Tag Archives: FFOZ Friends

FFOZ TV Review: Treasure in Heaven

FFOZ TV episode 24Episode 24: What did Jesus mean when he told his disciples to store up treasures in Heaven? Episode twenty-four will take a look at the phrase “treasures in Heaven” through a Jewish lens. “In Heaven” in this phrase does not mean “in the sky” but rather “with God.” Jesus tells us that God rewards his children openly for what they do in secret. Viewers will learn that being disciples of Jesus means being a generous person, giving to the needy, doing the work of the kingdom, and not focusing on earthly gain.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 24: Treasure in Heaven (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of Treasure in Heaven

This episode went pretty much the way I expected with just a few small question marks. First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) educators and authors Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby based today’s teaching on the following verses:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rottenness consume them, and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rottenness do not consume them, and thieves do not break in and steal. For in the place where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 (DHE Gospels)

Toby asked about how one can actually store a treasure in Heaven? Is there some sort of cosmic retirement plan in the Afterlife? Is it possible to do something to store treasure in Heaven now so we’ll have it to spend after we die?

These seem like silly questions but throughout much of the episode, Toby kept returning to these points. I started to wonder what the traditional Christian teaching must be about this passage? Does the Church or some part of it believe that there is a literal treasure in Heaven that we get when we die?

For viewers who have been regularly watching this show, it should be apparent that the reference to “Heaven” doesn’t have to literally be the place where God lives. The Hebrew word for “Heaven” can also mean “sky”. However, given the general theme of this first season of the FFOZ TV show, “Heaven” is more likely being used as a circumlocution to avoid saying the most personal Name of God. For instance, the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” actually means “Kingdom of God” as in the coming Messianic Era.

That would mean storing up “treasure in heaven” means something like storing up “treasure in the Messianic Kingdom.” But that’s still mysterious if you don’t understand certain Rabbinic concepts and idioms.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:2-4 (NASB)

Toby JanickiThis should help provide clarity. Toby links “storing up treasure in heaven” to these earlier verses in the chapter. Jesus teaches a direct link between giving to charity in secret and being openly rewarded by God. This is also a Rabbinic concept, but one where Christianity treads lightly, since we are taught that salvation is a free gift and not tied to anything we can do, such as give to charity. Also, Isaiah 64:6 defines “righteous acts” as “filthy rags” so it would seem as if this interpretation of Jesus’ teaching contradicts not only older scripture but Christian doctrine as well.

We aren’t talking about “buying our way into Heaven” with our “filthy” righteous deeds, though. We are however, talking about a relationship between our giving to charity and some sort of reward from God. More specifically, we are talking about giving in secret, without using our “generosity” to draw attention to ourselves, and that is what God rewards openly.

As a side note, this makes me wonder why some churches today have listings on their walls or in some public document of the names of their larger contributors if Jesus taught to give in secret?

If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work?

Proverbs 24:12 (NASB)

It looks like Jesus isn’t contradicting this older portion of scripture and in fact, he seems to be teaching the same lesson. “And will He not render to man according to his work?” So what we do here in this life does seem to matter to God and God responds to our actions by giving back to us in the manner we’ve given (or not given) to others.

This brings us to the first clue for this episode:

Clue 1: When Jesus tells us to “store up treasures in heaven,” he is not telling us to store up treasures in the Afterlife, but to store up credit with God.

Storing up “credit with God” still makes it sound like we’re opening up a credit line at the Bank of Heaven and then drawing against it, but that makes no sense at all. There’s got to be more to this lesson.

As it turns out, there is:

The lamp of the body is the eye, and if your eye is whole, your entire body will be illuminated. But if your eye is evil, your entire body will be darkened — and if the light within you is darkened, how great is the darkness.

A man is not able to serve two masters. For he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cling to one and despise the other. You are not able to serve both God and mamon.

Matthew 6:22-24 (DHE Gospels)

OK, maybe that didn’t clear everything up. To get a better handle on what Jesus is saying, the scene shifts to Aaron Eby in Israel for a Hebrew lesson on the term “the evil eye.”

So what is the “evil eye” and the “whole” or “good eye”? Aaron tells his audience that one interpretation of an “evil eye” is a description of what happens to a believer who looks at forbidden things. Another tells of a believer who is not spiritually perceptive. But in the overall context of these verses, which seem to be addressing money, that doesn’t make sense.

