Sermon preached on Erev Shabbat - 10th of the 6th Month (20 August 2010)
Shabbat Shalom, YHWH bless you all. I hope that you all have enjoyed a joy-filled week and now we can come and rest and be refreshed in His presence by the washing of His Word, Amein! How we respond to the Word has a major impact on our lives; and we are able to visibly see in people’s lives if they respond to and how they respond to the Word. That means that your life too is in visible sight of others for they will be able to see how you respond to the Word of Elohim. More importantly, as we are all aware, it is how we respond to the instructions written in the Word and my message tonight is called, “Responding to the Torah”. The question is are you responding and what is your response, does it result in disobedience or obedience? As always the Word is useful for teaching us, rebuking us, correcting us and training us in righteousness, and so I would like us to read tonight from Neḥemyah/Nehemiah 8 and let us learn how we ought to respond to the Torah of YHWH. (Read)
Who knows what day it is? Yes we all know it is ‘Friday 20th 2010’ according to the world’s Gregorian calendar, but what day is it in YHWH’s calendar? The New Moon of the sixth Month was seen on the 11th August 2010, so tonight it is the beginning of the 10th of the 6th Month! This is very exciting for us… why? Because next month, the 7th month we have what is known as the ‘fall feasts’ of YHWH. The 1st of the 7th month is the Feast of Trumpets, the 10th of the 7th month is the Day of Atonement and the 15th of the 7th month, for 7 days, is the Feast of Sukkoth or Tabernacles. We are expecting the New Moon to appear on the 9th of September 2010 and so be alert and ready to come and celebrate Amein!
It is with this in mind that we pick up from our reading tonight –Chapter 8 starts by telling us what took place on the Day of Trumpets after the construction of the temple had been completed and family lines been established. This chapter once again stirred me with great excitement for the up and coming feasts and so it is with great passion that I want to stir you tonight in ‘responding to the Torah’ with joy as we get ready to celebrate His feasts as He has commanded us to. Why do we want to respond to the Torah in the correct way? Well when the people of YHWH get away from loving, reading and obeying the very Words He has given them, they very quickly find that they lose the blessing of Elohim. According to Psalm 1:1-3 – as we read last week – tells us that if we want to be fruitful then we are to ‘delight’ in the Torah! Unpacking this passage tonight it speaks of 3 ways that we are to respond to the Torah and speaks of lovingly responding with your all:
1 – UNDERSTANDING THE TORAH (MIND – 8:1-8)
What do I mean by understanding the Torah, as half the time most don’t understand it at first and figure that because they don’t understand they don’t have to do? What this is speaking of is an application of the mind, using the very intellect and ability He has given us to be available to hear and receive the Word. The term understand is used 6 times in this chapter and in Yahshua’s Parable of the Sower, the emphasis is on understanding – in other words how prepared is your heart to receive his Truth? What attitude do you have toward His Torah? Understanding and receiving can be compared to the planting of a seed in soil where it takes root and bears much fruit! Here the people assembled at the Water Gate with great anticipation. And we know that often in the Scriptures that water for washing is a picture of the Word of YHWH, and drinking water is a picture of being filled with the very Ruach HaQodesh (Holy Spirit), so they were assembled to be refreshed and cleansed through the hearing of the Word. It is when we come to drink of the Living Water – that is the very Torah of Yah that we allow the Ruach to work in and through our lives. It is the very Word that restores, refreshes and rejuvenates one’s life. Understanding implies the application of the mind, and we are told not to conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind through the Word, and so understanding the Torah begins with being available to hear the Torah and giving attention to the Torah! How many of you when you went to a class at school and were present in body yet you paid no attention to what was being taught and later found yourself complaining because you didn’t understand that ‘worthless’ subject? I fear that the same is true today – for many may be present at a meeting where the Word is being read, yet their minds are elsewhere, or many are making themselves available yet the Torah is not being taught, others are simply choosing to be absent minded to the Truth and so defend their stance with great pride, yet complain that they are confused and are not interested in hearing what the Torah has to say, purely out of ignorance of understanding! This was the first time in years that the people of Yisra’ĕl had actually gathered to hear the Torah that Ezra read. It was Yom Teru’ah and they were hungry for the Word. I sent out a short email this week asking that very question to most of you – how hungry are you?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. The term ‘be filled’ gives the meaning of being filled according to one’s hunger. If you are only peckish for a little snack, then that is what you will get, nothing more. Many want the benefit of the whole buffet, yet they come with the hunger for a snack. These guys were here to eat and nobody watched their time!!!
Tehillim/Psalm 19:10 in speaking about YHWH’s Torah says that His Right Rulings are, “more desirable than gold, than much fine gold; And sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.”
Mishlĕ/Proverbs 27:7 “One satisfied loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry one any bitter food is sweet.”
