The Higher Torah and the Highest Torah Explained
The Torah is NOT the ultimate goal! The Torah, as wonderful as it is, points us to something even even better and higher!
What are the weightier matters of the Torah? Perfect obedience to the Torah is not the ultimate goal of the saint. The Torah is merely a vehicle to lead us to something. What is that? What is the greater Torah, the higher and the highest Torah? What really matters to YHVH when all is said and done???? The Gospel of Matthew (Matt 23:23) records that Yeshua rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their not following the higher Torah.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Torah, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
What did he really mean by “the weightier matters of the Torah”?
The Deeper Meaning of the Word “Torah”
Almost every place where you see the word “law” in the Old Testament (or Tanakh), it is the Hebrew word “Torah.” This word is used 219 times in the Tanakh, and in almost every case it is translated in the KJV and in most other English Bibles as “the law.” Is this all this word means? Is “law” even its main definition according to the Hebrew?
Let’s begin to answer this question by asking another one. When you think of the term “the laws” what comes into our mind: good thoughts or bad thoughts? Do you think of a list of dos and donts—what you are legally permitted to do and not to do? Do you think of red and blue flashing lights and a sirens? Or a man in a blue uniform with a star and a gun? A black-robed judge with a gavel? A prison or jail cell? If so, these can be scary thoughts!
Let’s see what the word “Torah” really means according to the Scriptures.
In Proverbs 13:14, the Bible tells us that the Torah is the fountain of life and keeps one and keeps one from the snares of death. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? It fact, it sounds really good!
Next start open your Bible to Proverbs 1:7 where we read that the fear of Elohim is the beginning of wisdom. In verse 8, Solomon urges us to not forsake the law. The word law in this verse is Torah. Continue reading what Solomon teaches us about the benefits of YHVH’s instructions and wisdom found in the Torah. Start reading in verse 9 to the end of chapter. Here he is talking about the path of sinners (those who lawless or Torahless). Next start reading in chapter three and continue to the end of chapter four. Whenever you see the words “law,” “instruction,” “wisdom,” “instructions” “commandments,” “truth,” “mercy,” “knowledge” or “words” think of Torah, for that is what these words are referring to. Does this sound like the Torah-law of Elohim is a bad think that should evoke thoughts and emotions of fear and anxiety in a person? Or does the Bible view Torah as a fountain that brings life, wisdom, mercy, truth and knowledge?
On our journey to discover what is the higher Torah, let’s turn to Psalm 119. Perhaps no other biblical chapter explains the ramifications and extols the virtues of the Torah more than this psalm of David.
Based on Psalm 119 and Proverbs chapters one through three, what are the blessings and benefits of Torah-obedience?
- It takes away feelings of shame, guilt, reproach and contempt. (Ps 119:6, 22)
- It gives us an upright (straightness of) heart. (Ps 119:7)
- It cleanses one’s ways and keeps a one clean. (Ps 119:9)
- It keeps us from sinning against YHVH. (Ps 119:11)
- It brings delight and joy. (Ps 119:24, 70, 77, 162, 174)
- It gives us the ability to answer those who reproach (taunt, defy, rail against) us. (Ps 119:42)
- It gives us freedom (a large or broad area to walk in). (Ps 119:45, 96)
- It allows us to speak wisely before leaders. (Ps 119:46)
- It brings us comfort. (Ps 119:52)
- It gives us something to sing about (Ps 119:54)
- It brings hope. (Ps 119:74, 81)
- It makes us wiser than our enemies. (Ps 119:98)
- It gives us more understanding than our teachers and the ancients. (Ps 119:99, 100)
- It keeps our feet from evil. (Ps 119:101)
- It gives light to our path. (Ps 119:105; Prov 6:23)
- It helps to order our steps and keeps sin from having dominion over us (Ps 119:133)
- It shows us what truth is. (Ps 119:142, 151)
- It gives something to love. (Ps 119:159, 163)
- It causes us to hate evil. (Ps 119:163)
- It gives us great peace. (Ps 119:163)
- It defines righteousness for us and gives us understanding as to what righteousness is. (Ps 119:172; Prov 2:9)
- It brings an understanding of the fear of Elohim, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7; 2:5)
- It gives us discretion (purpose, to know the difference between good and evil). (Prov 2:9)
- It delivers us from the way of the evil man. (Prov 2:12)
- It will keep us from the strange woman (a metaphor for sin or wickedness). (Prov 2:16)
- It shall bring long life and peace. (Prov 3:2,16)
- It shall give you favor and good understanding in the sight of Elohim and man. (Prov 3:4)
- YHVH will direct your paths. (Prov 3:6)
- It shall bring you good health physically. (Prov 3:8)
- It will bring you physical wealth (because you tithe to YHVH). (Prov 3:9–10, 16)
- It brings the loving correction and chastisement of YHVH. (Prov 3:11–12)
- It brings happiness. (Prov 3:13, 18)
- It brings honor (glory, abundance, riches). (Prov 3:16)
- It is a tree of life. (Prov 3:18)
- It brings life to your soul and grace (favor) like an ornament around the neck (Prov 3:22)
- It will cause you to walk safely so that your foot will not stumble. (Prov 3:23)
- It will make you so that you are not afraid—so that you can sleep safely at night and have sweet sleep. (Prov 3:24)
As we can see so far, the Torah is more than merely a list of dos and don’ts. It brings blessings. But more importantly, the Torah is pointing us to something beyond a simple legalistic obedience to a set of laws. There is higher goal—something more!
