Tag Archives: Jesus

Mishnah

The Mitzvah of Loving a Jew

The Alter Rebbe repeated what the Mezritcher Maggid said quoting the Baal Shem Tov: “Love your fellow like yourself” is an interpretation of and commentary on “Love Hashem your G-d.” He who loves his fellow-Jew loves G-d, because the Jew has with in himself a “part of G-d Above.” Therefore, when one loves the Jew – i.e. his inner essence – one loves G-d.

from “Today’s Day”
Friday, Menachem Av 12, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Of course, the scripture to love God and to love your fellow (Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 respectively) is rendered very “Jewish-oriented” by Chabad, but it made me ask myself that if one Jew loving another Jew is considered a mitzvah, what about a Gentile loving a Jew? No, not a Gentile Christian loving another Gentile Christian or generic human being, but specifically a Jew…is it a mitzvah?

I can’t find any Biblical corroboration except perhaps for the following:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

-Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB)

At first blush, that seems to be a directive for us to love people in need, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, and so on, but early in my return to church, Charlie, who is on the Board of Elders at the church I attend was teaching Sunday school one day, and he interpreted that scripture specifically as what Christians are supposed to do for the needy of Israel.

Up until that day, it had never occurred to me to read that passage in such a manner, but now it makes perfect sense. I read the Master’s words as a commandment to assist the hungry and thirsty and needy among the Jewish people.

Of course, Jesus (Yeshua) was talking to a completely Jewish audience, so from that perspective, he was issuing the commandment of one Jew to love another Jew, even as we see it from the Chabad’s point of view. But we also have this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

-John 13:34 (NASB)

Here again we have Jesus speaking to his Jewish disciples, so we can interpret this command as we have the one we have in Matthew 25, but I also believe we can extend the intent to include how we Gentile disciples are supposed to love other disciples, both Jewish and Gentile, with a love like the Master’s, with a love that includes the willingness to give our lives for our fellows in Messiah.

jewish charity
Photo: Reuters

But that doesn’t absolve us from our duty to love the Jewish people as well, particularly those who are in need, those who are suffering.

In my case, having a Jewish wife and children, I automatically fulfill the mitzvah on a daily basis, but that’s not an excuse to remove myself from loving the larger Jewish population, the people and nation of Israel.

Related to the recent observance of Tisha B’Av, Aish.com dedicated an article to the challenge of one Jew loving another. Jewish people come in all shapes and sizes and dispositions, and as you might imagine, it isn’t always easy for one Jewish individual to indiscriminately love all other Jewish people everywhere.

How much more difficult it is for us, who are not Israel and not Jewish, and especially we who in the Church have a history of disagreement and even enmity with the Jewish people, to express that indiscriminate love?

In trying to research the “mitzvah” of Gentiles loving Jews, I came across this:

I love the Jewish people and have enjoyed reading the many spiritual thoughts on your website. I want to draw closer to God, but from what I’ve read it is a very big commitment to convert. I don’t think I am up for this at this stage in my life. Is there some way to tap into the Torah wisdom without being part of the Jewish people?

-from Ask the Rabbi
“Seven Laws of Noah”
Aish.com

One of the ways that some non-Jews express their love for the Jewish people and Israel is to become Noahides, or people of the nations who observe the Seven Noahide Laws. This is about the best way to express such a love and attraction from a Jewish point of view, since it has the full support of Orthodox Judaism and allows Gentiles to enter into Jewish worship and community space, albeit with a radically different status than the Jewish leaders, mentors, and participants.

Of course, you have large groups of Evangelicals who love Jews and love Israel, but that love isn’t always returned. To be fair, sometimes Christian love for Israel is pretty shallow and very conditional, so Jews have a right to be hesitant about returning all the “love and support”.

in gratitude and hope
Photo: Aish media

There are, of course, those non-Jews who show love to Jewish people, even at great risk to themselves such as an Arab family protecting Jews during the Holocaust. Given the current world-wide criticism of Israel (and by inference all Jewish people) relative to Hamas and its terrorist attacks (and Israel’s response), it may come to a point, even very soon, when any non-Jew who supports the Jewish people will risk at least a verbal or print backlash if not actual violence. If not now, then eventually I believe it will come to that.

But what is it to love the Jewish people? Is it just a warm and fuzzy feeling? Is it giving money to Jewish causes and charities? Is it wearing t-shirts supporting the IDF? I suppose it could be all those things. But what about supporting Judaism?

What’s the difference between supporting Jewish people and causes and supporting Judaism? A big, fat, whopping one for some folks.

There are a lot of people in a great many religious venues who say they love the Jewish people. I’ve already mentioned Noahides and Evangelical Christians, but what about Gentiles in Messianic Judaism (Messianic Gentiles) and Gentiles in one of the expressions of the Hebrew Roots movement (One Law/One Torah, Two House, Sacred Name, and so on)?

That can get a little more dicey. Relative to Hebrew Roots, there, I believe, is an authentic love of the Jewish people and national Israel, but sort of a love-hate relationship with Rabbinic Judaism (no, there isn’t any other kind, even Messianic Judaism is Rabbinic Judaism). There’s a love of Torah as it is understood, and a love of the “roots of our faith” which is usually expressed in some sort of modern Jewish religious practice (wearing a tallit and kippah, praying from a siddur in Hebrew, reading from the Torah, practicing a form of Shabbat rest, and so on), but there is also often a disdain for Talmud, for the authority of the Sages in ordering how to perform the mitzvot, and how Torah is continually interpreted and reinterpreted across time to apply to later generations.

I was re-reading Dr. Rabbi Stuart Dauermann’s article The Problem With Hebrew Roots, or, It’s Good to be a Goy. It actually kind of reminded me of something Aaron Eby said on this Vine of David video about the unique calling of the Messianic Gentile:

We at Vine of David have composed an alternate form of the second paragraph of Kiddush for Messianic Gentiles that reflects their unique identity and relationship to the Sabbath. The blessing was culled from the most ancient strata of the prayers of early believers. This form of Kiddush is affirming, beautiful, and ancient, and represents a radical rebound from centuries of replacement theology. Messianic Gentiles would do well to use such prayers in order to instill in their children a sense that their identity and mission as Messianic Gentiles are important and meaningful.

jewishThe identity structures of Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles is, by definition, complementary and even vaguely reminiscent of the relationship between Orthodox Jews and Noahides in the synagogue.

However, the latter relationship can’t really be compared to the former, because in the former, at the end of the day, we are all disciples of the Master and we all share equal co-participation in the blessings of the resurrection and the life in the Messianic Age in accordance with the same covenant, the New Covenant. Of course there’s also differentiation because Jews additionally come under the Sinai Covenant, but relative to Noahides and Judaism, they have no common Covenant relationship with God at all.

That complementary relationship between Jew and Gentile in Messiah requires mutual respect, which includes respecting each other’s space. A comment and R. Dauermann’s response on his aforementioned blog post drew my attention:

Glenn – July 31, 2014
Splendidly written, Stuart! It is so in concert with Paul’s exhortation in 1 Cor. 7, and the larger message of Isaiah 56.

