Love Your Enemy - Torah

The teaching of Yeshua (Jesus), that we should love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), is a bit hard for some people to take, especially if they have been badly hurt and find it hard to forgive. Once I met someone who said they would rather go to a synagogue than a church because the Jews don't teach anything about loving our enemies, and there isn't anything about it in the Torah.

But is that really true? Is the Torah silent on this matter? Yeshua was an itinerant Jewish Rabbi and everything he said was based on the Torah. But where did he get this from? Was he quoting the Torah, or was he saying something entirely new?

The Torah is not a pacifist book and the Israelites were encouraged on many occasions to go to war against their enemies, to slaughter them and have no pity. On other occasions they were told not to go to war, not because they had turned pacifist, but because they had disobeyed the Lord and would be defeated. One such occasion is described in Numbers 14:42-45, after they had listened to the bad report from the spies and rebelled against Moses.

One specific instruction to act benificently toward our enemy is given in 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 with him".

Also in Proverbs 24:17-18 there is a warning that we should not gratuitously gloat over our enemy when he is in trouble. "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him".

Again in Proverbs 25:21-22 we read "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 the Lord shall reward thee".

So when Yeshua spoke about loving our enemies, he was developing a theme that already existed in the Torah. The verses quoted so far are about what to do in a passive situation when our enemy is not actually attacking us. Yeshua took it a bit further when he said "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also". (Matt. 5:39). This astonishing remark causes difficulty for many Christians who are interested in preserving law and order and the nation states in which they live. However, it needs to be seen in the light of Yeshua's expectations of his followers.

"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." (John 18:36). His disciples, who had still not understood it even after he had risen from the dead, asked him if he would restore the kingdom to Israel and he said "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power". (Acts 1:7).

There is a time for everything, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, including "a time to kill, and a time to heal...a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace". Yeshua knew what time it was. The sceptre had departed from Judah, according to the prophecy of Genesis 49:10 (the "sceptre" being the authority of the Sanhedrin to judge capital cases, which was lost at about 6 or 7 C.E. when Yeshua was a child). Yeshua knew that things would get worse and worse, and in Matt. 24:1-2 he prophesied the destruction of the Temple, an event that occurred in 70 C.E.

Since the execution and resurrection of Yeshua, the message of salvation has spread throughout the world, in many cases by people who were willing to give their lives. Alongside the true church, there has also been an apostate church that spread it's own message through violence, and Messiah will judge between the two when he returns, according to the parable of the wheat and weeds (Matt. 13:24-30).

Now we have seen the restoration of the State of Israel, an event that has to occur before the return of Messiah. He promised to return to his own people, the Jews, when they would say to him "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39). The Jews have to be in Israel to meet him because he will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).

At the present time, when there is a State of Israel, but Messiah has not returned, Israel has to have an army. In this dispensation, while the earth is not at rest, and the thousand-year Shabbat of Messiah has not yet begun, the world is divided into nation states that have armies, including Israel.

When Messiah comes, there will be no more armies. Messiah will reign, together with his "Kiddushim" - Holy Ones (Zechariah 14:5), and all the armies of the world will be dissolved. The "Kiddushim" are the angels and glorified saints (Matt. 24:30-31, Rom. 8:17, 1 Thess. 3:13, 4:16-17, Rev. 20:4-6). There are actually two second comings of Messiah. First he comes with his angels to gather together the saints, an event known as the "Rapture", then he comes again with his saints to rule and reign.

In John 18:4-8 we get a glimpse of what Messiah will be like in his glorified state. When Yeshua had been betrayed and the guards came out to arrest him, he asked them "Who do you want?" and they replied "Yeshua from Natzeret". Yeshua replied by pronouncing the Divine Name "I AM" and the soldiers went backward and fell to the ground. For a brief moment, Yeshua had shown himself in his glorified state, and the soldiers fell over. When he comes again, he will be continually in his glorified state and all the armies of the world will fall over.

Yeshua showed himself in his glorified state on another occasion, when he was transfigured before Peter, James and John. (Matt. 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8). Both accounts say that the disciples were afraid, but Matthew's gospel is particularly interesting because it says they fell over, not when they saw him transfigured, but when they were covered by a cloud and a voice from the cloud said "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him". It was not so much the transfiguration that knocked them over, but the pronouncement of who he was and the manner in which the message was delivered.

The Israelites had the same sense of fear when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. They saw the thunder and lightning, the smoking mountain, they heard the trumpet, and they withdrew themselves. But the thing they were really afraid of was the voice of God, so they asked Moses "Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die". (Exodus 20:18-19).

In Revelation 19:15 we are told precisely how Messiah will strike down the nations, not with guns and bombs, but with his word. "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron". The "rod of iron" is a quotation from Psalm 2:7-9 where the declaration is made "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee".

We are supposed to be the followers of Messiah, walking in his likeness. We are to speak his words, and if the nations fall down before us, all well and good, but more likely they will strike us down, in which case we do not take up arms against them. Instead we wait for Messiah's coming, and he will be our defence.

Copyright 1996

Mike Gascoigne
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