You see, if you are so full of what the world and religion and the traditions of men has to offer, then even the sweetness of the Torah will loathsome to you! And His Torah is more desirable than anything the world or traditions or doctrines of man has to offer, Amein!
The people of Yisra’ĕl came to ‘soak’ in the hearing of the Word, that their faith would be filled and moved to action as they would go out and do what the Word says, in total obedience. As one makes themselves available to come and pay attention and soak in the Torah then the application of what is received can begin. The understanding comes in the doing, doing what you hear, and acting out your faith. Hear and do = understanding, it is the application of loving YHWH with your mind, giving full attention to the hearing of His Word! When Ezra opened the Book, they all stood up, there was a reverence for the Word, and after Ezra blessed YHWH, while lifting up their hands said Amein, Amein and then bowed their heads and worshipped YHWH with their faces to the ground. This for me is an awesome picture of total reverence – they were here to pay attention. This is the kind of application of the mind we need today toward His Torah – total reverence for YHWH! That says that in total reverence I am here and make myself available to listen and to pay attention to the Word of Elohim! Now you have to also remember that Ezra read for 6 hours and these people kept their attention on hearing – their minds were so focused as what was taught was made clear and they could apprehend the Word – that is the right response to understanding Torah! How do you respond with your mind – do you give up after 20 minutes? The world has a way of teaching us that you lose your concentration span after 40 minutes and need to rest etc. Well here they listened for 6 hours straight – and they did not lose their attention – they listened and paid attention and ate up the Words of the Torah!
2 – REJOICING IN THE TORAH (HEART – 8:9-12)
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 15:16 “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. For Your Name is called on me, O YHWH Elohim of hosts.”
How many of you can echo this verse? When you eat His Word, is it to you the joy and rejoicing of your heart? As Ezra read, the initial response was grief and conviction, which is often the case when we read the Word and it cuts real deep, especially when an area of disobedience is sharply highlighted, as the light of the Torah exposes some dark, hidden and almost forgotten areas. Yisra’ĕl mourned over their sins, for it is through the Torah that we become conscious of our sins. The reason today that so many are blocked by delusion is simply due to the lack of understanding of Torah; in other words they do not make themselves available to hear and do His very living and good instructions, and so have a seared conscious – they are unaware of their shortcomings. Here Yisra’ĕl heard the Torah for the first time in years, for many it would have been the very first time, and it cut deep as they came face to face with their disobedience to YHWH’s ways. The Scriptures tell us in Yeḥezqĕl/Ezekiel 20:43 that Yisra’ĕl, which is us today as we are grafted in, that we would loathe ourselves in our own sight because of the evils that we have done! If we just think of how we worshipped in vain under the lies that were inherited over the ages, but praise be to YHWH our Elohim, who by grace through faith in Yahshua Messiah, we can rejoice. Obedience to Torah doesn’t save you, that is a gift, but as we walk out that salvation, there is a call to obedience. His Torah constantly draws us back to Him.
Galatians 3:24 “Therefore the Torah became our trainer unto Messiah, in order to be declared right by belief.”
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 16:19 tells us that in the ‘day of distress’, speaking of the end days, the nations would come and say that they had inherited from their fathers, lies and futility which have no value. We can’t sit around and moan about it, it was not our fault that is true; however all we can do is repent and begin to walk in the Truth of His Word. I was weeping the other day as I began to think of how so many are being taught lies, and many of those teaching the lies do not even know they are teaching lies, which is no excuse as we have the Torah available to us all!
We are to rejoice, for we have His Word!
Tehillim/Psalm 19:8 “The orders of YHWH are straight, rejoicing the heart.”
This was not a time of mourning, it was a Feast of YHWH, a time to rejoice and Neḥemyah and the Levites encouraged the nation in the Word and the Word tells us that YHWH will turn our sorrow into joy. YHWH looks at our hearts; He sees the inside; that which man cannot see. How do you respond to the Torah in your heart? Does it cause you to rejoice? Is it a joy for you to be in fellowship in His Word, or is it a hassle as it clashes with your schedule? How hungry are you to draw near to YHWH?
Yaʽaqoḇ/James 4:8-10 “Draw near to Elohim and He shall draw near to you. Cleanse hands, sinners. And cleanse the hearts, you double-minded! 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Master, and He shall lift you up.”
Here the nation had humbled themselves and the Word of YHWH and they could now be strengthened in the joy of YHWH, for His joy is our strength. The same Word that wounds is the same Word that heals!!!
Here there sorrow was turned into joy, they were told not to weep, it was a set-apart day unto YHWH and they were to rejoice. How relieved do you think they were? To know that YHWH desires and commands that we rejoice should energise us straight away! Faith that is not based on the Word is not faith at all, their faith had been built up through the hearing of the Word; and joy that is not a result of faith (which comes by hearing the Word) is not true joy at all, but only a ‘good feeling’ which does not satisfy. We cannot life on ‘feelings’ alone. Faith based and produced from the hearing of the Word will produce joy that will weather the storms of life. It is not enough to just read the Word – we must rejoice in the Word! We must respond to the Torah with a faith filled heart, strengthened by His joy!