But I am a bit perplexed. On the very principle you articulate, shouldn’t we absolutely discourage the practice of converting Gentiles to Messianic “Jews”? It was my understanding that you support such conversions.

As always, thanks for your time!
Glenn

Stuart Dauermann – August 2, 2014
Well, Glenn, I so much appreciated your question that I devoted another blog to it. See it here: http://www.interfaithfulness.org/?p=2040

So I visited the link R. Dauermann posted, which led me to an article called Conversion, Yes; Confusion, No.

While Dauermann actually supports Gentile conversion specifically within Messianic Judaism on very rare occasions, he also made a number of statements relevant to the point I’m trying to make:

The problem nowadays is that Gentiles are being made to feel like second class citizens, or feel themselves to be second class citizens in the Kingdom of God because they are not Jewish. This is WRONG! Gentiles are NOT second class citizens and in no manner whatsoever do they or can they improve their citizenship in the Kingdom of God through “discovering their Jewish roots,” through deciding they are part of the lost tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, or any such thing. In other words, not only are Gentiles not second class citizens, they also do not become in some manner super-citizens through discovering or creating some sort of Jewish identity.

This is pretty common of Christians who, for whatever reasons, have left formal church attendance and entered some form of Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots. I’ve attended some Hebrew Roots groups that were downright disrespectful of Christianity and used quite abusive language when referring to Churches. There was a real drive to do anything possible to separate themselves from anything having to do with “the Church” (i.e. “Babylon” or a thousand other insulting labels).

Beth Immanuel ShavuotAlong with that need to separate was the requirement to create a new identity, but since Judaism is the general template for Hebrew Roots, any statement that pointed to Jewish exclusiveness in the covenants tended to elicit two related reactions: a feeling of inferiority and a response of hostility (I should point out here that not all Hebrew Roots people exhibit this dynamic, particularly the Hebrew Roots congregation in which I once worshiped, but it’s been sadly common in my previous experience with other people and groups I’ve encountered). As R. Dauermann pointed out, Gentiles are not inferior to Jews. I’ve read many (non-Messianic) Jewish commentaries stating that Jews do not (ideally) see themselves as better or superior to Gentiles, just different.

The same is true in Messianic Judaism. The distinctions particular to Jews are not really rights so much as responsibilities and duties. Think how much more difficult it is to attend to the mitzvot as a Jew than those duties assigned to the Gentile in Messiah (Christian in Jesus). Is faith in Jesus supposed to be about our “rights?” Does God owe us rights? Does He owe us anything?

Even Paul called himself a slave (see Romans 1:1 for example). He didn’t complain about his rights.

Many people act like the Torah is a book they may apply any way they choose, and that by doing so, they are being more faithful to God than those who do not bother to do so. Some even imagine that by doing so, they become in some manner Jewish. Such people are naïve and in error.

The Torah is not a book we happened to find and which we may interpret as we choose, but rather it is the national constitution of a people. It must be understood as the community property of the Jewish people, and must be understood and interpreted in keeping with millennia of Jewish discussion and practice. It is not like the Koran, which allegedly came down entire from heaven, or like the Book of Mormon, allegedly found on golden plates hidden in the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra, New York. No, Torah is the way of life of the Jewish people, it enshrines the decorum appropriate to the Jewish people as a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation, the way of life appropriate to this people serving in the courts of the King of Kings.

-R. Dauermann

This is where love of Jews and love of Judaism, particularly the Judaism(s) observed within the context of Messiah, begins to separate for some.

In my opinion, being a disciple of the Master and attaching ourselves to the God of Israel is not a matter of rights but a matter of service. We have duties and obligations and we have unique roles and identities that define those obligations. God made us who we are, and although He gave us free will, He didn’t give the leopard the ability to change his spots.

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

-1 Corinthians 7:17-20 (NASB)

And by “Keeping God’s commands is what counts,” my interpretation is keeping the commands as they apply to the person, which isn’t the same for a Jewish believer as it is for a non-Jewish believer.

As both R. Dauermann said on this blog and Dr. Mark Nanos said in a recent paper, while Paul generally opposed Gentiles in Messiah converting to Judaism, he didn’t absolutely forbid it. He just felt (and rightly so) that converting to Judaism would not have any sort of impact on the person’s justification before God. You don’t become a better person by converting to Judaism, you just become Jewish.

If you feel a strong need and desire to live as a Jew and to observe the mitzvot as a Jew, then conversion is probably the right thing for you (there are a lot of other factors to consider that are beyond the scope of this blog post, but it’s not as simple as all that).

Restoration
Photo: First Fruits of Zion

However, as I mentioned, conversion isn’t necessary to serve God, because God expects the whole world to serve Him, both Israel and the nations. How we serve God is dependent on who we are, Israel or the nations. Rejecting this definition is where you may feel you love Jewish people and Israel, but it actually means you’re rejecting how they define themselves and frankly, you’re rejecting how God defines the Jews and Israel.

Judaism isn’t perfect, but it can be argued that Judaism, that is Rabbinic Judaism including Mishnah, Talmud, halachah, and the whole meal deal is what God gave the Jewish people to enable them to survive the last two-thousand years of exile, and to make it possible to re-establish the modern state of Israel.

You can’t love the Jewish people and the nation of Israel and also throw the Rabbis and their volumes of Talmud under a bus. You can’t say “I love you but I deny you the right to define yourself.”

That isn’t love. I don’t even know what to call that sort of behavior.

If it’s a mitzvah for a Christian and/or Messianic Gentile to love the Jewish people and Israel, you can’t hate Judaism at the same time. You can’t hate someone’s identity as it was assigned to them by God but say that somehow, you love that person anyway.

I know the people who need to hear this the most will reject it out of hand, but this message is the natural and logical extension of exploring the mitzvah of loving Jews. In order to love the Jewish people, we cannot hate ourselves. The mitzvah of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18; Matthew 22:39) means we must love both our neighbor and ourselves. If we hate being a Gentile because we think (or have been taught) that it is inferior or pagan or some other ridiculous thing, then we have no basis or platform for loving someone else, anyone else, really.

Love starts with loving God (Deut. 6:5; Matthew 22:37), then (in my opinion), loving ourselves as God made us since we are created in His image (Gen. 1:27). Only then, realizing that God loves us with a powerful love and realizing we are lovable just as we are (which in my case is a Gentile), can we love another person. Only then can we love a Jew because God made the Jew just the way he or she is including the Jewish person’s covenant identity, which includes unique roles and responsibilities.

Once you are confident in God’s love for you, no matter who you are, then you have no reason to feel inferior to someone else and you should have no desire to covet their status and assume that it is your “right” to do so.

It’s only at that point where you are capable of fulfilling the mitzvah as a Gentile disciple of the Master of loving the Jewish people, Judaism, and Israel. God loves them. So should we.

Piece of Eden

Reflections on Romans 5

Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

-Romans 4:19-5:2 (NASB)

Remember, Paul wrote this letter without chapters and verses in mind. He was trying to express a unified set of thoughts to his audience who were, most likely, the believing Gentiles associating with believing and unbelieving Jews in the Roman synagogues.

In my previous reflection, I focused a great deal on how, for a Jewish Jesus-believer, there was/is no inconsistency between Torah and faith. For that matter, there’s no inconsistency for a non-Jewish Jesus-believer between faith and obedience, either.