The word Torah literally means “direction, teaching, or instruction.” It comes from another Hebrew word meaning “to flow as water, to lay or throw as in shooting an arrow, to point out as if aiming the finger to make a point, to teach.” In your mind, imagine a teacher who is standing in front of a classroom pointing at a chalkboard teaching the class something. Or picture an archer aiming his arrow at a target hoping to hit the bull’s eye. This is the idea behind the word Torah.
Do you see what is really going on here? Think about this awesome thought for a minute. YHVH Elohim, the Creator of the universe and the One who is our Heavenly Father cares so much for you and me that like a teacher he wants to teach us his ways. He personally spoke out his Torah to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, which are his instructions in righteousness, and then had Moses write them down for us to show us the right direction in which to go—a way of life that leads to wisdom, mercy, blessings, knowledge, and is a fountain of life. Not only that, in YHVH’s Torah, we learn about salvation by grace through faith from the example of Abraham who had faith in YHVH. From the Torah, we learn that man can escape the penalty of sin, which is death, by killing a lamb and putting its blood on the doorposts of one’s house. This points to Yeshua, the Lamb of Elohim, who spilled his blood on the cross to pay for our sins. From the Torah, we learn that once we are saved by grace through faith in YHVH, and have been saved from our sins, we can live a righteous and sin-free life by following YHVH’s commandments. From the Torah we learn how we love YHVH our Elohim and our neighbor—how to have peace on earth.
Like an archer shooting an arrow at a target, Torah shows us how to hit the bull’s eye of YHVH’s righteousness and love. Like a river that flows, Torah, which is the very Word of Elohim, is a river of life that brings blessings to us if we obey it. And like a teacher, YHVH is trying to teach us how to walk in his ways that will bring blessings, love, joy and peace.
What Was the Purpose of the Torah
The Torah is an amazing thing. It is much more than just a list of dos and don’ts. Because it comes from the mind of Elohim and is an expression of his very character, it is very deep and broad. YHVH Elohim designed the Torah to accomplish a lot of things. Here are some examples of what the Torah of YHVH can do in a person’s life.
- The Torah defines sin. When we study the Torah, the sin in our life become evident. As a result, we see more clearly how we have not been obeying YHVH, and how we have been bringing curses, shame and guilt on ourselves. Recognizing sin and feeling sorry for it is the first step in overcoming it and living victorious and guilt-free life, and blessing-filled life.
- The Torah shows us how to eradicate sin out of our lives. This we can accomplish by following Torah’s instructions in righteousness—by obeying the Torah commandments that teach us what it is to practice love.
- The Torah also points us to Yeshua by showing us that when we sin a price or penalty needs to be paid for that sin. The sacrifice of innocent animals like sheep, cattle and goats, when a person sinned under the Old Testament sacrificial system, showed man that he needed a greater sacrifice than just an innocent animal that would pay for all of our sins once and for all. The Torah shows us that through the shedding of the blood of an innocent victim atonement for sins occurs (Lev 17:11). The Torah also teaches us that animal sacrifices are insufficient to atone for one’s sin, since every time one sins, a sacrifice needs to be made. There aren’t enough animals for this!
