What Happened to My Freedom?
What Happened to My Freedom?
by Lonnie Lane
Sometimes folks reading our articles email us for further clarification, or in this case, though there is no specific question, there’s a clear call for help. Perhaps our sister here is not alone and this will be of help to others suffering from the same dilemma as we continue to unearth, in order to properly attach to, the roots of the Spiritual Fig Tree of which we are all a part.
Q. I’ve been stressing out because I don’t know how to “live” a “Halachic” life. With all the different prayers and the rules for when to say them (and when not to say them), covering my head or not, wearing “tzit-tzit” or not, I’ve been bogged down in the details. So bogged down, in fact, that I abandoned gifts I once operated in thinking that I can’t possibly operate in those gifts to God’s glory if I don’t have this “Halachic” life thing right. It’s been overwhelming. I’ve gone from freedom and excitement about what I’m learning, to fear and trepidation, afraid to make a move.
A. I have “Good News.” Be at peace. God is not asking you to do all those things. It sounds like you have Rabbinic Judaism mixed up with your idea of restoring the Hebrew roots of your faith in Yeshua. Others have had the same confusion for the same reason. You now have a wonderful opportunity to appreciate a lot of what it is that Yeshua set His followers free from!!
First, a little history as to how Halachah came about may really help sort out the confusion. All those Halachic laws are extra-Biblical. They were instituted by the rabbis in an attempt to insure that the Jewish people in exile did not lose their Hebrew identity.
These laws were not specifically found in Torah but were based on the original precepts of Torah as they were lived out in the practicalities of daily life. It was comprised of two areas of conduct: rules of ritual and religion; and the other pertaining to civil rights and obligations of men in society. Together they pretty much defined most areas of life.
You can see then, that Halachah was meant to delineate the Jew from his pagan surroundings and to create a cultural and religious force that would serve to maintain their identity as a coherent Jewish people regardless of their location.
Once we understand the motive behind the laws of Halachah, we can see how keeping them is irrelevant for Gentiles. Messianic Jews, however, may observe Halachah for the sake of identifying with their fellow (unsaved) Jews. They may even do so as their own personal expression of worship, but in no way does Halachah add to their salvation or make them more acceptable to God. It is only through the blood of Yeshua that we are acceptable to God.
Over time, some of these Halachote (plural) became so entrenched that they entirely altered or distorted the original “instruction” found in the Torah and became a Torah unto themselves. These laws were to a great extent the “traditions” about which Yeshua said, “…You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matt 15:6) How do these things nullify the Word of God? For one thing, they add a terrible weight of requirements in an attempt to avoid violating the original instruction.
While the original intent was to be a unifying factor in binding Israel together, what evolved led to elitism, pride and sectarianism. Yeshua spoke rather sharply to the rabbis about this, trying to get them to rethink their positions: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier provisions of the Torah: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23).
Additionally, Halachah takes the place of walking by the Spirit in freedom. They make a law where God intended no law. For instance, when God said “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” (Ex20:8) that included doing no work (:9, 10). According to all we know of God as Spirit-led believers today, God meant for us to be responsive and interactive in relationship with Him on that day, to have each Sabbath be a refreshing and “alive” day, not to be doing the same predictable things each week out of a sense of “have to” or “must.” At least, that’s the God I’ve come to know. I pretty much set the Sabbath day apart unto Him, and I can tell you that each week is different somehow. There’s no “law” about it except that I do keep it regularly as I am able. But there’s total freedom in it. Which is part of what makes it such a delight.
Trying to observe Halachah means that if something is not kept, it puts you in the position of feeling as though you are outside of God’s will, which is why our dear sister (in the Q. above) is so distraught. The harder you try, the more you are faced with failure. You are kept forever focused on yourself and your behavior, though the premise is that you are focusing on God. While I’m sure there are highly observant Jews who find great satisfaction in following God this way, these are not the ways that will make us sinless or insure an eternal relationship with the Father. Only faith in Yeshua’s Blood will do that.
Additionally, God never told Israel to pray all those prayers that Halachah requires be said at all those defined times. There’s a specific prayer for literally almost everything! You can recite the prayers perfectly and yet not have your heart be right with God. The women could cover their heads or the men wear tzit-tzit and still have uncircumcised hearts. (Ez 44:7,9) God sees our hearts and knows those who want to please Him.
Now before you ask, “But wouldn’t my keeping all those (Halachic) things indicate to God that I want to please Him?” Yes, if it was God who was asking you to do them. But He isn’t. And He’s certainly not requiring it according to the New Covenant in His Blood. (Luke 22:20)
In Acts 15, the Holy Spirit led the apostolic decision makers to require only a few things from the Gentiles, which did not include, for instance, circumcision. “The apostles and brethren who are elders,” (15:23) wrote to the new Gentile believers, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: That you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.” (15:28, 29) The same applies to Gentiles today. If God wasn’t requiring an outward conformity in that which He required of Abraham as a sign of the covenant God was making with Israel, e.g., circumcision, why would God be concerned with far less meaningful outward expressions such as head coverings?
The covenant is accomplished by Yeshua’s blood and we enter into it by faith that He has accomplished all that Torah required. When Yeshua said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matt 5:17), He meant that He met all the requirements of Torah from God’s perspective. He did it fully and completely; perfectly, which we never could, try as we might. He never violated one commandment, including loving the Lord His God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength and loving others as He loved Himself (Luke 10:27), even to the laying down of His life for others. (John 15:13) Because He was the fulfillment or the embodiment of all that Torah is, as we are “in Him” by faith that the Word is true about His death and resurrection, we are counted by God as righteous, just as Yeshua is righteous. But doing outward things isn’t what faith in Yeshua is all about.
In the same way our sister was overwhelmed with the requirements of Halachah, Yeshua brought the newly born-again Jewish brothers and sisters into a freedom from all that no doubt overwhelmed them as well as they were trying to earn God’s favor. The new believers in Yeshua come to understand that the real issue wasn’t doing, it was trusting in HIM!
When we are tempted to do something to add to Yeshua’s atonement, it is because we either have not been properly informed or we do not really believe that He did it all! He completely and entirely did away with any and all that causes us to be separated from God. The only requirement for acceptance by God is that we see our sin and repent and receive His atonement on our behalf.
The guilt and sense of failure that our sister has been feeling would certainly keep her from being able to be responsive to the Holy Spirit, and would instead cause her to feel unworthy of using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given to her. The law will do that — make us feel unworthy. The reason for that guilt is that we ARE unworthy apart from the righteousness of Yeshua. We cannot approach or even serve God by anything but faith. So to our sister, or whomever else may have been suffering from this same works malaise, may I suggest you pray something like this:
Lord, I come to you only in Yeshua’s name. I ask you to forgive me for trying to add to what Yeshua did. You know that I did it with the intention of serving you and not evil intent. I ask that you wash me anew in the Blood of Yeshua, that you cleanse me of any and every misunderstanding of the Gospel and of Yeshua’s atonement. I accept His atonement as the only way to You, Abba. I thank you that Your mercies are new every day. Thank you for restoring me to the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Messiah Yeshua” (2 Cor 11:3) Lord, I now ask that You fill me again with Your Holy Spirit. That you awaken the gifts that You have given me once again. Give me new ears to hear Your voice and a heart to discern Your kingdom truths. I thank You that You work all things together for me, even this misunderstanding, because I love You and because I know I’m called according to Your will. (Rom. 8:28) I thank you that through this I will have a new and deeper appreciation for the freedom that Yeshua died to give me. Thank You for that freedom, Lord. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.