Aaron EbyAs it turns out, having an “evil eye” in Jewish idiom means being stingy. Also, the words translated as “whole eye” or “good eye,” given the idiomatic meaning being referenced, are better translated as “beautiful eye,” meaning generous. But how does it make sense that your “eye” can indicate stinginess or generosity? According to Aaron, it has to do with how you look at or perceive others. If you look at someone with good intent or in order to see the good in them, you are looking at them with a “beautiful” eye and are inclined to be generous toward them. However, if you look at people with poor intent or in a negative manner, you are inclined to be withholding from the needy and thus have an “evil” eye.

Returning to Toby in the studio, we come to the next clue:

Clue 2: Jesus’ words about storing up treasures with God are directly linked to “beautiful eye” and “evil eye.”

Now we seem to be zeroing in on the solution to today’s mystery. But if God rewards believers for giving generously and in secret to charity, what sort of reward is provided? Toby said that it is not along the lines of prosperity theology. It’s not a matter of giving large amounts of money to certain charities or churches in order to get back a boatload of cash in this world.

So what is the answer?

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:25-26, 31-34 (NASB)

In a nutshell, this means that we shouldn’t worry about the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter, because God knows we need these things and will provide. Instead of devoting our resources to accumulating material possessions, we should seek first the Messianic Kingdom, and “the basics” will take care of themselves.

By being generous, we come closer to entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Conversely, a stingy person is removed or retreating from entering the Messianic Kingdom.

This sort of reminds me of what I wrote about the FFOZ TV episode on The Golden Rule. How we treat others brings us closer or places us further away from entering the Messianic Kingdom. But as I said before, although we’re not talking about buying our way into Heaven, how can being generous or stingy admit or inhibit living in the Era of the Messiah?

Unless it’s somehow related to the lesson of the “sheep and goats” we find in Matthew 25:31-46, which is also talking about generosity and stinginess. Even a believer who is stingy or has exhibited the “evil eye” may be rejected by the King upon his return. What we do does matter. This reading of the Bible makes that inescapable, although it’s not always easy to understand.

The final clue is:

Clue 3: Storing treasure in heaven is the same as seeking the Kingdom of God.

It doesn’t mean that God will provide a one-to-one system of giving vs reward whereby if you give a certain amount to your church or to charity, that you’ll automatically get back the same or more than you “invested.” In fact, that sort of theology goes against what Jesus taught, since he commanded giving in secret, which at least implies the idea of giving generously with no thought of reward.

What Did I Learn?

I actually knew the vast majority of what was taught today, but some of what was said got me to thinking. As I see it (and this is just my opinion), by being generous in the here and now, we are somewhat foreshadowing the coming Messianic Kingdom, which will be characterized by kindness, generosity to all, and peace. Just as each weekly Shabbat is a foreshadow and a preview of the lasting Shabbat of Messiah, so too every mitzvah of giving we commit, each act of tzedakah, is a momentary snapshot of how all humanity will behave toward each other one day.

tzedakah-to-lifeI have a better “feeling” about this being part of the “reward” rather than necessarily admittance into or rejection from the Messianic Era, but as the passage from Matthew 25 indicates, there will be those believers who get in and those who are given the boot.

Also, as I said above, I don’t see any sort of formula being developed out of these scriptures and this lesson whereby the more you give, the more you get in cash or material goods. There have been far too many saints or tzaddikim who have lived and died in poverty, even though they were abundantly generous with whatever they had, to make me believe that giving to charity is some sort of insurance against poverty or some other bad things happening to me. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes. Blessed be the Name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). God does as He wills. Sometimes, even the most devout servants of God don’t have access to even the basics of food, water, clothing, or shelter, even though this seems to contradict the words of the Master.

But we don’t see this so much in the West because most of us can at least make ends meet if not live rather well, especially when compared to the kind of abject poverty we see in what we call “third-world countries.”

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

Luke 21:1-4 (NASB)

I thought this deserved an honorable mention, since we are talking about giving generously. OK, so it’s not giving in secret if Jesus and his disciples can see how much everyone is giving, but we do see a woman living in great poverty, probably a state of lacking most of us have never experienced, giving all she had to live on for the sake of God and the Temple. I don’t think I could advise a person to do that, holding nothing back for themselves, but then again, maybe she was not worrying about her next meal, what clothes she was going to wear, or the place she was going to rest her head, just as Messiah taught.

