Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 6

Messianic Jews 9:23-28
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our examination of Messianic Jews 9:15-22 ~ The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua. In this post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 9:23-28 concerning Yeshua As the Sufficient Offering for Our Sins.

Yeshua As the Sufficient Offering for Our Sins

23 Now this is how the copies of the heavenly things had to be purified, but the heavenly things themselves require better sacrifices than these. 24 For the Messiah has entered a Holiest Place which is not man-made and merely a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, in order to appear now on our behalf in the very presence of God. 25 Further, He did not enter heaven to offer Himself over and over again, like the cohen hagadol who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then He would have had to suffer death many times — from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, He has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment, 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him.” ~ Messianic Jews 9:23-28 (CJB)

Wait a minute!! What is verse 23 talking about? Why do heavenly things require… sacrifices at all? Surely they are not defiled, as are the copies, such as the Tabernacle or Temple and its implements. The author of Messianic Jews, still thinking of the excellent efficiency of the sacrifice which Yeshua made, begins with a thought which is fantastic. Let us remember the letter’s primary thinking again is that the worship of this world is a pale copy of the real worship. The author of Messianic Jews says that in this world the Levitical sacrifices were designed to purify the means of worship. Now he goes on to say that the work of Yeshua purifies not only earth but heaven. He has the tremendous thought of a kind of cosmic redemption that purified the whole universe, seen and unseen.

Hugh Montefiore, a Jewish Anglican, writes on this verse:

“What our author meant was this: the purification of men’s consciences, made by means of the heavenly cultus [a system of religious worship], needed a better sacrifice to make it effective than the sacrifices which sufficed for the earthly cultus, which was a mere copy of the heavenly.” [1]

The Messiah’s blood made it possible for undefiled heavenly things to purify defiled sinners. For external cleansing, external sacrifices suffice (9:9-10); but for spiritual cleansing, spiritual ones are needed.

God has so organized the universe that human beings have to die once, not many times as did the animal sacrifices. Space and knowledge do not permit me to delve further into the topic of reincarnation. Suffice it to say that this is the Scriptures’ refutation of the concept of reincarnation, which is found in most Eastern religions. Reincarnation is based on the notion that although the body is naturally mortal, the soul is not; so that after one’s body dies, the soul that was in it migrates, perhaps after an interval of time, to another body.

But our text is correct in proclaiming that first everyone dies; and then, after this comes judgment. Human life is nonrepeatable, one’s actions in this life are judged after death, and there is no opportunity for amendment later.

Yeshua will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him. Here is the most explicit statement in the Bible of the relationship between Yeshua’sFirst and Second Comings. His first coming fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, which predicted that the Messiah would die as an atonement for human sin and be raised from the dead, so that he could appear a second time to fulfill such prophecies as Isaiah 2:2-5 and 9:5-6 (6-7), which say that the Messiah will bring peace to the world and deliver his people Israel from oppression. However, since “not everyone from Israel is truly part of Israel” (Romans 9:6), only those who are eagerly waiting for Yeshua to return can have the assurance that they will be delivered.

My scribbled note in my RSV says that Yeshua purified earth and heaven with His sacrifice for our sins. He took His blood directly to the seat of God.

We have been and continue to be redeemed by His Blood.

In my next post, we move on to Messianic Jews 10:1-10 ~The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by examining Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Shavuot (Pentecost)

God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Messianic Jews and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2018, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Saturday, May 19th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, May 20th. Essentially, Jews and Christians will be celebrating on the same day, albeit for slightly different reasons.

Scriptural Basis

15“‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Jerusalem. Shavu’ot means “weeks.” It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach. In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost. Pentecost means “fifty.” It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest. Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead. Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.

Observance

The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. In addition, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people. Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed. Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot. Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds like another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people and Messianic Believers. When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el. Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience. Like Ruth, the gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish believers your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most important moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai. Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah. In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been the time when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival. From God’s perspective, the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-43). The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may, therefore, symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4). Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4).