But there was a lot of misunderstanding going on (apparently) in the Roman Jesus-believing community on both sides of the aisle. The Gentiles somehow felt they were superior to the non-believing Jews in that they were granted access to Jewish worship and social space as equal co-participants without having to undergo the proselyte rite and take up the full yoke of Torah in the manner of the Jews. The non-believing Jews pushed back by declaring themselves superior as possessors of the “oracles of God” and how by just being ethnic Jews they were justified before God.

There is also some indication that at least some Jews may have mistakenly thought that because their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) justified them, they were more like the Gentiles and did not have to follow a strict observance of the mitzvot.

Paul was trying to straighten out his audience orient them to the importance of both obedience due to covenant obligation and being justified only by faith.

Now we see Paul continuing to make this point, emphasizing how Gentiles could also be included in the covenant blessings by faith but not have to take up all of the Jewish covenant obligations. The one commonality between the Jewish and Gentile believers was/is that they were/are all justified by faith and granted “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justification by faith is what made Gentile participation in the covenant blessings possible without conversion to Judaism and remember, they were justified by faith alone, so even if they voluntarily chose to take on additional mitzvot in the manner of the Jews, it would not increase their justification or otherwise grant them greater merit before God.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

-Romans 5:3-5 (NASB)

Receiving the SpiritNotice that justification by faith includes the hope we have in the New Covenant as evidenced by one of the “down payments” of the New Covenant promises, the Holy Spirit “who was given to us.” That takes us back to Acts 2 when the Jewish Apostles received the Spirit in the upper room (in an act reminiscent of the giving of Torah at Sinai), and Acts 10 with the occasion of the Spirit being given to faithful Gentiles, the Roman Centurion Cornelius and his entire household.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

-Romans 5:6-9 (NASB)

But we are justified by faith, not just in God, but in who Jesus is and what he represented as the final sacrifice we’d ever need for the forgiveness of our sins. God loves us all even in our sins, and desires that we repent, take up our faith and cross, and follow our King.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

-Matthew 9:13 (NASB)

Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 to point out that sacrifice (observance) alone does not justify, and also that he came for the sinners, the disobedient and faithless of Israel, to bring them back to God, to redeem Israel. It is believed, contrary to Christian thought, that the general Jewish population in Israel during the late second Temple period maintained a high level of Torah study and observance, higher than previous points in the nation’s history, but it was the sin of baseless hatred that resulted in the Temple’s destruction and the exile of the Jewish people. It was this hatred among the Jews the Messiah was addressing (Remember what I’ve said in the past…these are just my “reflections” as I’ve read through Romans as associated with previously acquired information…it’s not a researched and annotated doctoral dissertation).

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

-Luke 1:5-6 (NASB)

As you can see, there were likely many righteous people in Israel, including Zacharias the Priest and his wife Elisheva (Elizabeth). We may never know how many among Israel were at their level of spiritual enlightenment since as the Master said, he came for the “lost sheep of Israel,” and not for the righteous who did not need to repent of baseless hatred.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

-Romans 5:10-11 (NASB)

The Death of the MasterOur hope isn’t just in the atonement provided for mankind by the death of the tzaddik, but in the resurrection and the life, for even as we die with him, we rise with him from the tomb as new creations and have the hope of life eternal in the Kingdom of Messiah, a Kingdom of utter peace and tranquility. We are no longer enemies of God but sons and daughters by adoption, Gentiles who are now included in the blessings alongside God’s people Israel.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

-Romans 5:12-14 (NASB)

This admittedly is difficult for me to grasp. Paul is introducing something new which seems to be the origin of sin. It came into the world because of the disobedience of Adam, the willful disregard to the one and only negative commandment that existed in the world at that time.

It wasn’t just disobedience that was the sin but the lack of faith that rested behind it. Although the commandment to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not directly imparted to Havah (Eve), Adam allowed her to consume the fruit and then willfully ate it as well.

But then Paul says that there is no sin “when there is no law,” which I assume is Torah and it defines obedience and disobedience, and yet between Adam and Moses there was still sin and death.

Different translations of Romans 5:13 state “but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law” (NIV), “but sin is not counted where there is no law” (ESV), and “but no record of sin is kept when there is no Law” (ISV), basically saying the same thing.

I have a hard time depending on Christian commentary to guide me here since most or all of them draw a hard line between Torah and grace, believing the latter has replaced the former for Jewish believers (and everyone else). However the commentary from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on this verse states in part:

…but sin is not imputed when there is no law. This looks like an objection, that if there was no law before Moses’s time, then there was no sin, nor could any action of man be known or accounted by them as sinful, or be imputed to them to condemnation; or rather it is a concession, allowing that where there is no law, sin is not imputed; but there was a law before that law of Moses, which law was transgressed, and the sin or transgression of it was imputed to men to condemnation and death, as appears from what follows.

NoahFrom this I gather that there were actually standards for sin and righteous for mankind prior to the giving of the Torah at Sinai but that the Torah defined heightened responsibilities specifically for the Children of Israel. This suggests that the rest of humanity still operated under the older standards and, given a more Jewish perspective, that said-standards for the nations were the Noahide Laws we see God issuing in Genesis 9.

Of course there were no Noahide Laws prior to Genesis 9, so there must have been some sort of standards in place between Adam and Noah. These standards are hinted at (how did Abel know about animal sacrifice and how did Noah know what a clean animal was?) but never listed in the Bible.

But what about the next verse?

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

-Romans 5:14 (NASB)

Death continued between Adam and the time of the giving of Torah at Sinai because of the continuation of sin, and presumably it continued after that and continues to this day, if we’re talking about bodily death (and since Paul has been talking about the bodily resurrection up to this point, I think it likely). Mankind would have remained accountable to God under Genesis 9 covenant and its conditions, then with Moses and the Torah, Israel was elevated to a much higher place in terms of blessings, responsibilities, and curses.

In a way, this put the Israelites in a rather unenviable position, because the conditions of obeying God, the Torah mitzvot, were so many, so complicated, and so much more involved than the Noahide commandments, that they had to do a lot more work to maintain their covenant relationship with God.

Of course, there are also terrific blessings attached to Israel’s covenant with God including having God dwell among His people in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. But the Temple and the sacrificial system was never designed to permanently remove sin from the Israelites, or for that matter, the rest of humanity (even though the prayers and sacrifices of Gentiles were acceptable in the Temple).

And who is this “who is a type of Him who was to come?” Apparently, according to various translations and commentaries, it’s Messiah. Adam was the first man and the first to sin, the prototype of sinful mankind, but also the prototype human being as the first created man. Yeshua, as Messiah, sent to be the hope of humanity, is sort of an “anti-Adam,” one who entered the world perfect, just like Adam, but unlike Adam, one who never sinned even though sorely tempted.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

-Romans 5:15-17 (NASB)

Paul continues his theme of the duality of Adam and Jesus, the transgression of Adam and the free gift of grace through Christ. Adam’s faithlessness and disobedience condemned humanity to sin and death and Messiah’s faithfulness and obedience, even to the point of death, reverses that curse…or rather, it will.

exileLet me explain.

