I have dealt with this many times before, but it sometimes we need to be reminded. There is a great misunderstanding of how we, as disciples of Jesus, should view the Old Testament. Some believe it is outdated and meaningless. However, we need to understand that is the very foundation of what we call, “The New Testament.” Without understanding that reality, we greatly misunderstand what the “New Testament” writers meant in their letters and in the Gospels.
For instance. There are times when you might hear the word, “Torah.” No, you won’t find that word used anywhere within modern Bibles. In fact, I never saw it until I began to use The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Instead, you find the word Law used (which by the way, is an intentional mistranslation). You see, back in the early days, when the scriptures were translated to Greek (and made worse by the early Church wanting to distance itself from the Jews) Hebrew texts were changed to make the Gentile believers feel better.
Actually, Torah does not mean “law.” In an overly simplistic sense, Torah means “teaching.” Yet, in a curious irony, even the Jews themselves have adopted the view that Torah was “Law.” In fact, they began to use the term Torah to include many other religious writings — to the point that Judaism, in general, had become a religion based far more on the “doctrines of men,” than the Word of God. Jesus mentioned this when he said: “the traditions of men have made the Word of God meaningless.”
Hey! Take a look at that:
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were unclean, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they gave their hands a ceremonial washing [Not referring to a hygienic cleansing, but a meaningless rabbinic “tradition”], holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles).
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.‘
And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother [which has nothing to do with giving “lip service,” and saying how much you like your parents. No, it means taking care of them during times of need],’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban‘ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.‘ (Mark 7:1-13)
Oh, don’t judge those ornery Jews. We do the same things in our churches! James wrote about the “effectual fervent prayer of faith of a Righteous man” availing much . . . but some give the credit to particular prayers that are said or a chain of beads (pagan in its origin, by the way). We have doctrines established by men that require you say particular words; prayers that have to be repeated; the position the person is in while praying: saying he must be standing, or laying down, or lying prostrate, wearing a shawl, and on and on it goes. I have even heard that if you don’t add the phrase, “In Jesus’ name,” your prayers mean nothing! We are continually adding to our set of rules until the Words of God mean nothing!
We are continually attempting to trivialize the Word of God, removing its authority (and the penalties for violating them), and coming up with a multiple-choice faith that allows us to pick and choose what we wish to believe and obey. Many will tell you that there is no “inflexible right and wrong;” that everything changes as our cultures change. Phooey!
No, that is not very spiritual, I know, but it certainly gets the truth said. We have embraced what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as “Cheap Grace:”
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession . . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Father, save us from ourselves.
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