The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival. Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest. This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God. The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah. Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male. He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their own language. They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends. As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival. The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy. It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41). Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshipping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavu’ot. It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar. Rather He gave a formula for calculating the day. Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavu’ot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference of opinion on the matter. In the first century, the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh day Sabbath, i.e. Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct? Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So, it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct. Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on a Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees as well. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our series on the Messianic Jews as we continue to our series on Yeshua: The Better Covenant.

Click here for PDF version.

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 5b

Messianic Jews 9:15-22
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we started to examine Messianic Jews 9:15-22 ~ The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua. In this post, we pick back up with at Messianic Jews 9:19-22 ~ The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua.

The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua.

15 It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant [or will]. Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. 16 For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker’s death, 17 since a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive. 18 This is why the first covenant too was inaugurated with blood. 19 After Moshe had proclaimed every command of the Torah to all the people, he took the blood of the calves with some water and used scarlet wool and hyssop to sprinkle both the scroll itself and all the people; 20 and he said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has ordained for you.” 21 Likewise, he sprinkled with the blood both the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” ~ Messianic Jews 9:15-22 (CJB)

After Moshe had proclaimed the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and the civil code of Exodus 21-23, and the people had responded, “We will do and obey everything Adonai has said,” he inaugurated the covenant by sprinkling blood on the altar and the people (Exodus 24:1-8). Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51-52 report that in purification rituals scarlet wool and hyssop were used, and living (i.e., running) water was mixed with the blood. The scroll of the covenant, from which Moshe read to the people, is nowhere mentioned as having been sprinkled; but since human hands made it, it too needed cleansing, even though the words in it were from God himself.

Exodus 40:9-10 says that the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies were purified with oil, but it does not mention blood. However, Josephus, in retelling the story, writes that Moshe purified “the Tent and the vessels which belonged to it, both with oil that had first been incensed and with the blood of bulls and rams.” (Antiquities of the Jews 3:8:6) [1]

Everything is purified with blood. See the numerous examples in the Torah at Exodus 29-30; Leviticus 1-9, 14-17. For exceptions (almost in this verse), see Exodus 19:10; Leviticus 15:5ff.; 16:26, 28; 22:6; and Numbers 31:22-24.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. This fundamental principle is minimized or overlooked entirely by modern non-Messianic Judaism.

On the one hand, those forms of non-Messianic Judaism which borrow from secular philosophy promulgate the idea that modern man has evolved past the kind of primitive religion that portrays God as requiring blood atonement. Thus Reform Judaism has removed from the ’Amidah in its prayerbook all reference to the restoration of sacrifices.

On the other hand, although Orthodox Jews pray thrice daily for the rebuilding of the Temple so that animal sacrifices can be offered in the manner, the Torah requires, Orthodox Judaism diminishes their significance by emphasizing the efficacy of other factors in atonement.

It is understandable that it was necessary for the survival of non-Messianic Judaism after the destruction of the Temple that it minimizes the role of blood sacrifice. However, it is the Torah itself which proclaims the necessity of blood atonement for sin:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for yourselves; for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.” ~ Leviticus 17:11 (CJB)

There is no implication that a magical power resides in blood. Instead, Leviticus 17:11 is one of the Torah’s most precise statements of the indissoluble connection between sin and death. Already at Genesis 2:17-21 it is clear that sin, defined as disobedience to God, requires the sinner’s death (see Romans 5:12-21). Animal sacrifice, which by implication appears as early as Genesis 3:11, is a reminder of the seriousness of sin and at the same time a demonstration of God’s mercy toward sinners (compare Romans 3:25-26).

In non-Messianic Judaism, there is no blood atonement. This contradicts the Torah, which says that the blood makes atonement. This discrepancy is implicitly acknowledged by some Orthodox Jews on Yom-Kippur in a ceremony called kapparot(“atonements”). Each person wrings a chicken’s neck and swings the chicken around his head three times “while the following is pronounced: ‘This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement; this chicken shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace.’ The fowl is thought to take on any misfortune which might otherwise befall a person in punishment of his sins. After the ceremony, it is customary to donate the fowl to the poor, except for the intestines which are thrown to the birds.” (Encyclopedia Judaica 10:756). [2]

The paltriness of this substitute for the awesome, fearsome, never-ending bloodiness of the Temple sacrifices is evident even to those performing the ritual. For if it is impossible that the blood of goats and bulls should take away sin (Messianic Jews 10:4), how much less will the blood of chickens?

