When I read 1 John 5:3, I think of the Sabbath. That text tells me that His commandments are not a burden. I guess the reason I think about the Sabbath is because Sabbath means rest. To stop, an intermission, cease from work. What a gift that is.
Yeshua states this in his ministry in the form of "the Sabbath was made for man." I've heard that statement before by some in an attempt to abolish the 4th commandment. I can't for the life of me understand why someone would want to abolish a commandment that privileges us with rest, but go figure. In context, Yeshua meant that the Sabbath was made FOR man, in other words, to bless man. Man wasn't made to bless the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made to bless man.
The Sabbath can become a day in which you are scared silly to pick up your leg out of bed and put your foot on the floor. That is, if you treat it like a first-century Pharisee; if you view Yahweh as some kind of "big-thumbed-god" ready to squash you the instant you mess up in the least little manner. Yahweh is rather the merciful Mighty One, longsuffering, slow to anger, rich in love, and abundant in mercy. I took that last line from the Old Testament.
The Sabbath is a day to unwind, dedicated to Yahweh yes, but a day in which He gifts us with something we need: REST. We all work enough, some of us (including myself) too much. I'm thankful for His gift. I've been keeping a Sabbath now for 19 years. I don't ever want to stop. I love His rest.
References: Mark 2:27; Exodus 34:6-7; Exodus 20:8-11
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 HCSB)
1. The new heart relationship with Yahweh, will have a new heart relationship with His law - every single time.
2. The leading of the Holy Spirit is never contrary to the Holy Law.
3. The Holy Spirit is given to the house of Israel to cause them to obey the Holy law. Without the Spirit, it’s impossible.
4. Israelites do not possess the new heart, new spirit, or Yahweh's Spirit by nature. By nature they have hearts of stone. New hearts must be given to them.
5. Yahweh does not change or abrogate His law. He changes the stony hearts of His people to keep His law.
6. If Yahweh says, “I will make you clean,” then you will be made clean because it’s a supernatural work, not of man.
7. To try and separate the Spirit from the law is futile. The Spirit is given so that the law can be followed.
8. Good works are the effect of a cause placed in man, by Yahweh. Therefore He should get 100% of the credit.
There are a multiplicity of things that go through my mind in a day's time. I really don't know what I'll be thinking about from one minute to the next. But one thing that generally permeates my brain in some way, for most of every day, is the strong arm of the law and the sweetness of the gospel.
Martin Luther once said something like this: "Give the law to the hard hearted. Give the gospel to the broken hearted." I remember the first time I ever heard that statement. My heart leaped for joy because I understood the meaning behind the words. The more I've meditated on the phrase, the more I've combed through Scripture since then, the more I've seen it in action. The more true it has become.
The primary use of the law of Yahweh is not to curb evil or to instruct us in righteousness. The law does both of those things, and both of those are good things. The law itself is holy, just, good, and spiritual (Romans 7:12, 14). But the primary use of that holy, just, good, and spiritual law is to show us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are not holy, just, good, and spiritual. The problem has never been with the law. The problem is with us. The law's number one function is to reveal our sin. It proves to us that we are transgressors.
I find it amazing that in the large scope of Christianity today we have various groups that believe jumping through their particular hoops makes them righteous. Each group focuses on one or two or maybe a handful of laws (some of which are not found in Yahweh's law by the way), and if they practice those it makes them better than everyone else. This isn't how it works. Yahweh doesn't operate like this.
Yahweh is perfect. He is without flaw. His law is the same because it emanates from His being (Psalm 19:7). He has told us in His law that a person is cursed if they don't continue in all the words of His law (Deuternomy 27:26). What the prideful heart does is read that and then fool itself into thinking he or she is not cursed. So long as a person doesn't smoke or drink, murder or rape someone, there a good person. Just vote republican instead of democrat and you're squeaky clean.
The Bible says that there's not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20). If Yahweh kept track of sins, no one could stand in His presence (Psalm 130:1-3). All have sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). And if even believers say we have no sin we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). If we keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, we are guilty of violating it all (James 2:10). Paul said it well by saying that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, and in my flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:14, 18).
