A Focus on Function
In Romans 11:16-24 Paul, the bond servant of the Messiah, makes it very clear that through Yeshua we have been grafted into the Whole House of Israel. We have been made a new creation through Messiah for the Father’s Great Purpose: to establish His Kingdom on earth and ensure that it functions here as it does in heaven. Being a part of Israel is not about a religion but is very much about living a lifestyle befitting a citizen of His Kingdom. Israel before Messiah and Israel after Messiah has always been comprised of citizens of His Kingdom, children of the Great King, who have been set apart to serve Him as His priests and kings on the earth.
Father’s instructions to us (the Torah) are about living the lifestyle of a king and a priest under His Mighty Sovereignty NOW, not in some mysterious veiled future. When you step into a Kingdom of Yahweh mentality and awareness as Paul describes, everything about you begins to change. Your lifestyle and world perspective begin to conform to the lifestyle and mindset of the King of the Universe, Yeshua HaMashiach. (Jesus the Messiah). Daily life in His Kingdom is all about our love for the King – a vital and profound relationship that secures our very existence in all of eternity.
Apostle John reminds us that Yeshua is the very Word of Yahweh made flesh to dwell among us. (John 1:1-14). Yeshua, the Living Word, was there at Creation – everything formed was made by Him. Yeshua was there when Abraham was given the promise for the land and a lineage that would include many nations. Yeshua was there at Mt Sinai. It was His Voice that spoke to Moses in our Torah readings this week. Genesis through Deuteronomy took on human flesh so that in a very physical form He could correct our misunderstandings and dispose of our addiction to perfecting a form (religion and man’s traditions). Yeshua’s goal was and still is to teach us how to function from the heart according to the Word He has given to us.
During His time on earth Yeshua was constantly referring to the condition of the human heart and to the perfect heart of the Father. His appeals to us to become more like the Father, thus more like Him. He touches on a desire that the Creator placed in us from the very beginning – to exist and function on earth as beings created in the very likeness of the Father. I know that in my life I have prayed a thousand times for Father to make me more like Him. I desperately want to live my life according to His will for me and to see my fellow humankind through His eyes of grace and mercy. How about you?
I didn’t expect the answer to that prayer in the instruction that came. I had to accept a bedrock truth. He has already spoken much of His will for our lives as his children, the people of His Kingdom. Those words are found in the Torah. Those first five books of the Bible are called The Word of God. The Hebrew call the Torah the Voice of God. If it is my sincere desire to know His will – His heart and mind for me – I need look there. Friends let me proclaim! During those first months of beginning to embrace the Torah as the Voice of my Messiah so much of my insecurity about my relationship with Him, what I need to do and what I need to avoid, how to gain discernment and His wisdom in facing the crazy issues that confront us — so much of this uncertainty and confusion began to fade away. The King of the Universe has already given us so many answers!
Everything that our gracious and loving Father & King has given to us with his own Voice – every Shabbat (Sabbath) and Feast day, every principle and ruling, every instruction and prophetic understanding – is there for a purpose…a function. His Voice is generated from His heart of mercy, grace, compassion and love toward His people. He tells us His name – it is Yud Hey Vav Hey – YHVH – Yahweh/Yehovah. His name in Hebrew means “the Hand that Secures Existence” and “Behold the Hand Behold the Nail”. He is our Sovereign King, not a mystical spirit-god making suggestions and edicts that we can choose to follow or not. He is amazing!
He is also our Father, who loves us so much that He would die innocently on a cross, condemned by mankind, but rise again gloriously so that all mankind could regain full access to His Kingdom. He is pure Love and His love for us should make us want to follow His instructions and ordinances. His sacrifice and power should be enough to garner our full trust in His purpose to give us an abundant Life through those instructions and ordinances called the Torah. If His Word has become burdensome and deathlike, it is because we have made them so. If we have ignored them and our life is miserable, that is not His fault. Did He not tell us that if we choose to walk in His Ways we would have blessings and Life, and if we choose not to we would experience curses and Death? (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
Yeshua said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He did not come to abolish or destroy the Torah. (Matthew 5:17-20). He came to give us proper understanding and model for us how to live it out as perfectly as He did while He walked this earth. Once you are fully forgiven by His blood sacrifice, there is no bondage in living a life by His instruction. On the contrary – there is a tremendous freedom and abundant grace! The curses and penalties that come with ignoring or willfully breaking the ordinances of the Torah no longer hold any condemnation over us. Yeshua took that upon himself at the cross. Because of His sacrifice and the presence of His Spirit in us, the power of the Torah to condemn us is gone. Now the power of the Torah transforms into giving us blessings and life. The path to establishing and restoring the Kingdom of God on earth is fully restored. That is indeed, Good News! The Torah can now function in us and through us as it should, giving us a lifestyle – a Kingdom mindset and culture – that causes blessings and abundance to flow our way continually. When we are living by the Torah we are being His Light in a world of darkness!
