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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Seeing Jesus in the Torah

There are a great many folks who do NOT see Jesus in the Torah. Atheists claim that Christians are torturing the Hebrew Scriptures to make them mean things that the original authors never intended for them to mean. Likewise, most adherents of the Jewish faith do NOT believe that Jesus of Nazareth represents the fulfillment of THEIR Law and Prophets - they share the atheist's perspective that Christians are injecting Jesus into THEIR Scriptures. Indeed, many Christians do not see Jesus in the Old Testament! Outside of a few favorite stories for children's Sunday school and the occasional Psalm or proverb, they stick to the New Testament. Some Christians believe that Jesus abolished the Law, while others believe that he incorporated most of its provisions into the terms of the New Covenant. So, why is it that some folks see Jesus in the Torah and other folks just don't see it?

For those of us who DO see Jesus in the Torah, the answer to that question is relatively straightforward and simple. We believe that the Holy Spirit enables us to see what others cannot see. In other words, without the guidance of God's Spirit, you will NOT see Jesus in the Torah! From the Christian's perspective, this is all about faith. You either have it, or you don't! You are either a believer, or you aren't! As the old saying goes, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still! A person simply will not see, what they are unwilling to see! Moreover, the argument that the Christian is reading into those Scriptures something that the original authors never intended is NOT persuasive to him/her, because the founders of their religion saw them there first.

Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders of his own day that "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" (John 5:39) Indeed, throughout his earthly ministry, the gospels record that Jesus fulfilled this or that scripture! At the end of his ministry, just before he ascended into heaven, the Gospel of Luke informs us that Christ told his disciples that "When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled." (24:44) This is immediately followed by the statement: "Then he <Jesus> opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." (Verse 45) In other words, Jesus imparted to them this ability to see him in those writings! And, near the conclusion of the book of Acts, we read: "So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening. Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: 'The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet, 'Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’" (Acts 28:23-27)

In his second epistle to the saints at Corinth, Paul explained this phenomenon of only some folks being able to see Jesus in the Torah. He wrote: "The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." (II Corinthians 3:7-16)

Finally, the old argument between those who say that Christ abolished the Law of Moses and those who say that most of its provisions are still binding on New Covenant Christians is misguided and confusing. The truth is that Christ FULFILLED the Law of Moses for us and transformed its provisions into two great spiritual principles for Christians (Love for God and neighbor). Paul told the saints at Rome that "Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit." (Romans 7:6) He went on to say that "The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)

Likewise, Paul wrote to the saints of Galatia on this wise: "But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, 'Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.' So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life. This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, 'It is through obeying the law that a person has life." (Galatians 3:10-12) Later, in the same epistle, Paul reiterated the point he was trying to make. He wrote: "I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace." (Galatians 5:3-4) He continued: "For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Verses 13-14) Paul concluded his explanation to the Galatians of the Christian's obligation to the Law in this way: "So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses." (Verses 16-18) And this was followed by Paul contrasting those who follow their sinful nature with those who produce the fruits of having God's Holy Spirit (verses 19-24). In other words, under the terms of the New Covenant, Christians will exhibit the fruits of the Law of Love - the Law of Moses as fulfilled/magnified/transformed by Jesus Christ!




3 comments:

  1. My friend, Dennis Diehl, has graciously given me permission to use the comments he sent to my private e-mail account here. He wrote:

    Thanks, and I understand your perspective.
    However, without the guidance of God's Spirit, you will NOT see Jesus in the Torah! Well that's the point isn't it? It's not that Jesus is actually spoken of in the OT. It is that one believes so because of special knowledge which anyone can claim to make any point that is not actually so. Dave Pack also says "The scriptures point to me" as Jesus did and we don't give that statement on Dave's part to actually be true unless one is one of Dave's disciples.
    You're right, a man will not see what they are unwilling to see". People see what they need to see and that matches their preconceived need to see it.
    This is the classic apologetic for the topic. It is not how either the Jewish Scholars whose Book it is or Christian scholars would see it as noted. They have good reason to note it. But I do understand your perspective. I had it for a lifetime.

