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Light and Darkness

Here is a paper I wrote for my World Literature course on Genesis. I did a close reading of the first 5 verses. A close reading is when you look at the words used, how they are used, what the text is saying versus how it is said. It was a really fun close reading. I’ve just copy-pasted it here for you to read.

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Jesus, Love, and Torah Part II

So last time, I introduced the topic of Love and Torah. Basically, Love is the most important commandment. Above all else. Even if you follow Torah perfectly, if you don’t have love, it’s pointless. But what about Love with Torah? Well, what is Love? Let’s go back to Mark 12.

Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:28-30 NET

Last time I said I was just going to focus on the literal words that Yeshua said. But today I am going to dig deeper into context. When you see someone quoting the Old Testament, they are quoting the whole passage it comes from. So, where does this quote come from? Yeshua is quoting Deuteronomy 6, the Shema. Just before this famous passage, Moses has restated the ten commands with more details about not following idols. And so, in context, this is the whole passage.

“And this is the command, the laws and right-rulings which יהוה your Elohim has commanded, to teach you to do in the land which you are passing over to possess, so that you fear יהוה your Elohim, to guard all His laws and His commands which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days be prolonged. And you shall hear, O Yisra’ĕl, and shall guard to do, that it might be well with you, and that you increase greatly as יהוה Elohim of your fathers has spoken to you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, O Yisra’ĕl: יהוה our Elohim, יהוה is one! And you shall love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might. And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up, and shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut. 6:1-9 ISR

And then Moses instructs the Israelites not to worship idols, and that YHWH and YHWH only will be their God. The command to Love YHWH your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, is in the context of His commands. So…loving Yahweh means to keep His commands.

What? Come on Genevieve. You’re just twisting that, trying to put us under law. We’re under grace! That can’t be so.

Alright, let’s look at somewhere else in Deuteronomy.

And you shall love יהוה your Elohim and guard His Charge: even His laws, and His right-rulings, and His commands, always. Deut. 11:1 ISR

Could the Word of Elohim be anymore straight forward? Guarding God’s laws is in the context of loving Him. So, loving Yahweh means to keep His commands.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love יהוה your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His right-rulings. And you shall live and increase, and יהוה your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess.” Deut. 30:15-16 ISR

Again, to Love YHWH is to walk in His ways and to guard His commands. And YHWH shall bless you if you follow His commands!

But Genevieve, the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us anymore. We can’t be held by that.
And by this we know that we know Him, if we guard His commands. The one who says, “I know Him,” and does not guard His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever guards His Word, truly the love of Elohim has been perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. The one who says he stays in Him ought himself also to walk, even as He walked. Beloved, I write no fresh command to you, but an old command which you have had from the beginning. The old command is the Word which you heard from the beginning. 1 John 2:3-7 ISR
Okay…but John also talks about a new command. You’re taking this out of context.

Yeah, but he also doesn’t say that the old one is obsolete. He’s not talking about new and old as in new and finished. New adds on to the old. If you build a new floor onto your house, do you take out the foundation or the first floor? NO. That’s dangerous.

It is just as dangerous to live in the new commands and ignore the old commands. 

I have much much more to say on the importance and meaning of Torah, but I will go into that in future entries.

Getting back to where we started, Yeshua. Yeshua says the most important commandment is to Love God, and the second is to Love your neighbor. But how do you Love God? By walking in His ways, and to guard His commands, His laws, and His right-rulings.  Any Jew listening to Jesus speak would know that loving God means following His commands. They are taught that all their lives. They know, they know, they know. 

So why would Jesus tell you that the most important command is Love, knowing that to Love God is to obey Him, and then approve of your blatantly breaking the law? And Deuteronomy 13 says that a prophet who adds to or takes away from the law is a false prophet. So what exactly is Jesus doing here?

He’s taking us deeper! Not into a more legalistic adherence to Torah, but into a deeper intimacy with God in our observance of Torah. HalleluYah!

More on this topic, next time.

Shalom!

Genevieve

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1 John 2:1-7

1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, 2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.

3 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. 4 The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. 5 But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. 6 The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have already heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the light but still hates his fellow Christian is still in the darkness. 10 The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his fellow Christian is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (NET)

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Will the Real Christ Stand Up Please!

So good. So good. Truth!

Psalm 19:14

“We’ve got a False Jesus being portrayed. As seen on TV, acting cool….you see he’s changed.
A different Jesus from the Bible so…allow me to bring the real Christ on stage.

Not that whack Jesus, the one not based on fact Jesus, too often displayed.

The Christ in Glory, not the one on your chain.
Because he’s the real Jesus Peace that only dwells in the saved.

So allow me to paint the picture of Christ in the Scripture preaching faith and repentance that your too cool Jesus….never seems to mention.

It seems like he’s down with all the things that you do.

But come on, there’s only one Jesus who is true.