Sin and death are still in the world, even for Christians. Believers still sin. We’re not perfect (or perfected). And believers still die. But if we are faithful and obedient, we will not be dead forever, and when we are resurrected, we will be resurrected as perfected people. God will heal our physical imperfections but more importantly, He will heal our hearts and write His Word upon them, so it will be natural for us to obey and not sin, even as it is now human nature to disobey.

That is why Jesus is our hope because he is the hope of our future perfection and the redemption of the world, all through God’s covenant with Abraham, then with Isaac, then with Jacob, and then the Sinai covenant with the tribes that issued from Jacob, the Israelites, and with their descendants, the Jewish people. Salvation for the rest of the world comes from the Jews (John 4:22) and from their King Messiah.

Jesus reverses the curse that Adam initiated.

Paul calls all this a “free gift,” and I admit to having a bit of a problem with the wording.

It’s true that we don’t have to do anything to produce this solution to the problem Adam introduced into the world, and it’s true that we didn’t even ask for it, and it’s true that we don’t and in fact we can’t pay a price to purchase this gift. On the other hand, we still have to do something. We have to choose. We have to hear the “good news,” and we have to listen, and we have to allow the Holy Spirit to influence us, and then we have to repent and accept the Lordship and rule of Messiah over our lives.

And then we enter into discipleship, start studying, and finally realize what all that actually means. Then we realize what it is to accept Jesus as Lord and oh boy, it’s not as easy as we were led to believe by whoever evangelized us.

Then and only then comes the hard part. Living the life of a disciple and a slave with Jesus as Lord and Master…yeah, Master like Master over a slave. Living the life of a slave with Jesus as our Master, surrendering any priority over our life to him and making all of his priorities our priorities.

Do you do that all the time, 24/7/365? Really? Are you sure?

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

-Romans 5:18-21 (NASB)

It sounds like Paul is getting a little repetitive, but then he says the “Law came in so that the transgression would increase.” God introduced the Torah to Israel to increase their sin? That seems odd. The Torah lists the conditions of the Sinai covenant between Israel and God, a covenant which says God will be Israel’s God and they will be His people and that they agree to obey a certain set of conditions listed in the Torah. If they don’t, and disobedience (sin) is also defined in Torah, then the curses laid out in the Torah will be applied to Israel. If they continue to obey, the blessings, which are also spelled out in the Torah, will be applied.

So how does all that “increase sin” and especially for the whole world since the Sinai covenant and its conditions (Torah) only apply to Israel?

Is there some other “Law” that Paul could be talking about in this context?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 6:23 (NASB)

There is what’s called “the Law of Sin” which the above-quoted verse defines, but that doesn’t seem to fit the context. However, it also makes no sense at all for God to give the Torah to Jews at Sinai just to increase their culpability for sin so that in their sins, God could demonstrate how much they needed His grace, send Jesus to die for their sins, and replace the Law with grace.

sefer torahThe only way I can see how the Torah could “increase sin” is that it raised the bar quite a bit for the Children of Israel relative to the rest of mankind. It certainly increased the chances of any given Jewish person to come into transgression. After all, it’s no sin for me to not wear tzitzit but it is for a Jewish person (man). It’s no sin for me to eat a pork chop (although I don’t) but it is for a Jewish person. Even as a Christian and the receiver of many blessings through Israel’s covenants with God, I’m still not held accountable to as high a standard of behavior as my wife (who is Jewish), at least not this side of the Messianic Kingdom.

But if Gentile believers are the primary audience of this letter, what does Paul mean? I suspect the answers may be yielded in the next chapter and in next week’s edition of my “reflections.”

Holy Temple

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Shadow and a Copy

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”

-Hebrews 8:1-5 (NASB)

Teaching on Hebrews 8:1-5 regarding the Temple as a Shadow and a Copy of the supernal Temple above with references to Colossians 2:16-17 which describes the festivals and holy days as shadows of things that are to come–the substance of Messiah.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Twenty-nine: Shadow and a Copy
Originally presented on November 2, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

I should also start out by quoting someone who commented on one of my previous reviews of this series:

While I don’t know how Lancaster approaches the passage you cited, one aspect that most folks don’t appreciate is that the background view is one in which the heavenly sanctuary and the earthly one are operating simultaneously in parallel, with the earthly one reflecting the operations of the heavenly one and receiving its authorization therefrom. The lack of this perspective also is responsible for a less-than-accurate English translation of the passage. For example, the word rendered as “change” can mean simply “difference”; hence what was intended as a comparison becomes falsely tainted with a sense of replacement. The encouragement offered in the Hebrews sermonic letter is that operations of the heavenly sanctuary continue to be effective even if those of the earthly one become unavailable, or are interrupted, or the sanctuary is destroyed outright (all of which occurred either just before or just after this letter was circulated).

I hope you got the distinction being made in the aforementioned quotation. If not, read it again slowly and carefully. It’s important.

Todays’ sermon is just loaded with great information so let’s get started. Lancaster began by quoting from Ezekiel 43 where we see the prophet being taken spiritually to the Third Temple that will exist in Jerusalem in the Messianic Era, effectively inventing time travel (at least according to Lancaster).

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

“As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them. This is the law of the house: its entire area on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.”

-Ezekiel 43:1-5; 10-12 (NASB)

Ezekiel's TempleGod is telling Ezekiel that His Divine Presence will dwell in this Messianic Age Temple forever! God commands the prophet to describe the Temple he sees in the vision to the Israelites so they will be ashamed and repent of their sins. Why? Because it was their sins that resulted in the destruction of the Temple as it existed in their day, for Ezekiel was physically in exile in Babylon and the Temple in Jerusalem was in ruins.

At this point in the sermon, I couldn’t help but think about how Judaism sees the cause of the destruction of Herod’s Temple as baseless hatred between one Jew and another. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman writes a rather lengthy midrashic description of this baseless hatred against the backdrop of recent events in modern Israel in the article The Tunnels That Rebuilt Jerusalem.

He also wrote this:

To the Rebbe, the exile of the Shechinah was a painful reality. To the rest of us, well, we have other concerns. Again and again, the Rebbe struggled to bring us to his perspective:

Perhaps, for you, this exile is not so bad. And you feel you are doing whatever you can about it, anyway.

But it is not just you alone in exile. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the generations of their children, as well all the heavenly host—in fact, the entire creation—all is unfulfilled, in exile and imprisoned. Even the Creator, blessed be He, locks Himself into prison along with His creation.

Until you get us out of here.

-from Pity on the Cosmos

As you read this, Tisha B’Av is less than a day in the past and yet once you have fully entered a period of mourning, is it so easy to hold back the tears at its end? Not only should we be grieved at our loss but we should be ashamed of our sins. We should repent and repent quickly for our master the King could return at any moment.

To return to Lancaster’s sermon, he next visits Exodus 25:

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

-Exodus 25:8-9 (NASB)

I recently wrote a commentary on these verses relative to where and how we come close to God, but the more plain meaning of the text tells us something wonderful. It tells us that God laid out the pattern, the blueprint if you will, of the Heavenly Temple Court for Moses and instructed him to construct what amounts to a scale model of the Heavenly Court on Earth in the form of the Tabernacle. For everything in the Tabernacle and about the Tabernacle was an earthly replica of the Heavenly originals…everything…and everyone.

jerusalem-at-nightThat means every object you see described in Exodus that is used in the Tabernacle has a counterpart in Heaven. It also means that every person, the High Priest, the other Aaronic priests, the Levites, everyone, have Heavenly counterparts. Imagine.

