This post was originally written on November 10, 2005, before I had ever heard about Torah. I have revised a few places, to be sure that what I am saying is clear.
Late Tuesday evening, I received an interesting e-mail. A woman whom I don’t know wrote to ask me some questions about 1 Corinthians 11 and the issue of whether women should wear a headcovering when they pray or worship together with their local congregations. I’ve read that passage, and I felt I was familiar with the pro and con arguments, but as I got out my Bible… and my commentaries… and then had to talk to several other mature Christians for their views… I was overwhelmed. The discussions continued throughout the day on Wednesday. It’s been quite the topic in our house.
The issue at hand is the submission of wives to their husbands. You can read more about from 1 Corinthians 11 it if you’d like, since it’s really not the true topic of this Bible study, but Paul was affirming outward obedience that illustrated a biblical principle and a pure heart of obedience and holiness.
I started wearing a headcovering in the fall of 2007, but most of the women I know don’t wear one. It’s not a tradition in the United States. Yet I know of some women who wear headcoverings—yet dishonor and disrespect their husbands. I also know “cover-less” women who are deeply committed to honoring and respecting their husbands.
Therefore, as I’ve been studying this week’s passage in the book of Romans, I am reminded that while God’s commands are to be obeyed, God is most interested in our hearts. After all, Paul was writing chiefly to Jews, those who were very proud of their heritage, their customs, their laws, and their holiness. While I am not a Jew, I am shocked as I look into the mirror of God’s Word and see myself:
In Romans 2:17, Paul writes:
“Indeed you are called a Jew…”
I am not a Jew, but just as Paul bragged about his spiritual heritage, I could do the same. I am not an unbeliever, a pagan, an idol worshiper, a “typical, ungodly American”, etc. Rather, I claim Yeshua as Messiah and Master of my life. I am a CHRISTIAN (all caps for emphasis, lol). I am TORAH OBSERVANT.
“and rest on the Torah…”
I have been studying the Torah for 17 years now. I have the divinely inspired, sixty-six books of the inerrant Word of God in my possession. I can quote the books of the Bible faster than a competitive fourth grader, I can find a Scripture passage quickly, I have CONCORDANCES and COMMENTARIES on my shelves. I have my daily devotions, and I memorize Scripture. (Can you see my head beginning to swell?)
“and make your boast in God…”
Yes, I am often literally proud of my own “holiness”. As Paul says in Philippians 3:4-6, “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the Torah, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the Torah, blameless.” And while I, Anne Elliott, may not boast publicly very often, my own heart often boasts of its relationship to God.
“and know His will…”
Yes, I know the Old Testament and the New Testament. I have been taught God’s plan. I have an understanding of God’s desires and His will. It often makes me smug.
“and approve the things that are excellent…”
My standards are often higher than the world’s. My standards for myself are set high. My standards for my children are high. My standards for my congregation, my music, my dress, my speech, my theology… all high.
“being instructed out of the Torah…”
Yes, I rest on Sabbath and keep the feasts of YHVH. I meet with other believers for fellowship and Bible study on the Sabbath, and I drill my children in the ways of YHVH as well. And then we could talk about how I went to Bible college…
“and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes…”
As I look at the plight of our families, our churches, and our country, my heart devises a plan. How can I guide those who do not know God’s Word? How can I hold forth the light of God’s Word? How can I be a better teacher or instructor? These people are mere babies. They don’t know how to handle the meat of Scripture. They need someone to bottle feed them, or to gently spoon in what God requires.
“having the form [the Greek word is morphosin, meaning “outline, embodiment, semblance”] of knowledge and truth in the Torah.”
Yup, we believers have it all, and we’re prouuuuuuud of it!
Then Paul continues talking directly to me (Romans 2:21-24):
“You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the Torah, do you dishonor God through breaking the Torah? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written [see Isaiah 52:5].”
And the Spirit of God moves in my own heart and asks me some questions.
“Anne, you preach that women should read their Bibles daily. Do you?”
Daily? Well, Father, you know that sometimes I have a late night and don’t get much sleep. You wouldn’t expect me to read it EVERY morning? That’s not realistic!
“And, uh, Anne,” He continues, tapping me on the shoulder, “You teach that women should submit to their own husbands. So I suppose that sarcastic tone of voice you used at supper tonight toward Kraig — that was ‘submissive,’ right?”
Well, Father, he isn’t always very LOVING to me either! He IS supposed to love me as much as his own body. Like THAT happens every day…
“Oh, and Anne, you teach that you are to always be loving and kind to your children.”
Father, the day they start showing me respect is the day they will have earned a little fun out of me. But if I start getting all lovey-dovey on them, well, you never know what might happen! Sometimes Mom just needs to keep on a stiff upper lip!
Paul continues (Romans 2:25-29),
“For circumcision [or head-covering, as was the topic of discussion in MY house this week] is indeed profitable if you keep the Torah; but if you are a breaker of the Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the Torah, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the Torah? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
The moral of the story: God expects not only obedience to the Torah, as “the Torah is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). In fact, to a pure heart, the keeping of God’s commands, as done from within, as praise to God, is beautiful and instructive and helpful. But obedience, done out of an evil heart, a heart that looks at the specks in others’ eyes and misses the beam in its own eye, will only judge us and point out our faults with a gigantic magnifying glass.
For the Jews, the issue was circumcision. (You can read more about what is meant by that word here.) For me this week, the issue was headcovering.
And all the while, YHVH says that He is looking at our hearts. Others cannot see our hearts, except by our outward actions. However, we can’t keep our hearts hidden from the piercing eyes of the Almighty Creator. He sees our outward deeds, and He judges our inward motives. He sees my hypocrisy. He sees where I don’t even begin to measure up to His righteous standard.
Paul takes his scalpel and peels back just a few more layers of these hearts of ours. Ugh….
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.