So which one will you let reign over you? Who?
The Millionaire Jesus who just wants to make you rich?

Give you some ice, fame, money, to prove that you are blessed?

The Black Panther Jesus who…

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Jesus, Love, and Torah Part I

Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him. Mark 12:28-34

This is a passage we are familiar with, at least I hope we are familiar with this passage. And I don’t want to disagree with Jesus here. No if, ands, or buts. The greatest command is to love YHWH, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commands rest on these two commands (Mt 24:40).

Jesus is quoting the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, and the laws of Deuteronomy expand upon the 10 Principles which tell us how to love God and man. (Bithiah has a really awesome summary of Deut. here.) So I could go into how the law fulfills loving your neighbor, and about how by following the law we are walking in love. That is certainly true, but I want to focus on what Jesus is saying here.

One of the pharisees replies, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Wait, what? Did you see that last part? Loving your neighbor is more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices. And Jesus tells him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” But wait, aren’t the sacrifices and such part of the law?

For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice;
I delight in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

When Jesus quotes this passage in Hosea, He says, “I delight in compassion”. And when we look in Isaiah, He does not want sacrifices.

Listen to the Lord’s word,
you leaders of Sodom!
Pay attention to our God’s rebuke,
people of Gomorrah!
“Of what importance to me are your many sacrifices?”
says the Lord.
I am stuffed with burnt sacrifices
of rams and the fat from steers.
The blood of bulls, lambs, and goats
I do not want.
When you enter my presence,
do you actually think I want this –
animals trampling on my courtyards?
Do not bring any more meaningless offerings;
I consider your incense detestable!
You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations,
but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations!
I hate your new moon festivals and assemblies;
they are a burden
that I am tired of carrying.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I look the other way;
when you offer your many prayers,
I do not listen,
because your hands are covered with blood.
Wash! Cleanse yourselves!
Remove your sinful deeds
from my sight.
Stop sinning!
Learn to do what is right!
Promote justice!
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!
Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow!
Come, let’s consider your options,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins have stained you like the color red,
you can become white like snow;
though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet,
you can become white like wool.
If you have a willing attitude and obey,
then you will again eat the good crops of the land.
But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
Know for certain that the Lord has spoken.

God is not looking for an outward appearance. He is not looking for religion. He is not looking for people who follow all the rules. He is looking for love. He is looking for love. Love YHWH your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. In other words,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit. Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Thus: If I follow all 613 commands, but do not have love, my obedience is worthless. If I set-aside Yah’s Sabbath but do not love Him, my time is wasted. If I pray the most beautiful prayer but do not desire to connect with the Father, my prayer goes unheard. If I abstain from unclean animals but do not love YHWH, my effort goes unrewarded.

Paul says, “do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:16). That verse in Romans really stuck out to me. If your practicing of Torah gives you a self-righteous attitude, that you know how to follow Yah better than our brothers and sisters, how will that be seen? We must endeavor to love God and our neighbor in all things, especially in our practice of Torah.

My dear brothers and sisters, I believe that Torah is extremely important. But love is first and foremost the greatest commandment. However, if your obedience to Torah is not rooted in a deep love of God the Father, what is the point? If we do not practice Torah with joy, what is the point? It becomes empty and ceremonial. If our neighbors see us laboring in Torah, it loses its strength. Jesus says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Mt 11:28-30

In the Semitic mindset, yoke refers to your interpretation of the Torah. Yeshua is saying “My interpretation of the Torah is easier than the load you are putting upon yourselves. Come, try mine. It’s easier. Trust me.” What is His yoke? Love, Love, Love, LOVE!

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first. If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too. 1 John 4:7-21

YHWH resides in us! That is so insanely awesome! He loved us first, so we must love one another. We’ve got the love of God inside of us, and we’re not going to share it? Come on! You’ve got the Almighty Creator of the universe dwelling within you, and you’re going to waste it on being awesome at scripture?

What does Jesus say?

“But I have a testimony greater than that from John. For the deeds that the Father has assigned me to complete – the deeds I am now doing – testify about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified about me. You people have never heard his voice nor seen his form at any time, nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent. You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.” John 5:36-40

It does not matter if you have perfect theology. It does not matter if you know exactly how the scriptures should be translated and applied. We must go to Jesus. He has the answers. He is love. Yahweh sent His son. Yahweh has given us His spirit. Love is the proof of God’s work, and it is perfected in us! Isn’t that exciting? His love is perfected in us.

This is a message that I need. I am easily tempted to be prideful and self-righteous of my Torah-adherence. But it doesn’t make me any better if I am not acting in love. If I am following rules because they are rules, and not because of a desire in my heart to love God out of following Torah, then it is pointless.

However, I do not approve of using love, using grace, as a reason for not following Torah. That is not love, but selfishness. That is something I will continue on in the next entry. Please look forward to the next entry. Shalom!

For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer. Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11