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Week Six | Jesus and the Torah

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Week Six | Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus Online Book Study
Reading Assignment – Ch. 11 & 12
Listen to the Audio version | Read time 10-minutes

Growing up, I was always a rule follower.  I was never that child or student who broke the rules or did anything I wasn’t supposed to.  Honestly, just the thought of breaking a rule would have caused me to break out in stress hives.  

As I have gotten older, specifically when I went away to college to now, I have become more opinionated and outspoken.  If you asked my parents I bet they would say that I hit my rebellious years in my late teens to early twenties.  

I began having really strong opinions about the “rules” I was expected to follow.  Like Lois Tverberg in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, if I struggled to see the reason for a rule, I struggled even more to abide by it.  

In our modern day world, I believe that many of us can feel the same way about God’s law that we read about in the New and Old Testaments.  So, what steps can we take to gain a better understanding of the law and God’s desire for us to obey them?

First we have to understand and reform the way we think about these laws in general.

God’s Law

“To many of us the word ‘law’ evokes the idea of hair-splitting discussions, prosecuting attorneys, speeding tickets, fines, and jail.  But the Hebrew word for ‘law’ is torah, and it primarily means ‘teaching’ or instruction.”

ann spangler & lois tverberg, sitting at the feet of rabbi jesus

Wow.  Can we take a minute to fully comprehend how seeing this one word in its original language, and the context that surrounded it, can entirely change how we comprehend scripture?  

For example, take Psalm 1:1-2 and instead of reading the word “law”, replace it with the word “teaching” or “instruction”. 

“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the teaching of the Lord, and who meditates in his instruction day and night” (NIV).

As Christians, we have translated the word Torah to mean law, which is one possible meaning, but it is not what the writers had originally intended.  Instead of solely viewing the Torah as the law that we have been conditioned to see them as, let’s try to instead view them for what they are, “God’s guidance for how we should live” (pg.157).

When we take the time to understand the intended meaning and context, it changes the way we interact with and learn from Scripture.  So how can we continue to learn what Scripture is really trying to teach us?

God’s Teaching Methods

Have you ever tried the latest fad diet? Most of them are super restrictive, and have strict rules and limitations for you to follow.  Needless to say, these don’t often work, and if they do it’s only for a short time.  If you’re wanting to make real, lasting lifestyle changes, you have to start where you are and move in baby steps forward.  

When it comes to God’s teaching methods, He wants his followers to make a full lifestyle change, so He knew His teaching methods had to support that.

“Instead of transforming his people instantly, God started with what was familiar. Building on what they were accustomed to, he then moved them in a radically different direction.”

ann spangler & lois tverberg, sitting at the feet of rabbi jesus

God has and always will hold us to a high standard, but He also understands that we are human, and are not meant to, and never will be, perfect.  I loved how Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg referred to God’s teaching method as a “go-slow” approach, in chapter 11 of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.

It shows the amount of love and patience He has for us as we work with Him to transform our lives.  No matter where you are in your relationship with God, consider what it says on page 167 in the book, “Perhaps the best way to understand the Torah is to see it as something more than an inflexible set of laws.  Similar to an archer aiming an arrow toward a target, the Torah offers guidance for how God wants us to live.”

God first led his people physically out of Egypt, before He morally separated them. When you look at Scripture today, at God’s teachings, don’t isolate them from the context in which they are found.  This context is essential.  So instead, “The best way to interpret how God is directing us in the present day is to understand the context in which the law first emerged and then to trace its movement throughout Scripture” (pg. 168).  

So how does Jesus play His role in God’s teaching methods?

Jesus and the Torah

God sent His only Son to not only die on the cross for our sins, but to teach us how to live life on Earth.  Jesus faced endless criticism from the religious elite because of claims that He was misinterpreting God’s law and discrediting the legalisms of Torah.  

For years, rabbis had been teaching the law to believers. Their main goal was to prevent followers from being sinful. In their desire to provide protection, they instead took on a role of stifling and controlling their lives.

“The rabbis reasoned that it would be easier for people to live within God’s laws if they enacted rulings that prevented them from even getting close to breaking them… And though the rabbis’ intentions were good, this practice opened the door to rigidity and legalism, making it easy to understand Jesus’s scathing criticism of some of their hairsplitting decisions.”

ann spangler & lois tverberg, sitting at the feet of rabbi jesus

Jesus recognized that even the religious leaders did not understand the Word or how to help the Jewish people from breaking the law.  Therefore, “Jesus responded in the Sermon the Mount by saying that he was not misinterpreting God’s law, but bringing it to its best understanding.” (Pg. 177)

God does not desire a “minimal” life for us. He wants more than the maximum. This is why He sent His only Son to show us how to live, to forgive our sins, and provide for us a set of teachings that would make it possible.

Jesus offers each one of us so much more than the maximum.  

Let’s recap…

Today we learned:
– The word “law” in Hebrew is torah, which primarily means teaching or instruction. 
– God uses a “go-slow” teaching method that creates a lifestyle change in His followers. 
– God holds us to a high standard, but He also understands that we are human. 
– Jesus was sent to not only forgive our sins, but to show us how to live life on Earth.
– God does not desire a minimal life for us, He desires a more-than-maximum life that is offered through His only son Jesus. 

What was your initial reaction to substituting the word “teaching” instead of “law” in Scripture? How has it changed how you view and understand the Word?

How has learning to understand context and culture helped to transform the way you interact with Scripture?

What does it look like for you to step into the more-than-maximum life that Jesus offers?

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Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus | Lois Tverberg

A 7-week study to change the way you read Scripture and deepen your understanding of the life of Jesus, by taking a fascinating tour of the Jewish world of Jesus, offering inspirational insights that can
transform your faith.

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