Follow Jesus, not Moses
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
Are we able to receive Jesus' Words here in this saying? For Messiah plainly says that to treat people the same way you want them to treat you, "is the Law and the Prophets".
He says the same thing elsewhere in Matthew chapter 22: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)
So, according to Messiah (who alone is and spoke the New Covenant), those who follow him have both a much simpler Way, as well as a much more difficult Way. The simplicity is Jesus telling his follower's plainly that to love God and your neighbor IS all the rules, regulations, and "the Law" (that encompassed in the Torah) that one is to live by. The difficulty is that his followers retain the sinful nature which rejects the living out of those two great commandments. On the other hand, it is relatively easy to partake in the many rituals found in the law.
Now, many who are taught by their religious leaders the necessity of keeping "the Law" as Moses gave it, might be objecting at this point, and trying to use Matt. 5:17 to nullify this teaching of Jesus. Let's see why that fails.
In Matthew 5:17 through 5:21, Jesus says this:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' (Matthew 5:17-21)
Those who want to obey Moses as much as they want to obey Jesus (or more than they want to obey Jesus) say that verse 17 means that we ought to keep the law of Moses. They say that when Jesus said, "I did not come to abolish but to fulfill", he meant that his disciples are still bound by the Torah. But how could this be if Jesus plainly says that to treat others as you would have them treat you "is the law and the prophets"? Where are all the rules and regulations in the Law laid out in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy in that teaching of Jesus? They are notably absent, so why are Jesus' Words rejected in favor of Moses' words? Because men's sinful nature loves the external religion of men, and hates conforming to the Truth who is found only in Jesus and his Words. Just as the religious leaders of his day could claim to be keeping the law of Moses, and yet breaking the spirit of it, so it is today. And what is the spirit of the law? As Messiah plainly says, "Love the Lord your God with all that is in you, and love your neighbors (and even your enemy) as you love yourself".
Let's take a brief look at the word "fulfill". It means:
So Messiah came not to abolish the perfect 'law of God', but to perfect the imperfect law of Moses. Yes, Moses did not offer the perfect law of God, but rather the best that God could work through him. What GOD tried to give Moses was perfect (Exodus 34:1, 4, 28 - vs. 1, 4 have Moses cutting the tables, and v. 27-28 has Moses writing the commands on the tablets.). What the imperfect man Moses actually wrote on the tablets was imperfect as Messiah makes abundantly clear in Matt. 5-7. The rest of Jesus' teachings in Matt. 5-7 are in fact the perfecting of the imperfect law of Moses (not "law of God", which Messiah gives plainly); the filling up of understanding that Moses did not convey; the finishing of that which Moses left unfinished due to his sinful nature; the filling back up of that which was spilled by Moses by his deficiencies in trying to receive God's desires.
In fact, Messiah teaches those who are his that the Father has no "law", but rather to love Him and all other people (as the Light defines love).
Yes, Moses was a man of faith who apparently loved God as best as he could with what he knew, BUT HE WAS NOT PERFECT. Thus, he should not be followed when we have a Perfect representative from the Father, the Light. And the Perfect Representative says that the way to please God is to know Him and His Son, and to do what the Son says, which in essence is to love other people!
Many will be offended at this teaching, just as they were offended at Messiah's other teachings about the imperfections of the exalted "Fathers" (Matt. 23:9, "call no man father", including Abraham; "greater than Solomon" - Matt. 12:42; greater than Jacob - John 4:12; yes, even greater than Abraham and the prophets - John 8:53, 58). But then those offended ought to wonder who is the leader of their heart ("Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Messiah." (Matthew 23:10)) or what are they worshipping ("You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:38-40))
Indeed, as Messiah continues, "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." And what needed to be accomplished? There are two possibilities which don't contradict Messiah's other teachings.
The first is the bringing of the Kingdom of God to men through Messiah's life, death, resurrection and ascension (Luke 16:16-17). Messiah said on the tree, "It is finished" or, "It is accomplished". So what is lacking in terms of the Kingdom of God being brought to, and made available to men, through faith in Messiah? Nothing is lacking, neither in Messiah's work, nor in his teachings. Thus, since "all was accomplished", the mosaic law passed away and the new, perfected Way, which Messiah teaches in Matt. 5-7 was now in place.