Our sins have been covered by the Blood of Yeshua. They are forgiven and forgotten.

In my next post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 9:23-28 concerning Yeshua As the Sufficient Offering for Our Sins.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[2] Ibid.

 

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 5a

Messianic Jews 9:15-22
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined Messianic Jews 9:11-14 concerning The Eternal Heavenly Sacrifice of Yeshua. In this post, we look at Messianic Jews 9:15-22 ~ The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua.

The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua

15 It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant [or will]. Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. 16 For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker’s death, 17 since a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive. 18 This is why the first covenant too was inaugurated with blood. 19 After Moshe had proclaimed every command of the Torah to all the people, he took the blood of the calves with some water and used scarlet wool and hyssop to sprinkle both the scroll itself and all the people; 20 and he said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has ordained for you.” 21 Likewise, he sprinkled with the blood both the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” ~ Hebrews 9:15-22 (CJB)

This is one of the most challenging passages in the letter for most of us Gentiles. However, it would not be troublesome to those who read the message for the first time, for its methods of argument and expression and categories of thought would be familiar to them. As a result, I need to once again, break this passage up into two parts. In this post, we will cover verses 15-18.

As we have seen, the idea of the Covenant is fundamental to the thought of the author, that is the relationship between God and humanity. The First Covenant was dependent on them keeping the law; as soon as they broke the law, the covenant became ineffective. The essential meaning of the New Covenant, which Yeshua inaugurated, is that humanity should have access to and fellowship with God. Unfortunately, we come to the New Covenant already stained by our sin nature. So, the author of Messianic Jews has a great thought and says that the sacrifice of Yeshua is retroactive. That is to say; it is useful to wipe out the sins of humanity committed under the Old Covenant and to inaugurate the fellowship promised under the New Covenant.

It may be helpful to remember that the Letter to the Messianic Jews was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. No Old Covenant sacrifices could be made.

Yeshua’s relationship to the New Covenant is, first, that he is mediator of a new covenant of it and second, that his death inaugurated it. However, His death has a function not only in relation to the New Covenant but also with regard to the First Covenant: it sets people free from their transgressions of it by being an effective death that pays the penalty for sin once and for all, whereas the death of animals offered as sin offerings gives only temporary remission.

The promised eternal inheritance can be traced through the Tanakh as it outlines one of its major themes. God promised Adam everlasting life, conditional on obedience. God’s covenant with Noach includes many promises and is called eternal. God promised Avraham and his seed the Land of Israel forever, and the term inherit is first used in the Bible in connection with this promise (see Genesis 15:7). God’s promises to Avraham are reconfirmed in the covenant with Moshe, but people’s sins disqualified them from receiving what had been promised. Those who accept Yeshua’s once-for-all dealing with sin, as explained in these chapters, may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

A modern reader may be able more easily to grasp the author’s argument by thinking in terms of wills, but the context is that of covenants as outlined in the Tanakh, where the Hebrew word “b’rit” must be translated covenant and cannot be rendered as will.

There must necessarily be produced the evidence of its maker’s death. For wills this is self-evident; but it is also true for God’s covenants, insofar as sacrifices are stand-ins for the death of the one offering them. Noach offered sacrifices (Genesis 8:20, 9:9). In the case of Avraham, there were actual sacrifices (Genesis 15:9, 17-18) as well as the symbolism of the blood shed at circumcision (Genesis 17:11). The author himself discusses the Mosaic sacrifices (Exodus 24:1-8) in verses 18-22.

As we know, a will is one-sided, but a covenant is two-sided. Obviously it was not God, who set the terms of these covenants, who died. Instead, it was, in all instances, the receiver of God’s covenant who died ~ not actually, but symbolically through identification with the shed blood. In the Mosaic Covenant, the dead animals represent the people of Israel as having died to their former sinful way of life; while the sprinkled blood represents the new life offered through the covenant (the life is in the blood ~ Leviticus 17:11).