Until a person comes to grips with this, they need to keep hearing it over and over. The man or woman that hasn't come to terms about their sinfulness will not appreciate the gospel. They won't long for the gospel. The gospel will not be good news to them, they already think they are good. They've got it all ironed out already. They go to church once a week, and have the "read the Bible in a year program" in their wallet or purse for crying out loud.
This is what it means to give the law to the hard hearted. The hard hearted person, the person that has yet to fully realize their utter depravity, needs to keep hearing the holiness, perfection, and strong arm of the law. They don't need to hear that they are a saint, they in fact may not be. They need to hear that they are a sinner. A wretched sinner. A miserable soul headed for destruction.
But, at the moment we break. At the moment our heart crumbles of its pride and arrogance. The instant we admit we are doomed because we haven't met the law's requirements. It is then that we need to hear the sweetness of the gospel. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). That he who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). That he was bruised for our iniquities and the punishment for our peace fell upon him (Isaiah 53:5). That right there is some sweet news to a broken heart.
I see this at work in my day-to-day life as a parent. My children range from ages 6 to 16. Each day in some way I give someone the strong arm of the law, and each day in some way someone gets the sweetness of the gospel. I can see when my children "buck up" against me or their mother. I can sense when they are resisting authority. I can feel when their heart is hard, and when I feel it, I give them more law, more discipline. They must realize that they've not just disobeyed dad, they've violated the rules of the Creator of all things.
I often see their little hearts break. They tear up and grab me and say, "Oh dad... I'm so sorry." Just the other day one of my children hugged me, cried, and said, "I don't want to be like this dad." How did I respond? More law? Nope, they had heard enough law. I rather told them, "Take heart my child, your sins are forgiven."
While many in 21st century Christianity believe a Judaizer is one who follows and teaches the law of Moses, the Scriptural use of the term primarily has to do with a person from the Jewish faith of the 1st century attempting to enforce their extra-scriptural customs upon others, and then making the claim that through such customs is found justifying righteousness. This is what I dealt with in basics in the first post of this series. If this sounds strange or unorthodox to you, please bear with me for a few minutes in this second installment. It's time to do some digging into parts of the word where the soil is generally left unturned.
When people think of a Judaizer, or the more popular term Pharisee, they think of "those Old Testament laws." I must say that I cringe when I hear someone speak about the Old Testament in a flippant or derogatory manner. Far be it that we should ever speak about anything the Almighty has declared, in a negative fashion. He is Creator, and He designs and enacts everything for a purpose. Nothing is meaningless, and that includes the 75% of the Bible that usually goes unread and unstudied by Christians today.
My challenge for you today is to reprogram your thinking. If you think that a Judaizer or Pharisee is one who holds Biblical, Mosaic law to a high standard, and then teaches others to follow such law, you need to reevaluate what you believe and why you believe it. Have you taken the time to study these terms? Do you understand the culture of 1st century Israel? Asking questions like this is prosperous. We shouldn't desire to blindly follow. We must open our eyes and walk the proper path.
It is crucial to know that Pharisees and their scribes (in the days of Yeshua Messiah) had a body of law that they believed ranked higher than the written law of Moses. They never got to a point where they would verbally criticize Moses' law, they would honor it with their words. However, they believed that Moses could only be understood by oral tradition; tradition that they claimed was handed down to them initially by prophet Moses, but in reality often deviated from Yahweh's original intent through Moses.
Let's begin in the Gospel according to Mark.
The first thing to note here is that the passage specifically mentions the Pharisees and some scribes. We learn that the Pharisees observed Yeshua's disciples doing something that they would consider to be transgression. The disciples were eating with unclean hands.
I remember the first time I ever read this text. I was thinking to myself, "Why in the world did the Pharisees wash their hands before they eat? Mama always made us do that growing up."
It's key to know that what Mama had us do - wash our hands before dinner - is not what the Pharisees had in mind. They were concerned with a ritual washing of the hands, a ceremony. So many dips, so many pours, so many prayers, and so on. The translation I'm quoting from (HCSB) points this out in verse 3 by adding the word ritually so that the reader understands better what is going on.
Notice in verse 3 that it says not only the Pharisees, but ALL the Jews wash their hands ritually before they eat bread, following the tradition of the elders. I take this phrase "all the Jews" as meaning "the majority of the Jews." Certainly we know that all does not mean every single individual Jew here, because we just read that the disciples didn't follow the custom. If you flip over to Luke 11:37-41 you will see that Yeshua did not perform the ritual washing before eating dinner at a Pharisees house. I'm sure there were other Jews (Judahites) who did not follow the customs (among the Saducees, Essenes, and Zealots), but the majority of Jews did.