The second possibility would be that Messiah, knowing that Moses' law was both good - although imperfect - and highly reverenced by the Jews; acknowledged the "good" aspect of it and affirmed the Jews respect of it with the heaven and earth saying. In other words, 'do not commit adultery' is an eternally binding moral law on men consistent with his Father's will, although imperfect, incomplete and unfulfilled. So men should not commit adultery (have physical sexual activity with someone other than their spouse), but it is also sin to be a married person and think about sexual activity with another woman in your mind while never touching her physically.
What Jesus could not mean was that the old law of Moses was still in place for his followers since he clearly shows the error with it in Matt. 5-7.
However, the more important point is that didn't Messiah already say that to love the Father and our neighbor "is the law and the prophets"? How would we know that without Messiah declaring that to us? Yes the law of God (NOT the imperfect, incomplete and unfulfilled law of Moses) shall not pass away until heaven and earth pass away. And Messiah perfected the imperfect law of Moses through his teachings and his followers are bound by that NEW covenant (Luke 22:20), and not the old wineskin made imperfect by Moses' lack of understanding.
Those who love the scriptures more than God (John 5:38-39) will say, "but ALL of Moses' writings ARE God's commands". Then why did Jesus correct Moses' law in Matt. chapter 5? And why did Jesus sometimes refer to Moses' writings as "your law" (John 8:17) and "their law" (John 15:25)? If Jesus is the Word of God, then how could he refer to his words in the third person and impugn those words as belonging to the religious leaders he said were in error? Surely if those commands referred to by Jesus in those contexts were his Father's commands, he would not refer to them in the third person of "your" and "their" and in a demeaning manner to boot!
Please listen to Messiah:
Some religious leaders came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted (not God!) you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:3-9)
Who gave the law allowing divorce? The Father or Moses? According to Messiah, it was Moses and not his Father. Thus, divorce, being in Moses' law, is wrong and not was intended by the Father. If Moses could be wrong here, where else could he be wrong? Well, Messiah, in the following verses in Matt. 5 shows where Moses' law is imperfect, incomplete and unfulfilled.
Jesus' followers have work to do in obeying the Master, but not in obeying the voice of one of the old wine makers (Luke 5:39) when Jesus showed and IS the better Way. Jesus IS the New covenant (Luke 22:20), and the old has passed away. Indeed, heaven and earth will not pass away until the New 'Law's' Words are all accomplished (Matt. 24:35). For Messiah plainly says, "whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Notice he says the "least of these commandments". Which commandments? Did he have a scroll of Moses on that mountain side that he read from as he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God? No, he did not. For Jesus plainly said, "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." (Luke 16:16) Yes, there is a NEW Covenant (Luke 22:20) and a better Way, and Jesus wants us to look to him ONLY, and not be stuck in savoring an old wine when there is a NEW and BETTER wine! (Luke 5:39)
Jesus, in the next few breath's (his Words in Matt. 5:21 through Matt. 7:27), is going to teach "these commandments" to the people, and if you have ears to hear, you will see that the Light is perfecting the imperfect law of Moses in his Words to follow. So why would Messiah tell those listening to him to follow that which was imperfect as he showed the imperfections? Look to the living Son ("these commandments"), and don't look back to Moses!
For example, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matthew 5:38-39)
Verse 20 is directly from Moses, who says this, "If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him." (Leviticus 24:19-20)
And again, "If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. "But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." (Exodus 21:22-25)
Moses followed the natural law and wisdom from God (a conscience tuned into righteousness) to the capacity that he was able to receive it. But Jesus, who spoke directly his Father's Words, fulfilled that which was unfulfilled, and perfected that which was imperfect.
Here is another example. Messiah says, "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
Moses says, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18) Note how the neighbor is qualified as having to be one of "the sons of your people".
