I have a wife who is a christian. Because of this, I get to often see the practices of certain christians and compare it to the approaches demonstrated in the Jewish Bible. It shouldn’t surprise me how stark the differences are between what sects of Christianity teach compared to the standards set in the Jewish Bible and the Law of Moses. But sometimes it does.
I watched a christian movie called “The War Room” with my wife. Although there were some truly positive messages in the movie, there were also staggeringly bad ones there as well, and they exist only because of the christian context and foundation of the movie. And these bad messages are things that I’ve seen amongst christians as well, so they are not simply as fictional as the story in the movie, but are actual christian practices.
What you should do is pray.
In the movie, there was a marriage in trouble with a young child involved. The wife happened upon a older christian woman who advised her that the main way to get the marriage fixed was to pray, to find a certain closet in the house and pray there. Now I’m not saying this was the only way proposed, but it was what was emphasised in the movie. The effects of prayer were almost “physical” to the point where a pastor walks into a “prayer closet,” walks out as if he’s sensed something, and then walks in again and makes a statement how this room feels “baked in.”
Now there is nothing wrong with prayer. It is something definitely talked about and done in Jewish tradition and history as recounted in the Jewish Bible. But the weight and focus of Torah isn’t prayer, but rather action and obedience. Proper behaviour isn’t grown by itself but by the study of God’s Law and the habitual practice of conduct in accordance to its truth.
Because generally there is no real law amongst christians but rather some vague “spiritual” notions, the Law of God having been, in a real and active sense, cast aside as carnal, a schoolmaster whose role had passed away with the coming of Jesus, the law only being for law-breakers and the law being the strength of sin itself, the conduct that many of them strive to emulate is that of something called “a prayer-warrior.” Fasting and prayer win battles for them. They want “the fruits of the spirit.”
Believe me, this is not simply fictional. Imagine going to a church where week after week there is gossip, division and intrigue, where you can sense bad feelings between certain members. And then, one service, one or a few of them get “caught up in the spirit” and “prophesy” about the divisions and gossiping. The remedy proposed? Prayer! That evening or day, they pray and cry. They cry and pray. A few weeks later, you look for a real change in the situation: there is none! Each year, on special occasions, they’ll go through the same ritual. Faces come and go but, for the most, the situation remains the same.
The problem is that what you’ve imagined in very close to the reality in what I’ve lived through and what, I infer, happens in many other places in christendom: the striving for “spiritual” values without any grounding or foundation in the sort of truths taught by the greats of old, Moses, Kings David and Solomon. These truths are encapsulated in words like, “Guard my judgements and statutes, and the man that shall do them shall live in them,” and “the Torah restores life (or the soul)” or “it is a tree of life.” Although prayer is as aspect of the life of a good person, what makes a person good and righteous, and what benefits them isn’t just prayer. No one in the Jewish Bible strove to be a prayer warrior, to build one’s life on fasting and prayer. Prayer is too much talking at times when it is the study and application of God’s Law and teaching that are the “listening” to God’s truths and thus the means to finding life and liberty. Psalm 119 is a testament to that.
So too many christians and christian sects have this wholly unbalanced on this point.
The real enemy
The old christian woman was counselling the younger one who was having marriage difficulties, and in counselling her told her that the real enemy was not the woman’s husband who had been written as treating her badly. The real enemy wasn’t even herself, that same younger woman. [I’m guessing that some of the readers of this article can “divine” who this christian woman claimed the “real” enemy was.] Yes, the “real” enemy was Satan, the devil, the one who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. These had such a supposed effect on this younger woman’s mind that, after praying, she walked into the living room and shouted declarations in the room at her “enemy” (it was an empty room, but, hey, a lot of christian life is supposed to be “spiritual”, right?) and commanded the devil to get out in Jesus’ name. She even continued the monologue through to outside her house, as if the unseen enemy had been successfully cast out and she was giving her parting words of faith and confidence and hatred at the enemy.
