Shavu'ot 2004 - Part 2
The Meaning of Torah
Special Sabbath Day Sermon, 30 May 2004
Continued from Part 1
I welcome you in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name to this gathering for Shavu'ot - the Festival of Weeks or Day of 'Pentecost'. Today we commemorate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai by Yahweh through Moses, and the pouring out of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) on the first believers in Jerusalem. I have asked that the children remain with us today because I want to ask you all some questions and I would like them to try and remember as many of the answers as they can. But before I do that I would like to ask you to join with me in an imaginary situation.
I want you to imagine that you are lying in bed dying with your whole family gathered around you. I know, it's a sad thing to contemplate, but it happens to all of us. There you are, you know that you could die any second. You know that the last words you say will almost certainly be remembered by everyone. Let us imagine that you only have one minute to live - there is so much you want to tell everybody, but you have only one minute. You can't tell them everything that is on your heart so you have got to summarise in 60 seconds the most important things in life that you want them to remember from your dying lips. What would you say? I expect everyone would say different things, but I feel sure believers will say things that are very similar.
When Moses came down from Sinai he returned with many instructions from Yahweh. Everybody here has heard about the Ten Commandments and I hope you all know them. However, Moses actually came with a lot more than ten commandments which are a summary of all the rest. Can anybody tell me how many commandments Yahweh gave to Israel in total? The answer is probably around 613 mitzvot - mitzvot (according to one authority) is the Hebrew word for 'commandments'. That's a lot, you'll all agree! 613! That's about the number of boys there were at the school I attended when I was a teenager. Imagine trying to remember 613 names. As a school-teacher I used to have to remember about 250 names - it took me months to learn them! The nice thing about names is that you can put faces to them so you can picture them in your head. That makes remembering them easier. Though you might think it's hard, remembering 613 mitzvot (commandments) is not that difficult provided they have a personal meaning to you.
Of the 613 mitzvot (commandments), 365 of them are negative "Don't do this or that" mitzvot and 248 are postive "Do this or that" mitzvot. Now it shouldn't be hard to remember the number 365, should it? Can anyone tell me why? Yes, it's because there are 356 days in a [solar non-leapyear] year. Now I'm not going to list all these commandments to you today - for one thing we don't have time, and for another you'd get very bored. Instead what I'm going to do it ask the Bible writers to summarise them for me.
King David summarised them into 11 mitzvot (commandments) in Psalm 15. This is what he said:
- 1. Walk uprightly - that means to obey Yahweh;
- 2. Do righteousness - that means to do what is right;
- 3. Speak the emet (truth) in your heart - you all know what that means;
- 4. Do not backbite with your tongue - that means, don't spread gossip;
- 5. Do not do evil to your neighbour - that means, treat others fairly;
- 6. Do not take up a reproach against your friend - that means, don't say cruel things;
- 7. Despise vile people - that means, have nothing to do with horrible people;
- 8. Honour those who fear Yahweh - that means, respect all true believers;
- 9. Keep your promises no matter how much it may hurt you;
- 10. Don't put your money out as usury - that means, if you lend someone money, don't expect more than what you lent; and
- 11. Don't take bribes to hurt innocent people.
Well, that's what was important to King David. It's a pretty good collection, I think. OK, who's next? Ah yes, the prophet Isaiah! Would anyone like to guess how many mitzvot he used to summarise the whole Torah? Well, the answer is 6 and here they are (Is.33:15):
- 1. Live right;
- 2. Tell the emet (truth);
- 3. Never take money by force;
- 4. Don't accept bribes;
- 5. Hate murder; and
- 6. Hate violent crimes.
Who's next? Ah yes, the prophet Micah! He summarised the commandments into just 3 (Mic.6:8) and here they are:
- 1. See that justice is done;
- 2. Let chesed (mercy) be your first concern; and
- 3. Humbly obey Yahweh.
Pretty good. Oh look, Isaiah has made another list, and this time there are only 2 (Is.56:1). I wonder what they are?
- 1. Observe justice; and
- 2. Do righteousness.
Or to put it another way:
- 1. Be honest; and
- 2. Be fair
Would you believe it if I told you that two of the prophets summarised all the 613 mitzvot into one commandment? I bet you are! Here's the first one, Amos (5:4), and this is what he said:
Finally, the prophet Habbakuk (2:4) - this is what he said:
- 1. The just shall live by emunah (faith)
Or in other words,
- 1. Only those who live by emunah (faith) are acceptable to Yahweh
I want to read what Habbakuk said in full because these are the words that Yahweh spoke directly to him:
"I, Yahweh, refuse to accept anyone who is proud. Only those who live by faith are acceptable to Me" (Hab.2:4, CEV).
I wonder what you would say on your death-bed to your family - what would be the most important message you could give them?
