The Letter of The Law
(The Sabbath-Rest Principle II)

In the previous article, we examined the concept of the Law and the Decalogue. However, we left a few questions unanswered. For example, if the Decalogue is FOR us, for our benefit, then just what IS this “law which was against us” that Paul refers to, that was nailed to the cross? Even if we take into account the real meaning of “law” in Colossians 2:14, there is still the matter of Romans 10:4 and other similar passages.

Also, it can be said that most of the lessons and Teachings Yah gives to us consists of two parts. Most of His specifications, for example, are of two components – a “letter” of the law and a “spirit” of the law. The prophets understood this well. The spoke of plagues, destruction, the tearing down of Jerusalem and the desecration of the holy temple. While these things were fulfilled to the letter, they were also spiritually fulfilled in the life of Christ and the events surrounding it. A lot of the symbolism in the Old Testament is directly applicable to the advent and death of the Messiah, as I have pointed out in another article called Shadows of The Cross.

As far as the Decalogue goes, Yahshua taught that hatred, while in the confines of the letter of “thou shalt not kill,” violated its spirit. Lust violates the “spirit” of the adultery precept. Envy is the spiritual counterpart of covetousness. Selfishness, worry, contention... these are idols, things we bow to that separate us from our Father. Living an ungodly life while claiming the title of “Christian” violates the spirit of taking the name of God in vain, for what are we as Christians if we are not the representatives of His name on earth? The Sabbath commandment also has a spiritual component, and this we will examine in short order. For now, let us complete our examination of its “letter.”

What “law” was nailed to the cross? We have said that it was the “handwriting of ordinances” that the Colossians kept to remind them of how well they were “doing” in the service of Yah. They felt that by eliminating their vices, they could “improve” as Christians, which is not the same thing as growing. In doing so they were nothing more than spiritual evolutionists, a phrase that you may see appearing several times in articles to come. For now, it is enough to say that this practice cut them off from a full understanding of Christ’s redeeming power. He spoke forgiveness of sins, and said, “Go, and sin no more.” The psalmist said in his hymn, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10)

What a blessed celebration of our Father’s creative power! But these followers had a “form of godliness, while denying the true power thereof.” (2 Ti 3:5) The law which Paul speaks of is the same that revealed to him his destiny as a sinner, that which declares, “The wages of sin is death,” (Rom 6:23) and the ordinances referred to that were done away with at the cross is nowhere made clearer as in the book of Daniel.

The prophet Daniel received a vision during the course of his life that he did not fully understand. It covered 2300 years, and pointed to the coming of the Messiah, and the cleansing of the sanctuary. This is dealt with in some detail in the Letters to Rachel link of the site, in the seventh letter. It applies here also, however, for in speaking of Yahshua, it was revealed to him that, “... he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Dan 9:27)

From the beginning of the teaching of Yahshua until the stoning of Stephen which cut the Jewish nation off from being God’s chosen people was a time of 7 years. In the midst of this “week” of years, at the 3 1/2 year mark, the Savior was crucified, and so caused the “sacrifice and oblation to cease.” He was the final and true passover lamb, the ultimate atonement for sins, and after this, no longer did there need to be death for forgiveness, for the ultimate sacrifice had already taken place. The wages of sin was truly shown to be death, and this law was blotted out once and for all. Now, man, who was a sinner from birth, could rely upon this sacrifice, plead the Messiah’s blood in his place, and live for ever more.

In discussing the letter of the law, no explanation I can give would serve to demonstrate the validity of the Sabbath more than this: was our perfect Example a Sabbath keeper? In many places, Yahshua rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for the way they kept this holy day. And yet, He never corrected them in their actual keeping of it. In fact, He was always looking for ways to show them its true value! He taught, He healed, He showed kindness to both friend and stranger.

The problem He had with the situation was the fact that the Jewish nation had become a congregation of legalists, imposing restrictions where Yah had never told them to do so. They had a certain distance a person could travel, a certain amount of weight he could lift, various rules and regulations that were not only of no use, but actually violated the spirit of the day.

A doctor could not heal a sick man, yet an animal fallen into a well was not below their notice. (Mat 12:11&12) They were treating their livestock with more concern than their fellow man, a state of affairs obviously in blatant conflict with our Father’s desire for us. The Sabbath is not a day of arbitrary legalism, it is a celebration of freedom, an eternal reminder that it is not by our works that we earn salvation, but it is given as a gift, entirely pure and free.

In imposing all these restrictions, the Jews made the Sabbath day a burden to the people. With a show of piety, they set the very principle upon which the law was based on its head, and they became more concerned with their own actions than with showing love and concern for their neighbors. “Away with this!” our Savior says. He magnified the law by giving a perfect demonstration of the way the seventh day should be kept, returning it to the rest and the reminder of Creation that it was intended to be.

When the rich man approached Christ asking what he must do to be saved, Yahshua answered, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.” And he answered and said unto Him, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus, beholding him loved him, and said unto him, “One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up thy cross and follow me.” (Mark 10:19-21)

Yahshua approved of this young ruler keeping the commandments. He even listed a few, so we would know to which “commandments” He was referring. Moreover, He did not say, “Keep them a few more months, until I am crucified, and then you can stop.” Not so; instead He said “one thing thou lackest.” While keeping the commandments (as Christ did), he was to sell his possessions and take up the cross. Works without faith is dead, you see... and this ruler, had he accepted Christ into his heart at that point, would have had both, that holy combination which suits an individual for the eternal kingdom.

Yahshua once said, in response to a question of which was the greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God 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 neighbor as thyself.” (Mat 22:38&39) But He did not stop there, He continued in verse 40, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

He did not give a “new” commandment to replace the old ones; He was merely stating their foundation! How the previous two verses have been misused... had they only read and understood one verse further, all would have been so much clearer. If you remember my “riddle” from part a, this is very like it. If one loves his neighbor, will he steal from him? Will he bear false witness against him? Will he covet his wife or possessions? Now, in dealing with his heavenly Father... will a man who loves Yah have another god before him? Will he take His name to profane it? Will he worship idols? Once again, the Sabbath is the only one that Christians may say does not hang on these two principles. Yet Yahshua said it plain, “upon these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.”

This then is the “letter” of the law, that we keep the day as a holy reminder. However, there is also a “spirit” as I have previously stated, and from this spirit have I drawn the name of this trilogy of articles, The “Sabbath-Rest” principle. In the final article of the three, we will examine what this spirit is, and how Yahshua and His true followers live it out.

David.

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