There is a commonly held misconception that the Jewish people depend totally on keeping the Torah in terms of their relationship with HaShem, the God of Israel. It is erroneous to believe they hold only to a “legalistic” position as though Torah does not require they live by faith. This simply is not true. Beginning with Abraham, faith was always been part of their calling.
Jewish people, alongside keeping the Torah, best they can without a Temple, place a great amount of emunah, faith, in Him, just as believers in Yeshua would place their faith in God. The point is this, it is not Torah or Faith. It is both. While the English translates Torah as “Law”, that term in our modern language does not do justice to the Hebrew meaning.
What Is Meant by the Term “Torah?”
The Hebrew word, torah (תורה), is derived from a root that was used in the realm of archery, yareh (ירה). Yareh means to shoot an arrow in order to hit a mark. The mark or target, of course, was the object at which the archer was aiming. Consequently, torah, one of the nouns derived from this root, is therefore the arrow aimed at the mark. The target is the truth about God and how one relates to Him. The torah is, therefore, in the strict sense instruction designed to teach us the truth about God. Torah means direction, teaching, instruction, or doctrine.
When Gentiles hear the “Law of Moses” they do not think of it in these terms. And unless we do, we are not going to fully appreciate what it means to be under the “Law of Messiah”, Galatians 6:2. The “Christian” idea of being under the Law of Messiah is also to “hit the mark”. When we obey Yeshua we do just that. Sinning, hamartia, is missing the mark. So the Jewish people, apart from upholding Torah, do exercise faith, which includes the idea of faithfulness. Granted it is without looking to the shed blood of Messiah. Believers, both Jew and Gentile do look to the finished work of Yeshua on the tree as the atoning work of Gods grace.
Here is just one passage the Jewish people will look at to understand the nature and character of Adonai.
“Then the LORD passed by in front of him, Moses, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.””
- Exodus 34:6-7
He is compassionate, gracious, full of loving-kindnes and forgives transgression. Most Christians would probably not be able to give a description like this of God from the Hebrew Scripture. Asked the question about God’s nature and character in the so-called Old Testament, one would in all probability get the answer that He is a God of wrath and judgment who changes into being a God of mercy in the Brit Chadasha, the New. Certainly I’ve heard it expressed like this many times.
Yet this view is not only patently absurd. It is false.
“”For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”
- Malachi 3:6
And the New Covenant explicitly confirms this idea. James the Lords brother writes:
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
- James 1:17
Where then does this understanding of the Torah leave believers? What about the “Law of Messiah”? Or are we under grace alone? And if so, what about faithfulness? Can we in any true sense of the word be saved by merely praying a prayer at some point, and have no commensurate faith evident in our lives?
Firstly the scripture does say we are saved by faith alone. Maybe though we need to bear in mind the word faithfulness.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
- Ephesians 2:8-9
That is the good news. None of us could do anything to save ourselves. Someone drowning with no outside intervention will succumb eventually. We cannot save ourselves. Ephesians continues to say, He, Messiah, presents us perfect. As someone said, “From the guttermost to the uttermost”.
“Just as Messiah also loved the ecclesia, (called out ones), and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the ecclesia in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
- Ephesians 5:25-27
But it does not end there.
There is nothing we can do, this is true. Yet Revelation speaks about “righteous acts” that are necessary to be part of the Lords bride.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
- Revelation 19:7-8
He makes us ready, we make ourselves ready. It is not either or, it is both. If you have never before considered what the Jews call mitzvot, good deeds, as being relevant in your life as a believer, maybe it is time to bring it before the Lord.