Does anyone know what Solomon, the wisest of all of Israel's kings, said was the most important thing to him? I'd like one of the children to read it out for us, but before you do, I want you to first remember that Solomon was not only very wise but also made some very, very serious mistakes in his life. He had everything any man could ever want - he could spend as much money as he wanted, do as he wanted. In fact, he did everything his heart desired - both good and evil - and summarised life into two things. Let's read that scripture now:
"Fear Yahweh and keep His mitzvot (commandments), for this is man's all. For Yahweh will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccl.12:13-14, NKJV).
So what are the two things that Solomon says are the most important of all?
- 1. Respect Yahweh; and
- 2. Obey Torah
Unless we do these things, everything else we do is meaningless - a waste of time - because one day, whether we like it or not, and however much we may try to hide, Yahweh will judge us. In fact, He's judging us now. Does anyone know how? Through our conscience.
Well, on Mount Sinai Moses was given 10 Commandments which are a summary of all the 613 mitzvot. These were written on stone tablets and put into the Ark of the Covenant. These were the first mitzvot (commandments) the children of Israel received on Mount Sinai and therefore very important. A person who lives by these will do well in life. Who can tell me what they are (Ex.20:1-17)?
- 1. Only worship the true Elohim (God), Yahweh;
- 2. Do not make idols and worship them;
- 3. Do not use the Name of Elohim (God = Yahweh) disrespectfully;
- 4. Keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy - don't do any work on it;
- 5. Respect your father and mother;
- 6. Do not murder;
- 7. Do not commit adultery;
- 8. Do not steal;
- 9. Do not tell lies about others;
- 10. Do not covet other's belongings.
These things you must always remember and do. We've also seen how David, Isaiah, Micah, Habbakuk, and Solomon tried to sum them up and all the 613 commandments too. But the best summary that anyone ever gave was Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself - He summed them up into two commandments which we sometimes call the Golden Rule (Matt.22:39-40) or the Royal Law (Jas.2:7). Can anybody tell me what they are?
- 1. You shall love Yahweh your Elohim (God) with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and
- 2. You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
And then He said: "On these two commandments hang all the Torah (Law) and the Nevi'im (Prophets)" (Matt.22:40, NKJV). If you live your life doing these two things, you can't go wrong. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the Torah (law). For the mitzvot (commandments), 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other mitzvah (commandment), are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Torah (law)" (Rom.13:8-10, NKJV; also see Gal.5:13-14; James 2:7-13).
Love yourself, and love your neighbour - that's everyone - in exactly the same way. Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "Love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34, NKJV).
That, brethren and sisters, is the message of Shavu'ot, because that is the whole purpose of Torah. Ahavah (love) is what counts - ahavah (love) whose vessel is Torah. Now what do I mean by that? Well, if you want to drink some water, you need a glass. But not just any kind of glass. Here's a nice clean blue glass [holds up to congregation] and now I'm going to pour some water into it. Would someone take a sip? [child drinks]. Now here's a funny one, an clean egg-cup. Would someone else drink from this? [another child drinks]. And finally, here's a third glass, a really dirty jam jar ... I'm not sure who's drunk from it, or whether he had a cold or not - in fact, I think someone used it to play with outside - I think I can see soil and some insects inside [pours water] - would anyone like to drink from that? [no volunteers].
Now what do these glasses mean? The blue glass represents Yahweh's mitzvot (commandments) or Torah. It's clean and it's just the right size. It's all we need. Who can tell me what they think the water represents? It's Yahweh's ahavah (love). That ahavah (love) is a wonderful thing but you need a glass to drink it out of. That glass is Torah.
Now we have an egg-cup. It's also clean but it's a bit small, isn't it, and it's not easy to see what's inside it because it isn't transparent. The egg-cup represents only a few of the mitzvot (commandments) because people don't want to obey all of them. The problem with that is that you can't get much water into it, so you keep on having to fill it up, and getting thirsty.
Finally, the dirty jam-jar. When people make up their own rules and live a dirty life, then they can't taste the real ahavah (love) of Yahweh because that ahavah (love) gets spoiled by sin. Yet if that's the only way to get any water, it's better to drink dirty water rather than die of thirst. The dirty water in this jar is the 'love' the world offers you. It isn't real ahavah (love) at all even though you might think it is because you have never seen clean water before. But once you have seen and tasted pure water, that's all you ever want. And that's why those of us who know Yahweh and have tasted His love, don't want anything else. We only want what is good and pure.
We are cerebrating Shavu'ot to thank Yahweh for giving as this clean blue glass to hold His ahavah (love) which we can drink from. And do you know what? Yah'shua (Jesus) says that the ahavah (love) of Yahweh never runs out. This jug of water will run out eventually but Yahweh's jug is always FULL! That's why we want to share the good news of His pure ahavah (love) and how to live right so that we can always drink from it. Amen.
This page was created on 9 June 2004
Last updated on 28 July 2016
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