the testimony; ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ the earlier rules are repealed as ineffective and useless, since the law brought nothing to perfection; and a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God"
(Hebrews 7:12-19).

The Cause of Spiritual Blindness

At the risk of belaboring the point, does not Paul warn us of spiritual blindness as a result of pursuing a Mosaic course of religious activity? We should note that the Jews, who are precise about keeping the laws of Moses, holy days, etc., are still in the dark about the Messiah who has already come. This prevents them from being dedicated witnesses to the return of that same Messiah to establish the Kingdom of God!

Paul, passionate exponent of Judaism though he had been, certainly seemed unenthusiastic about the writings of Moses, IF they prevented his audience from advancing to the Messiah: "In every cae their minds have become closed, for that same veil is there to this very day when the lesson is read from the Old Covenant; and is never lifted, because only in the Messiah is it taken away. Indeed to this very day, every time the law of Moses is read, a veil is over the
mind of the hearer. But (as scripture says) ‘Whenever he turns to the lord [Jesus] the veil is removed" (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

Earlier verses in 2 Corinthians 3 thrill to the newness of spirit aailable under the New Covenant ministry of Jesus: "And as for you, it is plain that you are a letter that has come from the Messiah, given to us to deliver, a letter not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, written not on stone tablets but on the pages of the human heart" (3:3). The Old Covenant "ministry that brought death, and that was engraved in written form on stone" (3:7) is a shorhand description of the whole Mosaic system.

Sinai or Mount Zion?

One is given a choice, either to accept the old covenant made between God and ancient Israel under Moses and the Levitacal priesthood, or the new covenant between God and the present Israel of God under the Messiah. Paul talks of this in Galatians 6:15-16: "Circumcision is nothing;… the only thing that counts is a new creation. All who take this principle for their guide, peace and mercy be upon them, the Israel of God!" This covenant was made with Jesus and the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek.

Note the clearly stated contrast in Hebrews 12 between the New Covenant and the one made at Mount Sinai. The writer starts his dissertaton with the plain statement: "It is not to the tangible, blazing fire of Sinai that you [believers] have come, with its darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, its trumpet blast and oracular voice, which the people heard and begged to hear no more; for they cound not bear the command, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’ so appalling was the sight that Moses said, ‘I shudder with fear’ (12:18-1).

This is Mount Sinai. This is where you beievers have not come, where the law was given undrer the Old Covenant that rules religious physical Israel to this very day. With this awesome exhibition God ushered in the Old Covenant, God’s voice shook the very ground on which they stood. The covenant was inaugurated with a fearsome display of power. but Israel soon forgot.

But you believers have you come to Mount Sinai for your instructions? "No, you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels, to the full concourse and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all… and to Jesus the mediator of a New Covenant… See that you do not refuse to hear the voice that speaks"

Isn’t this the echol of a long-ago admonition given by Moses to Israel in Deuteronomy 18:15: "YHVH your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; IT IS TO HIM YOU MUST LISTEN"?

The writer of Hebrews does not leave us guessing at the implications of this scenario. He says, "By speaking of a New Covenant, he has pronounced the first one [the old covenant] obsolete; and anything that is becoming obsolete and growing old will shortly disappear" (Hebrews 8:13). "The earlier rules are repealed as ineffective and useless, since the law brought nothing to perfection; and a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God" (Hebrews 7:18-19). "but a change in the priesthood must mean a change of law" (Hebrews 7:12).

To sum up, we ask the question: Is Mount Sinai where we find our home for laws and direction? The writer describes them as obsolete, growing old, shortly to disappear, ineffective, useless. This is Mount Sinai! Paul comments on this same themem in his leter to the Galatians: "Tell me now, you that are so anxious to be under law, will you not listen to what the law says?… This is an allegory: the two women stand for two different covenants. One Covenant [the Old Covenant] comes from Mount Sinai; that is Haar and her children born into slavery. Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents Jerusalem of today, for her shildren are in slavery [under the Old Covenant given at Sinai]. But the heavenly Jerusalem[Mount Zion and the New Covenant] is the free woman, she is our mother" (Hebrews 4:21-26).

One organization, in order to rescue their semi-Mosaic system, would have us believe that the expression "being under the law" means "being under the penalty of the law." No scripture is quoted to support this concept. One could ask whether those whom Paul was addressing in this passage (Galatians 4:21) were people who were anxious to be under the penalty of the law? I would think not!

Which Days Do We keep Unholy?

