This week’s Torah portion (Parashat Ki Tisa) speaks of the Children of Israel sinning with the golden calf. This happened while Moshe went up the mountain of Sinai and spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain. The people had become restless and they insisted that Aaron build them a golden calf to worship. Aaron gives in to the people’s demands and builds them a false god. It is at this time the Lord God Almighty speaks to Moshe, these events seemed to have happened on day 40 while Moshe was on the mountain of Sinai, and because of their sin, the Lord was willing to destroy these people and raise up a people out of the seed of Moshe. Moshe responds saying in Shemot / Exodus 32:11 יא וַיְחַל מֹשֶׁה אֶת-פְּנֵי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָה יְהוָֹה יֶחֱרֶה אַפְּךָ בְּעַמֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּכֹחַ גָּדוֹל וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה: “Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” (NASB) The phrase of particular interest is the following, וַיְחַל מֹשֶׁה אֶת-פְּנֵי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהָיו “Moshe pleaded before HaShem his God.” The text states that Moshe pleaded (וַיְחַל) with the face (פְּנֵי) of his God (אֱלֹהָיו). Here the word וַיְחַל means “to become weak or sick.” The idea is Moshe pleaded with the Lord until the point of exhaustion of his body. This is translated as “pleaded” or “entreated” due to the reason Moshe is seeking the face / presence of God, due to the sin of the people. According to Vayikra / Leviticus 20:5, ושמתי אני את פני באיש ההוא, “I shall set My face against that man,” (related to idol worship) and Tehillim / Psalms 34:17, פני ה’ בעושי רע, “the face of God is set against evildoers.” Moshe pleading with the face of God is important based upon these references, the presence of God will lead to the destruction of the people if they are living in unrepentant sin. What we see here is Moshe praying to God and relating to him in a way that no one else has ever done before. Here the Masoretic text states אֱלֹהָיו saying “Moshes’ God,” (his God) where in the Torah we usually find this in connection with the patriarchs such as “the God of Abraham,” or “the God of Isaac,” or “the God of Jacob.” Even in the example of David we find in Isaiah 38:5 he quotes the Lord God telling Hezekiah: “thus said the Lord, the God of your ‘father’ David.” In Moshe’s case however, we find the Lord God associated His name with Moshe by the means of a pronoun. The point is related to the intimate relationship that Moshe had with the Lord being able to speak to God face-to-face and plead on behalf of the people. Moshe was successful in turning God’s wrath away from the people. In the context of Yeshua saying, “Moshe wrote about me,” the idea is in Yeshua we have an advocate, like Moshe, a picture of the Torah in the Messiah of God, of going before the Lord causing His wrath to turn from us, just as we see going on here in Parashat Ki Tisa. The NT teaching about Yeshua is a Torah centric principle about Moshe as an advocate on our behalf.
As having an intimate relationship with the Lord, Moshe sought to serve the Lord God of Israel, while being an advocate on behalf of the people. The Lord did not leave His people without hope. The Lord said by Jeremiah that He will write the Torah upon the heart of His people.
31:31 ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 31:32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. 31:33 ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (NASB, ל הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה וְכָרַתִּי אֶת-בֵּית יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאֶת-בֵּית יְהוּדָה בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה: לא לֹא כַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אֶת-אֲבוֹתָם בְּיוֹם הֶחֱזִיקִי בְיָדָם לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר-הֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶת-בְּרִיתִי וְאָנֹכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָם נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה: לב כִּי זֹאת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֶכְרֹת אֶת-בֵּית יִשְֹרָאֵל אַחֲרֵי הַיָּמִים הָהֵם נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה נָתַתִּי אֶת-תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם וְעַל-לִבָּם אֶכְתֲּבֶנָּה וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ-לִי לְעָם:)
The Lord said “I will put my law (תורה) within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” Does the New Covenant state this? Yes, it certainly does, but it is important to understand that the terms of the New Covenant involved the presence of God by His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) dwelling within His people. Paul wrote that the Spirit gives life! It is in this way that the Lord God Almighty Himself is living and working in us moving us towards obedience to His Word. The Torah functions as a plumb-line to measure the intention and evil impulses of the heart. The problem is not with the Torah, but with the underlying condition of the heart. This is why we are in need of a transformation of heart, and this is what the New Covenant is about with God’s Spirit literally dwelling within. We are given newness of life, a spiritual rebirth, and the ability to walk in love, mercy, and forgiveness, these three things transcend the Torah in the sense that the one who does these things does not violate the command. This is what Paul meant when he wrote about walking according to the Spirit. When we do so we are not walking in sin. To sin is disobedience to the Torah. This marks the followers of Yeshua as Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace; longsuffering, generosity, acts of kindness, faithfulness, humility, and modesty, against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Note that this does not mean the Torah has passed away. It is the Lord God who is living and working in us, and not our working alone apart from God. This is what we must understand in order to avoid confusion between the Torah of Moshe and the Torah of Yeshua. The followers of Yeshua have Torah, it is based upon the covenant we have in Yeshua the Messiah, and in the presence of God that dwells in our midst (in our hearts). This distinction is significant because this defines how we are to be led by the Spirit of God. So the question becomes whether a follower of the Messiah should adhere to the law code of Moshe or not? This question always comes up regarding the Torah. During Yeshua’s ministry, he studied Torah, read the Torah portions and the haftarah portions in the synagogue, and taught us to keep the way of God (see Matthew 7:12, Luke 4:16). He held to the central teaching of the Torah, the Shema, on the command to love God and to serve Him with all one’s heart, soul, and strength. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-6, Mark 12:29) The Lord did say that He would write his Torah upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-33, Matthew 26:28) and Yeshua taught the same (Matthew 5:17, Luke 24:27) and Paul also taught this according to Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, and 2 Timothy 3:14-17. The key point of the New Covenant is the same as what was given at Sinai in the sense that we stand before God, accept His Words and His Ways for our lives, and believe upon the One He sent to save us! I would argue that the Torah originally was NOT based upon the merit of man to obey God’s commands as opposed to the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of God. Most theologians will state that “before” (under the Old Covenant, or the Covenant of Moshe) we had to obey the Torah in order to be in right standing with God, and now we have the merit of Yeshua who came to die for our sins and set us free from the Torah’s judgment against us, and cite Galatians 3:13 as a proof text. The underlying presupposition is we no longer need to obey the Torah. This is very counter intuitive and confusing. From the beginning, man has been given mercy and grace from God, regardless of whether it was before the Tabernacle, the Temple, or by faith in Yeshua the Messiah. The difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the Covenant in Yeshua, is the promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit of God such that we will be empowered to live our lives for the Lord according to His ways. It is the Spirit of God that produces the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Remember, walking in the Spirit is synonymous to living in righteousness and holiness before God. We are given the divine presence of God for the purpose of His helping us to live, to overcome the world, to love, and even to have faith and continue in our faith (to be faithful). The Covenants found in the Scriptures build upon one another; this essentially implies how the Torah is established as the foundation upon which the New Covenant is being made. The Failure to make this distinction leads to many exegetical errors and invalid doctrines, such as replacement theology, and that the Torah has passed away, etc. There are those who suggest that this is advocating legalism. The error in such an assumption is not understanding the point and purpose of the command. What did the Lord God say?
1 Samuel 15:22
15:22 Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. (NASB)
6:6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (NASB)
6:6 With what shall I come to the Lord And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? 6:7 Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (NASB)
21:3To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (NASB)
12:7If only you had known the meaning of ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. (NASB)
According to the prophets, the Lord God desires mercy rather than sacrifice. These text references suggest how the Lord desires that we do what is right (morally and ethically) and the Lord knew that we would struggle with these things in our lives. Beginning with Abraham, God gave an unconditional covenant, and the promises that we are given, the Lord God Almighty sent His savior Yeshua such that we could believe in Him, and the Lord would send His Spirit to dwell in our hearts to help us to live, and walk, and breath, such that all that we do is done so for the Lord because of His working in our lives. These Scriptures do not teach a form of legalism but rest upon the fundamental teachings about the greatness of God in his mercy and grace, and of His great love! This is why we are called to follow the Messiah and submit to His authority (Matthew 23:8). Remember how Paul wrote that the Torah reveals our sinful condition. (Romans 3:20-21, Galatians 3:19) When we are given the command “do this and live” we know what the Lord God is telling us, that we are not to live in sin because it has destructive consequences in our lives. The point we learn from history is that having a knowledge of the Torah was not enough for us to understand the extent of human sinfulness. Knowledge of the Torah lead to the raising up of the base nature of the flesh, thus Paul wrote that the Torah was powerless to impart eternal life and righteousness. Paul wrote that everyone is imprisoned in sin (Galatians 3:22, Romans 3:19-20) such that we must rely upon the Lord God Almighty, and His Messiah Yeshua by faith. We are to have faith in the one who atones. This draws in the context of the Torah, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, etc. The Torah was not given such that man can attempt to please God. It was given so man had a way to draw near to God, and functioned as a type and shadow of what was coming, His glorious Son Yeshua, and directed us to seek the Lord and to have faith! It is in this way that we have faith in God’s righteousness, this is what transcends the weakness of the flesh, and the powerlessness of the Torah. The principle being taught from the Scriptures, from the very beginning, is the Spirit of Life, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Yeshua the Messiah has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) This is what Paul also wrote that the goal or aim of the Torah was the New Covenant which literally gives the divine presence of God in our lives by His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2). The Holy Spirit gives us life, and causes us to walk in God’s ways by the power of God in our lives! This means that we are no longer constrained to the sinfulness of the flesh when we are led by the Spirit. This week’s Torah Portion, Parashat Ki Tisa, teaches us how walking in the Spirit, trusting in God’s salvation, does not lead to lawlessness but to righteousness and holiness through faith. (Romans 8:4, Galatians 5:16) Being set free means that we are no longer slaves to the sinful nature. The Son sets us free, and empowers us by the Holy Spirit of God to live for Him by faith. In conclusion, remember how Yeshua warned that not everyone who says to me “Lord Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. The reason being is related to what we are discussing here, living out the commands of God being in the Messiah, or apart from the Messiah! This is a reference to not just those who give lip service to God, but also to those who do things for their own glory, by their own means, for their own purposes (pride). This why we read in the Scriptures which say, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) and “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) Each of these references speak to our relying upon Yeshua and the Spirit of God in our lives to live and have our being. Without the Lord God Almighty in our lives there is no hope! This is how the Torah and the Gospel Message go hand in hand!