The first five books of the Bible are the “instructions” given to us by God Himself. Many think these were only for Israel but that is mere replacement theology. It is easy to see that the “law” was known by Abraham, Jacob and Israel. But, after the long captivity in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus, those who left were far removed from having practiced those things God had passed down through the Patriarchs. So, these were given to Moses, written by the very finger of God upon Mt. Sinai on what we call Pentecost. Isn't that interesting?
There is much wisdom written there in the pages of the Old Testament. Believers would do well to study intensely these things for they were put their for us to learn who our Father is and to give us foundational truth and His moral benchmarks upon which we are to base our day-to-day behavior. We see that Moses spoke the most direct oracles from God and they are those laws given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. An oracle is a direct and unequivocal divine statement directly attributed to the named deity.
The next most direct oracles come from The Messiah, Yeshua, in what we call the New Testament; yet even the bulk of these oracles are but repeats and reminders of what God spoke through the Old Testament prophets, or are the exegesis of the law He gave long ago. Of course, where most Believers get tripped up is that they think that what the Savior offered and spoke was brand new. This is because they have neither read nor been taught any of the Torah (instruction) nor the Old Testament.
So, even though it is generally painted in the churches that Jesus abolished the “old law” and gave mankind a “new law,” even He plainly says in Matthew 5:17-19 that this is not the case.
“Think not that I am come (g2064) to destroy (g2647) the law (g3551)or the prophets (g4396). I am not come to destroy but to fulfil(g4137).” Matthew 5:17-19
The numbers listed beside words or phrases above in the passage are as follows: “I am come”: (g2064) to come into being, arise, come forth, be established, become known. “To destroy”: (g2647) to dissolve, disunite; to overthrow, render vain, bring to naught, to subvert, overthrow, demolish. “The law”: (g3551) anything established, a law, or command, a law of which is produced by God. “The prophets”: (g4396) those who divulged, discerned, foretold, made known, announced. “To fulfil”: (g4137) to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to fill to the top, to carry through to the end, to bring to realization, to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be.
Rather, Yeshua went about separating God's Laws (as given to Moses) from traditions that men had developed over the centuries about those laws; traditions that had become the basis of Judaism (and much of it wrong-minded), and which were often set against the very laws of God. And He also explained and expounded on the divinely intended meaning of the laws and how many of the words of the prophets concerning the coming Messiah (now present) were fulfilled in Him. And so, He does not say that He is invoking new laws nor changing old laws, either.
It is interesting, to say the least, how God's Word is often twisted and changed to mean whatever one chooses it to mean. Another example of this is the “Holy War” described in Deuteronomy that Israel is about to begin for the conquest for the Land of Canaan. We must be careful not to get sucked into a debate or a defense that the current “Holy War” of the Muslims against the world (called Jihad) is the same thing that God has ordained in the Torah regarding the taking of Canaan (the promised land).
This is one of those many instances when the meaning of a small phrase changes over the years and takes on a different context; but that small change in meaning can have larger consequences. This writer has heard Muslim spokesmen, news commentators, journalists and even pastors discuss the Muslim Holy War as being comparable to the Old Testament War of Moses and Joshua upon Canaan.
The difference between the two is night and day: Islamic Jihad is about forcibly converting the world to their religion. It is about an army of Muslims violently establishing a worldwide Caliphate (that is, a one-world Islamic theocracy); it is about killing those who choose not to convert as a direct instruction from the Qur’an (although the Qur’an does seem to give somewhat of an out to Jews and Christians who might have their lives spared if they'll agree to be ruled by Islam and submit fully to the Islamic government).
There is no thought in the Torah of the conquering of Canaan in order to spread the religion of the Hebrews to foreigners. The mentioned war was not about converting those of the pagan Canaanite religions to the worship of Yehovah, and killing the holdouts. Rather, it was a war over land; a very specifically called-out piece of land (and very defined). In fact, Moses carefully recounts in the Book of Deuteronomy how the Israelites avoided conflict with the Edomites and Moabites wherever possible because they rightfully owned the land they possessed since the Lord had set it aside for them and had assigned it to them.
So, we must never fall prey to the specious argument that what Islam is currently doing is somehow akin to what the Hebrews were doing as they conquered Canaan. Nor should we imagine terrorism or the terrorist purpose and mindset as being akin to the Old Testament conquering of Canaan. God's only earthly Kingdom was to be within the well-defined boundaries of what was currently on record as being the Land of Canaan, and not beyond.
