Weightier Matters of Torah: Justice, Mercy, and Trust
Matthew 23 is a powerful chapter where we see Y’shua rebuking the Torah-teachers and P’rushim (scribes and Pharisees) for their hypocrisy. Searching Scriptures and the B’rit Hadasha – Renewed Covenant – we find the Prophets rebuking Israel many times. Often times it’s their willful sin and violation of YHVH’s Torah (instructions). Y’shua did the same in Matthew 23. One particular verse is used in many communities; Christian or Messianic/Hebrew Roots, to essentially do the same to modern-day, would-be Torah-teachers or the like.
Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others!
On the surface, these “weightier matters”; justice, mercy, and trust, seem pretty self-explanatory. But let us not stop there. Exploring the concepts behind these words is important to understanding what exactly we are to be focusing on when it comes to these “weightier matters”.
In order to understand these words, we need to ask ourselves some questions as they apply to them: the 5 Ws – Who, What, Where, Why, and When. This method of study is referred to as inductive study. We ask these questions to gain a deeper meaning of what we are studying – be keywords or whole phrases.
What is Justice, Mercy, and Trust?
While we can certainly look up the definitions to these words – will they give us a deeper understanding? Let’s find out. In the Greek Matthew, these words are defined as
Justice (or judgement depending on your translation): κρίσις krisis – a separating, sundering, separation. Judgement, right, justice.
Mercy: ἔλεος eleos – mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them
Trust (or faith): πίστις pistis – conviction of the truth of anything, belief
Hebrew has a more concrete meaning behind it’s words. Hebrew being a picture language, we can really see what is being illustrated to us by looking up these words in their original language. See our study on the Hebrew Origins of the Aaronic Blessing for more on this topic.
Justice: צְדָקָה tsĕdaqah – justice, righteousness.
Does this Hebrew word look familiar? מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק Malkiy-Tsedeq or Melchizedek. Breaking down these two word further we have King (melek מֶלֶךְ) and again Righteousness (צְדָקָה tsĕdaqah). Most Believers consider Melchizedek to be Y’shua as he was both High Priest and King; and more directly, his name literally means King of Righteous or in some translations, King of Peace.
What does it mean to be righteous?
Doing further word study on this leads us to צַדִּיק tsaddiyq – just, lawful, righteous. In short, being righteous means doing the right thing.
Noah was a just man (צַדִּיק tsaddiyq) and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. – Genesis 6:9
We see from the example of Noah in his day when the world was wicked – he was doing what was right in the sight of YHVH. From here we can conclude that one must be righteous; that is doing what is right in the sight of YHVH, and just in our walk in Torah.
Mercy: חֶסֶד checed – goodness, kindness, faithfulness.
We can certainly get and idea of what mercy means by it’s Hebrew definition but let’s look at another word that comes from checed; that is chanah – to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow.
While it’s not a derivative word from mercy, barak (to bless) also has a very similar illustration: to kneel down (thus exposing yourself). Which leads to the next matter, trust.
Trust (or faith): חָסָה chacah – to flee for protection; figuratively, to confide in:–have hope, make refuge, (put) trust.
When we compare that to the word batach (בָּטַח), we get an even clear understanding of trust: to hie for refuge figuratively, to trust, be confident or sure:–be bold (confident, secure, sure). Let’s stay on this track for a minute – be bold or secure? For this we go to Hebrews 11.
Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. 2 It was for this that Scripture attested the merit of the people of old.
3 By trusting, we understand that the universe was created through a spoken word of God, so that what is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena.
4 By trusting, Hevel offered a greater sacrifice than Kayin; because of this, he was attested as righteous, with God giving him this testimony on the ground of his gifts. Through having trusted, he still continues to speak, even though he is dead.
5 By trusting, Hanokh was taken away from this life without seeing death — “He was not to be found, because God took him away” — for he has been attested as having been, prior to being taken away, well pleasing to God. 6 And without trusting, it is impossible to be well pleasing to God, because whoever approaches him must trust that he does exist and that he becomes a Rewarder to those who seek him out.
7 By trusting, Noach, after receiving divine warning about things as yet unseen, was filled with holy fear and built an ark to save his household. Through this trusting, he put the world under condemnation and received the righteousness that comes from trusting.
8 By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. 9 By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God.
11 By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. 12 Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants
as numerous as the stars in the sky,
and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. 14 For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. 15 Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; 16 but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
17 By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz’chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, 18 to whom it had been said, “What is called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak.” 19 For he had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him.
20 By trusting, Yitz’chak in his blessings over Ya‘akov and Esav made reference to events yet to come.
21 By trusting, Ya‘akov, when he was dying, blessed each of Yosef’s sons, leaning on his walking-stick as he bowed in prayer.
22 By trusting, Yosef, near the end of his life, remembered about the Exodus of the people of Isra’el and gave instructions about what to do with his bones.
23 By trusting, the parents of Moshe hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they weren’t afraid of the king’s decree.
24 By trusting, Moshe, after he had grown up,[i] refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose being mistreated along with God’s people rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. 26 He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes fixed on the reward.
27 By trusting, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered as one who sees the unseen.
28 By trusting, he obeyed the requirements for the Pesach, including the smearing of the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Isra’el.
29 By trusting, they walked through the Red Sea as through dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the sea swallowed them up.
30 By trusting, the walls of Yericho fell down — after the people had marched around them for seven days.
31 By trusting, Rachav the prostitute welcomed the spies and therefore did not die along with those who were disobedient.
32 What more should I say? There isn’t time to tell about Gid‘on, Barak, Shimshon, Yiftach, David, Sh’mu’el and the prophets; 33 who, through trusting, conquered kingdoms, worked righteousness, received what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, had their weakness turned to strength, grew mighty in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead resurrected; other people were stretched on the rack and beaten to death, refusing to be ransomed, so that they would gain a better resurrection.36 Others underwent the trials of being mocked and whipped, then chained and imprisoned. 37 They were stoned, sawed in two, murdered by the sword; they went about clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, 38 wandering about in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground! The world was not worthy of them!
39 All of these had their merit attested because of their trusting. Nevertheless, they did not receive what had been promised, 40 because God had planned something better that would involve us, so that only with us would they be brought to the goal.
What then was Y’shua rebuking the Torah-teacher and Pharisees about that they had neglected and how can we apply what those weightier matters are?
Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — being righteous; that is, doing what is right in the sight of YHVH, showing favor and kindness to those who are less fortunate than you , being confident, secure, or bold of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others!
From this we can understand that while these men were living by the Letter of Law, doing the physical aspects of the law (pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin); they neglected the Spirit of the Law – justice, mercy, and trust.
How can do we apply this in our lives today?
There is a great teaching by Arthur Bailey that I like to say is a prerequisite to coming in to the Messianic/Hebrew Roots faith. Religious Traps in the Messianic Faith teaching goes in many facets of this walk that we encounter. Specifically, those in this faith that are convicted on certain paths that lead them to want to convince everyone else it’s the “right way” to do things. Remember, personal convictions are that – personal. Test them thoroughly against Torah.
So we see today people wanting to debate and debate these convictions. We’ll leave you with this final thought:
Here are some things Yeshua (Jesus) didn’t debate ad nauseam:
2. Sacred Names
3. How to tie your tzitzit
4. Should women wear tzitzit/headcoverings
5. Changing your name on Facebook to Yehuda Levi ben Oscar de Larry
We hope that this teaching has blessed you in your walk in Torah. Shalom.