Not only that, but Lancaster said that even earthly Jerusalem, the Holy City, is a replica of sorts of a Heavenly Jerusalem. This isn’t as farfetched as it may seem:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

-Revelation 21:2 (NASB)

Just think. If you’ve ever visited Jerusalem and particularly the Old City (sadly, I have not), then you could choose to see just the streets and stones and tourists, or you could allow yourself to envision Jerusalem as a sort of earthly reflection (though a mirror dimly) of the perfected Jerusalem.

And even though we don’t currently have the Temple with us, we know from Ezekiel that we will, and that when it existed and when it will exist again, every action of every one of the Priests on Earth will be a reflection of the Angelic Priests in Heaven. What is it like when an Angel offers incense on the altar before God I wonder?

We know from the two previous sermons in this series, Melchizedek and The Bypass that Yeshua (Jesus) is the High Priest in the Heavenly Temple. We have to believe that there are also Angelic Priests who attend and assist him in his priestly duties, just as God commanded the earthly Priests to assist and attend the Aaronic High Priest.

We also learned during these prior sermons, that the earthly Tabernacle and later Temple and the earthly Priesthood were considered “weak” only because they could not deliver what the Heavenly Temple and Priesthood do: permanent absolution from sin and resurrection immortality.

But then the earthly Temple and Priesthood weren’t designed to do any of those things. I’ve been exploring how Torah observance was never, ever meant to justify anyone before God in my Reflections on Romans series, so this is certainly a parallel.

At this point, Lancaster is finished with his introduction and proceeds to read Hebrews 8:1-5. So we have such a High Priest in Yeshua in the Heavenly (original and eternal) Temple, who is a “minister” in the “true tabernacle” which was “pitched” not by man but by God.

Verse 3 hints at what “gifts and sacrifices” are offered by Yeshua the High Priest, but that won’t be covered in today’s sermon. However, verse 4 says something important:

He would not be a priest at all [on Earth], since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law…

LevitesYeshua, of the tribe of Judah and the house of David, would not be a Priest on Earth and will not be when he returns. He does not overturn or override the Law of the Temple, since only Aaronic Priests of the tribe of Levi may serve there (and will serve there in the Messianic Age). Yeshua’s priesthood doesn’t replace the Levitical priesthood, it exists altogether separately in a completely different venue.

So Yeshua will not be High Priest on Earth upon his return and will not function as a Priest in “Ezekiel’s Temple” in Jerusalem. But he still will have to perform an inauguration:

Now the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the Lord. Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the Lord, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, because there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings; for the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings.

-1 Kings 8:62-64 (NASB)

Yeshua will be the great King and perform duties in relation to the Third Temple just as Solomon the King inaugurated the first Temple.

…who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things…

-Hebrews 8:5 (NASB)

Here’s where we encounter what Lancaster calls “Christian theological bias.” When we read “copy and shadow,” we’ve been taught in the Church to think “empty,” “meaningless,” “vain,” and even “forgery.” We’ve been taught that all that “stuff,” the Temple, the Priesthood, the sacrifices, and of course, the Torah (Law) had a temporary use but it was all meant to expire and be replaced by the Holy, Heavenly, originals and specifically by Jesus, the High Priest of our hearts, for we replace the stone Temple as little, flesh and blood, spiritual temples.

But that’s not it at all.

To understand this better, Lancaster takes us to Colossians 2:16-17. The quote below is taken from the NASB translation:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Some background. Lancaster says this was part of Paul’s argument against the ascetics, those people who believe that one can only be spiritual by disdaining anything that might be physically pleasurable and imposing severe self-discipline and abstention upon themselves.

While there are some practices in Judaism that follow an ascetic pattern (Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur), the majority of Jewish observances (and remember, Paul was an observant Jewish Pharisee who advocated for Jews in Messiah performing the mitzvot, including Shabbat and the Festivals) such as Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Festival of Weeks), Sukkot (Festival of Booths), and Shabbat (the Sabbath) were and are celebrated largely by eating and drinking.

Lancaster is interpreting Colossians 2 in a way that says when we observe the festivals, Rosh Chodesh (the observance of the New Moon), and Shabbat, we are experiencing a foretaste of what it will be like in the New Covenant age to feast at the table of Messiah:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 8:11 (NIV)

Sukkah in the rainThis could well support Gentile Christian observance of the Biblical holidays in the present age since Yeshua (Jesus) was not just speaking of Israel but of the people of the nations “from the east and the west”. If you or I as non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah were to keep a proper Shabbos, observe the festival of the New Moon, and build a sukkah in our backyard this fall, in performing each of these acts, we are also experiencing a “shadow or copy,” a scale model, a brief tasty little treat of the magnificent banquet that we will be permitted to join in the Messianic Age.

So shadows and copies aren’t cheap knockoffs or poor imitations that need to be cleaned out to make way for the originals. They are previews, coming attractions of the main event, like watching the previews of a biggest, best movie ever to be made in anticipation of one day seeing the entire film in 3D.

But…

…but here we find “Christian theological bias” again, this time in how these verses are translated. Lancaster offered a couple of examples:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

-Colossians 2:16-17 (NIV)

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

-Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)

I put in bold the words “were” and “however” in the first quote and the word “mere” in the second. Why? Because Lancaster says they don’t exist in the Greek. Later translators added those words to insert an anti-Torah bias into the text. If you just read and understand the Bible in English (or probably a lot of other translations), you’ll completely miss it.

I compared English translations and found the Holman Christian Standard Bible to be just slightly more honest:

These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.

Unfortunately, it still uses the word “was” which isn’t in the Greek. The Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and the other observances are shadows cast by the Holy observances that will enter our world with the Messiah’s return. They are not past, they are present and future.

In other words, the Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot are all tasty hints and treats, samples from the dessert tray, so to speak, of what is to come, but the full meal deal, so to speak, is the Messiah. Yes, he is the full substance, but we have been provided with previews so we can look forward to what’s coming and experience some of that wonder and delight in the here-and-now.

What Did I Learn?

I felt I already had a pretty good handle on Hebrews 8:1-5 from the background of my general knowledge plus Lancaster’s prior sermons, but what I didn’t expect was how Colossians 2 was so easily applied to the same usage of “copy and shadow.” I was also unconscious of how modern Christian translators have been guilty of some “hanky-panky by apparently playing fast and loose with the oldest Greek manuscripts we have of the text, inserting anti-Torah, anti-Festival, and anti-Jewish bias into Christian minds and hearts.

Face it. Most of us don’t read the Bible in the ancient languages and we rely upon our English Bibles. I find great meaning and truth in the Bible, but on some level, I also feel betrayed. This is a good illustration as to why we must learn to educate ourselves and not depend solely upon traditional Christian learning sources. It’s not even that anyone is lying, but the history of the Church is fraught with traditions stemming from the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, when every effort was made by those pulling away from their Jewish teachers and mentors in the Messianic faith to re-interpret the scriptures in a manner that rendered them totally devoid of their original (Jewish) meaning and truth.