    Later, in reference to II Corinthians 3:7-16, Dennis added:

    This has always been a fascinating "fudge" on what the OT story actually says. Paul turns Moses veil, originally worn when in the presence of the people to shield them from the brilliance of being in God's presence and the giving of the Law, ie the Torah, into a BLINDFOLD. That is a twist to the original story and does not represent the truth of the Old Testament account. It's make the story mean what it did not mean originally to promote a new idea but using an old example badly.
    Exodus 34…32And after this all the Israelites came near, and Moses commanded them to do everything that the LORD had told him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would remove the veil until he came out. And when he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded,…
    34But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would remove the veil until he came out. And when he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35and the Israelites would see that the face of Moses was radiant. So Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.
    The veil was not a blindfold , "to this day" as Paul insists. It was originally to dampen down the glory of what God just gave Moses , the glory of the Law and not as a blindfold noting Jewish ignorance of their own scriptures. Paul just makes this explanation up

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    Replies
    1. Dennis concisely and articulately makes the case that all non-believers make in responding to this argument. And, YES, that is the point - without the guidance of God's Spirit, you won't find Jesus in the Torah! Unfortunately, this is an example of the kind of circular reasoning and appeal to authority that non-believers use to discredit Christian beliefs. They point out that the belief is founded in FAITH - NOT in any physical evidence. Then, they turn around and claim that faith is meaningless and is not really a foundation for anything! Likewise, many Christians resort to quoting Scripture to these non-believers which demonstrates absolutely NOTHING to them. They do not accept the authority of Scripture, and they correctly view the Christian as trying to prove the thing they are attempting to prove by using the very thing that is in dispute as proof! Thus, if we REALLY believe that Jesus is found in the Torah ONLY with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to demonstrate his presence in those writings to a non-believer by ANY argument that we alone and unaided can offer! Dennis' comment demonstrates the absolute truth of this very nicely.

      As for Paul's treatise on the significance of the veil that Moses wore, once again, from a non-believer's perspective, Dennis is absolutely correct! Without the Holy Spirit, going strictly by what is written in the Torah about the veil, we see that it served to shield the Israelites from the Divine glory which Moses' face reflected. Paul's characterization of the veil as something that restricted the people's understanding of the Law is an invention of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! It simply isn't there without it! This goes to the heart of what it means to be a Christian - you're either a believer, or you aren't! You either believe (have faith) that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ - acting under Divine inspiration, or you don't!

      For the saints at Corinth, Paul explained the principle in this way: "6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
      9 But as it is written:
      “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
      Nor have entered into the heart of man
      The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
      10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:6-14)

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  2. As an afterthought, it occurred to me that Dennis' reference to Dave Pack and "special knowledge" may be on the minds of other folks who share our experience of Armstrongism. While it is certainly true that Herbert Armstrong, Gerald Flurry, and Dave Pack all saw themselves in Scripture, I would say that this is a fundamentally different phenomenon from us seeing Jesus in Scripture. After all, Christ claimed that he was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets - that all of those writings pointed to him. For Christians, this a foundational/elemental kind of belief - You either accept/believe that Jesus was who he said he was, or you don't! In other words, if we reject that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, then we have no basis for following Christ - for being a Christian! Accepting or rejecting what David Pack has to say about himself may identify you as a member of RCG and/or crazy, but it has NO bearing on your identity as a follower of Christ (a Christian).
    Moreover, once again, we are talking about accepting/believing in the founder of the religion - we are not talking about things like what happens after we die, the number of entities in the Godhead, or which Holy Days/holidays we should be observing! Granted, many Christians (including most Armstrongites) will see these things as equivalent; but I'm hoping that most of my longtime readers will be able to discern a distinction between a belief in Christ, and a belief in Herbert Armstrong and his teachings! On a fundamental level, a Christian MUST believe that God exists, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. Likewise, a Christian MUST accept that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and is his/her Savior. Once again, this is elemental/foundational/essential. The other stuff is ancillary/incidental at best and is probably more accurately described as superfluous or just plain old crazy! Bottom line, what you believe about Elijah and/or the trinity isn't going to get you into (or keep you out of) God's Kingdom!

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