- When we fail to live up to the high standards of YHVH’s Torah, it shows us how much we have sinned, how much we need Yeshua’s salvation and spiritual help to be righteous (Rom 3:23; Gal 3:25).
- Torah is like a protective boundary line or fence that protects us from straying off of the path of righteousness. Imagine driving down a steep mountain road that had no guardrails, lines or signs—especially at night, or in the fog. It would be very easy to accidentally drive off of the road. Torah is like a guardrail or a marker signs that keep us on the road of righteousness and keeps us from sinning.
- Obeying the Torah helps us to draw closer to YHVH, for it shows us how to love him. (Read John 14:15; 1 John 2:3–6). It also helps us to have a better relationship with our fellow man, since it shows us how to love him.
- Obeying the Torah helps us to stay spiritually pure (1 John 3:3–6).
- Obeying the Torah protects us from the influence of the devil (1 John 3:8).
- Obeying the Torah-Word of YHVH helps to perfect YHVH-Yeshua’s love in us (1 John 3:6).
- Obeying the Torah is a road map or instruction manual that shows us how to walk out YHVH’s standards of righteousness and how to become like Yeshua, who walked out the Torah perfectly.
- The Torah points us to Yeshua in showing us that man can’t obey the Torah perfectly in his own strength. He needs the grace (unmerited pardon and divine power) of Yeshua through the power of the Set-Apart or Holy Spirit of Elohim supernaturally empowering a person to live up to the high standards of YHVH’s Torah, which are a reflection of the nature and character of Elohim himself. It is this kind of person that the Almighty Creator wants to spend eternity with in the New Jerusalem heaven on earth.
The Jewish Leaders Had Forsaken the Higher Meaning of Torah
Yeshua blasted the religious leaders of his day for following Torah, but omitting the weightier matters of Torah, which are mercy, justice and faith (Matt 23:23).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
The Pharisees had a letter of the law righteousness. But Yeshua said that the righteousness of his followers had to exceed that of the religious Jews of his day. Yeshua wasn’t talking about the fine points of a letter-of-the-law Torah obedience here, for it is doubtful that anyone could have exceeded the Pharisees in that arena. He must have therefore been talking about something else—something higher and beyond merely keeping the letter of the law.
In many respects, the Jew’s religious traditions had made void the Torah (Mark 7:6–13). Torah points the way to our Father’s heart. His heart is the higher Torah. To get to YHVH’s heart man must lay aside religious traditions that nullify the Torah-Word of YHVH, and then follow the pure Torah as revealed from heaven. But merely following the letter of the Torah is not sufficient. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7–7), Yeshua clearly teaches that his followers would not only follow the letter of the law, but something else as well. There is something beyond and in addition to a letter of the law obedience.
The Letter Kills, But the Spirit Makes Alive
Paul, the Torah-obedient disciple of Yeshua teaches us that the letter of the law (by itself) kills, but the Spirit of the law brings life. The letter by itself brings bondage and legalism. It is a burden or grievous.
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Cor 3:6)
For this is the love of Elohim, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous/heavy or burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
Love, Not Law Keeping, Is What Attracts
In the eyes of Paul and Yeshua, what is more important than a mere legalistic obedience to the letter of the Tortah-law? Yeshua told his disciples that men would know they were his disciples not because they kept the Torah scrupulously to the letter, but because they walked in love for one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)
Paul confirms this when, in his famous love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is the greatest thing. Love is superior to all knowledge (including Torah), and all prophecy (inspired teaching of Torah).
But what is love? Love is the fulfilling of the Torah-law of Elohim as Paul writes in the Epistle to the Romans. If we love our neighbor, we won’t be violating YHVH’s Torah-commandments that teach us what love is and how to love. We won’t be committing adultery, stealing or lying (Rom 13:8–10). To love Yeshua is to keep his Torah-commandments (John 14:15). John teaches us that to love is to lay down our lives for our brethren as Yeshua did for us when he died for our sins on the cross (1 John 3:16). Love is an action, not just a feeling (1 John 3, 10–12, 18; 4:20–21). To love one’s fellow man is to love Yeshua (Matt 25:31–44).
