Excerpted from the Messianic Torah Devotional by Kevin Geoffrey.
“Rather, we have known that the Torah is good, provided one uses it lawfully….” 1Timothy 1:8
One of the major criticisms levied against the Messianic Jewish movement is that it allegedly causes believers to go back “under the Law.” Unfortunately, while much of our purported Torah observance is barely more than a superficial emulation of rabbinic Judaism, the accusation is not far from reality in some circumstances. Indeed, as the more militant among our ranks swing to the extreme with their versions of Torah observance, it becomes the very legalism they vehemently swear to oppose. The practices and propaganda of many independents, fringe elements, and those in pseudo-Messianic movements have also been cause for alarm within the larger Body of Messiah. Therefore, restoring the Torah to its proper context ought to be of paramount concern for the Messianic Jewish movement.
When it comes to proving the existence of God and the truthfulness of His Word, it’s easy to come up short. As believers in Yeshua, we often present subjective or debatable evidence, such as personal experience, miracles, and fulfillment of Bible prophecy. But demonstrations of power and foreknowledge aren’t necessarily measures of truthfulness. Rather, we trust what someone says when we believe he is true to his word… when we believe he will keep all his promises. So why should we trust that God’s Word is true, that He exists, and that He is who He says He is? Because He has faithfully kept one objective, verifiable, and undebatable promise: Adonai has continued to preserve the Remnant of Israel from antiquity; He endures as the eternal guardian of the Jewish People.
At the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East is a fundamental, socio-religious ideology that says Jews should not exist—anytime or anywhere—much less as occupants of the land presently known as the modern State of Israel. As a result, the Israeli State faces a constant and seemingly imminent threat to her national sovereignty and safety: Palestinian rockets and mortar shells launched almost daily toward Israeli territory; powerful Arab leaders with potential nuclear capabilities calling for the annihilation of the “Zionist regime;” escalating, internal conflicts within neighboring countries threatening to destabilize the entire region; the nations of the world continually demonizing every attempt made by the State of Israel to defend against her aggressors. Confronted by such contempt and antagonism, the government nevertheless tries to negotiate land for peace, with an Israeli/Palestinian two-state solution looming as inevitable. Yet the real and growing danger hanging over the State of Israel endures.
The authority and power of the Scriptures rests solely on our belief that they are literally the written word of God. So what happens when we translate those God-inspired words from the languages in which they were originally written? Indeed, though many of us read the Bible effortlessly in our native English, English is certainly not the native tongue of Scripture. Though we may revere our English bibles as the infallible word of God, the fact is that Hebrew (or sometimes Aramaic, and Greek in the “New Testament”) is the original language of Scripture, and when we neglect it, we risk imposing our own flawed points of view on God’s word.
Though in large part, translators do a fine job retaining the essence of Scripture, there are times when English simply does not do a passage justice. Either through mistranslation due to bias or ignorance, or merely by the limitations of the receiving language, important details can become obscured, replaced by ideas from the reader’s experience or particular frame of reference.
Q: Hi Kevin, I ran across an article recently that was saying that we shouldn’t be celebrating the Festivals because we’re only supposed to do that in the Land in the place of His Name (Jerusalem, e.g. Deuteronomy 16:5-6). The author was saying it’s wrong to do this! Wow! What’s that about?
A: I’d like to see the article to find out exactly what his take is, but here’s mine: I wouldn’t say that it’s “wrong”—only that it’s impossible! Torah was given to Israel so that Israel could be Israel—and that includes possessing the Promised Land. There are no provisions for keeping Torah in Dispersion. On the contrary, Numbers 9:9-12, for example, gives instructions for someone who is on a journey at the time of Passover. It doesn’t say anything about keeping the Feast where he is (the implication being, outside the Land), but that he better be back in time to celebrate it a month later!