Jesus and the Law of Moses
Peter D. Goodgame
Yeshua the Lawgiver
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:31-32)
He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his Torah. (Isaiah 42:4)
I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a Covenant for the people, a light for the nations. (Isaiah 42:6)
There are many strange teachings arising these days that are promoted by those who do not understand the nature of God's true eternal Torah as it stands under the priesthood of the eternal Order of Melchizedek. Just like the Galatians of old many are being taught once again that they must return to the old religious forms of an expired covenant. This new challenge means that we must become true scribes of the Kingdom of Heaven, studying with Spirit-led humility to gain understanding, which will allow us to
bring out from our houses treasures old and new.
"Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old." Matthew 13:52
Studying the Old Testament as a foundation for understanding the events depicted in the Gospels is not enough. This is the glaring mistake of dispensationalism and much of the messianic Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM). Yes, it is essential to understand the Old Testament roots of the New Testament, but it is equally important that we also use the New Testament revelation of Jesus to properly re-interpret the old. It works BOTH ways, and not just ONE way. If we view it as only working one way (first old and then new) then we can easily get bogged down in shallow and superficial literalism as demonstrated by the errors of dispensationalism which uses the same literalistic hermeneutic as unsaved Orthodox Jews reading their Tanakhs today.
Mystery and Irony
There are two things that must be kept in mind when reading the Old Testament, and these things are MYSTERY and IRONY. If we view both testaments as providing equal revelation then we might find ourselves just as clueless at the Second Coming of Jesus as the Pharisees were at His First Coming! Only by studying and understanding the teachings of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of Heaven first can we then go back and decipher through the MYSTERY and IRONY embedded in the limited revelation released through the Old Testament prophets. Remember that he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than all of these.
We cannot read the Bible from one end to the other with a homo-textual presumption.
The New Testament of Jesus Christ is our greatest revelation, and it must be our final word when interpreting the Old Testament, especially when we dare to dig into the old thinking we have found face-value literal prophecies of future events. Both testaments were not created equal. Only the New brings the message of eternal life, and only the New through the power of the Holy Spirit can deliver the key to properly understanding the Old.
For instance, if our foundation is the Hebrew Torah then we will be convinced that the Feasts of Israel are meant to be observed forever. We can easily be convinced that this means that even believers today, members of the New Assembly of Yeshua, are also obligated to observe these prophetic feasts. However, if we have a foundation in the Gospels we will recognize that the Gospel of John was written after a time when God's chosen and reborn nation defined by Jesus and the Order of Melchizedek had split from the old Israel defined by Moses and the Levitical priesthood. This becomes clear from the way in which the Gospel of John pejoratively refers to these Old Covenant feasts as "the feast of the Jews" (John 5:1, 6:4), "the Jews' Feast of Booths" (7:2), and "the Passover of the Jews" (11:55). They are not the feasts of the New Assembly (ekklesia) of Jesus. They are the feasts of the Jews. Yes, they were established to prophetically point to Jesus, but Jesus does not point BACK to the Jewish Feasts as obligations to be kept by those in Him. Truly, if Jesus is our final sacrifice and if those "in Him" are the new Temple of God, then the literal observance of these feasts becomes logically impossible. Furthermore, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD such observances also became physically impossible. The Gospel of John was written after the Temple was destroyed, and this explains why John has no qualms about referring to the "feasts of the Jews" as something separate from and completely foreign to the New Covenant community in Christ.
I have a tremendous value for what the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) has done for the Body of Christ over the past few decades. I think there has been amazing insight brought into the light of day for these end times, especially pertaining to the many ways in which the laws, feasts, calendar, practices, and even the very CULTURE of the Hebrew nation ALL POINTED FORWARD TO YESHUA THE MESSIAH! Praise God, what a wealth of revelation has been released for such a time as this!
However, along with healthy and edifying Hebrew Roots revelation has come some unnecessary and even unhealthy baggage. This revelation is great when it proves and demonstrates that the old pointed to the New, but it crosses the line when it dares to relegate Jesus to the status of "greatest of the talmudists," and promotes Moses as YHVH's ultimate and final Lawgiver, at the expense of Christ. There are many within the HRM who are teaching that Jesus, while fulfilling the old, also pointed back to the old as our enduring Covenant Law. Jesus does NOT point back to Moses as our authority. Moses points to Jesus, and not the other way around. Jesus did not come merely to settle the many rabbinic disputes regarding the proper way to interpret Moses. Jesus came as God's final lawgiver, with a brand new covenant to bridge the gap between God and man. We do no take an old tattered garment (the Law of Moses) and patch it up with new cloth (assorted teachings of Jesus). The New Covenant is NEW! It is true that it is woven with some of the old commandments that are re-stated in the New Testament (95 of the 613 Mosaic laws are re-stated in the New Testament), but the PACKAGED DEAL is entirely NEW!