Our sins have been covered by the Blood of Yeshua. They are forgiven and forgotten.

In my next post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant we will pick back up at verse 19 in Messianic Jews 9:15-22 concerning The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua.

Click here for PDF version.

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 4

Messianic Jews 9:11-14
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of Messianic Jews 9:1-10 the Temporary Levitical Sacrifices. In this post, we examine Messianic Jews 9:11-14 concerning The Eternal Heavenly Sacrifice of Yeshua.

The Eternal Heavenly Sacrifice of Yeshua

11 But when the Messiah appeared as cohen gadol of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tent which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), 12 he entered the Holiest Place once and for all. And he entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever. 13 For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; 14 then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!”  ~ Hebrews 9:11-14 (CJB)

Barclay has this to say about this passage of Messianic Jews:

We must remember three things which are basic to the thought of the author to the Hebrews.

  1. Religion is access to God. Its function is to bring a man into God’s presence.
  2. This is a world of pale shadows and imperfect copies; beyond is the world of realities. The function of all worship is to bring men into contact with the eternal realities. That was what the worship of the Tabernacle was meant to do, but the earthly Tabernacle and its worship are pale copies of the real Tabernacle and its worship, and only the real Tabernacle and the real worship can give access to reality.
  3. There can be no religion without sacrifice. Purity is a costly thing; access to God demands purity; somehow man’s sin must be atoned for and his uncleanness cleansed. With these ideas in his mind, the author to the Hebrews goes on to show that Yeshua is the only High Priest who brings a sacrifice that can open the way to God and that that sacrifice is himself.

I confess that I get goose-bumps when I read this passage. The enormity of its implications is almost beyond my ability to grasp.

Having described the Mosaic Covenant’s system of cohenhood and sacrifice, the author now addresses his readers’ preoccupation with it by showing several ways in which the New Covenant’s system and its cohen/mediator are better:

  1. With Yeshua arrive the good things that are happening already. The entire discussion that follows, through 10:18, demonstrates that these things are better than what came with the Mosaic Covenant’s system of cohenhood and sacrifices.
  2. Yeshua serves in a better Tent. It is greater, more perfect, and not manmade (that is, it is not of this created world). Moreover, it is not merely a copy of the actual Tent, but the heavenly original.
  3. Yeshua, unlike the Mosaic cohen hagadol, has entered into the Holiest Place once and for all. His single, unique and eternally effective sacrifice and entry into the Holiest Place is discussed further at 9:25-28, 10:10-18.
  4. Yeshua’s means of entry into the Holy Place was better:
      • His own blood, not the blood of goats, calves, and bulls and the ashes of a heifer. The blood of any other human being would not only have been an abomination itself but would have accomplished nothing useful for others. But because Yeshua was sinless, He was a sacrifice without blemish, and God accepted His shed blood (see 7:26-28).
      • His sacrifice was through the eternal Spirit authorized by God.
      • His death was necessary to set people free from the transgressions they have committed under the first covenant. The ineffectiveness of animal sacrifices in comparison with Yeshua’s sacrifice is taken up again at 10:1-4.
  5. What Yeshua’s death accomplished is better than what the death of animals accomplishes: setting people free forever and purifying our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God, versus not having our conscience brought to the goal and instead merely restoring outward purity. Restores their outward purity means that they may enter the Temple as ceremonially clean.

According to Numbers 19, anyone defiled by contact with or proximity to a corpse was ritually cleansed by sprinkling him with water containing the ashes of a heifer.

Verse 14 offers us a further glimpse of the Trinity: the Messiah, the eternal Spirit and God (likewise 10:29).

The ancient sacrifices may have cleansed us from ceremonial uncleanness; the sacrifice of Yeshua cleanses our soul. Our body might be clean ceremonially, and yet our heart is full of deceit. We might feel able to enter the Tabernacle and yet far away from the presence of God. The sacrifice of Yeshua takes a load of guilt from our conscience. The animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant might well leave us in estrangement from God; the sacrifice of Yeshua shows us a God whose arms are always outstretched and in whose heart is only love.

As Believer’s in Yeshua, we have been redeemed by and washed clean by His blood.