It’s a hard lesson in this world of 401Ks, Medical Savings Accounts, and saving up to send the kids to college.

I seem to remember, probably from something Dave Ramsey said, that families should include charitable giving in their budgets in the same way as we budget for car repairs, groceries, clothing, and so on. This isn’t giving all we’ve got, but it is giving what we can if we are so inclined.

Only two more episodes in season one left to review.

FFOZ Friends: Become Part of the Promise that is to Come

Boaz MichaelPerhaps at some point this month you would find it a worthy blog to talk about the FFOZ Friends program and encourage your readers to join with you, with us, by becoming an FFOZ Friend. If we are all going to make an impact we need to work together…FFOZ is a worthy cause to invest into with funds that have already been designated for giving. FFOZ as you know and noted today in your review are creating materials that are communicating a balanced and challenging message.

-Boaz Michael, President and Founder of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)
from a private communication

I’ve been reviewing the FFOZ educational television series A Promise of What is to Come for almost half a year now, and have covered the vast majority of the available episodes. I’ve found the teachings offered by Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby to be informative, well-balanced, and provocative. They’ve expanded my understanding of the Bible and gone a long way to helping me see that the truly inspired Word of God cannot “jump the tracks,” so to speak, between the Tanakh and the later Apostolic Writings. The scriptures can and must be interpreted rightly and in a way that does not require the ascendency of Israel and the Jewish people we see in the Messianic prophesies of old to be reversed and replaced with “the Church” as “the Church” interprets the New Testament.

Through Boaz’s graciousness, I am an FFOZ Friend. What’s that?

Basically, it’s a method of participating in a support structure that allows the “Friend” to donate a specific amount of funds on a regular basis in exchange for access to FFOZ’s printed and online educational material. It’s a “win-win” in which the participant receives a view of God, the Messiah, and the Bible that is edifying, rewarding, and summons the coming Messianic Kingdom, while also supporting and enabling this ministry to not only continue its operations, but to produce even more innovative resources, and additionally, to expand its scope in order to reach greater numbers of Gentile Christian and Jewish audiences.

The FFOZ Friends main page describes this opportunity far better than I can:

An FFOZ Friend shares our vision and mission with us, and is a co-laborer with us in this work of restoration. FFOZ Friends facilitate the development and dissemination of our shared vision, and invest into this work as we labor daily towards the kingdom of heaven, “a promise of what is to come.”

The generosity of our FFOZ Friends helps meet the core operating needs of the organization and makes outreach efforts possible. FFOZ Friends are the source of funding for the development of books, teachings, educational resources, television programming, and extensive commentaries on the Bible from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. These resources bring together the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature to present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity.

I described generally about what you can accomplish by joining this program, but this FFOZ Friends infographic lays it all out for you (yes, please click the link).

In short, by becoming an FFOZ Friend, you will be supporting four key missions:

  • Jesus is Jewish
  • The Kingdom of Heaven
  • The Validity of Torah
  • The Jewish People

The infographic provides the details of each of these missions, but what I’ve listed in four short bullet points contains a vast span of information, knowledge, and wisdom that expands both Christian and Jewish thinking about the identity of the Messiah, the promise of the Kingdom to come, the continuation of Torah in Jewish lives and its application to the Gentiles who are called by His Name, and the restoration of the Jewish people and of Israel.

ffoz-teaching-teamI can’t think of any other single ministry that is accomplishing so much and opening eyes in such a unique, beautiful, and illuminating manner. So what does it take to be an FFOZ Friend?

Basically, there are three different monthly support levels. Each support level provides access to a different set of resources (you can find additional details by clicking the links I’ve provided):

  • Companions: $25 (or less, or more)
  • Allies: $50 or more
  • Pillars: $100 or more

If you are a member or regularly attend a church, chances are that you tithe a specific amount on a regular basis, say, once a week. If you are a member of a synagogue, you probably pay annual membership fees. If you support a particular charity (for instance, my wife and I have supported World Vision and other such worthy causes over the years), you probably don’t just mail them a check once and then ignore them. If that charity or ministry is indeed worthy, you probably budget so that you can make regular donations for their continued support.