Paul writes about some persistent points of division and disagreement in the assembly of God in Romans 14. His inspiration is "the law of concern" for fellow man. the issue is special days of worship and what we may or may not eat. On the question of varying opinions as to food he concludes, "Let us therefore cease judging one another, but rather make up our minds to place no stumbling block in a fellow christan’s way. All that I know of the lord Jesus convinces me that nothing is impure in itself; only, if anyone considers something impure, then for him it is impure. If your fellow believer is outraged by what you eat, then you are no longer guided by love. Do not let your eating be the ruin of one for whom the Messiah died. You must not let what you think good be brought into dispute; for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but justice, peace and love, inspired by the holy Spirit" (Romans 14:13-17).

When Paul makes the statement in verse 20, "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. Everything is pure in itself," one must assume that the writer’s use of the word everything refers to food, not arsenic or barbed wire! In Paul’s statement we find no support for enforcing Mosaic food laws. The Apostle recognized that a major problem is created if we require converts to the Messiah from the Gentile world to alter their diet by submitting to Moses. This would be to miss the point of the new international faith, "for the Kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking, but justice, peace and joy inspired by the holy Spirit" (Romans 14-17).

Paul in Romans 14:14,20 was certainly not affirming the food laws of Leiticus 11. In that chapter a precise list of animals, clean and unclean, is presented. To eat what is not prescribed is an abomination. Paul, however, in a chapter which mentions food some 20 times, uses the very opposite adjective from the one found in Leviticus 11. There, under the law of Moses, foods are clean (katharos) or unclean (akathartos). For Paul, dealing expressly with eating and food, all things aer katharos - clean.

Paul expressly reverses the Mosaic taboos when, in verse 20, he uses the exact opposite of "akathartos," unclean or umpure, with his bold, liberating claim, "All things are pure." Paul here uses the katharos, which is the oppostie of akathartos. The Apostles had bery clearly waived the temprary restrictions given to Israel under the law. For Paul the law (Torah) which alone has value is the "law of the Messiah" (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21), that is, the law as fulfilled in the Messiah, summed up as faith and love. Paul, after all, had written a whole book - Galatians - to explain that the law given to Israel through Moses was a temporary custodial guide valid only until the coming of the Messiah (Galatians 3:19-29). Paul was horrified that believers should want to move back under the Old Covenant, when the Messiah has invited them to the freedom of the New Covenant brought by him as the Messiah.

Hebrews 13:9 reinforces our lesson: "Do not be swept off your course by all sorts of outlandish teachings; it is good that we should gain inner strength from the grace of God, and not from rules about food which have never benefited those who have observed them." This statement points to the existence in the first century of believers whose scruples over food were nothnig but a burden to themselves and to others - and a potential cause of division and unrest in the assembly.

A leading commentary on Romans reads Paul with accuracy when it notes, "’Nothing is unclean of itself’: This remarkable statement undercuts the whole distinction between clean and unclean foods on which Paul, like all other observant Jews, had been brought up."

The same freedom of choice pertains to the selection of a day for worship: "Again, some make a distinction between this day and that; others regard all days alike. Everyone must act on his own convictions" (Romans 14:5).

The Sabbath

When God the Creator and Father of mankind completed His six days of creation, He rested on the seventh day and declared it holy. It is not called the Sabbath but the "seventh day". The word shabbat is not used. To force the word shabbat on this particular seventh day adds to the text. There is n ot mention at this stage of a weekly Sabbath for mankind. No ordinance with a set of rules and regulation is given. Nor is there any scriptural support to show Sabbatical laws were imposed on Adam or his sescendants until the time of the Exodus. That the Sabbath ordinance was mandated for all humanity is not stated in Genesis - a fact recognized by Jewish commentary.

The first day has its own uniqueness. When the first six days are mentioned, each ends with the identifying phrase, "Evening came, and morning came." Then the particular day is noted. This is not the case with the seventh day on which God rested. There is no biblical record of any instruction gien o Adam on how to conduct himself on subsequent seventh days. The word Sabbath appears nowhere in the scripture until exodus 16:23 where, along with circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14), it becomes the divine sign for Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant (Exodus 12:43-49).

Exodus 16:23: “Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance [not the Sabbath], a holy Sabbath to YHVH.” (Exodus 31:16-17: The Isrelites must keep the Sabbath, observing it in every generation as a covenant forever [olam]. It is a sign forever between me and the Israelites, for in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh He ceased work and refreshed Himself.” The Sabbqth originates in this instruction through Moses (Nehemiah 9:13-14; 10:29-33). The Sabbath was included in the summary of the law, the ten commandments: “When He finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, YHVH gave him two tablets of the Testimony, stone tablets written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18).

