I read some articles criticizing the Hebrew Roots Movement. To say the least, I was upset. I had not yet read any criticism, and had only come up against criticism from friends. I screamed and maybe cried. Who am I to believe? Who is telling the truth?
Of course, Yeshua is the truth. He said so. But it is important to remind myself of why I am following Yahweh in the Hebrew way.
I would compare it to my reasons for following the Paleo diet and lifestyle. (For those who don’t know, the philosophy of Paleo is whole foods, no processed or refined foods.)
For the first twenty years of my life I ate what most other Americans ate. On an average day I had cereal with skim-milk for breakfast, a PB&J for lunch, and probably a pasta dish for dinner. In my mind there was nothing wrong with my food. My mother believed it was good for me, and fed it to me. How could anything mom gives me be bad for me?
But when I discovered I was gluten-intolerant, I realized something was wrong. My research led me to the Paleo diet/lifestyle. I was vaguely familiar with it, but reading about it for myself convinced me of it. Although it may be too soon to throw all grains out the window, it makes a point about processed and refined foods. Poptarts, frozen dinners, and fruit roll-ups look nothing like their original foods, and are packed with chemicals. They hardly do our bodies any good, but they are cheap and easy. Switching to whole vegetables and meat just makes sense. And now, eating “Paleo”, my food is awesomely healthy and delicious. My body loves it, I’ve lost twenty pounds and counting, and I have so much energy. Processed food doesn’t even taste good to me anymore. (Potato chips are so bland…)
Similarly, for the first twenty years of my life I followed the Christianity my mother taught me. I went to church on Sundays, and I celebrated Christmas and Easter. My mom was teaching me as she had been taught. How could it be bad?
But Christianity as it was taught to me didn’t make sense. Do I really have to pray for forgiveness every night so if I die in my sleep I won’t go to hell? Why is Christianity the one, true religion? What happens to Jews when they die? I started taking Torah Class after a few tough theological discussions with my Jewish boyfriend. I insisted that my way was right, and wanted him to investigate my side. But Yahweh told me to investigate his. So slowly I learned more and more about the scriptures from a Hebrew perspective.
And it just made sense to me.
Of course we should still honor Sabbath because Yahweh appointed it as a day of rest back at Creation. Of course we should observe Kosher because He gave it to Noah, the second Adam.
The biggest eye-opener for me was reading C.J. Koster’s Come Out of Her My People. The good people at the Institute for Scripture Research have done a lot of good work on the origin of words used by modern Christians. The revelations revealed within this book deeply troubled me, about how deeply rooted we are in paganism, and the antisemitic things that had been done by Gentile followers of Yeshua. (Some critics of Hebrew Roots criticize our lack of resources, but this book has more references than pages, as well as sources in English, Dutch, and German.)
Anyway, how does this relate to Paleo and why am I doing it? To agree with some critics, yes, it is easy to fall pray to legalism. But every group of Christianity falls pray to legalism! I’d rather be legalistic in respecting the laws of Yahweh than the laws of man-made doctrine, like tithing or Sunday church-going. And for that matter, I’d rather be legalistic than lawless, abusing the favour (grace) of the Messiah to do what I deem good.
What is legalism anyway? Legalism is generally defined as following the laws in order to receive salvation, and according to modern Christians this is what the ancient Hebrews did. They say Hebrews would make offerings to atone for whatever sin, thus sinning freely. (See my blog “Intention” for my response to that.) But the Hebrews did not make offerings and follow the law to achieve salvation. That is a gross misunderstanding of the ritual offering system.
As Tom Bradford teaches in his awesome lesson on Exodus 20, the Hebrews followed the law because they had salvation. Salvation was through the promise of Abraham, and they were saved by being born Hebrews. They followed the law out of love and respect for Yahweh. They obeyed Yahweh because He had rescued them from Egypt and demonstrated His awesome power. Why would they follow the law to receive a salvation they had just received?
To finally answer the question, I follow Torah because in reading and studying the Torah, I have fallen in love with the Yahweh, the Almighty of the Hebrews. Because I have fallen in love with the Hebrew Mighty One, would it not follow that I would follow Him as He outlines in His word? I have felt peace at every step in my journey to follow Torah.
I spent a period of ten days this summer praying specifically over guidance in proclaiming Hebrew Roots. All week I waited for the flashing lights, the scripture that would tell me to stop. And yet, every scripture confirmed what I was doing. Every scripture told me the importance of following Torah and living in righteousness.
If Yahweh is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why would He change His mind about Torah? Why would Yeshua be a perfect Torah-abiding Hebrew, but teach that you do not have to follow the law? Wouldn’t Sha’ul, the main writer of the New Testament, as a lover of Torah tell everyone they had been wrong for thousands of years and that Torah was unnecessary?
I have to admit that in my Hebrew Roots journey, I have struggled with Yeshua. Actually, I have always struggled with the idea of “Jesus”, and quite frankly obsessive Jesus-love has bothered me. Yahweh is still teaching me about His manifestation Yeshua, but one thing He has taught me is that He came to restore Torah. By the time Yahweh was born as a man, Jewish thought had been paganized and filled with man-made doctrines. When Yeshua and the apostles speak against saving yourself by the law it is not Torah of which they speak, but of man made doctrine.
The Hebrew Roots movement is calling us back to the scriptures. What is so wrong with that? Why are people so afraid of doing things the Hebrew way? I love Yahweh, and so I follow His commands. It is not out of fear, but out of love.
I have so much more I could say on this topic, and probably will. But to sum it up, I eat Paleo because the junk they tell you is good really isn’t. Eating whole foods that haven’t been doctored and mutated by man just makes sense. I follow Torah because the man made doctrine they tell you is good, really isn’t. Reading whole scripture that hasn’t been doctored and mutated by man just makes sense.
Yahweh commanded us to do all these laws, to fear Yahweh our Elohim, for our good always, to keep us alive, as it is today. And it is righteousness for us when we guard to do all this command before Yahweh our Elohim, as He has commanded us. Deut. 6:24-25