What does all of this have to do with the Function Mindset of a Hebrew believer? It’s simple, really. Yahweh does give us a good deal of Form in His Word. He established a Kingdom calendar with His Appointed Times for us to celebrate and guard. This includes the seventh day Sabbath (Shabbat), the new month feasts (Rosh Chodesh), and the seven annual Kingdom Feasts. He instructs and defines for us a life-giving kosher diet and instructions for bodily cleanliness. He establishes firm guidelines to guard our sexual purity. He gives us instructions on how to treat each other justly and provides guidelines for the punishment of crimes, especially those against women and the poor. He provides statues for the protection of the innocent and those who unintentionally error. He restricts the ways that we interact with the pagan world systems and cultures around us. He provides these statutes, rules, and regulations not because He is a killjoy, but because He knows what will bring life and what will bring death to our bodies, souls and relationships. He also knows our bent to wander and fall prey to temptations. His Word, the Torah, is given to us to help us not to wander and fall prey to the Accuser who wants to destroy us. This is the Father’s heart functioning on our behalf!
Then this Mighty King of the Universe tempers all His wonderful Kingdom government, principles, and lifestyle with a very important instruction. Have a heart like Mine! Be merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth. Show grace abundantly and forgive offenses, crimes, and sins. Yet in your mercy and compassion, don’t let the guilty go without correction or consequences for their actions, for there must be justice to protect the innocent and restoration of what is lost or destroyed. The purpose of judgement is to bring a hope of deliverance to the guilty. Just remember to love others in the same way that you love yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I deeply admire and love my King. His Torah thrills me! Our Father has given us direct access to all we need to know so that we can live a good, healthy, prosperous life on this earth, as it is in heaven. This is the best news ever! However, without that love relationship with Him living according to His instructions, decrees and corrections can seem lifeless and cold. This is not His desire. If your walk of faith has become like this, you are indeed missing the heart of the Father in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.
Here is the meat of the issue – and this is voiced in Yeshua’s teaching repeatedly. As you live out Father’s Kingdom lifestyle, where is your heart? Do you choose to live this way because you love Him, or because you fear condemnation from God or man if you don’t? As Father extends his grace toward you when you fall short, do extend you grace to others when they fail? As Holy Spirit is patient in instructing you in your sincere efforts, are you patient with the sincere ones that He has given you to instruct? As Father has forgiven you, do you forgive others? As Yahweh has shown mercy toward you, do you show mercy to others? As Holy Spirit has empowered you, do you empower others? In all that He has given to you, do you give also to others? As you have received Light and Life, do you give Light and Life to others? As Father cares for the widowed, orphaned and poor, do you?
Every form Father has given to us – every ordinance, instruction, and principle – tests our hearts and reveals our true character. Yahweh test us in the depth of our desire to walk in simple loyal obedience. The first function of Shabbat, the Feast days, the Ten Commandments, and all the subsequent instructions and rulings that teach us how to live by the Ten Commandments, is to test our hearts! Through them He poses a question to us. “Do you love and trust Me enough to simply do what I instruct?”
Have you ever looked straight into Scripture to find out how Father wants us to celebrate Shabbat and His Feast days? You might be surprised at how basic and simple His instructions are. Have you taken the time to ask yourself, “What am I to experience and learn of the Father’s heart and character in these instructions and celebrations? When you start looking for His purpose in the event or instruction, you begin to walk in incredible freedom and joy. You stop trying to do everything to perfection and start pursuing becoming the person He desires you to be. Life becomes about a daily journey in growth, rather than about striving for perfection.
Religion has created a boatload of traditions and liturgies that attempt to dictate to us how and when to correctly observe our faith. Most of these have little to do with God’s true instructions. How sad. Millions of Christians around the world now use the wrong day of the week as a sabbath and feel guilty when they don’t observe it in some prescribed fashion. Such bondage is tragic. By the Creator’s decree, Sabbath is on the 7th day of each week and its function is to provide to those in His Kingdom a day to completely rest, dwell on Him, and rejuvenate our entire being. We are to cease from work and striving. We are to gather as communities of believers to worship Him and enjoy His Presence and His Word. We are to bring to His House in our location a Sabbath offering…the best of what our livelihood creates to be given to Him. Why? In honor and thankfulness to our King – and so that His House can function with Kingdom excellence as it serves us and the locations where we live. We are to enjoy His Creation, the work of His hands made for our enjoyment and benefit. We are to enjoy our families on this day. We are to be sure everyone in our household honors Shabbat is these ways. And we are to be mindful to help those who have a dire need on that day that cannot wait until the new week. This is not complicated or hard. We can do this and enjoy it!
How about the Feast celebrations that Father declares are His appointed times? Millions of Christians who claim to love the Messiah don’t know much, if anything, about them. In turn they choose to celebrate alternative tradition-based celebrations like Christmas and Easter. The Father’s heart is broken, and worse yet, most believers are oblivious to this deep grief they are causing. The King established the timing and the framework – the form – for these incredible eternal celebrations. He describes what they are to look like in the land of Israel. Have you taken the time to look at Scripture (not a bunch of other books and articles) to learn what He has instructed? Again, it’s all pretty simple – and He leaves plenty of room for cultural expressions and adjustments to locations and climates. Man-made traditions can bring a great deal of meaning to these celebrations, so don’t completely ignore them. But don’t become bound by them either.
