In Numbers 15:39, the LORD tells the men of Israel to put tassels on the four corners of their garments. No doubt you've seen orthodox Jews with these fringes hanging from beneath their clothes. The LORD goes on to teach them that the reason for the tassels is so you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. To do here is la'asot, the Hebrew word from our key text in Ezra 7:10.
God is interested in his people walking in obedience and faithfulness; that is at the heart of what it means to reconnect to the Jewish roots of your faith.
We need to realize that receiving his saving grace means taking his commandments seriously, just as the earliest disciples did.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. - Titus 2:11-14
We have commandments in the New Covenant. By the Spirit of Messiah, we are subject to the spirit of the Torah — what Paul calls the law of love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." - Galatians 5:14
To embrace your Hebraic heritage means taking responsibility for walking in the path of your rabbi and Lord, Yeshua: following after him, being covered in his dust, imitating him in all you do. You study in order to do, and then you teach. In the Jewish society of Jesus' day, rabbis were held in the highest esteem as those who had insight into divine wisdom. Yet rabbis expected their disciples not only to learn but to teach others as they had been taught.
God equips and then enables each of us to share what we know about him with others, at our level and ability.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. - Deuteronomy 6:4-7
These famous words from Deuteronomy make up a portion of the Shema, which is a Hebrew word meaning hear, listen up, pay attention. In effect, it says that in light of all he has done, what are you going to do about YHWH? The right response is to love him with your whole being.
Love has the connotation of serving him. God is not commanding emotions. You cannot control emotions; they come and go as circumstances dictate. But you can command action. God is commanding Israel to act in obedience to his divine teaching and instruction.
The Hebrew word to teach (lamed) can mean to learn as well. All this is captured beautifully in Psalm 143:10, Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
We know the great commission that Jesus imparted to the church. Would it surprise you to know that this is a New Covenant restatement of a commission that dated back to Ezra's time? The motto from Ezra's time passed down through the sages, and the rabbis was to raise up many disciples. Jesus modeled it and has now passed it down to you and me.
In his great commission, Jesus emphasized the very things I am talking about here. It is not the great suggestion; it is a command and a commission to his church. And what is the command? In our going, to raise up disciples (just as the Master did), teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Do you see how this theme repeats itself over and over? Study the teaching that you have been given to act on it. In your going make disciples. How can you make students if you are not a teacher? And how can you be a teacher if you have not been a student yourself?
I suggest that you cannot fulfill the great commission if you do not take the command seriously to study his Word. He wants you to work with him in his kingdom.
There was a great debate in the time of Jesus, encapsulated years later in a discussion between two rabbis, Akiva and Tarfon. The question was, which is the priority, to study, or to do? Tarfon answered, "Clearly, the Bible teaches what is important is the doing of a thing; God desires obedience even more than sacrifice." But Akiva said, "No, study is more important because it leads to the doing."
Surely you are familiar with Jesus' words in John 8, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Yet what most Christians fail to realize is, it is the second half of a sentence. We are like little kids who don't want to eat the main course to get the dessert. We don't want any solid, nutritious stuff that gives strength; we want to eat lots of pudding.
We want to be set free — and praise God for our freedom. But what we forget is that Jesus prefaced this with a conditional statement, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples (John 8:31). The abiding implies the studying that leads to, you guessed it, learning and doing and teaching.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.