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Did Messiah Come to Perfect the Law?
Rivqah Yahsepha (Rebekah Josepha) Coover, age 16, 09-2005


For a long while now, Matthew 5 has been one of my favorite chapters. Why? Because it makes clear the fact that Messiah did not come to do away with the Law, but to uphold and teach it, thus drawing men into the fear of Yahweh. Up until a couple years ago, though, I thought that Yahshua made the Law even more binding and "strict", so to speak, in His sermon on the mount. In this article we will look at each command Yahshua covered, and seek to find out if that is in fact true.

Matthew 5:21 – "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill'; and, ‘Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.' " Yahshua went on to make it very clear to us that if we harbor resentment and anger in our hearts, rather than love, we are committing a very serious sin. We look harshly upon those who murder, and rightly so; but how are we any better if we hate our brothers in our hearts? Do we all agree on that? Very well then: Is this a "New Testament command"? No. Leviticus 19:17-18 – "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart.... Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Yahweh." Did Yahshua come to perfect the law concerning murder? No. Rather He came to turn our attention back to keeping some other important commands given in the Torah, that way we do not end up murdering someone.

Matthew 5:27 – "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.' " After this we read that if one looks on a woman with lust in his heart, he is indeed committing adultery. Yes, it is a hard saying, but a true one. But did Yahweh just get around to revealing this to His people? Would He not have wanted everyone to know this at the beginning? Of course. Exodus 20:17 – "Thou shalt not covet... thy neighbor's wife...." After Yahshua refers us back to this principle, He tells us to pluck out an offending eye, pluck off an offending hand, etc. Why? Because, in the Torah we read, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot", etc. (Exo. 21:24) So it would be better that we cut off a hand or get rid of an eye than that we lose our whole body. And why would the whole body be destroyed? Exodus 21:24 – "... thou shalt give life for life". By committing adultery with someone, we are participating in defiling their body (and our's). And so Yahweh (in the person of Yahshua) says, "For this act, your body shall be destroyed." Did Yahshua come to perfect the law concerning adultery? No. Rather He came to remind us to obey another important instruction (Exodus 20:17), to prevent physical adultery from happening, and thus save us some trouble.

Matthew 5:31 – "It hath been said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of cutting off.' " When Yahshua continues by saying, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery", He is fully backing up the Torah given to Moshe. Deuteronomy 24:1 – "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness (nakedness) in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house." Deuteronomy 22:13-19 clarifies that the bill of divorcement is only allowed in the case of this uncleanness -- "If a man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, and give occasion of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a virgin,' then shall the father of the damsel and her mother take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate...... And the elders of that city shall take that man, and chastise him..... And she shall be his wife, he may not put her away all his days." It had come to be (as it even is now) that one would divorce his wife for all kinds of things. Yahshua stands up and says, "Yahweh is not talking about figurative uncleannesses here. He is not referring to physical disgraces or blemishes. He is talking about fornication. (See Strongs # 6172 in the Hebrew.) And if anyone puts away his wife for anything other than this specific uncleanness, HE is the one sinning."

The verse continues: "And whosoever shall marry her that is cut off committeth adultery." Yahshua made it clear that divorce and remarriage is not His thing, and thus, not Yahweh's thing. He reminded us, "This was not my desire. It was an allowance, due to the stubbornness and wickedness of your hearts. (Matthew 19:8)" Does the Torah reveal the same thing? Most certainly. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 – "When a man hath taken a wife and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of cutting off, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may (might, Strong's # 3201) go and be another man's. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of cutting off, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house, or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife, her former husband which sent her away may not take her again to be his wife after that she is defiled: for that is abomination before Yahweh, and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which Yahweh thy Elohim giveth thee for an inheritance." Yahweh is accounting the cycle that the people go through. Because of uncleanness and sin (hardness of heart), He allows the putting away. Then the woman will perhaps go and marry someone else (hardness of heart again), but clearly, this defiles her. The whole situation is one of sin, defilement, and abomination. What is Yahweh's real desire? He plainly states it in Genesis 2:24 – "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Did Yahshua come to perfect the commandment concerning a husband putting away His wife? No. Rather He came to remind us that Yahweh never intended for us to put ourselves in the messes that we do.

