I came across an article this week, entitled “The Hebrew Roots Cult Movement.” I know there are many articles like this out there and usually I do not pay too much attention to the criticism brought in from the side of people who have very little understanding of what we do and what we believe. But this article, somehow, caught my eye and I read all of it. When your article suggests that a certain way of belief is a “cult movement”, you have already cast a dark shadow and a cloud of suspicion over this form of belief, and I wanted to know why this writer was feeling this way. In the article the writer blames the Hebrew Root Movement for perverting the relationship between Christians and Jews by adding layers of laws and works to it, contrary to what is taught in Scriptures. He also reckons that although the Hebrew Roots Movement uses words and phrases from the Bible and Hebrew culture, there is nothing either Jewish or Christian about this group.
So, according to this critic, we are adding layers of laws and works to the relationship between Christians and Jews. If you have difficulty understanding what this means, don’t despair, it is much too philosophical and wishy washy for me too! If he accuses us of adding things to the Word of Yahweh that should not be added to it, it is indeed something very serious and needs to be looked into. At least four times in Scriptures it is written that nothing may be added to, or taken away from the words that Yahweh had spoken. So when we call on people to keep the Shabbat and observe the Feasts, do we then add to the words that Yahweh had spoken? No, we do exactly the opposite. We make them aware of the fact that both Christians and Jews have taken away from the words that Yahweh had spoken and that those forgotten and neglected commandments need to be added back, they need to be honoured and restored to their rightful place, once again! We are not adding to the words that Yahweh had spoken, we are adding to the watered-down message taught by Christianity for many centuries – contrary to the teachings of Scriptures and also contrary to the example set by those of whom we read in Scriptures, including Y’shua and his disciples. And we are taking away what they have added, things like Christmas and Easter. We are also taking away what the Jews have added, things like customs and traditions based upon the so-called Oral law and not upon Scriptures.
So when this critic says there is nothing either Jewish, nor Christian about the Hebrew Roots Movement, it does not seem like such a bad thing – seeing that both Judaism and Christianity have added to and taken away from the very words that we know Yahweh had spoken. One can almost say to this critic and to many others who accuse us of adding things to Scriptures: “Why do you look at the splinter in another’s eye, but do not notice the beam in your own eye?” People can get all worked up when you dare to criticize Christianity. When you criticize Christianity, they say, you criticize Christ, the founder of Christianity. By Christ, of course, they mean Y’shua, the promised Messiah. I am sorry, but Y’shua, the One written about in the Messianic Scriptures, did not start a movement that believed and taught the same things Christianity is believing and teaching. Y’shua never abandoned the Torah. He kept the Shabbat and He kept the feasts. He was passionately obedient to the words that Yahweh had spoken. To me it seems logical that if you consider yourself to be a follower of Y’shua, you should have the same mind-set and do the same kind of things as He did.
Like so many others, this writer eventually pulls out the trump card and says when non-Jews decide to obey the so-called Old Testament laws, they are taking upon themselves a burden of bondage that Scriptures are warning against. As proof of this, he quotes John 8:36; “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Now let us look at John 8:36 for a moment. Now remember, this writer is implying that Y’shua, the Son came to set people free of the bondage of the laws of the Old Covenant Scriptures. Looking at the context of John 8:36, two verses before, in Joh 8:34, Y’shua says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone doing sin is a servant of sin.” So what is the true bondage here? Is the bondage Torah or is the bondage sin, the transgression of Torah? To say that Torah causes bondage, when the clear message of Scriptures is that sin causes bondage is a distortion of Scriptures! Y’shua was not talking against keeping the Torah – not here in John 8, and not anywhere else in Scriptures. He was talking against those Jews who did not keep Torah properly, did not understand the core message of Torah and failed to see the link between Himself, Y’shua, and the Torah. It is so ironic that the very verses that Y’shua used to restore the Torah to its proper place, are often quoted to support the man-made idea that Y’shua came to bring an end to Torah.
Is it true that Y’shua ordered his followers to follow Torah blindly and legalistically, as some on the other end of the spectrum are saying? No, not at all! In this very same chapter, right at the beginning, a woman was brought to Y’shua by the Jews, who claimed that she was caught in the act of adultery and they suggested that she should be stoned, in accordance with the stipulations of Torah. What does Y’shua do? Does He follow Torah blindly and agrees that she should be stoned? No, He bends down and writes something in the dust in front of Him, as though He was completely in a world of his own, following an approach that was directly the opposite from the approach followed by the Scribes and the Perushim (Pharisees). Eventually He says to them: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. So Y’shua reminds those present that Torah is not only about what a person looks like on the outside. He reminds them that in its core Torah is about restoration and return to Yahweh and true forgiveness, not about condemnation. Therefore He also addresses the woman and says to her: “I do not condemn you – go, and sin no more”.
Have you ever wondered what Y’shua may have written in the dust before He spoke these words to the woman? Of course, we will never know for sure. There is a tradition that Y’shua wrote down the names of her accusers and their sins. I doubt if this was the case. This is the only place in Scriptures where we hear specifically that Y’shua wrote something down. I don’t think that this would have been a list of names and a list of sins. Perhaps this is what we would have done. That is exactly why Shaúl warned in 1 Cor 13 against reckoning the evil, or keeping book of other people’s wrongdoings. Y’shua was not like that. So what did He write in the dust on the paving of the temple? Almost 400 years ago, a French commentator whose name is too difficult to pronounce, wondered about the same thing and said something like the following:
(1) Since Y’shua never wrote but this once, that we know of; (2) since he did it only in the dust; (3) since it was only to avoid condemning a sinner; and, (4) since he did not allow that which he wrote down, to become known – let men learn from this (1) never to write but when it is necessary or useful; (2) to do it with humility and modesty; (3) to do it only to show charity and favour and (4) to do it remembering how widely Y’shua differs from other men – He writes his righteous thoughts in the dust: they wish to have their crooked thoughts cut in marble, and engraved on brass! To this we may perhaps add: When we dare to write down or to speak out in reaction to what others have said or done, let us always do it as followers of Y’shua, (1) who never spoke against his Father, (2) who never rejected one word of the Torah, (3) who never condemned another human being, but (4) also never hesitated to stand up when the honour of his heavenly Father was at stake.