Understanding Galatians 3:24-25

Before we discuss this specific passage, let’s review what Galatians is all about.

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It is a letter written by Shaul (Paul) to a congregation of mostly Gentile Believers in Yeshua as the Messiah, and who were, essentially, converting from their pagan Roman religion to Judaism. These Gentiles were being harassed by Jewish Believers in Messiah who demanded that their conversion process be immediate and complete. Shaul was trying to maintain control of his fledgling congregation by keeping them on track with his slow introduction to the proper worship of God, and understanding of how Messiah Yeshua fit into God’s plan of redemption.

We can see this in all of Shaul’s letters to the different congregations he formed (there were no “churches” in the First Century), each battling with their own problems in keeping on the right track to developing proper worship. There was NEVER any condemnation of Torah or instructions to ignore or abandon Torah- there were slow, step-by-step instructions helping people to make a spiritual paradigm shift in both worship and lifestyle.

Now that we know the context of the letter to the Galatians, remembering that understanding the context is essential in any biblical study, we can take a look at the passage:

Accordingly, the Torah functioned as a guardian until the Messiah came, so that we might be declared righteous on the ground of trusting and being faithful.  But now that the time for this trusting faithfulness has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

We are all children of God, right? And anyone who has ever raised a child knows that the one thing children do, the moment they are able to understand boundaries, is to push the envelope of those boundaries. We, as parents, or should I say guardians, do all we can to allow them to explore their world while keeping them within the very boundaries they want to be free of. And when they cross those boundaries, we bring them back into righteousness through a time out, or grounding them, or sometimes a good slap on the tuchas.

Yet, even when understanding what will happen when they cross the boundary line, why do they continue to push those boundaries? If you’re asking me (and even if you’re not, I’m gonna tell you, anyway) it’s just basic human nature. We are always trying to push beyond whatever boundaries we are given.

We are bound by the sea below and the sky above: we can’t breathe underwater and we can’t fly, yet we pushed against those boundaries and eventually found ways in which we can now do both.

The Torah is a guardian that establishes boundaries; not natural boundaries like water and gravity, but moral ones. The Torah defines these boundaries, and human nature, being what it is, urges us to push those boundaries as far as we can to see where they break. That is who we are. The Torah accounts for this, in that not only does it establish the boundaries for proper living and worship, but as our guardian, it also provides the means for us to be brought back within those boundaries if, and when, we cross over them into sin.

When the Messiah came, he replaced a specific part of the Torah. It wasn’t the part that established the boundaries but the part that brought us back into righteousness when we crossed those boundaries. Yeshua’s sacrifice replaced the need to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem, which is the requirement under the Torah in order to be forgiven. The Torah states that we must bring our sacrifice to the location where God places his name in order for the sacrifice to be accepted (Deuteronomy 12:11), so when the temple was destroyed in 73 AD, there was no means of attaining forgiveness of sin.

Now we come to the most misunderstood truth about the Messiah:

The sole purpose of the Messiah is to be the means through which people can be forgiven of their sins.

Yes, Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Torah (in Jewish exegesis it is called the Remes), but that wasn’t why he came. He performed many miracles, but that wasn’t why he came- that was only to prove who he was. The one and the only reason he came here was to provide the means by which we can be forgiven.

Once we understand this essential truth, then we can understand what Shaul meant when he said with the coming of the Messiah we are no longer under the guardianship of the Torah. He wasn’t talking about the boundaries set by the Torah, he was talking about the means to be brought back within those boundaries.

Let’s get back to kids for a second: as their guardian, we teach them the way to act and we enforce those rules, but when they get old enough to be on their own, they are no longer under our guardianship. That doesn’t mean that what we taught them as their guardian is no longer valid and necessary; it simply means that they are now the ones who are responsible to enforce the rules. The way we do that is through self-discipline and being responsible adults.

Do you now see the logic and relationship between the Torah, Yeshua, and guardianship? A guardian defines our boundaries and is the one who brings us back into righteousness, and the Torah did both of these before Yeshua came; now, after Yeshua, the Torah still establishes the boundaries, Yeshua is the one who brings us back into righteousness, but we are each of us responsible to stay within the boundaries the Torah defines.

The boundaries are still valid, the means to be brought back within the boundaries is through Yeshua, but we are now our own guardians.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!


A Drash on The Ant and The Grasshopper

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For those that may not be familiar with the fable, here it is:

One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

“What!” cried the Ants in surprise, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?”

“I didn’t have time to store up any food,” whined the Grasshopper; “I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone.”

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

“Making music, were you?” they cried. “Very well; now dance!” And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

                                                                        There’s a time for work and a time for play.

The grasshopper was only concerned with what was fun and easy to do than with the hard work of preparing for his future. He was more interested in enjoying the warmth, ease of life and pleasant weather of the season without any concern for the changes to come. The ants, being more industrious, self-disciplined and aware of what was coming were working hard to meet the needs for the winter. In other words, they took a more mature view of their existence and knew that after the pleasures of the summertime winter was coming, and it would be a hard time to survive through.

I see this as the same sort of attitude that we see with Christians who only want to hear about the joy of salvation, about how much Yeshua (Jesus) loves them and how wonderful it will be when Messiah returns and they are raptured into the clouds to be with God forever. Nice stuff, really, but what about all the other things that God tells us will happen in those End Days?  How are they preparing to live through the Tribulations promised to occur in Revelation? How are they going to be able to maintain their faith is it is only based on the wonderful things about God?