Old and Unchangeable
I am convinced that just as Jesus replaced Aaron as our high priest, so does Jesus Christ replace Moses as our ULTIMATE and final LAWGIVER. Very few Hebrew Roots ministries are willing to accept this and it leads to them placing the yoke of the Mosaic Covenant upon the New Covenant assembly. By promoting Moses at the expense of Jesus they deny Jesus His rightful place of Lordship over the Body of Christ and they place a yoke of bondage (Acts 15) that can actually become a bewitchment (Galatians 3:1) on the ekklesia of Christ. How is it so bewitching? Why did Jesus warn that many would go back to the old wine after tasting the New? Because the
old Law can actually be kept merely by an act of our carnal willpower apart from the Holy Spirit (Deut. 30:11), and this then leads to a false sense of personal righteousness apart from Christ, and a holier-than-thou attitude towards non-Mosaic lawkeepers.
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you... It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it." Deut. 30:11,14
But carefully consider this problem. We know that the vast majority of the 613 commandments of the Mosaic Covenant were revealed in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Deuteronomy is then written as the final word on the Mosaic Law, and the very name Deuteronomy means "repetition of the law." In Deuteronomy 4 as Moses begins to go over the Law once again to Israel he commands the people to not add to it nor to subtract from any of the words contained within it (Deut 4:1-2). This means that the covenant is UNCHANGEABLE, at least as a complete covenant represented by the Ten Commandments. This does not merely mean that the Ten cannot be changed or added to, it means that the COMPLETE COVENANT PACKAGE OF 613 LAWS cannot be changed or added to.
The Mosaic Covenant was one COMPLETE and unchangeable whole. It all stands or falls together. Nothing NEW can be added.
"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2
Now if you are reading my New Exodus series you will recognize that Isaiah looks forward to a time after the UNCHANGEABLE Mosaic Covenant has been BROKEN by Israel. Isaiah 40-55 is a section of Scripture (Deutero-Isaiah) that repeatedly refers back to the book of Deuteronomy, especially to the negative predictions at the end that Israel would break the covenant and be scattered throughout the entire world. Isaiah recognizes this disobedience and this inevitable scattering and then he comes on the scene with a word from the Lord regarding an amazing New Exodus! This time God will gather His people not just from one nation, but from ALL THE NATIONS!
Yes, it is Isaiah who speaks prophetically of something RADICALLY NEW that is on the horizon (43:18-19), and Isaiah also looks forward to changes in the law that will be issued from God. For instance, Isaiah saw a time when, contrary to Mosaic Law, eunochs would be allowed to minister in God's Temple (compare Isaiah 56:4-5 with Leviticus 21:16, 22:24). In other words, Isaiah foresaw new laws that must logically be part of an entirely new covenant that must be separate from the UNCHANGEABLE but BROKEN covenant established at Sinai. And it was not only Isaiah who saw this new covenant, but Jeremiah saw it coming as well.
The question is, where does Jesus stand regarding the Mosaic Covenant? Does Jesus point back to Moses ("This covenant is unchangeable!"), or does Jesus fulfill the radical NEW THING that Isaiah and Jeremiah looked forward to? I know that there is a way to read Matthew 5 that views Jesus proclaiming the enduring nature of the Mosaic Covenant, but this Mosaic-centered interpretation is wrong and flies in the face of the revelation from Isaiah and Jeremiah and from the rest of the New Testament.
Yes, in Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus was defending Himself against all who would accuse Him of being a lawbreaker, but His point was to declare that He must be viewed as a law-fulfiller rather than a law-breaker. If you read Paul you will find that Paul's favorite descriptive term for the Mosaic Covenant is "abolished" and that is exactly what "fulfilled" accomplishes, even as Jesus had to use symbolism and parables in speaking of the end of the Mosaic Law as He pragmatically dealt with the Pharisees during His lifetime.
You will find that Matthew 5 leads directly into the primary purpose of the Gospel of Matthew, which is to introduce Jesus as the fulfillment of both Deuteronomy 18:15-19 that predicted a "new prophet like Moses" and the fulfillment of the five "servant songs" of Isaiah. Jesus was this "New Moses," the predicted "servant of the Lord" commissioned to lead Israel on the great end-times worldwide New Exodus.
Turning back to Deuteronomy we find that Moses ends his message to Israel (Deut 32:7) by saying to them, "Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you." Moses repeatedly begged the Israelites to remember their covenant and to remember all the miraculous events of the original exodus from Egypt, yet hundreds of years later, after Israel broke this covenant, Isaiah comes on the scene introducing the New Exodus through the word of the Lord, who says,
"Remember NOT the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a NEW THING!"