Becoming an FFOZ Friend is just like that. It’s supporting a cause you find worthy, a cause you believe in, a cause that not only gives to others but gives back to you.

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, what will you be supporting? The FFOZ main website gives you access to a fund of information about who they are and what they do. There are a wide variety of online materials, books, and other resources. Sure, you can purchase all of these separately, but being an FFOZ Friend, depending on the support level, will allow you to receive many of these resources just by participating in the program.

There are also a lot of educational assets that are being planned or under development right now that are scheduled to become available in the next year or two. FFOZ is working hard to make information about the coming Kingdom, about Messiah, about the relationship of the Gentile and Jewish believer to the Sabbath, to the Torah, and to God increasingly accessible. I’m personally looking forward to Season 2 of the FFOZ TV series which is currently being filmed, as well as their book “The Apostolic Decree” (Acts 15 is a favorite topic of mine) which should be released late next year.

Other projects you can look forward to include making information that was only previously available through The Torah Club formatted in multi-volume book form, book and audio resources to support Sabbath observance among Messianic believers, commentary on the Didache, and a great deal more.

Becoming an FFOZ Friend is more than just donating regularly and receiving and consuming resources. The ultimate goal is to change the world and to pave the road upon which the Messiah will walk on his triumphant return to Jerusalem and his ascendency to the Throne of David. It’s the road upon which the exiles will return from the four corners of the earth, it’s the road that we, the disciples of Messiah, will line in droves as we exuberantly cheer the victory of the King and the restoration of Israel, his Kingdom, and the final truth of God living among His people at last.

Becoming an FFOZ Friend is joining an effort to bring all this about and to contribute to repairing the world, and preparing the world for the promise of what is to come.

Boaz appears at the end of each FFOZ TV episode to announce the topic for the following show and to encourage the viewers. He always ends his presentation with the words, “What are we waiting for? Let’s get busy.”

prophetic_return1Why wait? Join the laborers in the field which is ripe for harvest. The Master said the laborers are few but it doesn’t have to be this way. Join them, join us. Brighten the world by becoming a light, just as the Master commanded us. Illuminate the path as well as your spirit. Become part of something bigger than any one person.

Become an FFOZ Friend.

When Boaz asked if I could blog about being an FFOZ Friend, I knew that some people reading this would probably misinterpret my response and my intent, and would see all this as just some sort of marketing effort. Marketing is just a method of making information and opportunities public. It’s an offer that allows you, the reader, to become aware, to learn more, and to make a decision. If you believe in the missions FFOZ stands for and what they are doing, then being an FFOZ Friend is the perfect response. If you believe in the Messianic vision for Gentiles and Jews then don’t just stand on the sidelines and wait. Join. Participate. Help spread the word. Summon the vision.

Thank you. Peace.

The Jewish Gospel, Part 1

620_moses-in-matthewLast night, the new MJTI Interfaith Center in Beverly Hills hosted a seminar on the Gospels with special guest, Boaz Michael, the founder and director of First Fruits of Zion.

The two-hour seminar introduced many of the typologies throughout Matthew to Yeshua’s “Moses-like” fulfillment. The Gospels are composed in a thoroughly Jewish manner and need to be understood within that context to fully see what and why things take place and are said. The Moses in Matthew seminars are currently being offered at various locations and if you have the opportunity to attend one of these seminars, definitely do it! I found myself not only intellectually engaged and enlightened, but spiritually encouraged by this discussion.

-Rabbi Joshua Brumbach
“Moses in Matthew”
Yinon Blog

I acquired an audio CD of this presentation from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) through the FFOZ Friends program and have been meaning to review it for awhile now. It’s hard for me to sit still and listen to a recorded audio lecture, but I took my wife’s portable CD player outside and, as I weeded in the back yard, allowed my mind to be illuminated by Boaz Michael’s teaching while my body took care of the home that God has graciously provided. I learned a few things. I’d like to pass them along to you (and I apologize if I got anything in Boaz’s presentation not quite right…it’s tough to take notes while weeding).