Small wonder most Jews really hate Paul. They’ve learned to interpret him in exactly the same way as most Evangelical Christians, only Christians see Paul’s (supposed) anti-Torah writings as a virtue rather than a curse.

temple-of-messiahI hope you conclude, as I have, that there is nothing about the Heavenly Malkizedekian Priesthood or the Heavenly Tabernacle that undoes, makes obsolete, or terminates the effectiveness and authority of the Torah, the Temple, and the Priesthood here on Earth. When Messiah does return and rebuild the Temple (actually, the Temple Mount is too small to hold the Temple described by Ezekiel, so the geography of Jerusalem is going to have to change somewhat), those Torah Laws that govern the Temple, the Priesthood, and the sacrifices that have been put into abeyance for nearly twenty centuries will be applicable again.

Until that day however, we remain in exile with just the periodic precursors of the age to come to comfort us.

When the Holy Temple was destroyed, there was a wailing voice heard throughout the whole world. The Ministering Angels said to G-d, “Master of the Universe, do You have such emotions of sadness? Isn’t it written ‘Splendor and glory are before You?’ “

G-d answered: “My House is destroyed, and My children are manacled in chains. Shouldn’t I be suffering?”

- Midrash, Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim 679

From the day that Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were destroyed, there is no joy before G-d… until Jerusalem will be rebuilt and the Jewish People will return to it.

- Midrash, Yalkut Shimoni, Eychah 7009

From my father’s sichot: When Mashiach will come (speedily in our time, amein), then we shall really long for the days of the exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected working at avoda; then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days of avoda, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our time, amein.

-from Tanya: Ch. 11. This subject (p. 379) …infinitely more so. (p. 381).
Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943) from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory; translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

How long, Moshiach? How long?

Hitbodedut

What I Learned in Church Today: God Suffers Our Pain With Us

Today in church (as I write this), Pastor preached on Acts 27:1-12 and Paul’s rather “stormy” trip toward his final destination (in more ways than one) Rome. What I found most useful in today’s sermon were the notes at the conclusion. Normally, this part of the sermon doesn’t “float my boat” since these notes are usually an attempt to take ancient events, spiritualize them, and anachronistically apply them to everyday life in 21st century America.

But this time, I decided to see if these notes could be applied to my life. There are three of them.

Do you believe that God is sovereign over all the storms in your life?

As opposed to what? No, really. As an abstract concept believing what I believe about God, my immediate answer has to be “yes,” but it’s more complicated than that. It’s one thing to say that “God is in control” and that “we win in the end,” and another thing entirely to receive a diagnosis of cancer (no, I don’t have cancer) or that your child was in a serious car accident and is in ICU (don’t worry, my kids are all fine).

Then, no matter how much you “think” God is sovereign over every single detail of your existence, suddenly the pit of your stomach drops out and at least momentarily, panic sets in with the vengeance of a really angry Grizzly Bear. Sure, given enough time, you can regain your emotional equilibrium and refocus on God, but for those first few seconds or minutes (or longer), unless you are a terrifically spiritual person and always totally in tune with God, you’re going to lose it.

Here’s the first thing I wrote down in my notes when Pastor asked the question:

Yes, but that doesn’t mean I still won’t drown.

Here’s the second thing I wrote down.

We don’t have an absolute view into God’s plans for us as individuals.

God can be absolutely sovereign over the storms in our lives and we can still lose a leg in a car crash. We can still end up with a child in intensive care. We can still die a long, lingering, painful death.

God’s sovereignty contains no guarantee at all that our lives won’t be painful and end tragically. When we think of God being “in control,” we really mean that God would never let anything bad happen to us. But just look at Paul’s life. God let everything bad happen to Paul.

But the key is, no matter what happened, Paul still served God faithfully, with an almost supernatural focus (I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek here) on Yeshua (Jesus) as the author of his faith and the “perfecter” of his existence, both in this world and the one beyond.

Which brings us to Pastor’s second question:

What are you doing to learn to trust God in the storms of life?

I remember a scene from the film Finding Nemo (2003). Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) and Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) are inside of a whale, basically hitching a ride to Sydney, Australia. The water inside the whale starts to drain. As usual, Marlin senses disaster while Dory is willing to trust. Marlin is hanging onto some part of the whale’s insides to keep from falling back into the throat. Dory translates the message from the whale.

It’s time to let go.

praying at the kotelI think that’s what trusting God is about, but it’s best to learn to trust him before your life turns to dog poop. While you still have the time, pray with an especially focused Kavanah for an encounter with God. Strive to draw nearer to Him and plead that He reveals Himself to you before you need Him. I promise that if you don’t do this now, you will be doing it once you need God’s help more than anything you’ve ever needed in your life.

Last question:

Do you realize that God is able to use the storms in your life to give guidance to others?

As first, I didn’t read the to give guidance to others part and just saw the question as asking if I realized God could use the storms in my life. Then I realized what was really going on.

Had they trusted in God and followed Moshe, the entire nation would have gone into Eretz Israel led by him. The Holy Temple would have been built, never to be destroyed; the people would have sat, every man under his grape vine and under his fig tree, never to be exiled; and the still longed for, final redemption under God’s chosen anointed would have come. But they didn’t trust and they didn’t obey. So the exodus from Egypt remained eternal, but the entry into the Land was to be transitory.

-Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz
Megillas Eichach (Lamentations), pg 34

If all of the twelve spies Moses sent into Canaan (Numbers 13, 14) had given a positive report instead of just two, obeyed Moses, and obeyed God, the history of Israel would have been written quite differently.

But they didn’t and history unfolded as it did.

The same is true of Israel in the days of Jesus:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

-Matthew 23:17-39 (NASB)

If Israel had repented in the days of Herod’s Temple, Yeshua would have initiated the Messianic Kingdom immediately, the Romans would have been defeated, the Temple would have been preserved, there would have been no exile, and King Messiah’s reign of peace, mercy, and justice over all of the world would have started and be with us to this very day.

But they didn’t, and untold suffering has resulted.

In the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) gave this sage piece of advice to Lt. Saavik (Kirstie Alley):

How you face death is at least as important as how you face life.

Regardless of how God provides and what God allows and how God disciplines, your circumstances are less important than how you respond to them. Consider how Israel is responding, not to just all of the rockets Hamas keeps throwing at her, but how the rest of the world is mistreating Israel, believing she is disproportionately responding to these terrorist acts simply by defending herself.

The whole world is watching Israel and waiting for her to blink. So it is true when anyone who professes faith in Christ, especially when we are under duress.

Fortunately, Pastor said that he’s hardly perfect in this area and that there have been plenty of occasions when he’s been stressed and yet taken it out on his family rather than having greater trust in God. There’s a sort of myth, both inside the Church and outside of it, that says when a Christian is having a particularly tough time of it, he or she should be completely calm if their faith in Jesus is solid. Only a failure of faith results in a Christian who cries or yells or begs.

Like I said, it’s a myth.