There was no command to convert Canaanites, nor was there a command to commit genocide upon them. The goal for the gentiles of Canaan was to be driven out; only those who chose to stay and fight and fight to the death rather than leave were subject to be being killed. In perhaps the oddest irony, it is not the “Old Testament God” who says to Canaan and other foreigners, “Convert or die” as so many misinformed Christians think (and is at the core of much Christian opinion on the Old Testament, the law, and on the Jewish people); rather, the only God-directed “convert or die” scenario in the Bible is in the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation, when Jesus Christ is leading the armies of heaven (usually called Armageddon) in which the only people who are allowed to remain alive on the face of the planet are those who accept Him as Lord and Master. Armageddon is a battle for the entire earth, not for Canaan. There is nowhere for those who are against the Lord to move.
Moses, for a short time, and then his protege, Joshua, would lead God's people in a battle for an earthly kingdom located in a specific place. As followers of The Messiah, we are to lead a battle for a spiritual kingdom. Joshua (his given Hebrew name was Yehoshua) would lead a battle using spears and swords; Jesus (His given Hebrew name is Yehoshua) has instructed us to put down our spears and swords and to lead a battle using primarily our faith, the Gospel truth and our loving deeds. Yet, when Yeshua returns, He will fight a bloody physical war just as Moses and Joshua did.
One more thing about “Holy War” is that a Holy War is not one that is led in the name of God, but one that is actually led by God. That is, it is made clear that God has gone ahead to defeat those whom are intended to be defeated.
As we read Deuteronomy, we see the second generation of Israelites to come out of Egypt finally preparing to go into the Promised Land. Moses reminds them that they could have already been there had their parents been obedient. They should have already been there. Let not you and I lose the point of this as it applies directly to us and to our reluctance to lay hold of the victories God has already given us, but expects us to go forward and claim in deed and in action.
Israel was basically spiritually and physically dormant for 40 years because they lacked faith. They marched in circles, marking time, merely existing. They weren't any closer to the Promised Land in year 40 than when they were barely over a year after they left Egypt. And rather than entering into God's promised land as He bid them, they said, “No thanks, looks a little scary...think we'll just march back to our previous lives in Egypt.”
You see the problem was that the first generation believed in God, but they didn't trust Him. They constantly irritated Moses by asking the rhetorical question: “Why did God bring us out here just to die?” They knew who He was, they believed He existed and that He was their God. But they didn't trust in His ability to care for them or His determination to protect and guide them. And so it took Israel 40 years to gain what they could have had much earlier.
James, brother of Jesus, put this in another way:
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” James 2:19
In other words, “works” is exercising trust and obedience which puts faith into action. This God-principle of passive faith versus active faithfulness remains. Acceptance of redemption is one thing; acting on the obligations you now have to God as a redeemed person; and on the commands of God that are really only for the redeemed anyway, are another. Israel was redeemed before God gave them His laws and commands. But, even as redeemed people they were utterly useless to the Lord, His Kingdom and His purposes for them until they were ready to trust God and act on that trust.
It cannot be stressed enough that the current modern passive attitude of Christianity is wrong and powerless. Our doctrines have literally turned the God-principle expressed here on its head.
We have made our acceptance of God's redemption (our salvation) as the first and last obligations or acts of obedience to the Lord that are needed or required in our walk with Him. No. No. First we accept our redemption (and, as Paul says, that isn't really to be considered an act of work or a good deed on our part) and once that occurs, now we are expected to act upon our trust in God. And guess what happens if we don't act? We're basically put into a state of dormancy. Want to get saved and then go into suspended animation? Fine. The Lord has a name for that; it's called rebellion.
When we are redeemed and then given the knowledge that every last redeemed person has obligation to meet, and every person has a purpose for being elected to the Kingdom, for one to not pursue those obligations is disobedience. Do you wonder why perhaps you've been a Christian for 10 or 20 or more years and don't seem to be much further in your walk than when you first were saved? Do you feel like you're walking in circles like the Israelites and know in your heart that there really isn't any noticeable difference between you and the world? Then here's a question for you: Is what you are doing wrong? If you are not doing according to God's will then you are exactly where Israel was for 40 years. If you don't trust God and insist on sitting on the sidelines that is disobedience. You are wandering and God is waiting and He can wait a lot longer than you can wander. But, oh how miserable is our condition when we choose that route. How miserable were those Israelites who couldn’t grasp that believing in God is not the same thing as trusting God sufficiently to live it out. And redemption is not a good work of man; redemption was then, and is still today, a good work of God. Our good works are what happens after redemption (in obedience to our Father and for Him). And, without those good works, as James says, our faith is a dead faith.
God alone is the lawgiver. Men don't have to decide what is right and what is wrong; they simply must apply what God has already told them is right and wrong in His eyes. What is right and wrong in the eyes of men is to have little to no bearing on anything.