Matthew 5:33 – "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto Yahweh thine oaths.' " Messiah continues – "But I say unto you, ‘Swear not falsely, neither by heaven, for it is Elohim's throne: nor by the earth, for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be Yea, yea: Nay, nay: For whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.' " (Matthew 5:34-37) It is a common thought that Yahshua ‘did away with' swearing, and said that instead we should only say "Yes" or "No". But that is not the case. The Jews had taken the command in Leviticus 19:12 – "And ye shall not swear by My Name falsely..." – and decided that as long as one was not swearing by the Father's Name, it was OK to swear falsely. So Yahshua appeared on the scene and said, "That is NOT so. Stop swearing falsely. Either say ‘yes' or ‘no', but carry through with whatever you say." The Torah says the same thing. Leviticus 19:12 – "And ye shall not swear by My Name falsely..." Numbers 30:2 – "If a man vow a vow unto Yahweh, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not profane his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." Did Yahshua come to perfect the commandment concerning swearing? No. Rather He came to draw us back to Yahweh's age-old intentions concerning the matter.

Matthew 5:38 – "Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' " How do we explain Yahshua's instructions on how we are to handle things? They don't sound very much like what we read in the Torah. And yet they are. When the tribes of Israel were very young, Yahweh gave them a system of judgment. However, the nation was not very faithful in operating the way Yahweh instructed it to. Many times, sin was allowed to openly flourish, thus causing prophets to appear on the scene calling the people back to repentance. Yahshua's day was no exception. The people were not doing things the way Yahweh wanted them to (even as it is today). So Yahshua appeared on the scene, calling the people back to Yahweh's truth. But at the same time He instructed His followers to not take vengeance into their own hands. Leviticus 19:18 – "Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people..." If the government was not following Yahweh's instructions for a judgment plan, it was not the job of individuals to "make justice". And so it is with us today. Deuteronomy 32:35 – "To Me belongeth recompense, their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste." Sirach 28:1 – "He that revengeth shall find vengeance from Yahweh, and He will surely keep his sins in remembrance." Yahweh never wished for the wronged party to set itself up as the "judicial system", so to speak. Rather He asks us to go the second mile. Is this a "New Testament concept"? Certainly not. Exodus 22:7-9 – "If a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double. If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbor's goods. For all manner of trespass, for ox, or ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his: the cause of both parties shall come before the judges, and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbor." Did Yahshua come to perfect the commandment concerning restitution? No. Rather He came to remind us that we are not to take judgment into our own hands, and that the most important thing is that we abide by the Torah ourselves.

Matthew 5:43 – "Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.' " Did Yahshua step up and improve on Yahweh? No, for Yahweh never said, "Hate thine enemy." That was man's addition to the command. The simple instruction given in Leviticus 19:18 is, "Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Yahweh." Man twisted the commandment, deciding that if we are to love our neighbors, this must mean we can (and should) hate our enemies. But that is not what Yahweh says. Yahshua's words in Matthew 5:44-47 agree perfectly with the books of Exodus and Proverbs. Exodus 23:4-5 – "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help him." Proverbs 25:21-22 – "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat: and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink. For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and Yahweh shall reward thee." Did Yahshua come to perfect the law concerning our relationships with friends and enemies? No. Rather He came to expose the perverseness of twisting Yahweh's Word, and to uphold the Torah standards on the matter.

Matthew 5:48 – "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Leviticus 19:2 – "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, ‘Ye shall be set-apart: for I Yahweh your Elohim am set-apart.' " In conclusion, Yahshua did not come to perfect the Law. He came to perfect us. We have reviewed His teachings concerning the Torah, and it is very clear that He came to draw a straying people back to the original Torah, back to the true intent of Yahweh's words, away from the false interpretations of men and back to the pure message of Scripture. He came to cause us to return to the "perfect Torah of liberty" (James 1:25). And after all, a perfect Law, a perfect Torah, cannot be perfected.