Father, if you’re willing, take this cup from me…

-Luke 22:42 (NASB)

This is Jesus at Gethsemane pleading with God the Father to take away the cup of his crucifixion, his agony, his desperate suffering from him.

This is Jesus saying this. This is Jesus not wanting to suffer. This is Jesus acting just like the rest of us. But the second half of the sentence tells the tale.

…yet not my will but Yours be done.

But he still begged. Flesh and blood, human right down to his DNA Jesus still begged that the cup be taken from him.

There’s no shame in anguish as long as there’s also trust.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

-2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NASB)

If Jesus wasn’t immune, certainly Paul wasn’t either. How many of his Psalms did David dedicate to his own pain and suffering, withering before a Holy God with his flesh melting and his bones turning to dust?

Save me, O God,
For the waters have threatened my life.
I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head;
Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies;
What I did not steal, I then have to restore.

-Psalm 69:1-4 (NASB)

We struggle all our lives between our faith and our humanity, between Divine glory and human weakness. The spirit is willing but flesh…oh the flesh is very weak. Even the best of us, when put to the test, are like a snow cone in a blast furnace.

anguishTo know that God is sovereign and to trust in Him in adversity doesn’t mean you have to be superhuman and it doesn’t mean you don’t get scared. It means when 99% of you is in full panic mode, some tiny voice in the back of your consciousness is still crying out to God, not in terror but in faith, that even if you should drown or be incinerated in the next half-second, if you are not supposed to live (in this life) with God, then you will certainly die in His Presence and live with Him in the resurrection.

Living with God in suffering is like being a terminally ill child. You know you are going to die and you know your Mom and Dad love you very much. But you also know they can’t save your life. You’re still scared and you still don’t want to be away from them, but you know as long as they love you, you’re not alone.

God’s sovereignty in our lives when we suffer doesn’t (necessarily) mean God will stop the suffering. It means He will never abandon us as we are suffering and in some sense, He suffers, too.

The night when hope was enveloped in darkness was about to begin, so God came to Jacob ‘in the visions of the night’ to show him that Jews might be exiled from their land, but they could never be exiled from their God.

-R. Zlotowitz, pp 46-7

When they were exiled to Babylon, the Divine Presence was with them.

-Megillah 29a

And so He is with us.

high-priest-hebrews

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Melchizedek

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him,

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 7:1-17 (NASB)

The story of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek and Hebrews 7:1-17. Was Melchizedek actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in the Old Testament? Who is the mysterious priest and what is his relationship to Yeshua?

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Twenty-seven: Melchizedek
Originally presented on October 12, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

We finally exit the elementary principles of the faith and get back into that “meat” the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was talking about. That meat starts with Melchizedek.

Lancaster started out by quoting from Lech Lecha:

When he returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, which is the Valley of the King. And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him, saying,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your foes into your hand.”

And [Abram] gave him a tenth of everything.

-Genesis 14:17-20 (JPS Tanakh)

So who was Melchizedek? He’s the King of Righteousness. The King of a place called Salem, which is an ancient name for Jerusalem. He’s also called a King of Peace. Sound familiar?

melchizedekLancaster says (and I’ve heard this before as well) that many people believe that Melchizedek is a “pre-incarnate Jesus”. In other words, Jesus showed up in disguise in the Old Testament to honor Abraham. I’ve always had trouble with this interpretation, as it cheapens the incarnation of Jesus being born of woman (much later in history) by having him just appear and disappear in this sequence of events. Fortunately, Lancaster also has a problem with this. But then what is Melchizedek’s relationship to Jesus?

Here’s one connection (sort of). Lancaster says that Melchizedek shows up bringing bread and wine to give Abraham a banquet foreshadowing the banquet of Abraham in Messianic Days. What banquet you ask?

I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

-Matthew 8:11 (NASB)

Oh. That banquet.

So Jesus is supposed to give Abraham a banquet in the Messianic Kingdom? Seems kind of reversed. You’d think Abraham would hold a banquet in honor of King Messiah. On the other hand Abraham did give Melchizedek a tenth of everything after receiving a blessing, but we’ll get back to that.

Lancaster did bring up the midrash in Judaism that suggests Melchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noah. While this works in terms of the chronology of events, it can’t be true because the writer of Hebrews says that Melchizedek is without genealogy or ancestry, which Shem definitely had.

Lancaster, dispelling the midrash in this case, then quotes the following:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

-Hebrews 6:19-20 (NASB)

We know about the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek from this:

The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,

“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Your youth are to You as the dew.
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

-Psalm 110:1-4 (NASB)

All this seems to indicate that the Priest/King Melchizedek had established a priestly order. What do you have to do to join this order?

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

-Hebrews 7:1-3 (NASB)

the letterLancaster admits that on the surface, this sounds a great deal like Melchizedek could be Jesus. On the other hand, saying he was without father and mother just means that the Torah doesn’t mention them, not that they didn’t exist. Also, it says Melchizedek had no genealogy, but Jesus has a very specific genealogy. He has to in order to qualify as the Messiah King.

Lancaster directs us back to his understanding of why this letter was first authored. The Greek-speaking, Jesus-believing Jews in Jerusalem were going through a crisis of faith. They had been persecuted by the Sadducees who were in control of the Temple. They had been cut off from the Temple, from the sacrifices, and from the (Aaronic) priesthood. And as Lancaster said in past sermons, no one approaches Hashem without a priest.

But the Hebrews writer is saying that they did have a priest, just one of a different order than that of the Aaronic priesthood. But how could that be?

You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute.

-Exodus 29:9 (NASB)

This is a fancy way of saying that the priesthood descending from Aaron was established forever. It was never-ending. It could not be ended or replaced.

So how could Messiah, of the tribe of Judah and the house of David be a priest?

Because he belonged to a different order of priests. The order of Melchizedek. But is there such an order or was the writer of Hebrews speaking metaphorically?

I asked before, what would you have to do if there were such a priestly order and you wanted to join it? According to Psalm 110:4, you had to be immortal because it says, “a priest forever.” As far as we can tell, Melchizedek was not immortal, even though the Bible never records his death (or birth for that matter).

If Melchizedek was a literal King/Priest of the city of Salem, which at that time a Jesubite city ruled by a Canaanite King, then this couldn’t have been a role that Jesus just “popped in” for and then popped back out again up into Heaven after a brief chat and a nosh with Abraham. He would have had to rule over Salem on a day-to-day basis, being the head of a very real government in a very real city with very real human citizens.

Doesn’t seem likely that this is Jesus.

We do know something about Melchizedek as a priest, though. He blessed Abraham and Abraham paid Melchizedek.

But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

-Hebrews 7:7-10 (NASB)

AbrahamIn almost any context, Abraham, having received the promises from God, was the biggest wheel at the table, so to speak. No one was of a higher authority than Abraham relative to the purposes of God. If anything, Abraham should have blessed Melchizedek, since only the greater blesses the lesser, just like fathers bless their children. That Melchizedek, the Priest of the Most High God, blessed Abraham, then he was superior to Abraham. Also, Melchizedek should have given a “tithe” to Abraham if Abraham were truly in the catbird seat.

