The Very Nature of Torah
To Jesus the Jewish Messiah and Paul, his Jewish apostle to the non-Jewish world—the Torah is divine guidance, direction, and instruction. It is not some big negative set of stipulations. Like all Hebrew words, torah has many contexts and usages, but they can all be summed up in the word teaching. The Torah is teaching.
The Hebrew word for a school teacher is morah, from the same root. Yahweh is a teacher. He came down at Sinai, he taught Moses and through Moses, the children of Israel. What did he teach them? How to cast straight their life, how to hit the mark.
And what is his bullseye for them? Life, choose life. "I am giving you the instruction manual for being the people of God. Here are guidelines, directions, instructions, and commands. Here is how to live so that you come into the fullness of life." The Torah is God’s direction and guidance, his wisdom and instruction.
The Torah is to be highly valued because of its very nature. That is Yeshua's frame of reference.
To the Jewish mind, the Torah had (and has) the same kind of positive connotation as when we say, God’s Word. That was rather awkward. Let me try to say it another way. When we refer to the Word of the LORD, we hold up our Bibles and say, “Thank God for His Word.” It evokes very positive feelings. That is the same precise way Jews use the term because the Torah is God’s Word! It is His gift of instruction, of illumination, of wisdom, guidance, and direction. It is precious. It is not the Law; it is God’s Word.
Look with me at how the psalmist extols God’s Torah in Psalm 1:1, for example. Now you better understand why the he can say,
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night."
The non-Hebraic mind hears that his delight is in the law of the LORD and says, “what a weirdo.” But translate it, "he delight is in God's Word," and the feeling is different, true? You are starting to understand what the psalmist meant. You are beginning to think more biblically. What do you do when you delight in his Word? You meditate on it, day and night. What is the goal of God's Word for you?
"He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers."
Here is another profound example,
"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
- Psalm 19:7-11
How can he laud the law this way? Because Torah, to him, doesn’t connote law as it does to you and me. It is the Word of the LORD, and Yahweh is a Teacher.
Actually, the way we use the word law for the Hebrew Torah corresponds to another word in the Hebrew Bible. It is not Hebrew, though, it is Aramaic. The word is dat (dät) a word, interestingly enough, used by the Babylonians in the time of Daniel to describe the law of the Jews, the Torah.
But it is never used by Jews to describe their Torah. Why? Because the word dat means what we think of when we say the law (capital L). The Law dictates stipulations and precepts that are unchanging and unyielding. You must obey or disobey the Law at your peril. This law is so set and unchanging that even the lawmakers were subject to it.
A story is told of a judge in Babylon found guilty of taking bribes, which was against the Dat. His punishment? Execution by flaying the skin off of his body which in turn was tanned and used to cover the seat on which his replacement would sit. This served as a constant reminder to the next judge; you better observe the Dat; it is the Law.
In the story of Daniel and the lion's den, even the king says to Daniel, “I wish I could change this so that you would not be subject to this penalty.” But he goes on to say regrettably, “It is the law, and even I am subject to it.”
Again, this term dat was how the Babylonians described the Torah given by the God of Israel, but it is never used that way by the Jewish faithful. They always use the word Torah: the caring guidance and instruction of a loving God. The principle here is that we need to change our mindset from Dat to Torah.
My prayer is that every time you see the English translation law, you will translate it back into the Hebrew concept of Torah. That is the mind of Messiah, and a much better frame of reference for comprehending the truth of the issue we are tackling in this study, What exactly is our relationship to God's Torah?
This devotional study is from a professionally produced transcription
of Dwight's audio message. It is a full and accurate transcript,
formalized and edited for readability and clarity by JC Studies.