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:15 (NRSV)

According to Boaz’s teaching, the Gospel of Matthew was written specifically for a Jewish audience and was probably the only one of the Gospels originally written in Hebrew (although the Hebrew original is lost to us). The words of Moses quoted above foretell of a prophet greater than Moses who would one day rise up from among Israel. This prophet would be Messiah and he would also be a King and do many great signs and wonders. Messiah would be known by the prophesies he would tell and he would lead Israel back to faithfulness in the Torah.

In Matthew and the other synoptic gospels, it was asked if Yeshua (Jesus) was the prophet, but in John’s gospel, it was declared that he was (and is) the prophet.

Boaz tied his teaching to the release of the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (this was a few years back) and he described at length the history of Franz Delitzsch and his mission to “retro-translate” the Greek language of the Gospels back into Hebrew. This doesn’t restore the “Hebrew text” but it does provide the “original voice,” the Hebrew voice of the gospels and the gospel writers.

That’s an important point to get because the focus of Boaz’s “Moses in Matthew” teaching is to be able to read Matthew the way a Jewish person would have read it during the early days of the Jewish religious movement “the Way.”

Boaz said something I consider very important (paraphrasing): “Every translation is really a commentary.” I know my own Pastor has said that we need to be able to understand the Bible in its original languages and within its own context in order to gain an objective understanding of what God is trying to say. My counter argument is that any translation imposes a certain set of assumptions being made by the translator so that interpretation doesn’t begin after translation but during translation. It’s at this point when we also start making connections from one text in the Bible to another and deciding what those connections mean.

And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a twig shall grow forth out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears.

Isaiah 11:1-3 (JPS Tanakh)

The people of Nineveh will stand in judgment of this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the call of Yonah. But look! One greater than Yonah is here. The queen of Teiman will stand in judgment of this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Shlomoh. But look! One greater than Shlomoh is here.

Matthew 12:41-42 (DHE Gospels)

shlomo-hamelechThese verses tell a Jewish audience (and hopefully the rest of us) something about the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon the Messiah, Son of David, and he shall be wise and understanding and knowledgeable, more so than Solomon. The idea is that Messiah isn’t just like Moses the Prophet, David the King, and Solomon the Wise, but he is greater than all of those. The Hebrew word translated as “delight” from the passage in Isaiah actually is better translated as “sense,” giving the idea of sense of smell, so it is like Messiah can sense, almost “smell out” the truth.

While a general audience can “get” the meaning of all this, it would, according to Boaz, have been quite a bit more obvious to a Jewish audience in the days of Matthew and in fact, it was Matthew’s intent to write in a manner that would demonstrate Messiah to them in a uniquely Jewish way. The gospels, and especially Matthew’s, are considered the greatest Jewish story ever told, if we just know how to properly read it.

Here’s another Jewish story:

During the fourth watch, Yeshua came to them, walking on the surface of the water. His disciples saw him walking on the surface of the sea and were terrified. They said, “It is the appearance of a spirit!” and they cried out in fright. Yeshua called to them, “Be strong, for it is I. Do not fear!”

Matthew 14:25-27 (DHE Gospels)

The full text of this event is in Matthew 14:22-33. You probably think you know everything there is to know about this story, including Peter’s brief ability to also walk as long as he kept his eyes on the Master.

But to an ancient Jewish audience, it says so much more.

When God began to create heaven and earth — the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water…

Genesis 1:1-2 (JPS Tanakh)

The Hebrew word translated as “wind” can also be translated as “spirit,” thus we understand that it was the spirit from God that was hovering over the water.

This is the part where you have to “think Jewishly” and moreover, to have access to popular Jewish writings and teachings that are now collected in a large number of written works but at the time Matthew was writing his gospel, were more likely conveyed through oral tradition in less refined forms.

Boaz states in his presentation that according to Midrash Rabbah, it was the spirit of Moshiach (Messiah) that hovered over the waters. We know (and Matthew’s Jewish audience would have known) that from Isaiah 11:1-3 the spirit from God rested upon Moshiach. We know from Matthew 3:16-17 that the spirit came from God “like a dove” and rested on Jesus.

According to midrash, whose spirit hovered over the water? The Spirit of Moshiach. Putting all this together, the Messiah “hovering” or “walking” over the water would have summoned an immediate connection between that event and Moshiach’s Spirit hovering over the waters at creation.