If, as the above-quoted verses from Hebrews 7 attest, Aaron and his descendants were “still in the loins of” Abraham, it would be as if, in blessing Abraham, Melchizedek were blessing Aaron and his sons, thus establishing that Melchizedek and his priestly order was superior to Aaron and the Levitical priestly order. This is also why Melchizedek would receive a tithe instead of paying one.

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

-Hebrews 7:11-12 (NASB)

This makes it seem as if the Melchizedekian order replaces the Aaronic order of priests, and thus Jesus replaces the Levitical priesthood, the Temple, the sacrifices, and the Torah.

Lancaster says he’ll address all that in a subsequent sermon, but in short, Jesus being in the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek doesn’t replace Aaron’s priesthood (and the sacrifices, the Temple, and the Torah), but he represents a different order that exists in a different venue, the Heavenly Temple Court, while the Aaronic priesthood has authority over the earthly Temple and sacrifices.

As I’ve already mentioned, verse 14 addresses the differences between the ancestry of Melchizedek (whose ancestors are not mentioned) and Jesus (who had a very specific ancestry).

And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him,

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 7:15-17 (NASB)

Notice this says someone “in the likeness of Melchizedek” and not Melchizedek himself. Also, this order of the priesthood of Melchizedek is not established through a “physical requirement,” that is, who you are descended from, but rather, “according to the power of an indestructible life.” By being the “first fruits of the dead,” (1 Corinthians 15:20), Jesus was the first to have the power of an indestructible life, thus only he was and is qualified to enter into the priestly order of Melchizedek. It comes down to the writer of Hebrews saying that Jesus can be a Priest of a different order than the Aaronic priesthood because Melchizedek had previously been accepted as a Priest of Hashem and was not a descendant of Aaron.

All this I more or less knew, though Lancaster nicely filled in some of my information gaps…

…but…

What Did I Learn?

Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ (emph. mine)

-Zechariah 6:11-13 (NASB)

Compare this to the following:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land. (emph. mine)

-Jeremiah 23:5 (NASB)

LevitesBoth of these are Messianic prophesies. The passage from Zechariah describes the Israelites returning to their Land after the Babylonian exile. The Temple was in ruins. Prophesy said the Messiah should have arrived at that point, rebuilt the Temple and restored Israel. Where was he?

According to Lancaster, Zechariah’s answer was to prophesy that a (righteous) Branch would come to rebuild the Temple. Then the prophet commanded that a crown be made and placed on the head of Joshua the High Priest, and that he would represent the Branch who would one day come to rebuild the Temple and to sit on the King’s Throne, and that the Branch would also be a Priest, and that he would bring peace between the office of the priesthood and the office of the King.

The kicker is that the High Priest’s name is “Joshua”, which is “Yehoshua” in Hebrew (transliterated), but the Jews coming out of Babylon were speaking Aramaic, not Hebrew. They would have pronounced his name “Yeshua,” which we translate into English as “Jesus.”

The writer of the Book of Hebrews is trying to encourage his readers by saying they really do have a High Priest, one who is in Heaven, even though they are cut off from the earthly High Priest. Based on the precedents set in Psalm 110 and Genesis 14, that High Priest is King Messiah, who like Melchizedek, is both a King and a Priest, which was also prophesied by Zechariah.

This was good news for the Jesus-believing Jews reading this letter, but it’s also good news for us. Even though Kohens are identifiable today, there is no Temple in which they can offer sacrifices. Yet no man comes to God without a priest. But we, like the readers of the Hebrews letter, do have a High Priest, one who brings us near to God. we have Yeshua, we have Jesus, who is both King and Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

kabbalah tree of life

What I Learned in Church Today: Partakers in Tribulation, Kingdom, and Perseverance

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

-Revelation 1:9 (NASB)

John sees himself as a “brother and fellow partaker” with the Asian Christians in three things which are “in Jesus”. Does this mean that these are part of God’s design for them? Explain your answer.

-Charlie’s notes on Rev 1:9-20
for Sunday School class

As I mentioned last week, as a teacher, Charlie has few questions and presents limited material so that we can explore the great depths the Bible has to offer.

I won’t attempt to go over all that we discussed in class today, but I thought that the “three things” Charlie says John identifies as “in Jesus” were particularly interesting. What three things are we “fellow partakers” in?

Tribulation, Kingdom, and Perseverance.

When I saw those three words together, they just “clicked”.

Consider.

When Jesus died and was resurrected, he inaugurated the very beginning of the entry of the New Covenant into our world. In fact, even before the crucifixion, the central message of Jesus was “the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” as if the Kingdom could burst into our world at any second, even as he was speaking (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, Mark 1:15).

seek first the kingdomBut even as the Kingdom is entering our reality, it will not reach fruition until the Messiah returns to us as King. We are to live in the present world, we believers that is, as if the Kingdom is already here and as if Jesus were already enthroned in Jerusalem as King Messiah. As D. Thomas Lancaster preached in his Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series, we are freedom fighters or partisans, fighting against the world’s current tyranny, against the brokeness of a world that thinks it’s getting better every day, and fighting for our allegiance to the King, who is steadily coming nearer and soon to return.

Until then, we will indeed face great adversity and tribulation, even as the freedom fighters in Nazi occupied France did during World War Two. But we fight for a great cause, and we represent the King’s justice and mercy. We are fellow partakers in this troubled world, in the hope of the coming Kingdom, and we must maintain patient endurance until the Master comes back and establishes his reign over Israel and nations of the world.

After I was done laying out my answer (and I was feeling really proud of myself), Charlie asked for Biblical support for all that. Oops. I didn’t put that in my notes. Pride indeed goes before a fall. Fortunately, other class members stepped up to the plate and provided what I was missing. I guess there’s some truth in what Paul E. Meier said in his article for Messiah Journal issue 116 Christian Theology and the Old Testament:

Scripture points out that the understanding of individual believers is fragmental; each one of us has been granted a different degree of insight (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). The dimensions of God’s love are so vast that the whole body of believers is needed in order to comprehend them (Ephesians 3:18). God may give more insight to some than to others; he gives to each one according to the measure of his grace (Romans 12:3, Ephesians 4:7).

In other words, it “takes a whole village” or in this case, a whole Sunday school class to properly interpret the Bible. No one of us holds all the keys or can open all the doors to the Word of God, since we’re all apportioned gifts of different types and to different degrees by the mercy of Hashem.

Torah at SinaiThat means, we are all fellow partakers in the tribulations, the kingdom, and in perseverance with each other as we are all in Yeshua our Master, the Messiah King and Priest. But I wouldn’t have put all this together the way I have without an understanding of how the New Covenant works and what the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven really means (see The Kingdom is Now, Seek First the Kingdom, Thy Kingdom Come, Keys to the Kingdom, and Foretaste of the Kingdom).

John’s Revelation, his mystic vision of the exalted Messiah King, is the source of a great deal of mystery and I can’t pretend to understand it all, but I do understand that we have one whose “voice [is] like the sound of a trumpet” as our High Priest.

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound…

-Exodus 19:16 (NASB)

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet…

-Revelation 1:10 (NASB)

Yes, my Master and Lord. May your Kingdom come soon.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

-Revelation 22:20 (NASB)

Amen.