An issue often arises concerning celebrations such as Purim and Hanukkah. Do we dare create such celebrations? Remember, FUNCTION over form. A non-appointed celebration needs to be fashioned according to a celebration pattern already established in Father’s Kingdom. First, what is our heart attitude? Will the celebration above all else bring honor to our Father? Is there a strong element of gratitude and honor to Him? Second, a celebration must never be an attempt to assimilate pagan gods into what is of God’s Kingdom. The celebration must be in recognition of something mighty and life-giving that the Father has done His people. (All His Feast days are about remembering!)
From there the Kingdom pattern would mandate that there must be a time of community assembly – a set apart time to be in His Presence together. There must be opportunity for an offering of honor and gratitude to be presented to the King. The celebration must include to poor and invite the stranger/foreigner to experience His Kingdom. Very importantly, the celebration needs to be established through a human authority on earth who is clearly established by Him. (Yahweh established Shabbat on the earth through Adam, and the Feast Days through Moses.)
In short – all celebrations in His Kingdom must adhere to His function principles, not our own. Let’s not be too quick to judge people or congregations of believers concerning the celebrations as Purim and Hanukkah (or Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, etc) until we fully weigh their purpose and function. Are they in violation of any of His principles? If not, be careful. We can too easily err in bringing division and death into the worldwide Body of Messiah over what might be better considered neutral ground.
The point of a having function mindset is this: We are to be free from religious, man-made traditions. But we are not free to ignore the King’s instruction and principles for living in His Kingdom. I have come to believe that God is a “Keep it simple, Saints!” kind of Father and King. He is first and foremost our Creator. He has allowed for the creation of numerous cultures and thus numerous expressions of our faith that can bring full honor to Him as He desires. A simple example of this is the use of bread on Shabbat. Do we have to have challah on Friday evenings to start Shabbat? No. It could be fry bread for our Native American brothers and sisters. Maybe tortillas in Mexico or pitas in Greece? Or do we even have to have bread, wine, and light candles on Friday evenings? I don’t see this practice instructed in Scripture. However, there is some great remembering taking place! A pattern, a Kingdom function, is being kept that touches the heart of the Father: remember. Remembering the covenant meal on Mount Sinai with Moses and the Elders and all of Israel before YHVH is important. There is certainly nothing wrong in remembering that every Shabbat. This practice helps us remember our covenant with Him, thus remembering our own identity as His people. I think this form great and l love those special moments together in His Presence. But don’t get legalistic. If you’re not able to have bread, wine and candles on the eve of Shabbat don’t freak out. A heavenly lightning bolt is not going to strike!
When we become so obsessed with doing everything to the letter of man-made traditions, we lose our ability to walk in true righteousness of the heart. This is what Yeshua so adamantly confronted in the religious leaders of his day – the Pharisees, Sadducees, and rulers of the synagogues. They were so bound up in trying to keep the letter of the Oral Laws based on tradition and how they thought those laws should look in daily life that they totally missed the Spirit of the Torah. That Spirit is One who is grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and a heart that does everything motivated by pure love. The hearts of those religious leaders were not soft, their ears and minds not open, to the quiet voice of their Father who so desired to give new life to the dead spirits within them. They were claiming to walk in righteousness while walking in legalism, religion, and Death. They were power hungry and feared that their positions of wealth and influence would be lost. In Yeshua’s eyes, they were bringing death to the people – crushing them with burdens the Torah was never intended for. This is the twisted perversion of the Torah that Yeshua came to correct. He did so with authority, because He is the Torah – and people thronged to hear the Torah that gave them Life.
Function is at the heart of solid Hebrew thinking. To embrace the Torah is to allow it to finally achieve its intended Kingdom function in our lives. As we live out the simple forms it does provide, the function of those forms should alter our lives for the better. If Shabbat doesn’t change us week by week…if experiencing the Feast Days of our King does not impact who we are becoming in our relationship with Him…if we do not find the grace, freedom and abundant Life that permeates the Torah lifestyle…if our love for Him is purely emotion and sweet words without obedience…if our community is not strengthened and made safer by the standards of the Torah…then we have missed the essence and function of the Torah. We have obtained “the Law” without the Spirit…the form of the Torah without the function of the Torah… religion without life-giving truth…legalism instead of the freedom of heaven. Nothing could be deader, or deadlier. Nothing grieves the heart of our Father and King more than this.
Walk in love, brothers and sisters, taking care not to be quick to judge without prayer and searching of the Word. Look for the Father’s heart in all things and allow His desired function to rule over every man-made form or tradition. Traditions are not bad – as long as they do not go against the Torah and serve a purpose, a function, the Father desires.
“Stand at the crossroads and look: ask about the ancient paths, “Which one is the good way?’ Take it and you will find rest for your souls.” – Jeremiah 6:16