Response to Peter Goodgame – Part 5: The Sermon on the Mount

The view from the Mt. of the Beatitudes
The view from the Mt. of the Beatitudes

Continuing our series answering Peter’s arguments, we’ve finally reached part 3 of his series, entitled The Sanctity of Marriage. Skipping past his introductory remarks, we hit his first new point:

Jesus was not introducing the Kingdom of God by giving some modern-day grace message that says, “Oh just believe in your heart for a moment, and then one day when you die you can be assured you’ll go to heaven.”  For Jesus the Kingdom of God was much more than simply “going to heaven when you die.”  It was the re-establishment of the reign and rule of God upon the earth in righteousness and truth!This would demand actual righteousness being exhibited by the people of God, not some theologically dubious “imputed righteousness” that is invisible to the world.

And again, we agree. In fact, I’ll add a point: The Kingdom of God was originally established in Israel in the days of the Exodus, when the Divine Presence of God descended to take residence in the Tabernacle. I’ve written before on how the Holy One chose Israel to be a new Divine Council (to use Dr. Heiser’s term) to replace the spiritual entities that were worshiped as gods by the nations. By virtue of this arrangement, Israel had direct access to the Eternal Creator via the High Priest and the Urim and Thummim, allowing them to consult God to find out his will directly whenever they needed (Num. 27:21, cf. Ezra 2:63). The Holy Spirit provided further guidance through the prophets, who disappeared shortly after the construction of the second Temple.

With the departure of the Glory of the Lord (what the rabbis call the Sh’khinah, or Dwelling Presence), this closeness with God was lost, soon followed by the loss of the Temple and of the Davidic kings. To a Jew hearing John’s and Yeshua’s words, the “Kingdom of Heaven” was the promised restoration of the direct rule of God over his people–a promise fulfilled in the return of the Holy Spirit and of prophecy (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). However, as I noted before, at the present time, the Kingdom and its King are invisible to the world, so there is an element of the Kingdom that is yet future.

So what’s the point of all this? Simply put, the “Constitution” of Israel under God’s direct rule the first time was the Torah, so there is no reason to believe that the restoration of that rule would annul the least yod or penstroke of the Torah–and indeed, our King states in no uncertain terms that it doesn’t (Mat. 5:17-19). As I established back in Part 3 of this series, there are numerous prophecies that state that the Torah will be kept after the Second Coming; ergo, there is no reason to believe that those same commandments are not still in effect today.

Isaiah had predicted that God’s “Great Light” would first appear in the up-country rural darkness of Galilee.

Yes, and just a few verses earlier, the same prophet wrote, “To the Torah and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isa. 8:20). Therefore, the great Light of Isaiah 9 could not have taught against or brought to an end the Torah, could he?

At this time in Israel the religious leadership had reduced the Mosaic Law to a mere system of animal sacrifices, money collection, and control over outward behavior.  In contrast, as Jesus began to introduce the principles of the Kingdom of God, laying the foundation for the New Covenant that would be sealed in His very own blood, He introduced new commandments that would deal specifically with the heart, just as Jeremiah had prophesied that the New Covenant would be a law on the inside of the people, inscribed on their hearts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeter hits the nail on the head in the first sentence. The Torah itself does command that our observance come from the heart: “Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the Lord alone! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. . . Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked” (Deu. 6:4-5, 10:16). The tenth commandment is, “You shall not covet” (Exo. 20:17), obviously a heart issue, as is the command, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart . . . but you shall love your neighbor in your heart” (Lev. 19:17, 19).

No one who has actually studied the Torah believes that it deals with only outward behavior–but it is true that in Yeshua’s time, the outward observances–and more particularly, the outward ritual observances–had been overemphasized by all of the major Jewish sects. Part of the Messiah’s mission was to correct this imbalance.

Following the statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:20 about the Kingdom’s high standard of righteousness Jesus then launches into six commentaries on the Old Covenant law. He begins in each case with the words, “You have heard it said,” followed by, “But I say to you,” thereby introducing His new teaching for the Kingdom of God.  In each of these cases Jesus shows how the Mosaic Law is deficient and a new standard is necessary for those desiring to live as citizens of the coming Kingdom.

Actually, as we will see, the Torah was by no means deficient; it was the traditions of men which had become deficient.

The first commandment that Jesus addresses is the Sixth Commandment of “Thou shalt not kill.” Jesus says that in the past the murderer was in danger of judgment, but now merely unjustified anger or verbal cursing is unacceptable. Even saying “you fool!” will cause one to be “in danger of hell fire”!  Anger is a sin of the heart, and in Luke’s version of this sermon Jesus says, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45).  Right from the beginning — just as Jesus had said,“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” — we see here that Jesus is directly dealing with heart issues.

And, as we’ve already seen, the Torah forbids hating one’s neighbor or coveting what he has. Moreover, there are innumerable passages in the Tanakh (OT) which exhort us to be careful of what we say, such as Proverbs 12:18: “There is one who speaks rashly like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise heals.” So then, Yeshua was teaching exactly what the Torah taught, but which the people were not putting into practice.

The second case that Jesus addresses is the Seventh Commandment of “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  In the past the physical act was considered the sin, whereas now Jesus says that whoever even looks at a woman with lust is already guilty of adultery in his heart.

Which falls neatly under the category of “You shall not covet . . . your neighbor’s wife” (Exo. 20:17), which is further amplified by Solomon’s warnings against lusting after women in the Proverbs and all of the cautionary tales which show the dangers of letting one’s eyes lust. Just consider how David and Bathsheba started out!

Since this post is already getting long, and since the divorce issue is actually a fairly complicated one, I’ll save that for next time. Suffice to say, Yeshua’s teaching on the matter is not in the least contradictory to the Torah at all–just like all of the other examples given above. Everything Yeshua taught was firmly rooted in, and the ultimate interpretation of, the Torah that Israel knew.

Shalom

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