Sadly, many end time believers who are returning to the pro-Torah Hebrew roots of the Christian faith are forgetting the basics principles of loving one’s neighbor. The problem is this. It is possible to obey the Torah legalistically through a hard, unloving heart of pride and self-righteousness. This is not the love of Elohim. Rather this is the “letter that killeth” that Paul denounced. YHVH wants us to follow his Torah out of a loving, humble, merciful heart toward others. As we need YHVH’s mercy, grace and love ourselves, we must extend that same love toward others. This is a step in understanding the higher Torah. This is weightier matters of justice, mercy and faith that Yeshua accused the Pharisees of forgetting about in their legalistic and hard-hearted religious system.
The Higher Torah Is About Relationship
The higher Torah is also this: Torah is not about bondage; it is about bonding. It is about relationship. Yeshua summed up the Torah as follows:
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; YHVH our Elohim is one YHVH: And thou shalt love the YHVH thy Elohim with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one Elohim; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Yeshua saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of Elohim. And no man after that durst ask him any question. (Mark 12:28–34)
The higher Torah is about love, mercy, and faith! It is about building relationships and about bonding with your fellow man and Elohim! We can’t be bonding in love if we are constantly walking in offence, have a critical spirit, are judgemental of others, are exclusivistic, arrogant, self-righteous or are looking down our noses at others who do not believe are act as we do. We must love them, and, by a loving example, show them the way to a higher walk or relationship with their loving Father. This is not to imply that we condone sin or compromise our standards of righteousness as defined by Torah. We must simply love people into obedience.
Yeshua said in John 13:34 that a qualitatively new commandment he was giving his disciples, that they love one another as he had loved them, and that by their love for one another all men would know that they were his disciples. John repeats this “new” commandment in 1 John 2:8. This new commandment is a restatement of the vey ahavta(“and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”) portion of the shema declaration of faith from the Torah. This is the summation of that part of the Torah that relates to man loving his neighbor. The cornerstone of these commandments are found in the last five of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20. The difference between what Yeshua said and the vey ahavta is that Yeshua is now at the center of this “new” commandment. He showed us how to love our neighbor by walking out the vey ahavta, and now he expects us to follow his example in this. This another example of the higher Torah.
Carnality Versus Spiritual Maturity
Paul took the church at Corinth to task for being carnal and spiritual babes feeding only on the milk of the Word. He couldn’t give them meatier spiritual food without their choking on it (1 Cor 3:1–3). To help them to grow up and to become spiritual adults, Paul encouraged the believers at Corinth to walk in unity, as opposed to strife and division (1 Cor 1:3). Strife, division and sectarianism is the hallmark of spiritual babyhood and carnality. This is the opposite of walking in love, which is the higher Torah. Wherever one sees Corinthian-like carnal-minded believers, these are people who are not walking according to the principles of the higher Torah.
Here is a list of indicators of spiritual carnality and babyhood according to Paul:
- Divisions (1 Cor 1:10; 3:3)
- Contentions (1 Cor 1:11)
- Strife (1 Cor 3:3)
- Envying (1 Cor 3:3
- Sectarianism (1 Cor 1:12; 3:4)
- Our focus turns off a of Yeshua and is placed on ourselves or other humans (1 Cor 1:10–17).
- Accusing others
- A critical attitude
- Walking in offence
- A focus on self, what’s in it for me
- A spirit of rejection
- Blaming others for your problems
- Demanding that others be constantly be ministering to us and accommodating around your emotional hang-ups. This is playing the victim and attempting to get the focus on you, when it should be on serving others and following Yeshua.
- Breaking fellowship with an individual or congregation because of emotional hurts and personal offenses.
- Using prophetic gifts to attack others, identify their spiritual weaknesses and to correct them.
These carnal characteristics in an individual or fellowship will grieve the Spirit of Elohim, prevent a congregation from growing, keep YHVH’s power and anointing from being present in our lives and will keep us from hitting the higher mark of the greater Torah—the heart of the Father.
More on the Greater Torah
Here is a list of Scriptures that gives us more understanding into what is the greater Torah.
Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of Elohim: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Matt 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Matt 12:7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
Matt 22:37 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy Elohim with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Prov 21:3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Hos 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of Elohim more than burnt offerings.
Mic 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy Elohim?
Rom 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
Rom 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Gal 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Col 3:14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
1 Tim 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
Jas 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
What Was the Apostle’s Passion?
In all of Paul’s writings, it is evident that he was less concerned about instructing people about the fine details or jots and tittles of the Torah than he was about the message of cross and a relationship with Yeshua (Phil 1:18). If people have a deep love for Yeshua, they will want to follow and obey his commandments (John 14:15). Torah-obedience is evidence in the fruits of salvation (Eph 2:8–10).