This is also an indication that Messiah is greater than Moses. Moses’s name indicates one who was saved or drawn from water. We also know of Moses, through the power of God, splitting the Reed Sea (yes, that’s “Reed Sea.” “Red Sea” is a poor translation) and walking at the bottom of the sea with the water over him. Yeshua is greater because he is over the water as was his spirit at creation.

Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.

Psalm 77:19 (NRSV)

walking_on_waterThis verse seems to reference Moses but it is also Messianic because footprints are “unseen” when someone is walking on top of water. Also water, in ancient Jewish thought, represents chaos. In the story of creation, God “binds” and limits the great waters with shores. Yeshua is above the chaos and Matthew telling this story as he does, is declaring to his Jewish audience that Jesus is the Messiah from creation. For the rest of us, his message is that the good news of Moshiach is “first to the Jews.” It is the story of Jewish good news.

But the way Boaz teaches this lesson teaches us something about Biblical sufficiency. The idea of sufficiency is that the Bible is all that we need to understand the Bible. That’s not exactly true. While the plain meaning of the text does teach us something about Jesus and who we are as Christians, an understanding of early Jewish thought, writings, and midrash, shows us that the text contains a deeper meaning, one that would elude us if we ignored the extra-Biblical understanding of how an early Jewish audience would have comprehended these verses and associated them with other parts of the Bible. Sola scriptura isn’t quite the beginning and end of how we can understand the Word of God.

There’s another message here according to Boaz. In his presentation, he was addressing a traditionally Christian audience, one who was just becoming involved in FFOZ’s HaYesod program. Historically in the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots movements (and I can attest to this personally), there’s been a tendency for Gentile believers to become enamored with the Torah to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible. It has tended to “defocus” Gentile believers involved in either of these movements from the Gospels and from the Messiah. Just as the Gospels don’t replace Moses and the Torah, Moses and the Torah don’t replace Jesus and the Gospels. The Gospels require the Torah to illustrate and validate the message of Messiah but always remember, the Messiah is the Prophet, the one who is greater than Moses.

But there’s more in Matthew that teaches us about Messiah:

They remained there until the death of Hordos, fulfilling the word of HaShem through the prophet, sayings, “Out of Mitzrayim I called my son.”

Matthew 2:15 (DHE Gospels)

This is a direct reference to the following:

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.

Hosea 11:1 (JPS Tanakh)

Modern Jewish commentators cry “foul” at Matthew’s application because Hosea is clearly referring to Israel the nation as God’s son, not the Messiah. But the heart of Jewish interpretation and application is taking scripture and applying it differently to other circumstances. This also does something special that I completely agree with. Matthew is creating a one-to-one equivalency between Israel and Messiah. Messiah is not only the Son of God, but the living embodiment of the nation of Israel; the Jewish people. Moshiach is Israel’s first-born son.

Yeshua spoke all these things in parables to the crowd of people, and other than parables, he did not speak to them at all, fulfilling what the prophet spoke, saying, “I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter riddles from ancient times.”

Matthew 13:34-35 (DHE Gospels)

This compares to the following:

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old.

Psalm 78:2 (NRSV)

But here we learn something else. Typically, a Christian will understand that Matthew 13:34-35 is relating back to Psalm 78:2. In a Bible study on the verses from Matthew, a Christian teacher would probably include a reference specifically to Psalm 78:2 rather than the entire content of that Psalm. But from a Jewish writer’s point of view, he intends for his audience to read or hear that portion cited from Matthew and to recall all of the Psalm.

bet_midrash_temaniPsalm 78 as a whole, describes the repeating cycle of Jewish faithfulness and unfaithfulness, faithfulness and unfaithfulness to God. Matthew wants his audience to “get” this point and associate it with Yeshua as Messiah and that Messiah has come to restore Israel’s faithfulness to God.

Again, if we just isolate and link Matthew 13:34-35 and Psalm 78:2, we miss the larger message Matthew is transmitting to his Jewish readership. We may call the Bible “sufficient” and it is, but it can be more “complete” only when we reinsert the Jewishness of its overall context and include both Jewish perspective and Jewish midrashic thought into our understanding.

I’m going to split this teaching into two posts for the sake of length. There are other important parts to what Boaz Michael spoke that I don’t want to miss or gloss over. Part 2 will be in tomorrow’s “morning meditation.”