Here is what Moses says God says regarding people who are not "the sons of your people":
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people." Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD'S vengeance on Midian. "A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war." So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them, and the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. So they made war against Midian, just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered. Then they burned all their cities where they lived and all their camps with fire. They took all the spoil and all the prey, both of man and of beast. They brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest and to the congregation of the sons of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan opposite Jericho. Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. And Moses said to them, "Have you spared all the women? "Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD. "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. "But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. " (Numbers 31:1-18)
For those locked into religious thinking, they will be able to justify Moses' words, even in the latter portion of this quote. I wonder if they were there and had to take a sword and thrust it through the heart of a "little" boy and a young married wife, if then they might wonder if the command was from God or from Moses? And what aspect of God's character is being acted upon with sparing the young Midianite virgins "for yourselves"???
Jesus' teaching is radically different than Moses' teaching because Jesus says, "...the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (John 12:50) Not only is there no qualification from Jesus about loving only neighbor's among your people, but Messiah explicitly says, "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:47) He goads his proud Jewish listeners with the Words, "Do not even the Gentiles (not their people) do the same"? His point is twofold. First, to his Jewish listeners, that even the people you look down upon (non-Jews) are as righteous as you are based on your standard of righteousness from Moses. The second and more important point is that we who follow him are to love our enemy regardless of what tribe, nation, or people group that 'enemy' is affiliated with. In so doing, he is explicitly correcting Moses' error which is quoted above in Num. 31:1-18.
In Matthew chapters 5 through 7, Jesus fulfills, completes and perfects the unfulfilled, incomplete and imperfect law of Moses. It is NOT a rebuke of the contemporary religious leaders of Israel and their interpretation of Moses, as many who resist the simple truths in this article will maintain. The quotes are from Moses, as found in the Torah. The quotes are NOT from the Jewish Rabbi's at the time of Jesus.
Jesus the Light of the world continues to correct the imperfect teachings of Moses:
"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." (Matthew 5:21-22)
Here, Jesus says that the command to "not commit murder" is inadequate in-and-of itself. It is imperfect and lacking, and he points out how it is so. This is why Jesus taught in Matt. 5:20, right after his teaching that he needed to fulfill-complete-perfect the imperfect law of Moses, "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20) The religious leaders of Jesus' day worked very hard at keeping the outward, legal or minimum aspects of the law, and Jesus plainly said that their efforts were not sufficient to be declared righteous by his Father. But make no mistake, most of them WERE KEEPING THE TORAH...THE LAWS OF Moses. And yet, Messiah plainly says that they - whose lives were characterized by trying to keep the laws of Moses - would not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus makes the same point in this teaching, "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28) He is saying that simply refraining from actual physical sexual activity is not enough to fulfill God's intention that men not even lust in their hearts after women. Therefore, the command of "not committing adultery" is incomplete, unfulfilled, imperfect, and falling short. For many men can refrain from physical sexual activity with a woman, while all the while a large percentage of their mind/heart time is spent lusting after women and sexual pleasure. And if you care to take the time to research what "adultery" meant to the Jews prior to Messiah's arrival, it plainly meant the physical sexual act with someone other than your spouse. Thus, from Moses' command, a man could and did refrain from the physical act all the while lusting in his heart for other women.
If we only know our Father better, we will know that Moses was an imperfect sinner like the rest of us, and that his teachings include error that Messiah had to correct. That which was given to Moses directly from God was as perfect as Moses could comprehend it, write it and expound upon it. Yet because it went through a sinful man, Moses, it was unfulfilled, incomplete, lacking and imperfect. Just like the writers in the New Testament who try to add their imperfect words to the Words of Messiah, so it was with Moses, who added his words to the pure Words of God [See Are Paul's Writings Flawless?]. When Messiah finally came, the Father's heart was no longer impeded by the sinful hearts of men, but could express itself perfectly through His sinless, perfectly obedient Son. How grateful we are that the Father also preserved the Words of His Son in the four gospel accounts - praise YHWH forever!