There is so much treasure hidden in His Word and we are to diligently dig for these as we read, pray and meditate and rejoice and give thanks in all we do!
To simply study and read the Word out of a sense of legalistic duty will never reveal the true treasures that are sitting in the Word waiting to be found by us. But as one rejoices in the Word and delights to read and study it day by day, then we discover that it is not just a bunch of ‘manna’ and ‘quail’, but that it is so rich in great delicacies of Truth that will refresh and strengthen you to praise His Name!
Responding to the Torah with the right mind and the right heart will cause you to be filled with great joy that you can truly rejoice in Him.
Do you delight in the Torah of YHWH? Is it a joy for you to get in to His Torah? If it is not, then perhaps you have not yet discovered how to understand – that is to actually make yourself available to hear and then do, for that is understanding as the ‘understanding comes in the doing’, but you have to make yourself available to hear, to pay attention that you may do it diligently – for then it will be a joy to get in to His Torah and eat of Him! Or would you rather eat of the world, or simply ‘sleep’ your way through this life YHWH has given you? Yahshua said that we are children of the day and not of the night so we are to be awake and not asleep! Would you rather rejoice in the chasing after wealth and things that fade or do you rejoice in that which never fades?
Delighting and rejoicing in His Torah will result in YHWH delighting in you, and singing over you, and pouring out His favour and blessing upon you! Rejoice – it is a heart thing! I was reading this week in 1 Chronicles about David when he took a census that he shouldn’t have and as a result 70,000 people were killed. He took a military census that was not called for by YHWH. David was near the end of his life and this account is a great lesson on not looking at numbers, but to keep our eyes on Yahshua our Messiah. Do not look at you bank balance or rather imbalance, and begin to worry, look at Yahshua, the author of our faith and be filled with great joy. David went on to buy the threshing floor of Ornan for which he paid full price as he would not offer to YHWH that which cost him nothing, he built a slaughter place and presented offerings to YHWH. He then proceeded to gather materials for the preparations of the house of YHWH. He gave billions and billions worth of silver, gold, bronze etc and passed on the instructions to Shelomoh, his son, who would build the Temple of YHWH. Why am I telling you all this? What has this got to do with rejoicing? Well David asked the nation who would be willing to fill his hand today for YHWH, in other words who would fill up their hands with what they have and come and give fully of what they have to offer fully to YHWH – and all the leaders volunteered and gave much and in
1 Chronicles 29:9 it says, “And the people rejoiced, for they had given voluntarily, because with a perfect heart they had given voluntarily to YHWH. And David the sovereign also rejoiced greatly.”
David gave from the heart and rejoiced; the nation gave perfectly from the heart and rejoiced. How perfect is your heart in your giving with rejoicing to YHWH? If you cannot rejoice in Torah, you will never rejoice in giving of anything in obedience to YHWH, be it you time, your gifts, your tithes, your freewill offerings, your whole heart!!!
3 – OBEYING THE TORAH (WILL – 8:13-18)
We need to ‘pledge our allegiance’ to the Torah, to His Word, to His Loving instructions!
Obligation and appreciation are strong motives for serving YHWH, but celebration is even stronger. Is serving YHWH a celebration to you? Is obeying His Torah a great delight and celebration for you? When we obey because we rejoice in Him then our serving is a delight and not a burden.
I want to briefly share with you the difference between obedience and legalism:
Obedience – ‘an act or instance of obeying’, ‘the quality or state of being obedient’
Obedient – ‘submissive to the will of another’, ‘compliance with the demands or requests of one in authority’
So, for obedience to be due to a person, they must have:
A – A right to command
B – Be able to make known his requirements
Therefore, man’s duty to obey his Maker presupposes:
A – YHWH’s authority – He has a right to command
B – His Revelation – He has made known to us His requirements – His Torah, Yahshua is the Living Torah revealed in the flesh
In Hebrew the term obey , which is ‘shamar’ means to ‘keep watch’, ‘observe’, ‘perform’, ‘protect’, ‘pay attention’, and the basic idea of the root of this word is ‘to exercise great care over’. We are to exercise great care over His Torah!
What is legalism? ‘Strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law (any law that is) or strict, literal, or excessive conformity to a religious or moral code (that is an institutionalised legalism that restricts free choice). You just have to look at over 4000 different denominations today - all with their strict religious and moral codes that have been enforced on members - that is legalism!
