The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of having a correct focus in life. We are called to focus on faith and not what we see, to have the joy of the Lord and concentrate on His righteousness and His way of doing things.
What is your focus in life?
Psalm 26:3 says we are to focus on Yehovahs loving-kindness. Here in this verse, the Hebrew word used for loving-kindness is chesed. How are we to understand chesed and the somewhat awkward translation of loving-kindness?
Chesed is usually translated as mercy, but how do we define mercy, and how do we define grace?
In our culture, heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and culture, we understand mercy as not getting what we deserve. Grace, we understand as getting what we do not deserve. Mercy removes the bad we deserve, and grace gives us the good we do not deserve.
The way we understand grace and mercy has heavily influenced how we understand the cross. We see the cross as mercy and grace. Mercy because we deserve hell, but because of the cross, we dont get what we deserve. Grace, because we do not deserve the cross.
This is why, in Greek culture and philosophy, mercy and grace always work together. When mercy takes away what you deserve, grace replaces it with something you do not deserve. But grace and mercy are only given to those who act on it; we have to accept the cross to be saved, or else the offer of salvation is not valid for us.
This is how Christianity, influenced by Greek philosophy and culture, understand mercy and grace. But as we know by now, the Bible is a Hebraic book, and there are vast differences between Hebraic and Greek culture. As we are about to see, if we read the Bible with a Hebraic mindset, we get a slightly different understanding of the cross, grace, and mercy.
In the Bible, Yehovah, our God, builds His relationship with us based on covenants. Like the Mosaic covenant, some covenants have equal responsibilities where both parties agree to fulfill their obligations. Other covenants, like the Abrahamic covenant, are one-sided where only Yehovah has duties to perform.
Every covenant in the Bible builds on the previous ones, but they never abolish the previous ones. So we see how our forefathers, the Israelites, were saved out of Egypt because of Abraham’s covenant. They did nothing to earn their salvation from Egypt, but they lost their salvation if they did not agree to the Mosaic covenant after being saved. If they agreed to the Mosaic covenant, they would have obligations to fulfill, but this meant they could also rely on Yehovah doing His part. If they did not follow through with their responsibilities, there would be a penalty to pay called the curse of the law. Should these curses not cause them to return to the covenant, they would be kicked out of the covenant and could never return to it.
The Abrahamic covenant promises Yehovah would make sure Abraham would have more descendants than there are stars in the sky and sand on the seashore. For Yehovah to fulfill this promise, even when some of Abrahams’s descendants never fulfilled their end of the Mosaic covenant, Yehovah has always desired for everyone to join His covenant people regardless of their DNA. (Isaiah 56)
We see this happening in Egypt when Egyptians joined themselves to Yehovah left Egypt with the Hebrews, but we also see this happening in Romans 2 and 11. These covenants have never been exclusively for the natural-born Hebrew; Yehovah has always desired for everyone regardless of their DNA or ancestry to join them.
How do you join? By agreeing to the terms of the latest covenant, the Mosaic covenant given at Mount Sinai. If you agree to it, you will repent from living lawless and start obeying Torah. If you begin to follow the Torah, you will know it expects you to sacrifice for your sins in the temple in Jerusalem. The temple is gone, so you can not go there anymore and obey the Torah. According to the Torah, the only way for you to sacrifice for your sins now is to believe in what Yeshua did for you at the cross.
Now that you have joined the Mosaic covenant, you will have obligations to fulfill described for you in the Torah (the written law of Moses.) If you live up to your end of the deal, you will experience what is called the blessings of the Torah (Deut 28:1-13.) These are all the things Yehovah promises to do for those who have joined themselves to His Mosaic covenant. Should you, at any time, fail to live up to your obligations, you will come under what is called the curses of the law. (Deut 28:14-45) These are all the things Yehovah promises to do to those who fail to live up to the terms of the covenant. If the curses of the law do not lead to your repentance, Yehovah will divorce Himself from you, and you will be lost forever. (Hebr 10)
What Yehovah promises in Deut 28:1-14 is His chesed, His loving-kindness. His chesed depends on our obedience to the Torah; therefore, it is not grace, and it is not mercy. Instead, we get what we deserve by what we do. If we live by the Torah, He will give us chesed. If we break the Torah, He will curse us and turn on us.