God is going to destroy nearly 2/3 of the earth, including what is up in the sky, here on the land and down in the sea. Even the stars and heavenly bodies will be affected. And there is no guarantee that you and I won’t be here when it happens. There will also be persecution of those that worship God and reject the Antichrist. If someone is all about love and joy and acceptance, then how will they maintain their faith in God when the enemy of God offers them even more? Those who’s faith is based on the “nice” stuff will have that offered to them right now! They will be told, “You don’t have to wait, you can be powerful, happy, and have whatever you want right now if you simply accept my rule and bow down to me.”

Truth be told, God promises eternal joy, peace and comfort if we bow down to Him, too, so how can we know who we should bow down to? Maybe, just maybe, by reading the bible and being open to all that it says, the good and the bad, the joy and the tribulations to come, so that we will be able to recognize the lies of the enemy when we hear them. We need to be like the ants working hard (at our salvation) to prepare for winter. Those who only want to hear about joy and love are like the grasshopper, making pleasant music but not preparing for the hard times ahead.

The grasshopper will bow down to the enemy because he is all about the good times, and when things get hard he will be starving (spiritually) and will look for comfort from anyone who offers it.  But the ant, who knows what to expect, will reject the enemy because he knows what is coming and is preparing for it.  When things are hard, he will be (spiritually) prepared to last through the winter.

We need to be like the ant and not have blinders to the reality of the terrible things that will come before and when Messiah returns. He is not coming back as the Lamb of God- He is coming back as the Son of David, the conquering King of the world and it will be a real mishigas!

I also like to hear about the joy and peace we will have for all eternity when the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) have run their course. It’s great news!  And not only do I look forward to that day, faithfully expecting it to happen, but I also know of the terrible things we will have to get through BEFORE all that good stuff is here, with just as much faithful expectation.

And because I do know what is coming, I am prepared to get through it.

Many people I have known over the years since I accepted Messiah wear rose-colored blinders. They only want to hear about God’s love for them, and every discussion ends up, one way or another, with something along the lines of God loves us and He protects us and He is wonderful, yadda-yadda-yadda. Yes, God is all those things, and He is also judge, jury and executioner of the nations. As much as we can count on His promises of joy we can count on His promises of judgement. And that judgement is not going to be fun.

The grasshopper had fun while the sun shone, but his end was not a happy one, whereas the ants survived the tribulations of winter by working hard to prepare.

Judgement Day will be the worse type of winter you could ever imagine, so let me leave you today with this one question: are you a grasshopper or an ant?

Parashot Acharey / Kedoshim (after the death / holy) Leviticus 16-20

This double Parashah deals with the rules regarding Yom Kippur, then gives us regulations and commandments regarding appropriate inter-personal relationships, such as moral standards against incest, adultery, and homosexuality (to name a few.)

Of all the laws and commandments, rules and regulations within these chapters of the Torah, the most important (and maybe best known) is Leviticus 19:18:

” Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of the people, but shall love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord”

This one statement is the foundation for three of the most important teachings of Yeshua:

  1. To not take vengeance is in accordance with Yeshua’s teaching that we should turn the other cheek;
  2. To not bear a grudge is what Yeshua taught us when He said to leave our sacrifice at the alter and first make things right with our brother if there is any animosity between us;
  3. To love they neighbor as thyself is, clearly, the Golden Rule.

Here we have the basis for nearly every moral law and action we need in order to become Kadosh, holy, as God is holy.

I have read articles and seen TV shows that try to degrade the value of these moral and ethical laws, saying they weren’t originally from God because they existed in other, older civilizations. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t- it would seem likely they were already being practiced by others, to some degree, because they are so basic to civilized living. But no where else had there been a written set of laws that were so humane regarding how people should treat each other, whether in inter-personal relationships or under a penal code.

Today some of these laws are questioned, even rejected, by society. We are told some are misogynistic, some are racist, some are hateful (this is usually used against the laws against homosexuality) and some are outdated.

Outdated? Since when did morality and ethical treatment of each other become outdated? Well, you know, maybe they’re right: when I read the papers or hear the news, whether local or international, it seems that society’s morality and ethics are being defined by those that have none. The way God wants us to act towards each other isn’t the way the world wants us to act.

Despite the many good laws still on the books, how many loopholes are there now that allow lawbreakers to go free, or barely suffer for their crimes? And when they do go to jail, instead of being given a chance to repent, they are just receiving a higher education in criminality. A person may go to jail as a beginner, but he or she can come out with a PhD in crime, learning from the experienced criminals that are already there.

Yeshua told us how to be holy: love God and love each other. That isn’t always easy; in fact, sometimes it seems darn near impossible! But we can get better at doing this as we keep trying.  Maybe that is what makes us holy? trying to do what God wants instead of not even caring what He wants.  Being holy isn’t having an aura around you, or a halo over your head- it simply means being separated. The world doesn’t care what God wants, so if we care, and demonstrate that care through our words and actions, then (by definition) we are holy. And the more we do, the better we get at it, and the holier we become.

That’s the ticket- care about what God wants, and care more for what He wants than for what the world, or even you, want. If we can do that, all these morale and ethical rules and regulations will automatically fall into place for us.

That’s what Yeshua meant in the second part of His teaching: love God and each other, for on that pivots all the Prophets and the Writings.