You might have heard my story before, but in case you haven’t, I’ll share a little bit. 🙂
Back in 2006, an acquaintance online challenged my view of Scripture. We had been discussing 2 Peter 1:3.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
I claimed that this verse promised that God’s Word has all the answers to any problem we have. She argued with me and said that the Bible was useful for eternal life and knowing spiritual things, but it wasn’t intended for practical issues like marriage, parenting, teaching history and science, or knowing how to choose a mechanic.
I suppose it doesn’t tell us which mechanic to choose by name, but I countered back that surely it contained godly principles on how to choose a good mechanic — not counting the verses that promised that the Spirit would guide us and give us wisdom.
She said that I was taking verses out of context and applying verses written to Israel or to first-century churches and falsely applying them to my life.
I didn’t sleep that night! I really didn’t!
It rocked my world.
God Is Love
Questions raced through my mind for hours.
If God is love, then how will He act? What does His love look like?
“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to YHWH: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever” (Ezra 3:11).
God loved Israel, so why did He give them a list of impossible rules, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to keep them? Was He just out to prove how sinful and wretched they were — or could it be that He gave them instructions because He loved them, for their good?
“And now, Israel, what does YHWH your God ask of you but to fear YHWH your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe YHWH’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
So why would He reject His people? Why did He love me more than He had loved Israel? Why did He change all His laws, if they had been for their own good? And if He loved me so much, then why didn’t He give me specific help in my time of weakness?
Or why did it seem like the instructions His Spirit gave to one Christian were different than those He gave to other Christians?
Ahhh…. the questions continued for hours.
But one thing I knew! God is LOVE. His Word says so clearly — and repeatedly.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light;in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
By the wee hours of the next morning I had made a very important decision. I got my Bible, several highlighters, and my journal. I sat at the dining room table, still dark before sunrise, and I opened my Bible to Genesis 1.
I didn’t know if it all applied to me in 2006, as it had applied to the original readers, but I was determined to at least find out what it said.
And I didn’t care how long it took.
Love One Another
It actually took me only a few months to read through the entire Bible, including those little “minor prophets” that I had always struggled to find interesting. For this reading, I decided not to worry about whether a command was given to Israel or to me. I imagined for a moment what life would be like if it were to all apply to me.
I discovered some things.
- There weren’t as many “rules” as I thought there were. I had a heard a rumor that the Jews were under 613 rules, but because the Bible doesn’t list them in fancy bullet points, I was caught up in the love story and forgot to count the rules. I did see a few new things (like dietary changes, holidays, and a few other odd things, especially in Leviticus), but I couldn’t find hundreds and hundreds of “thou shalt nots.”
- The rules were mixed in with the love story. I was blown away by the love God had for all mankind. Over and over, He showed them His love and grace. They didn’t always accept His love, but He came back to them, over and over again.
“YHWH is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
- The rules were ways that I could show love to both God and others. The Bible didn’t leave things to chance. God told me to love others as myself, and then He gave specific ways to do that. It was incredibly practical.
“When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof” (Deuteronomy 22:8).
“Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).
- The rules were given to people by Someone who cared for them. Not only did God create people (so it stood to reason that He knew what would work best for them, their bodies, and their relationships), but He also wanted to fill His loved ones’ hearts with joy and purpose, with delight and mercy.
If taking the bacon out of my freezer was for my good, or taking a day off to rest each Saturday was a gift, then why wouldn’t I want it?
If You Love Me
Why did God write His instructions down in a book and then preserve it thousands of years until it would arrive in my hands, here in the uttermost parts of the earth? Why would He do this?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-10).
He loves us so very much. It is His good pleasure to lavish His riches on us, and each day is a gift. We can open the pages of our Bibles, listening to the precious Spirit of God He gives us, and He will make known to us the mystery of His will.
Several months later, tears flowed down my cheeks as I told Him how very sorry I was for hurting Him, for doing my own thing, and for disregarding His instructions. Even though I realized how I had sinned, I experienced His love and forgiveness even more.
“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
How to Read a Love Letter
You can think of this blog post as an introduction to many more posts to come. I still have the Bible and the journal that I used that year (and since), and I thought I’d open them to you over the coming months. I’d love to tell how I read His love letter and how it has changed my life.
If you’re reading a love letter, you’ll do a few things.
- You’ll read it from the beginning. He wrote it one page at a time, and it will make the most sense when you read it that way, too.
- You’ll meditate on its beauty all day long. It might take you a few months or a few years to read. It doesn’t matter, but you’ll certainly think about it all through the day. You’ll mull over it, chew on it, look at each word, and take great delight in it.
- You’ll do each thing it says. When someone gives you instructions in a special letter, you really listen. You’ll probably write a lot of it down so you’ll remember it. What’s more, as soon as you’ve read it, you’ll try to follow the instructions to the T.
- You’ll spend time with others who share your love. You would search for new companions, people who love the Author like you do and show great respect for His words.
- You’ll listen for the Voice behind the words. The better you know the letter He wrote, the more you’ll be able to hear Him whisper to you each day, saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the Torah of YHWH,
and who meditates on his Torah day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).
In the days and weeks ahead, I’m going to try to retrace my first steps into Torah with you. We’ll explore some of the subjects I looked at that first year, and I’ll show you how I worked through these issues. I’ll show you how the Torah made a practical difference in my everyday life, and in our home as well.
Here are some of the topics I’ll eventually cover, but if I’ve missed some, please feel free to leave me a comment below.
- Clean and Unclean Laws
- Prayer and Spiritual Disciplines
- Times of Prayer
- Torah Reading and Study
- Scripture on Walls, Hands, and Forehead
- Music and Meditation
- Journaling, Memorials, Hearing His Voice
- Warnings and Things to Avoid
- Women’s clothes & men’s clothes
- Mixed fibers
- The Ten Commandments
- Honoring the Old and Wise
- Protecting Human Life
- Our Speech
- Hatred in Our Hearts
- Revenge and Grudges
- Stumbling Blocks
- Rebuking Sinners
- Carrying Burdens
- Caring for Animals
- Caring for Property
- Fulfilling Oaths
- Returning Lost Property
- Evil Thoughts and Sight
- Cursing the King
- What is the purpose of having children?
- Does the Torah require it?
- Does Torah us tell us how?
- Teaching creationism and a biblical worldview
- Copying the Torah
- Learning Hebrew
- Parenting Issues
- How many children should we have?
- How do we discipline children?
- Rebuking sin
- Restraining sin
- Teaching our children after us
- Gaining their hearts
- Helping our children hear His voice
- When is a child considered an adult?
- Marriage Issues
- Are men and women equal?
- What about women being silent?
- Prohibited marriages
- When a spouse disagrees
- How to act toward your spouse
- How to celebrate holidays
- How do we celebrate biblical holidays?
- How do we figure out the calendar?
- How do we handle our money?
- Caring for the poor
- Payment of workers
- Just measures
- How do we choose a career?
- How do we live for the Kingdom of God?
- How do we handle our money?
- Things We Cannot Do (and Why)
- Shemitah and Jubilee Years (and other rules of the Land)
- Courts and penalties
- Levites and the priesthood
- Thoughts on the end times
- What is the gospel?
- Judging others
- Working out our own salvation
- Warning the righteous
(Not sure the Torah applies to you? You might enjoy my new blog, where I discuss the question “Who Is Israel?“)