As born-again believers in Yeshua (Jesus), we often hear the words follow and obey. They are vital for our growth in the Messiah. They are part of how we deepen our roots in the foundation of His truth, plus how we demonstrate our love for Him. However, do we really know whose words we are embracing…whose rules we are following?
Especially for people who read primarily the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), it is common to think the words Yeshua spoke when He walked the earth—conversations with His disciples, chats with Pharisees and passersby, and even big-scale teachings from boats and mountainsides—were different instructions than those of His Father in the Hebraic Scriptures or Tanakh (Old Testament). To avoid erroneously creating two different sets of teachings, we need to examine the Scriptures for clarification.
To set the tone, let’s take a look at several (of many) Scriptures in the Tanakh that reflect God’s expectations—His decrees and instructions for holy living—of those who follow Him:
- Deuteronomy 6:5-9 – “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
- Deuteronomy 6:17, 25 – “You must diligently obey the commands of the Lord your God—all the laws and decrees he has given you. For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.”
- Deuteronomy 30:10 – “The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.”
- Joshua 1:8 – “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
- Psalm 1:1-2 – “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”
- Psalm 119:4-7 – “You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!”
- Psalm 119:9-11 – “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
- Psalm 119:33-35 – “Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.”
- Isaiah 24:5 – “The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant.”
- Ezekiel 36:26-27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
- Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”
It is interesting how that last passage does not say that keeping God’s commandments is only for the ancient Hebrews or modern-day Jews. In fact, switching our focus to the Apostolic Scriptures, we see that Yeshua kept it simple when He taught the following:
- John 14:15, 21 – “If you love me, obey my commandments. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
- John 15:10 – “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
Again, some believers feel that Yeshua’s words do not necessarily reach back to the Torah to reiterate His Father’s instructions. However, Yeshua is not separate from the Father so that He would declare a new set of instructions that would cancel, contradict, or even violate His Father’s commandments. The Father and Yeshua are one, and their teachings are the same. If there is any doubt about whose commandments our Messiah is referring to—even after John 15:10 above—read the following words from His own mouth:
- John 7:16-17 – “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.”
- John 14:24 – “Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.”
- John 12:49-50 – “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
As if that isn’t convincing enough, God the Father—conversing with Moses—even forecasts the very things that we just learned from Yeshua himself:
- Deuteronomy 18:18-19 – “I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf.”
That prophet is indeed Yeshua, our Messiah, who confirmed His Father’s declaration when praying to Him in John 17:14a, 17 and 21, “I have given them your word. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
You see, we cannot separate the character and expectations of Yeshua—the Word made flesh—from the Father who sent Him. To do so makes it seem like we have three different gods to serve (including the Spirit), each with different instructions that, according to many believers today, contradict each other.
Throughout Scripture, we see God’s commandments described as perfect, eternal, true, holy, life-giving, righteous, delightful, nurturing, liberating, penetrating, useful, trustworthy, refreshing, and not impossible to keep. In fact, we see confirmation of that last description in the words of Moses and the Apostle John:
- Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 – “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.”
- 1 John 5:3 – “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.”
Once we have been saved through faith—by God’s grace and unconditional love for us—part of how we love Him back is by living by His rules…following those very commandments that He told us to keep. It is the fruit of our salvation, not the means to achieve it.