I remember and still see how much responsibility the christian devil is given for the bad things that happen in the lives of people and in the community of the church. There were many sermons and testimonies and encouragements and individual discussions about how the devil was taking away the joy of people, how he was sowing seeds of discord and doing everything he could to trip people up. It was taught that when a person got baptised that one of the first “people” to greet them would be the devil who would try to push them off from the “good path.” Why? Because the devil didn’t need to bother with the people of the world, people who were already his, according to their teaching (and that of Jesus and Paul, see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 (take careful note that the translation “prince” is from the Greek word archon which actually means “ruler”); 2 Corinthians 4:1-4). No, he wanted to have those who had given their lives to Jesus. I remember in the latter stages of my Christianity seeing that so many accusations were heaped upon the devil, that it seemed like someone or some people had done wrong in the church, they would then proceed to blame Satan, and he was somewhere out in the world, sitting down and having a cup of spiritual coffee, and his invisible ears would prick since someone was accusing and he would sigh in despair at someone else blaming him when he was nowhere in the vicinity of the crime.
And let’s not pretend here: this “devil” was not some symbolic reference to some inner human struggle that was only metaphorical. No, this was a real, invisible being, a powerful fallen spiritual entity that was malevolent towards man and God.
But let’s compare this to the approach of the Jewish Bible. How many times is the Hebrew word for “satan” used in the 5 books of Moses? Only once! And funnily enough, it was when an angel sent by God himself was to oppose Bilaam (Balaam in many English translations). In the Hebrew of Numbers 22:22, it says that an angel of God stationed itself in the way to be a “satan” against Bilaam. That’s the only time a “satan” is mentioned. And it was an angel of God being an opponent, an adversary, someone to withstand Bilaam. Even the word “satan” is a common noun only meaning obstruction, opponent, adversary with no inherent spiritual meaning in and of itself. So a devil or a satan is not given such a heavy responsibility of tripping people up in the Law of Moses. Even in Genesis 3, nobody can point to the text itself and say “hey, look there is Satan” only based on the text. There is only God, a snake, Adam and the woman. That’s it. The text says nothing about some devil.
No, in the written Torah, the books of Moses, responsibility for actions is given only to a person, the person doing the acting, the behaving. No spiritual or invisible foe is given any notice.
The trend continues throughout the Jewish Bible. When the psalmist asks, “how can a young man cleanse his ways before the Lord?” the answer given is not “shout at the devil” or “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It’s by paying attention to what God is saying in an active way. There is no devil in the Jewish Bible that matches the christian description. There is no ruler of this world other than God himself, which also highlights the idolatrous connotations in the mouth of Jesus and Paul. [Yes, I said it! The new testament depiction of Jesus has idolatrous words coming out of his mouth.] To suggest that some other being is in charge of, or the ruler of this world is to say someone other than God is in charge. To put someone in the place of God is one form of idolatry. Although a “satan” is mentioned that isn’t human (because there were humans that were opponents in the Jewish Bible, but not of the spiritual variety), the amount of times it actually comes up in scripture is a really low percentage, maybe having 4 or 5 mentions in the whole of the Jewish Bible. In Job where “ha-satan” or “the adversary” appears in the first two chapters of Job and is never mentioned again in Job, he is one of the sons of God (most likely angels) who goes about looking about the planet and only brings things up before God and acts on his permission. This is no enemy of God. And there is no evidence that he is some enemy of all mankind. And it is also especially relevant to point out that whenever the bad things happened to Job, not once did he say “oh Satan! Look at what you’ve done!” He never shouted around stating that the devil should leave him like some self-exorcist! He saw both good and evil coming from God himself (Job 2:10).
Now considering all the bad things that happened to Job, compare his approach to that of christians. These are two wholly different approaches. One is to blame evil as coming from some other entity, someone else who rules the world and sends these bad things. The approach of righteous Job is to understand that all things, good and bad, come from God. This is compounded by the words of the prophets and teachers of the Jewish Bible that a person is responsible for their own deeds, and in that light, a person should take responsibility and change their ways, their actions to live a life in accordance with God’s law and principles, the wisdom he has provided.
So this is another way in which christians have departed from God’s bedrock truths.
Thank you, idol!