The Hebrew Roots Movement and the Messianic synagogues who are saying that Jesus points us back to Moses have got this thing tragically WRONG! They need to go back to Isaiah who predicted this very change from OLD to NEW! Enough of the old wine, old wineskins, old garments... we need to embrace the radical NEWNESS of the New Covenant purchased for us by the blood of the Son of God!
The Sign of the New Covenant
Another thing to consider is the fact that, despite the defense that Jesus gives in Matthew 5 that He is not a lawbreaker but a law-fulfiller, the Pharisees continued to follow Jesus with accusations that He was a lawbreaker and that He failed to uphold the Law of Moses in the face of those around Him who broke it. I can think of two cases here and both of them have to do with Sabbath-keeping. The HRM tactic is to explain in legalistic terms how neither Jesus nor those around Him ever technically broke the Sabbath, but these explanations fall short in many ways.
First of all, every covenant comes with a sign, and keeping the sign is the outward evidence of faithfulness to the covenant. The sign of the Abrahamic covenant was circumcision. This was a big deal, and when Moses failed to circumcise his son (Exodus 4:24-26) his wife Zipporah had to do it herself in the middle of the night, which was actually described in terms of her saving Moses' life in the face of the anger of God!
The sign of the Mosaic Covenant was Sabbath-keeping, and this was also a big deal! It was meant to point back to the original Creation of six days followed by rest (Exodus 20:11), and also to the redemption of Israel from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). The Sabbath was not a day of assembly (ekklesia), but was a day of REST, with no work allowed. This was so important to God that He even made a point to deliver a double portion of manna on Friday so that the Israelites would not have to "prepare food" on the Sabbath. In this context "preparing food" would have been the simple act of gathering the fallen manna off of the ground and placing it in a bowl! This would have been law-breaking in Moses' day, so strict was the commandment. Well in Numbers 15:32-36 a man forgets the law and picks up sticks on the Sabbath. This was a violation of the sign of the Mosaic Covenant so this man was brought before the elders and then condemned by God to be stoned to death by the congregation.
With this in mind let us now consider the attitude of Jesus towards the Mosaic Covenant as SIGNified by the commandment of Sabbath-keeping. Did Jesus uphold the supposedly "eternal validity of the Mosaic Covenant" as argued by the HRM by upholding strict observance of the Sabbath according to the Mosaic commands? Not a chance. Jesus actually demonstrates that He was delivering a greater covenant and a greater law that is focused upon Himself. The Law of Christ cannot be contained within the unchangeable Mosaic box. Jesus did not point to Moses, rather the point of Jesus' ministry was to draw all men to HIMSELF!
The first case is in Matthew 12:1-8 when Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath and the Pharisees were there to observe. Apparently the disciples could not manage their hunger and they began to pluck grain, thresh the husks, and eat. Now if picking up manna off of the ground was considered "breaking the Sabbath" under Mosaic Law, then certainly plucking grain and removing the husks was also a Mosaic violation and the Pharisees were quick to point this out. It is interesting that our modern theologians try to exonerate Jesus and the disciples by trying to show that this was not a technical violation of the Mosaic Law, and there are articles that can easily be found through a google search that do their best to throw up a theological shield for Jesus. It is argued that Jesus could not have broken the Law nor condoned such law-breaking or He would have "sinned" and become unworthy as the spotless sacrificial lamb. I think this legalistic explanation is shallow and insufficient to explain exactly what was going on here, simply because Jesus did not try to engage the Pharisees using a legalistic defense.
In other words this was not a case of Jesus bringing the "true interpretation of Moses" into the light and using it to oppose the "man-made interpretation of Moses" upheld by the Pharisees. No, in fact Jesus argued that it was perfectly legal for the disciples to break the Sabbath because David also broke the Sabbath! Jesus concludes by saying that He is greater than the Temple and that He is the true Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus does not jump into a legalistic DEFENSE arguing technicalities of Mosaic Law but delivers instead an authoritative OFFENSE to the Pharisees. Jesus boldly declares that the disciples can legally set aside the Law of Moses simply because they are there serving Him, the Lord of the Sabbath! Again, the entire Gospel of Matthew is meant to portray Jesus as the new "prophet like
Moses" who is God's true and final LAWGIVER and COVENANT MAKER who fulfills and supersedes the Law of Moses and the old Mosaic Covenant.