Verse 4 informs us that when the Pharisees come from marketing, they don't eat until they first perform this ritual washing. This verse also tells us that they had received (and kept) MANY other customs. I want to focus upon this point a little. The ritual hand washing custom they followed is the gist of Mark 7, but we must not miss that they kept many other customs in their daily walk of life. Verse 4 mentions some of these other customs. The custom of washing other items like cups, jugs, and various utensils.
This is all vital to understanding what exactly a Judaizer is. Let's keep going.
So the Pharisees have watched the disciples, observed that they do not follow Jewish custom, and now ask Yeshua about it. Does Yeshua instruct his disciples to follow along so as not to offend the Pharisees? Not hardly.
Yeshua calls the Pharisees pretenders (hypocrites) and begins to quote and apply a text from Isaiah to them. The Isaiah text (29:13) deals with a people who honor Yahweh with their words, but their heart is as hard as stone. Is like a husband telling his wife "I love you" but not caring about her from his heart. Yeshua goes on to quote from Isaiah concerning a people who worship Yahweh in vain. I find that statement amazing each time I read it. It is possible to worship Yahweh, but it be all in vain. In other words, it is possible for a person to think they are worshipping the Creator, the One Almighty, but the entire time their worship is useless and worthless. That's a sobering thought for sure.
How was the worship by the Pharisees in vain? Yeshua tells us: they teach for doctrines the commandments of man. In verses 8-9 Yeshua goes on to say that they DISREGARD the commands of Yahweh, but KEEP the traditions of men.
It's fascinating to me that in a chapter where Yeshua Messiah is devoted to uplifting Yahweh's commandments through Moses, you have many today go to this exact chapter in attempts to bypass the Lord's instructions on diet. That's kind of another issue, but it's baffling to me so I had to at least mention it. Suffice to say for now, our Lord was not declaring shrimp and pork okay to eat in Mark 7:19, right after he scathed the Pharisees for disregarding Yahweh's commands.
Pay attention carefully to what our Messiah says next.
Notice how Yeshua contrasts Moses with the Pharisees. The Pharisees are not upholding Moses in the example he gives. Rather:
(1) Moses says THIS
(2) You [the Pharisees] say SOMETHING ELSE
Right here we have the ultimate definition of the Pharisee or Judaizer. It is one who could really care less at the intent of Moses, opting to go with his own understanding or custom or tradition, and then plank that down hard upon others. On top of all that they would teach that if you did not follow their traditions you were not and could not be righteous.
So, let's dissect Yeshua's statement about the law of Moses here. Moses says that we are to honor our parents. Honoring parents is so important that if we speak evil of them the penalty is death. That is what YESHUA says. That is how he (infallibly by the way) interprets Moses. If I were to say that to most church-goers today, I'd be looked at as though the devil had entered me, yet Yeshua says it right here in black and white, no batting an eye, a man's parents are to be honored and respected, not cursed.
On the flip side the Pharisees were saying something different than Moses. They had come up with the Corban rule. Corban is a Hebrew term that means "gift or present." Their Corban rule stated that a man could dedicate his belongings to the Temple at Jerusalem, and then be free from having to take care of his parents when they needed his help. Honoring parents has to do with more than saying yes ma'am or no sir. Honoring parents means helping parents when they need you, especially as they grow older and have need of more help.
The Pharisees had created a loophole in the law whereby they relieved themselves from having to honor their parents. This is why Yeshua says in verse 14 that they revoke the word of Yahweh by their tradition they have handed down. Don't miss that we are learning of one of those many traditions that was mentioned back in verse 4. Yeshua mentions this also at the end of verse 14 when he says "and you do many other similar things."
The point is that the Pharisees (which were the big Judaizers of the 1st century) were not keepers of Mosaic law. Moses said one thing, they said another. They were interested only in getting you to comply with the tradition of the elders, tradition or law which they believed to make a person righteous before Yahweh.
There is more to add to this, but I'll stop here for now. I encourage you to do more digging into Mark 7 in the meantime. Shalom...
~ Matthew Janzen
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.