There were times throughout the movie where either the older christian woman, the younger christian, or even the husband who later reformed his behaviour would be written as to get some gift or see something miraculous or good happen. And when those times occurred, there was a name on their lips, a person to whom they would direct their gratitude. Also it was that same person who they prayed to when they would ask for divine help or guidance. It was Jesus! You’d repeatedly hear prayer, praise and gratitude being directed to Jesus. “Thank you, Jesus!” You’d hear each one say. There is not much more to add to that description of what went on.
This is a place where a deep, wide and impassable chasm exists between christians and the Jewish Bible. And it’s ironic that the Jewish Bible, in one form or another, is stapled onto their “new testament” with the innovative moniker “the old testament.” Yet what is preached and practiced in each era is worlds apart in this very central point.
Let me make this very clear: there is no place in the Jewish Bible where the name “Jesus” is given any worship, praise, prayer or adoration! It was a name that received no divine worship in the Jewish Bible. This is very, very important. In the Jewish Bible, if someone said “thank you, Jesus!” in such a way as to be giving divine worship to that name, it wouldn’t be seen as prophecy! It wouldn’t be seen as someone reaching into the future and telling the Jews, the Israelites, about a new name that God would put upon himself. If someone in the Jewish Bible said “Thank you, Jesus!” in a way to give divine worship or prayed to such a name as if it were to God, that would be classed as idolatry. If a time-misplaced christian were to describe their “god” to a Torah scholar from the Jewish Bible times – namely as God, the Word that became flesh and dwelt amongst us, born as a baby to a virgin, a man who walked around healing and teaching, as a man who ate, drank and slept, as one who was stripped, beaten, crucified and thus killed, and then resurrected to be at the right hand of someone called “God the father” – then the Torah scholar would have little choice but to call this “Jesus” a god whom his fathers never knew (Deuteronomy 13:7 (verse 6 in christian versions); 28:36,64; 32:17). It would have been taught that he should guard himself very carefully about what his fathers saw at Mt Sinai, that his fathers saw no form on that day, that they shouldn’t worship anything that has the form of human as well as the form of anything else (Deuteronomy 4:9-19). If a person came up to him and told him that God had taken up form in a tree that was cut down and then grew again and was then was transformed into a spiritual tree, by Torah standards, he would have to cast aside that notion as idolatry. In the same way if someone told him that God had taken on the form of a man that was killed and raised again and now rules invisibly in the heavens and that name of that man was Jesus, in the same way, by Torah standards, he would have to cast it aside as idolatry.
I’m not going to go into all the reasons that Jesus was not and is not God or god. That would make this article way too long. The main point is that the God of the Torah has no form, he is invisible and can not be killed or die. This God’s name is jealous, his name is not Jesus and he won’t allow his glory to be given any other (Exodus 34:14; Isaiah 42:8). The very fact that Jesus was a man disqualifies him, even if it was in the past, and any divine worship given to him, any prayer directed to him is idolatry, something that is against God’s most fundamental commandments. This is not just so for the Jews, but for every member of humanity.
If there were anything that would cut off christian practices from the root of God’s foundational revelation at Sinai, this would be it!
Just going through this article causes me to question fundamentally the sort of interactions I have with christians. This “war room” movie makes certain of their ways conspicuous. Their unbalanced approach to life, throwing too much weight on prayer to the neglect of actually actively paying attention to the teachings and commandments God has given in his Torah, only means that many issues in personality and behaviour will remain unresolved. Their irresponsibility for their own actions by putting responsibility on a devil only aids in the proliferation of hurt and evil practices rather than set them aside. God’s Law, his wisdom, is a tree of life for any who want to partake of it. And going through this article reinforces for me the fact that each time they pray and give thanks to Jesus, it is no better than saying “Thank you, Zeus” or “I pray to you, oh Horus.” That last point is a very significant one. For all their sincerity – I’m sure even Baal worshippers or Zeus worshippers or Chemosh worshippers were sincere – their devotion to Jesus brings to the fore the fact that there is a way that is right to one person or another, but the latter parts of it, the end of it, is destruction.