"He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his torah." Isaiah 42:4
"I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations." Isaiah 42:6
The second case is in John 5:5-18 regarding Jesus healing the paralyzed man on the Sabbath and then commanding him to take up his bed and walk. Once again the Pharisees are on the scene accusing Jesus of Sabbath-breaking. Jesus heals the man and then tells him to pick up his bed and carry it away. Was this truly Sabbath-breaking, or were the Pharisees merely guilty of technical over-reach and "man-made interpretation"? Did Jesus Himself break the Sabbath? If so, given that Jesus did not pick up and carry the bed and merely healed, how then did Jesus break the Sabbath? These are all good questions but we must recognize how the Gospel of John portrays Jesus. Is John terribly concerned to show that Jesus absolutely positively NEVER EVER broke the Mosaic Law? Is it important to John's theology to portray Jesus as guiltless in the Mosaic sense? Not at all! John sees no need to theologically protect Jesus here, and he clearly states that Jesus broke the Sabbath! The Gospel of John records the response that Jesus gave to the Pharisees which can hardly be viewed as Jesus portraying a submissive attitude towards the Sabbath laws of Moses:
"The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." John 5:15-18
The reality is that even though God rested on the seventh day and called His creation "good," afterwards sin entered into creation and corrupted it. This is perhaps what Jesus meant by saying that His Father "is working," even on the Sabbath Day! God is working to redeem His fallen creation and those working with Jesus, regardless of what day it is, are working from a place of rest "in Christ" and can disregard the Sabbath commandments of the defunct Mosaic Covenant (which are NOT among the 95 Old Covenant commandments that are re-stated in the New Testament).
Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, and Sabbath-keeping was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, but Jesus fulfills and transforms them both in HIMSELF. The one-time event of circumcision is replaced by baptism (this is also a new commandment), whereas the ongoing sign of Sabbath-keeping is transformed into the SIGN of the New Covenant. Jesus gave the new commandment concerning this SIGN at the Last Supper when He taught His disciples about the sacrifice He was about to make to redeem the world. This SIGN is referred to by Paul:
"In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." 1 Corinthians 11:25-26
It is the taking of Communion, the body and blood of Christ represented by the bread and the wine, by the assembly of the redeemed that is the SIGN that marks out the New Covenant people of God as separate from the world. The taking of Communion together was a big deal in the early church, and it was traditionally celebrated by the community on the first day of the week, which became known as "The Lord's Day." The Eucharist celebrates the death of Christ but it was not corporately taken on the day of Christ's death, nor on the seventh-day Sabbath (when Jesus rested in the tomb), but was celebrated on the eighth day, the day of Christ's Resurrection!
The SIGN of the New Covenant is corporately celebrated on the day of New Creation because the old creation depicted in the symbolism of seven days must pass away for the New Day to come. Jesus is the first-fruits of the New Creation, the bright morning star who leads us into the New Day.
Yes, it is true that Jesus pragmatically declared that every jot and tittle of the Law must remain until fulfilled or until "heaven and earth pass away," yet Jesus fulfilled the Law, and also with His passing the body of Jesus represented the passing away of the old, while His resurrection represented the arrival of the New! That is why Paul can state with full confidence in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
Thank you, Jesus, for such a glorious New Covenant that grabs us out of this old world that is passing away and launches us into the eternal new day of the New Creation!
In the next part of this series we will highlight the transfer from the Levitical priesthood to the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek that authorized Jesus to teach as the "New Moses" with the authority of a true Lawgiver. If Jesus did not have this divine authority then He stands guilty of breaking the Mosaic law of Deuteronomy 4:1-2, which forbids anyone from adding to or taking away from the Mosaic Covenant. Was Jesus a lawbreaker and a false prophet, as unbelieving Jews still claim today? Or was Jesus operating under a "New Thing" that was completely unrestricted by the Old? Our study of the role of John the Baptist and the priestly Order of Melchizedek will help provide the answers.
The importance of mystery and irony in Bible interpretation was brought to my attention through the work of bible scholar G. K. Beale in his book, Hidden But Now Revealed.
The evidence that Jesus replaces Moses as our eternal Lawgiver is given throughout the works of John G. Reisinger, most notably in his book, In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver.
A study of the Ten Commandments, Sabbath-keeping, and the specific signs of the various covenants can be found in Reisinger's book, Tablets of Stone and the History of Redemption.
The radical newness of the New Covenant is covered by bible scholar Carl B. Hoch, Jr. in his book, All Things New.
Jesus and the Law of Moses
Part One: Does Paul teach that followers of Christ remain under the authority of the Law of Moses?
Part Two: The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
Part Three: The Sanctity of Marriage
Part Four: Yeshua the Lawgiver
Part Five: The Eternal Order of Melchizedek
Peter D. Goodgame
September 15, 2015
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