It should be noted that the word forever, olam in Hebrew, does not always caontain the sense of permanence with it has for us. It is limiteed to a cetain period of time, or as long as circumstances remain the same. The Sabbath finds its limitations as the sign along with circumcision in the Old Covenant, not the New Covenant. Physical circumcision was likewise commanded “forever” (Genesis 17:13, olam), but believers in the New Testament did not insist on it.

Notice: The framework of obedience in which believers must live is not that of the covenant given to Moses. Hebrews 12: 18-29 speaks of New Covenant believers: we have not come to Mount Sinai. 2 Corinthians 3:3-18 cntrasts the killing effect of the letter of the law with the liberating power of the spirit. Blindness results from adherence to Moses It is cured in the Messiah: “Whenever he turns to the lord the veil is removed.”

The Two Covenants

Psalm 110:4 says, “God has sworn an oath and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever, a Melchizedek in my service.’”

Repeated in Jebrews 7:17, this forms a crucial link between Jesus as a priest of the order of Melchizedek and the covenant with Abrahamn. This permitted the writer of Hebrews to assert categorically that the old priesthood and the law have been replaced by a new arrangement. “The Livitical priesthood and the law associated with it have been superseded by the new and ‘better hope’ based on the superior quality of the new priest… God annoinced His intention to set aside the whole Levitical system becaue it had proved to be ineffective in achieving its purpose. Its ‘weakness’ is not in the loaw or its purpose, but in the people upon whom it depends for it accomplishment. Its ‘uselessness’ derives from the fact that the law… was able to cleanse only externally.”

We appeal to Hebrews 7:28 for instructions on the difference between the two priesthoods: The high priests appointed by law [the Levitical system] are men in all their weaknesses, but he priest appointed by words of the oath which supersedes the law is the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

The writer of Hebrews shows the contrast between the new priesthood, whose appointment was validated by God’s solomn oath, and the Levitacal priesthood, which was based on the law without the benefit of a divine oath. This makes Jesus the priest of the New Age. It states categorically that the new priesthood is a divine institution unconditionally guaranteed by God’s solemn oath. The hopes of the Messianic community are anchored in the absolute reliability of the New Covenant arrangements.

The promise to Abraham, the father of the faithful, was also confirmed by a divine oath (Hebrews 6:13-18). This oath, not given to the Levitical priesthood, “is the impregnable guarantee that excludes all doubt and gives to faith assurance of the promise… It is final, eternal, and unchangeable.” This is not the case with the Levitical priesthood.

Entering God’s Rest

We have noted the uniqueness of the seventh day of creation - the day of God’s rest. This becomes a symbolic act for all humanity. It denotes a time when believers cease from all their own work and its limited aims in their present mortal existence. God’s rest points to a totally different set of goals and purposes by which to direct our lives. But it is not an effortless stroll towards a future position of authority promised in 1 Corinthians 6:2; “It is God’s people who are to manage the world.”

Israel under the Levitical priesthood sometimes kept the Sabbath, the holy days and new moons but too often strayed from the faith and obedience which would have led to the rest God designed for them. The writer of Hebrews provides the road back to success by quoting Psalm 95: “Today [this is for now] if you hear his voice do not grow stubborn. If Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day. Therefore, a Sabbath rest still await’s the people of God; anyone who enters God’s rest, rests frm his own work, as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by folling the old example of unblief” (Hebrews 4:7-11).

We are not promised a relaxing walk in the park. We are, however, given the absolute assurance, the peace of mind and confidence that God has bound Himself, by an immutable oath through His Son, to carry us forward to the goal. How? By grasping our staus as Hebrews 3:1-6 says: “Therefore, brothers of the family of God, partners in a heavenly calling, think of Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of the faith we profess; he was faithful to God who appointed him…. Jesus has been counted worthy of greater honor that Moses… The Messiah is faithful as a son, set over the household. And we are that household, IF only we are fearless and keep our hope high.”

The third and fourth chapters of Hebrws define the complete outline of what is required of us “now,” “today,” in order to enter the “rest” God offers. God is now working through His Son, the High Priest at His right hand. Success does not come through observing a semi-Mosaic system. We “have becme partners with the Messiah IF we keep our initial confidence firm to the end” (3:14).