It is very clear that YHWH has given us a choice, either to follow Him or not. Legalism on the other hand restricts your free choice. If you choose to obey YHWH then it is clear that you choose to comply by His revealed requirements and choose to accept his authority, which in turns stresses that TRUE obedience to Torah CANNOT be legalism. Legalism, on the other hand, is the conformity to the strict traditions and instructions and doctrines of men!
I like how Michael Rood puts it. He says that the next time somebody comes along and tells you that you are just being ‘legalistic’ in keeping the Torah tell them, “No, moron, I am not being legalistic, I am being obedient! You are the one who is legalistic conforming to the strict traditions and doctrines of man!” Now I am not saying you go and tell others they are morons, let them figure that out for themselves!!!
Without joy in a person’s life, obedience will seem like it is a punishment and legalism, but to the joyful, happy, faith-filled believer, the will of YHWH is nourishment, the Torah is a delight to learn and obey!
It is not enough for us to simply just hear the Torah, but with the hearing comes the responsibility of obedience in doing the Torah. Here in Neḥemyah, Yisra’ĕl after hearing the Word for the first time, enjoyed such great gladness in obeying. What were they obeying? The Torah! It was the 7th month, and when they heard in the Torah that they were to keep the Feast of Sukkoth, they obeyed! Hear and do! They went and fetched branches from the mountains and made booths, celebrating the Feasts of YHWH. They chose to obey the Word and it was a delight!
This was a time for looking back and remembering the nations 40 years of wilderness wandering, and it was also a time for looking around at the harvest blessings from the hand of YHWH. YHWH had given them good land and they were never to forget the Giver as they enjoyed the gifts. It was also a festival time of looking ahead to the glorious kingdom YHWH had promised when He would come and tabernacle with them. This celebrating was not only for enjoyment, but also four encouragement and enrichment; for the joy of the YHWH is our strength, Amein!
The feast of Tabernacles/Sukkoth, which they were celebrating, was also a time for bringing offerings to YHWH – those required as well as freewill offerings. They had found joy in hearing the Word and also in sharing the blessings of YHWH with each other. Day by day they rejoiced and celebrated as instructed in the Torah, as they heard the Torah being read every day, they were strengthened with great joy.
It is with this kind of passion that we are to embrace the Torah in our lives daily, celebrating His unfailing love over us and celebrating His Appointed Feasts. It is with the 7th month that is coming up that I knew that this is a timely word in preparing us to respond to the Torah. The 1st of the 7th month should be on the 9th of September 2010, depending upon the sighting of the first sliver of the Moon, hence the words of Yahshua when He said that no man knows the day or the hour of His return; for He is coming on the Day of Trumpets/Yom Teru‘ah, and we are commanded to have a set-apart gathering, which we will - so keep your cell phones on for when we sms you that it is the first!!! We will then have a day of fasting and prayer on the 10th of the 7th month which is Yom haKippurim/Day of Atonement and on the 15th we will celebrate Sukkoth/Tabernacles for 7 days. We will share details in the days to come; I just want to prepare your mind, hearts and will to respond to the Torah. It is celebration time and we are commanded to keep His Feasts. We are not to do as the pagans do, celebrating the pagan feasts of sun-worship; we are to respond in obedience, joy and understanding which comes in the doing of Torah!
It is an awesome time for us to celebrate what YHWH is doing in our midst, and the challenge is for us all to dig into His presence and His Word and allow the Ruach HaQodesh to give us wisdom and understanding. As we look at where YHWH has taken each of us over the last year, individually and corporately, we can but only rejoice in the fact that we serve the Living EL which must give us the strength to continue steadfast in Him daily as we obey His commands which all come down to loving YHWH with all our heart, soul and mind and loving one another.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 “Hear, O Yisra’ĕl: YHWH our Elohim, YHWH is one! 5 And you shall love YHWH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might. 6 And these words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart.”
I would like to read Leviticus 23:23-44 speaking of the Feasts of the 7th Month and I want you to hear and respond to Torah, Amein. (Read)
How do your respond to the Torah? Will you cry aloud for understanding, will you rejoice in Him and obey His every Word?
We are a people belonging to YHWH, let us bear His Name with joy and respond obediently to His Torah every day, and as we look forward to His Appointed Feasts may we truly celebrate together with our all!
Perhaps your response to the Torah has left you short of engaging your intellect to the fullest, and you have not found yourself rejoicing in His Torah, or you have lacked obedience, even in the ‘little’ things!
Hear the Word of YHWH today, let your hunger for His righteousness grow and see how He will fill you with the delicacies and treasures of His Truth as you experience the joy of responding to the Torah with your mind, heart and will. Tomorrow we will be going through this week’s portion from Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 –When you go out! All are welcome. Let us be determined to ‘respond to the Torah’ correctly!
YHWH bless you and guard you, YHWH make His face shine upon you and show favour to you, YHWH lift up His face upon you and give you peace!