Moses and the Torah
One of the great events in the history of Isra’el, and also in the history of mankind, was God giving the Torah to the children of Isra’el through Moses. It was not given so that the Israelites, by keeping it, could attain righteousness (Galatians 3:11). A righteous standing before God has always been by faith in God alone (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3 and 22, 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:6 and 21). The Torah functioned, and continues to function, to teach the Israelites about both righteousness and their sinfulness (Romans 3:19-20b). The Ten Commandments are a part of the Torah, but in total there were six hundred and thirteen positive and negative commands that Moses would eventually record.
We do not worship the Torah. But when we give reverence to it, we practice the reverence that we will give to the Christ when He comes again. In fact, the Torah means the teacher and the rabbis believe that the Torah is the light of the world.
The Torah was given by means of angels. There are many Jewish traditions that are passed down but are ignored in the B’rit Chadashah and therefore carry no validity. However, there are other traditions contained in Jewish writings that apparently do have weight because the New Covenant validates them. Nowhere in the TaNaKh are we told that when Moses received the Torah he received it from angels. Nevertheless, the fact that God gave the Torah by means of angels is validated three times in the B’rit Chadashah (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2).
What was the purpose the Torah? Well, one thing we know for sure, it was never intended to be a means of salvation. Because if that were true, it would mean that salvation was by works. The clear teaching of Scripture is that salvation is always by grace through faith, plus nothing. However, the content of faith changed from dispensation to dispensation. And what the content of faith was in different dispensations was determined by the amount of revelation that ADONAI had given up to that time. Progressive revelation teaches: God did not choose to give all of the Scriptures at one time, but they were recorded for over sixteen hundred years by about forty different authors. The more Scripture that was given, the more revelation was given and man had greater knowledge of what it meant to be saved.
So if the Torah was not meant to save anyone, what was its purpose? There were seven basic purposes. First, it revealed the holiness of God. It revealed the standard of righteousness that God demanded. One would not have to read many of the six hundred and thirteen commandments to realize that he or she had broken quite a few of them. One would conclude that it was hopeless to be saved by works.
Second, it was to provide a blueprint for living for the righteous of the TaNaKh (Romans 3:20 and 28). The way they demonstrated their faith was by striving, although never succeeding, to keep the Torah.
Third, it was to serve as a barrier, or a dividing wall of hostility separating Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). As long as the Torah was in effect, Gentiles could not enjoy the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. The only way they could was: to become converts to Judaism, put themselves under total subjection to the Torah, submit to it by means of circumcision and in all practical purposes, live as any Jew would live. So only Gentiles as converts to Judaism, but not Gentiles as Gentiles, could enjoy those Jewish spiritual blessings.
Fourth, the Torah was to reveal sin (Romans 3:19-20, 5:20, 7:7). After reading the Torah no one could claim to be without sin. The Torah was like a mirror being held up to each Israelite to reveal his or her own sin.
Fifth, interestingly enough, was to make people sin more (Romans 4:15, 7:8-13). Our sin nature actually uses the Torah as a basis of operation because where there is no commandment there is no transgression of it. For example, as soon as the Torah said: You shall not, the sin nature says, “Oh, yes I will.” Or if the Torah said you will do this or that, the sin nature says, “Oh, no I won’t.” Suddenly, the sin nature had a base of operation, the Torah. The Apostle Paul goes on to state that the problem was not with the Torah because it was holy, righteous and ordained by God. The problem was our sin nature. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Torah (First Corinthians 15:56). Plus, those who felt they were keeping the commandments of the Torah judged others that they felt were not keeping the commandments.
Sixth, it was to teach the way of righteousness. The Hebrew word Torah is derived from the Hebrew root yarah, which means to shoot an arrow or to teach. Torah means teaching or instruction that is true and straight as if the words of Torah are shot in a direct path like an arrow, with power and force for living life to the fullest.
Seventh, and most important purpose of the Torah, was to lead Jews to faith in the Messiah. Rabbi Sha’ul stated that the Torah was our tutor to lead us to the Messiah that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). If we really learned the lesson of the fourth purpose, that no one could claim to be without sin; and the lesson of the fifth purpose, that our sin nature causes us to sin more, that will lead to the sixth purpose, that is to lead us to faith in the Messiah because we would understand that it would be impossible to fulfill His perfect, righteous standard.