Friday, September 23, 2011

The Torah Teaching on the Mount, Part 1...

Or, more popularly known as the "Sermon on the Mount." So, why did I title this the "Torah Teaching on the Mount?" Well, I hope to show you shortly. ;-) This teaching will actually be a multi-part entry as it will be rather lengthy. At this point I'm not sure how many parts this will take, but we'll see as we go. I will be covering Matthew chapters 5-7, and I hope to draw out some things that you have not seen, nor most likely considered before. Of course, my main goal is be be as biblical as possible, though obviously any explanation of the scriptures by anyone is an interpretation. However, I hope this will be a blessing to you none-the-less.

It has been taught for a long time now by many Christian teachers and Pastors that the "Sermon on the Mount" is one of the greatest teachings/passages of scripture in the bible - and indeed, it is! It has also been taught that Yeshua replaced the "letter of the law" with a much "higher", or "loftier" law, one that surpassed the law of Moses. However, I am going to show that this section of scripture should really be called the "Torah Teaching on the Mount" because rather than teaching some new, "higher" law, Yeshua was taking the pure word of God, which had been interpreted and parceled out by the "teachers of the law", and instead, taught the word of God the way it was intended, and with it's intended meaning. We will soon see that this was Yeshua's own stated goal when we get to chapter 5 verses 17-20.

Yeshua did not teach anything that was and is not already written - to do so would have been to violate Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:5,6 and Revelation 22:18. Rather, He countered the prevailing "interpretations" of the law in His day, and interpreted the Torah/law the way that was meant to be taught, as I stated above. I trust that this will become clear as we move forward.

Matt. 5:1,2
     Yeahua saw a multitude of people, so He took the opportunity to teach them. Verse 2 let's us know that what is to follow is not something new, per se, but rather, is a teaching on what is already written: "And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying...."
Matt. 5:3-16
     Verse 3-16 are commonly referred to as the "Beatitudes." This section of His teaching sets the stage for all that is to follow, as it deals first and foremost with the heart. Each "beatitude" is just that - the "attitude" that should "be" in the followers of Yeshua. Each beatitude deals with a heart issue and/or mindset. Repentance is to turn around, or, to go in the opposite direction than the way one was going before. But it starts with the heart and mind. If the heart/mind is changed, the actions will follow. So, the heart issues of the Kingdom are given to us as follows:

-Blessed are the poor in spirit...
     We see great exapmles of this type of person in the Psalms.
        *Psalm 51:17 - We see the person with a broken spirit.
        *Psalm 10:14 - The poor "committeth himself", or, entrusts himself to God. They don't trust in    their own strength - they trust in the LORD.
        *Psalm 34:6 - "This poor man cried [out], and the LORD heard and saved him." The poor in spirit cry out unto their God - the proud do not.
        *Psalm 86:1 - The "poor" recognize their need. The proud do not. David, who wrote these particular Psalms, was in every case speaking of being poor in spirit. David was poor in spirit, and we are told in the scriptures that he was a man after God's own heart. Because David was poor in spirit, he sought the LORD and put all of his trust in God.

-Blessed are they that mourn...
     Isaiah 61:1,2 - We see in just these two verses alone that those that mourn are equated with the broken hearted and the meek. In fact, Yeshua was very likely alluding to these verses when He said "blessed are they that mourn.

-Blessed are the meek...
     We see that in Isaiah 61:1 that the "meek" were to receive "good tidings." But more directly, Yeshua is quoting Psalm 37:11. Again, meekness is a heart/mind issue. How much "meekness" do we see in Hollywood, Wallstreet, Professional Sports, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, etc.?

-Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness...
     *Isaiah 55:1 says "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come to the waters...." We know that this is speaking of spiritual thirst because verse 2 says "...and let your soul delight itself in fatness."
     *Isaiah 65:13 - The LORD's "servants shall eat...[and] shall drink...." We can see that this again is spiritually speaking because the context of the surrounding verses indicate that those that "shall be hungry" were/are those that "did not hear, but did evil...."
     *To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to desire the ways of the LORD.

-Blessed are the merciful...
     *2 Sam. 22 is actually another Psalm of David. Verse 26 says "with the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful...." Of course, we can see that God is merciful many times throughout the scriptures, and that mercy is shown to the merciful.

-Blessed are the pure in heart...
     *In both2 Sam. 22:27 and Psalm 18:26 we are told that "with the pure thou wilt show thyself pure." In other words, just like Yeshua said "the pure in heart shall see God (ie. God will show Himself....)

-Blessed are the peacemakers...
     *The scriptures that speak of those that seek peace, to dwell in peace, the peace of others, etc. are too numerous to recount here. But suffice it to say, the concept of God's people being people of peace, or rather, are peacemakers is a well established concept throughout the Tenakh (OT).

What Yeshua is doing here in the first 9 verses or so is setting up for the rest of His teaching. In the Tenakh, the most common word translated as "remember" (as in "remember the Sabbath day" for example) is the Hebrew word "zakar." The word zakar can mean to "remember" something that was forgot (such as is the common usage of the word remember today, as in "oh, I just remembered"), but also has a richer, wider meaning.It means to bring something to the forefront of your mind. For example, an engineer, when at home or at leisure doesn't "forget" the necessary mathematical equations he needs to use when calculating specs on a design, but they aren't at the forefront of his mind when he is watching a football game, or when he is out fishing. But when he is working on a design, he then brings the necessary formulas to the front of his mind. When he does this he is fulfilling the second meaning of "zakar" that I shared above.  He didn't remember something that he forgot, he purposely brought information from the back of his mind to the front. He is directing his attention to it. So, when we read that "God remembered Noah..." in Genesis for example, what it means in Hebrew is that God directed His attention toward Noah. - he made Noah the object of His attention. And this is what Yeshua was doing in the Beatitudes. He was drawing from various sections of the Tenakh (OT) attributes which make up the heart/mind of the servants of God. He began His teaching by first bringing to the forefront of the peoples minds the attributes that God sees as most important. "Poor in spirit" can more easily be converted into "rich in faith" than pride can. The poor in spirit, those that mourn (over sin), the meek, the pure in heart, peacemakers - these are the ones that are more apt to "hear" and "do" (indeed, "Hear O Israel [with the intent to do]...). Yeshua was and is setting up the hearers for the rest of His teaching.

Yeshua went on to say that if you follow the LORD, it should and would be clearly seen by all (in verses 13-16) - "Ye are the light of the world." It is to be through those whose hearts are that of the previous 12 verses,and whose actions are as the remainder of His teaching (chapters 5:21-7:27) that the world will "glorify [the] Father which is in heaven."

That is all for this post. In the next (Part 2), we will begin at chapter 5 verse 17 and get into the meat of the teaching. I think we will see some interesting things that will tie the scriptures together, both those in the Tenakh, and those later in the New Testament.

Until then, may the blessings of the LORD be upon you.