Does this mean you can obey the Torah as a checklist and demand Yehovahs help? No, because that would not be following the Torah; that would be disobedience to the Torah. Why? The Torah says you shall love Yehovah, your God. So if you follow the Torah without love for Yehovah, you are disobedient to the Torah, and you will be cursed. But if you follow the Torah out of love for Yehovah (John 14), you will be blessed and given chesed.
Why would someone choose not to join the covenant of Moses when you know it guarantees His chesed? And what about our understanding of mercy and grace?
We see grace as something we get, which we did not deserve, as unmerited favor. Chesed is always merited favor based on what we do; therefore, chesed is not grace. The offer to join the covenant is not something we deserve, but it is given to us anyway. Even though chesed is not grace, the covenant offer is grace because we dont deserve it. So we enter into the covenant by grace when we accept the offer, but we do not live in the covenant by grace; we live in it by chesed.
We understand mercy as not getting what we deserve. At one time or another, we have all broken the Torah. So we do not deserve the covenant; we deserve hell. But even though we deserve hell, Yehovah gives us the offer to enter into the covenant of Moses through the cross.
Is there room in the Bible for our understanding of mercy and grace? Yes, mercy and grace, the way we understand them, is vital for us. Without mercy and grace, we can not unlock the door to Moses’ covenant and access Yehovahs chesed. But mercy and grace are not supposed to be our focus of life; it is only supposed to be the key to the covenant where our focus should be Yehovahs chesed.
Yehovah’s chesed is all His promises in Deut 28:1-14, Matt 6:25-34 given to those who obey the Torah, and they are supposed to be our focus in life. (Psalm 26:3)
We are to walk through life knowing that because we keep Torah, whatever happens to us, Yehovah will save us from our circumstances because of His chesed.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say His chesed guarantees us a problem-free life. Instead, in Psalm 23, Psalm 91, it says that even if we have to go through the valley of the shadow of death, His chesed, given to us if we obey the Torah, is what comforts and protects us.
So this is what our focus in life ought to be; our promise of Yehovah’s help when we obey the Torah.
How do we apply all of this to our lives?
In Rom 2:29, Paul, the Apostle, says the real Jew is the one who keeps the Torah, not the one born from a Jewish mother. This is the same thing Yehovah says in Isaiah 56 and what Ruth did in the book of Ruth when she became a Jew by choice.
The letter J does not exist in Hebrew, so in Hebrew, a Jew would be called a Yehudi. Yehudi means someone who worships Yehovah; therefore, all Jews are Yehudi, but not all Jews come from Judah’s tribe.
Agreeing with Paul and Yehovah (Rom 2:29, Isaiah 56) is not the same as converting to Judaism; it says you are one who worships Yehovah. The Bible goes on to say, in the book of Romans, the one who worships Yehovah is in covenant with Yehovah and worships by obedience to the Torah.
In the Torah, we see how the Mosaic covenant and Yehovah’s chesed was given to the Jews. Choosing to become a Yehudi, a Jew means you will decide to join Yehovah and the Mosaic covenant. If you enter the covenant, you will have access to Yehovah’s chesed.
So how do we apply all of this to our lives? By making a change of identity from Christian to Jew.
Why is this important? Why can’t we see ourselves as Torah obedient? Why do we have to see ourselves as Jews when we have no Jewish ancestry?
It is essential because Yehovah says in Isaiah 56, all foreigners who join themselves to His people (what Paul calls grafted into Israel) must see themselves as one with His people. His people are the Jews; if you see yourself as a Gentile Christian, you are not obedient to Him.
We also know from psychology how our identity affects our behavior. The way we see ourselves will determine how we live. Suppose we see ourselves as Christians and have been preprogrammed by our culture to associate Christians with someone who rejects the Torah. In that case, we will have difficulty being obedient to the Torah. Most Christians associate the word Jew with someone Jewish, a Mosaic covenant member, being Torah obedient. If we do what Ruth did, what Yehovah commands and Paul says in Romans and see ourselves as Jews (remember, a Jew in Hebrew is a Yehudi, someone who worships Yehovah), how we see ourselves affects how we live. As a Jew, we will live as a Jew in Yehovah’s, chesed obedient to His Torah.
So how do we apply all of this to our lives?
By becoming a Jew by choice.
What is our focus supposed to be?
Our focus is to be our new identity as Jews.