What does partnership with God’s risen Son entail? Hebrews 4:1-3: “What we must fear therefore, is that, while the promise of entering His rest remains open, any one of you shold be found to have missed his opportunity, for indeed we have hd the good news preached to us, just as they had. But the messge they heard did them no good, for it was not combined with faith in those who heard it. Because we have faith, it is we who enter that rest.” How then do we enter the rest which God designed for all humanity?

What is required is faith in the saving partnership with Jesus in proclaiming the Good News of a coming Kingdom of god on earth. Jesus said it was for this cause that His Father sent him. “I must gie the good new of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do” (Luke 4:43). When Jesus carried out this task he entered into his ‘rest” by doing not his own work but the work of his Father. We can enter into that same “rest” and partnerdship with Jesus when we cease doing our own work and concentrate in collaboration with Jesus in doing God’s work (Luke 4:43).

The field is the world. The seed is the gospel message of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:19). In performing the work of sowing, Jesus assured his followers that they would one day occupy executive positions in the kingdom: “You have stayed with me through my trials; and just as my Father has covenanted to me the right to rule, so I covenant to the the same right. You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30). The task was to proclaim that Kingdom message to the world. The seed planted in the mind of peoples regardless of their circumstances did not demand adherence to the temprary laws of the Old Covenant, required for the discipline of the nation of Israel.

The change from Old Covenant requirements to the New Covenant is radical and dramatic. ‘You shall not kill” is hightened to “love your enemies.” And we re to set out on the ultimate quest for new age life in the age to come: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

The NEw Testament shifts to an imphasis on sharing the gospel message of hope with anyone who will listen. It demands a love toward God the Creator and His son Jesus who gave his life in sacrifice for our sins under a New Covenant. Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments,” We enter rest (not weekly Sabbath obervance) by faith and obedience - a “sabbatism” (Hebrews 4:9), not a single Sabbath day.

The writer of Hebrews is quite clear about the two different time frames. In chapters one and two he points to the exalted position given to Jesus now and in the age to come. Hebrews 2:5; “For it is not to angels that he subjected the coming New Age which is our theme.” And the subjection of this earth to man is yet future: “You put everything in subjection beneath his feet. For in sujecting everything to him, God left othing that is made to be subject. But in fact we do not yet see everything in subjectino to man” (2:8).

We are then invited to see in Chapter 3 the superiority of JEsus to Moses and “today [now] IF you will hear his [Jesus] voice” we become partners with him (not Moses). The NEw Covenant is not a mixture of the Old Covenant with the New. Paul sweeps away the Old Covenant and its relevance for today when he says in Colossians 2:9-17: “For it is in the Messiah the nature of God in all its fullness dwells embodied; it is in him you have been brought to fulfillment. Every power and authority in the universe is subject to him as head. In him you were circumcised, not in a pysical sense, but by stripping away the old nature, which is the Messiah’s way of circumcision… And although you were dead because of your sins… he has brought you to life with the Messiah. For he has forgiven us all our sins: He has cancelled the bond which was outstanding against us with its legal demands; he has set it aside; nailing to the stake…

“Therefore, allow no one to take you to task about what you eat or drink, or over the observance of a Feast, New Moon, or Sabbath. These are no more than a shadow of what was t come, the reality is the Messiah’s”

With this “trio” of Jewish sacred days Paul refers to a unit of observances to which believers are not to feel obligated. No less that 11 times in the Old Testament this description of the weekly, monthly and annual observances appears as one package. Pal sees all three as a single shadow. Sabbathe - annual, monthly and weekly - are plainly and equally “types” of the one who is our Passover, our Sabbath and our Atonement, our Rest. Moses is dead. The Messiah Jesus lives!

This is what I see as the fundamental issue: God gave us through His Son a commission to bring a messge of hope t the entire world. We re invited t join His Son in that commission. Mosaic abbiers to getting that message to the world have been eliminated. We are now free to move around the world.

It is an enormous blessing to possess the knowledge of the unique God of Israel. The same belief is held by millions of Jews. Over a billion Muslims also believer there is One God. Unfortunately for the Jews they look to Moses. They have rejected the Messiah who came. Te Muslims look to Mohammed. Some believers in Jesus still look partly to Moses and not fully to the Messiah who came not to abolish the Torah but to complete it. Paul insists that compormising the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is a way to blindness. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16: “In any case their minds had been closed. For to this day, when they read the Old Covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through the Messiah is it taken away. Yes, t this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”