John also seemed less concerned about the fine details of Torah. When he told believers to try the spirits, the basis of performing this test concerned the deity, incarnation and Messiahship of Yeshua, and not on Torah obedience per se (1 John 4:1–3). In his epistle, he clearly advocates Torah obedience, but only in the context of loving YHVH one’s fellow man.
The Greater Torah Pre-dated the Written Torah?
What are some things that existed before the Written Torah was given to man at Mount Sinai? What was written down at Mount Sinai, in effect, pointed the way to the greater Torah, but it wasn’t the highest level of Torah. Yeshua come to point man to the weightier matters of the Torah. He did this through his teachings and lifestyle. When Yeshua said that he came to fulfil the law, this is what he was talking about. He came to make the Torah full or complete or to bring it to the higher level (Matt 5:17) without obviating any of the previous elements of the Torah (Matt 5:18–19). His life and teachings were the epitome of the higher or greater Torah. This is what Paul meant when he declared that Yeshua was the end result or goal of (Rom 10:4). This same Torah is spiritual in nature (Rom 7:14), and spirit precedes that which is physical. The Torah was written on stones. That which is spiritual is written on hearts. Yeshua clearly stated that as long as men have physical bodies and live on a physical earth they will need to keep the letter of the Torah, as well as the greater Torah, or the spirit of the law. This is quintessential point of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7). In doing this, his disciples’ righteousness would, indeed, exceed that of the Pharisees (Matt 5:19) who obeyed the Torah out of only a legalistic, letter-of-the-law, ritualistic approach. This is why Paul referred to his background as a Pharisaic Jew as “dung” (Phil 3:8). He wasn’t calling the Torah dung; rather, his Pharasaic understanding and approach to the Torah was dung. There is a huge difference!
In Ephesians 1:4–7 we read,
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Yeshua the Messiah to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Based on the above passage, we see what existed before the statement in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning…” It gives us a glimpse of what existed in eternity past:
- Elohim choosing us
- Elohim choosing to expand his family and include us (see Gen 1:26)
- The devising of a plan to redeem fallen man
- To redeem man through Yeshua the Messiah through the extension of his grace
- This whole plan is rooted in the Father’s love for us and for Yeshua.
- Outgoing love, personality, family relationship pre-exited Genesis 1:1.
Other passages that give us a glimpse into what pre-existed the Written Torah include the following:
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (1 Pet 1:20)
From this, we see that Yeshua’s sacrificial death was foreordained before the world.
In hope of eternal life, which Elohim, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word/logos through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of Elohim our Saviour. (Tit 1:2)
Man’s destiny to have eternal life in Elohim’s family through Yeshua pre-existed the world. His Written Word was manifested on earth through preaching to reveal this plan.
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Messiah Yeshua before the world began. (2 Tim 1:9)
What we see existing prior to creation is something that is personal, active and alive. We see the Father loving the Son, and that there was a plan to expand their spiritual family through the creation of man involving redemption and adoption. There was thought, planning, volition, communication and love, which are definitions of personality. Love as the greater Torah pre-existed the creation account. John in his first epistle links love with the Torah, and he shows them to be one, but love is pre-eminent. One can’t have the Torah in its full sense without love. Torah without love is a hollow shell. Paul makes this same point in 1 Corinthians 13 where he states that love is greater than having all knowledge or knowing all spiritual mysteries. Yeshua makes this point in Matthew 23:23where he accuses the Pharisees of missing the whole point of the Torah by turning it into a lifeless legal code that promoted human agendas and pride rather than the heart, love and spirit of Elohim.
Yeshua the Messiah, who was and is the Living Torah-Word of Elohim, is the highest Torah. He demonstrated it through his life and commanded his disciples to do the same and to teach this higher way to others. His followers are to become like him in how he obeyed both the letter of the Torah and the spirit of the Torah, which is the greater or weightier matters and will lead us to becoming like Yeshua who is the Highest Torah!
The Torah is NOT the ultimate goal! The Torah, as wonderful as it is, points us to something even better and higher! It brings us to the mountain of Elohim where the Presence of the Creator is found. It shows us how to become the bride of Yeshua the Messiah by becoming like him, how to love others as he did, how to love our Father in heaven as he did, how to become a people that YHVH wants to be married to for eternity. This is the highest Torah!