Simchat Torah, or Shemini Atzeret, marks the conclusion and then renewal of the Jewish annual Torah reading cycle. It is welcomed with great celebration and is one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar. This article has been scheduled for this day, to celebrate the blessing the Torah brings to us all. Read more here.
“Show me the right path, O LORD;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by Your truth and teach me,
for You are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in You.” Psalm 25:4-5
With the exception of the ten commandments, we tend to see most of the laws God gave through Moses as irrelevant, as we are justified by grace. I have needed to study the Torah (the first five books of the Bible,) to understand David’s actions and mindset; to my surprise, I have found that they make me feel more secure. I don’t need the Old Testament for just the feel-good Scriptures about how much God loves me, and what He wants to give me, I need the hazard warnings too. They are making how I relate to the world easier.
Western society in 2015, even for Christians, is very permissive. We live under the pressures of anti-discrimination and tolerance philosophies, and most of the time, they are excellent attitudes which do serve society well. However, as we were warned when political correctness began to become a societal standard, our willingness to include and accept everyone as they are, has indeed subtly eroded our understanding of what is sinful.
It’s become harder and harder to know where the lines should be drawn. I know what is wrong and right, but the part of my brain which has been taught by society to be empathetic, worries too much about offending, when instead, it should be identifying where the Word of God stands, and being brave enough to publicly say, “no.”
When the Lord bought Israel out of slavery in Egypt, He was dealing with a nation who had lost their sense of right and wrong. They were Hebrews living as Egyptians, in the same way that we are Christians, living as westerners. They took on the local foods, manner of dress, customs, social standards and culture, just as we have… and they had to be delivered from it. Not only that, but when you look at the masses of rules set down, they also had to be re-taught how to live as God’s people, with Godly attitudes and proper morals.
The Lord taught the ‘young’ Israelites everything they needed to know, right down to how to handle disease, how to avoid the risks of food poisoning and parasites in food, acceptable moral standards etc. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘children of Israel,’ as they were the same as small children, who need to be bought up to know what was safe, and what was not. The young Isra’el also underwent hard training regarding the consequences of their actions, and had to learn obedience in small steps. Even then, they failed, as their sinful natures took over.
Even when Israel had grown into a mighty nation, and to this day, for our protection, we still need a loving Father to say, “no!” When the world starts to overwhelm our Godly mindsets, we must go back to the Word to be set on the right path again. The Torah is as relevant now in 2015, as it ever has been, and David relied on it heavily, to determine how to rule God’s people.
“Your regulations remain true to this day,
for everything serves Your plans.
If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy,
I would have died in my misery.” Psalm 119:91-92 (This Psalm is thought to belong to David, because the wording matches his style.)
For many controversial moral situations, the Torah has a simple answer, which often is an outright no, for reasons which are best known to the Lord. Like the ten commandments, some rules were made for all time periods, and hot topics such as the sexual morality (not purification) laws are included in that. [Ref. Leviticus 18] I don’t have to know and understand absolutely every reason why God has forbidden some things, in order to decide what stand I should take on those issues.
“The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Psalm 32:8-9
Where areas appear grey or discriminatory, I have to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing. Just because I don’t understand every factor behind why the Lord made any moral or ethical decision, should not make it questionable, or open to being changed and compromised by current ideas.
I don’t understand how quarks work or behave, but I trust God that He made physics to perform perfectly, and that the building blocks of the universe work to His design. So why have we stopped trusting His moral wisdom, when the rest of His plan for creation works so well? We’re fine with the natural systems and don’t question His wisdom there. (Except maybe for mosquitoes, fleas and snakes, but they do have their place. So I am reliably told.)
“As pressure and stress bear down on me,
I find joy in Your commands.
Your laws are always right;
help me to understand them so I may live.” Psalm 119:143-144
Standards on stealing, murder, lies, social responsibility and fairness have also stayed the same. Even though we are made right with God through grace, the baselines of our faith have not changed. [See also Romans 1:8 to 2:16.] As Paul discusses the issue of sin in Romans 3, he quotes parts of Psalms 14, 5, 10 and 36, This demonstrates the New Testament relevance of the principles found in the Torah.
We need to go back to the Torah more, and allow the Lord to take Egypt out of us.
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9
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