Jesus tells this important story that has a direct bearing on this issue:
"And they said to Him, "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink." And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? "But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days." And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. "But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (Luke 5:33-39)
The meaning could not be more plain. Jesus, who is the New Covenant, has come and in so doing, he has made the old garment-old wine obsolete and has instituted a NEW Covenant. The two covenants must not be attempted by men to be melded together somehow, for in so doing men will "both tear the new, nor will the piece from the new match the old". No one ought to put new wine (the New Covenant sealed by Jesus' own blood) into old wineskins (the Torah...the Old Covenant...the teachings of Moses), for if they try, both will be ruined. Surely this is the error of all the versions of 'messianic christianity', and looking to Moses is the heart of all versions of Hebrew roots religion.
"Chair of Moses" Objection:
Another objection by people who are trying to join the OLD with the NEW, is this teaching from Jesus:
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them." (Matthew 23:1-3)
Many who claim Messiah as somehow important to them use this passage to justify living by Moses' law - at least the portions of Moses' law that fit into their lifestyle! The saying starts noting that Jesus was speaking to a mixed crowd - a crowd containing both his disciples as well as other people. He then starts speaking what will be a very strong rebuke to the Jewish leaders. He starts by saying that their leaders (the religious leaders in particular) have taken the seat (or place or position) of authority known as the "chair of Moses". Moses was highly revered by the Jews and thus this "chair" was one of high authority. Jesus then simply says, "therefore, all that they (their contemporary religious leaders) tell you, do and observe". Please note two very important points.
First, he does not say, "therefore, study Moses' writing and do what Moses tell you". This is not even implied. It is merely read into the passage by those who want to justify not truly having Messiah as Master. Messiah plainly says to do and observe what THEY (their contemporary authority, not Moses) tell you.
Second, this teaching of Messiah cannot be taken as anything but his teaching that the people ought to obey their authorities. It is a saying not substantially different than, "Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's", another command to not rebel against an established authority.
Of course Messiah closes this saying with a strong rebuke of those authorities for their hypocrisy, for he says, "but do not do according to their deeds, for they say things and do not do them". Jesus then goes on with his strongest recorded rebuke of Israel's religious leaders. Therefore, while Jesus upheld the AUTHORITY that the leadership held, he at the same time told the people to not live according to those same people's ways, since they were hypocrites.
Finally, this is not the only teaching of Messiah regarding authority and leadership. He makes it plain in other teachings that he (Jesus) is to be a person's one and only Master, Teacher, Lord and Leader, and thus obedience to him takes precedent over obedience to any other authority that a person finds themselves under. Thus, if some authority demands that a disciple disobey Jesus, then the disciples will not comply. However, if, for example, a disciple finds himself in some city somewhere, and that city's police authority asks the disciple to stop, talk to them and show them what they are carrying, the disciple should comply.
'Jesus Observed Moses' Feasts' Objection:
Another objection by many in, or influenced by, messianic religious groups is that Jesus 'observed many of the traditions in Moses' law, like the shabbat. However, this objection fails as well.
If Jesus did not teach his first Jewish followers to observe something, then his followers are not bound by it, and Jesus did not teach even his first Jewish followers to follow the Torah.
The reason Jesus was present during some of the Jews feasts, religious festivals and torah observances was because he could not reach them with his Father's Words if he were not in their midst. Just because he was present during some observance does not mean he endorses its practice. Jesus was sent to the Jew's first, and he had to observe some of their religious culture to not be rejected outright. For example, let us say that this author wants to bring Jesus' Good News to a muslim neighbor. Let us also say that I have been developing somewhat of a relationship with them as I have been acting in kind manner towards them. If they invite me to their daughter's wedding, and that wedding has a religious element to it, would my being present during that religious element mean that I endorse it and would either practice it or teach others to do the same? No, it does not. The same is true with Jesus and his being in the Jewish religious culture.
And so, we have come full circle. The reader must answer these extremely important questions:
I hope the reader will do what the Father says and listen to His Son ONLY, and judge all other men's teachings against the perfect Words of the Word of God, the only true Light of this dark world.
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