June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill delivered his famous We shall fight on the beaches speech to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament. If we knew nothing about the historical backdrop for this speech, we could have some weird interpretations of why the UK’s prime minister told the House of Commons we shall fight on the beaches and never surrender. But because we know the historical backdrop, we understand Winston Churchill was referring to a possible Nazi invasion of England and the ongoing second world war.
When reading history, we have to consider the historical backdrop if we want to understand what has happened in the past and how it applies to us today. One other example would be the concentration camps in Europe. Because of the historical backdrop, we understand what has happened, but we also see how we today can protect ourselves from it ever happening again. When we negate the historical setting, we stop learning from history, and history repeats itself.
When we read about the Exodus, we all know we need to consider the historical backdrop to understanding what happened in Egypt. If we negate the historical setting, we will not understand why the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and what happened there. By remembering the historical backdrop, we know they were persecuted in Egypt, and it helps us today as believers to prepare and understand what to do if we are persecuted.
Most Christians know how important this is and how to apply this to their Bible reading except for when it comes to the New Testament. This is why we have many strange unbiblical doctrines today, but this is also why so many Christians struggle in their faith.
One of the most famous Bible verses, next to John 3:16, is Matt 6:25-34. Here we have Jesus telling His disciples not to worry because our Father in heaven will see to their needs. If we want to understand and apply what Jesus is saying here to our lives, we must consider the historical backdrop.
It would be another 400 years until there existed a New Testament, so the Bible Jesus used was the Old Testament. Do we ever see at any point Yeshua (Jesus) telling His disciples to reject the Old Testament? No, we never see Him telling His disciples to reject it. This is something we need to take into consideration when reading the New Testament. If He never told them to reject the OT, then we should not reject the OT.
If we consider the historical backdrop, we understand how important it is to know and understand His Bible, the Old Testament. If we do not understand the Old Testament, we can not understand what Yeshua is trying to tell us here. If we can not understand what He is telling us, we do not know how to apply this to our lives, and we end up with a lot of weird unbiblical interpretations.
So how do we apply the historical setting, and how can it help us?
In verse 25, Yeshua begins by saying, “Therefore.” This little word says that what He is about to say builds on what He has just said. What is coming from verse 25-34 is conditional, and the condition has been given from verse 1-25.
What has Yeshua previously taught on? In chapter 5 and chapter 6 verse 1-23, He taught His disciples how to obey Moses’ written law. Everything He says in chapter 5 and 6 verse 1-23 is also found in Moses’s law, the written Torah. Then He goes on to say in verse 23, no one can serve two masters. No one can serve money and Yehovah. This is also found in the Talmud (the oral Torah) and the written Torah (the written law of Moses), and it means you have to choose who to obey. Do you follow the world (money), or do you obey Yehovah?
So when He, in verse 25 says, “therefore,” tells us that what He is about to say now is conditioned on what He has just said. It is conditioned on His telling us to obey Moses.
He has just finished teaching us how to obey Moses, and then He says if you follow Moses, you will have no reason to worry about anything because your heavenly Father will give you what you need.
So we know we need to obey Moses to have no reason to worry.
When Yeshua said these words in Matt 6, He lived in a day and age with only two groups of people in society. You were either a Yehudi or a Goy (a Jew or a pagan.) This is not too different from us Christians who would say you are either a Christian or a pagan; you are either saved or not saved.
We know, from the historical backdrop and language, a Yehudi was and is someone who worships Yehovah. Everyone who worships Yehovah is a Yehudi, but not all Yehudi comes from Yehuda’s tribe (Juda.) In our modern vernacular, we would say everyone who worships Yehovah is a Jew, but not all Jews come from Judah’s tribe.
There is a vast difference between how the Bible describes a Yehudi (a Jew) and how we think of Jews today. In Isaiah 56, the Bible says the book of Ruth; everyone can join Yehovah and worship Him. If they do, they must never say Yehovah has separated me from His people. (Isaiah 56:3, Rom 2) So in the Bible, we see how Yehovah says everyone can become a Yehudi (a Jew who worships Yehovah) regardless of ancestry or DNA.
Today we think of Jews as someone born from a woman practicing Judaism or someone who belongs to the Jewish haplogroups. We are not wrong by assuming that a Jew is born from a woman practicing Judaism or someone belonging to a Jewish haplogroup. But this is not how the Bible sees it.
In the Bible, we have countless examples of intermarriages between people from different haplogroups. Joseph marries an Egyptian; Ruth is a Moabite, and a mixed multitude went out of Egypt. But even so, all of them are considered Jews because they have accepted Yehovah as their God.
In Matt 6:32, Yeshua contrasts pagans with Yehudi (Jews) and says we are not to be like the pagans because they do not belong to our heavenly Father. A pagan back then was a non-Jewish person, someone who did not worship Yehovah. A Jew (a Yehudi) was someone who worships Yehovah regardless of ancestry or DNA. And as we have just seen, from the historical backdrop, a Jew is not born in Israel from a Jewish mother. Paul says it best in Romans 2; a Jew is someone who obeys Yehovah. This is no different from what Yeshua says in John 14, if we love Him and we love His Father Yehovah, we will abide by Moses written law. And this is no different from what James says in James 2, or John in 1.John, if we claim to be one with Him, we have to do as He did and live in obedience to His Father Yehovah.
So what is Yeshua trying to tell us here in Matt 6:25-34?
What Yeshua is saying is this: If we worship Yehovah the way He wants to be worshiped, by obedience to Moses and what Moses commanded us, we will become Jews. If we become Jews, we will have no reason to worry about anything because Yehovah, our God, and Father will take care of us.
So how are we to handle situations that give us good reason to worry?
Remind ourselves we are Jews, and because we are Jews who follow Moses, Yehovah will help us. Sometimes we dont know how or when, but we know He will because we are His chosen people.
If we ignore the historical backdrop of the text in Matt 6, what Yeshua says here will be lost on us, and we will end up with a lot of weird interpretations. We will also struggle in our faith because we will try to take those odd interpretations of the Bible and apply it to our lives. Trying to live a lie will never work for anyone.
If we accept and understand the text’s historical backdrop, what Yeshua said in Matt 6 will be possible to apply to our lives today. Then we will see victory over fear and worry, and what Yehovah promised us in Deut 28:1-14 will happen in our lives.
This, of course, gives us the question, what about Jews living in Israel today and national Israel? What about Pauls’s words of the natural branches broken off in Romans?
There is such a thing as a Jewish haplogroup in genetics proving someone can be 100% genetically Jewish. But as Paul says in Romans, what makes you a Jew in the eyes of Yehovah is not your genes; it is your obedience to Yehovah. Those natural branches, which are 100% genetically Jewish but refuse to obey Him, are broken off. But just as Paul warns us, in Romans, if He (Yehovah) broke off the natural branches because of their obedience, He can easily do the same to you because of your disobedience.
This is what we see in Hebrews if we accept Yeshua and repent, but we commit acts of willful sin, we will be broken off again.
So the land promise still stands, and it is still only given to those who obey Yehovah. It is not given to Christians; it is not given to Muslims; it is given to Jews to Jewish people by their choice to follow our God Yehovah.
Are you a Christian in the eyes of Yehovah, or are you a Jew in His eyes?