In my next post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 9:15-22 ~ The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua.

Click here for PDF version.

 

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 3b

Messianic Jews 9:1-10
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to examine Messianic Jews 9:1-10 the Temporary Levitical Sacrifices as we compare the Old and New Covenant Sacrifices. In this post, we continue to explore Messianic Jews 9:1-10 the Temporary Levitical Sacrifices.

Temporary Levitical Sacrifices

1 Now the first covenant had both regulations for worship and a Holy Place here on earth. 2 A tent [Tabernacle]was set up, the outer one, which was called the Holy Place; in it were the menorah, the table and the Bread of the Presence. 3 Behind the second parokhet was a tent called the Holiest Place, 4 which had the golden altar for burning incense and the Ark of the Covenant, entirely covered with gold. In the Ark were the gold jar containing the man, Aharon’s rod that sprouted and the stone Tablets of the Covenant; 5 and above it were the k’ruvim representing the Sh’khinah, casting their shadow on the lid of the Ark — but now is not the time to discuss these things in detail. 6 With things so arranged, the cohanim go into the outer tent all the time to discharge their duties; 7 but only the cohen hagadol enters the inner one; and he goes in only once a year, and he must always bring blood, which he offers both for himself and for the sins committed in ignorance by the people. 8 By this arrangement, the Ruach HaKodesh showed that so long as the first Tent had standing, the way into the Holiest Place was still closed. 9 This symbolizes the present age and indicates that the conscience of the person performing the service cannot be brought to the goal by the gifts and sacrifices he offers. 10 For they involve only food and drink and various ceremonial washings — regulations concerning the outward life, imposed until the time for God to reshape the whole structure.” ~ Hebrews 9:1-10 (CJB)


Photo Courtesy of Google

The elements mentioned in verses 2 and 4 (see my previous post) already call to mind the duties of the cohanim in the outer tent (the Holy Place) in verse 6. They included keeping the menorah continually lit (Exodus 27:20-21, Leviticus 24:1-4), placing fresh loaves on the table (Leviticus 24:5-9) and burning incense on the golden altar (Exodus 30:7-9), as did Z’kharyah the father of Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 1:9-11).

The author mentions these activities only to contrast their regularity with the cohen hagadol entry into the inner tent (the Holiest Place), which is permitted only once a year on Yom Kippur. He must bring the blood of a slaughtered animal as a sin offering, as a reminder that death is the penalty for sin. He must offer for himself since he too is a sinner, and his offering for the people is only for their sins committed in ignorance. These requirements are outlined in Leviticus 16.

Barclay opines:

Every year this ceremony had to be gone through again. Everyone but the cohen hagadol was barred from the presence and even he entered in terror. The cleansing was a purely external one with baths of water. The sacrifice was that of bulls and goats and animal blood. The whole thing failed because such things cannot atone for sin. In it, all the author to the Hebrews sees a pale copy of the reality, a ghostly pattern of the one true sacrifice ~ the sacrifice of Yeshua. It was a noble ritual, a thing of dignity and beauty; but it was only an unavailing shadow. The only priest and the only sacrifice which can open the way to God for all men is Yeshua HaMashiach.

This arrangement showed that during the time before Yeshua’s first coming, when the first Tent, the Tabernacle established by the Mosaic Covenant, or any of its replacements, such as the First or Second Temple, had standing, the way into the Holiest Place, that is, into God’s presence, was still closed to people in general and was open only to the cohen hagadol.

Humanity was still not able to come into God’s presence. The parokhet had to be destroyed!

The present age refers to the period after Yeshua’s first coming, yet before the Mosaic Covenant’s system of cohenhood and sacrifice has altogether disappeared. The sacrifices go on, but, in the light of what Yeshua has accomplished, what they signify is that the conscience of the person performing the service cannot be brought to the goal by obeying regulations concerning the outward life. And if so, how much less can the sacrificial ritual bring the consciences of those for whom the service is performed to the goal of being, both in fact and in feeling, cleared of guilt.

Non-Messianic Judaism has never supposed that the mechanical performance of ritual acts causes God to forgive sin. Instead, since the destruction of the Temple, Judaism has taken a different tack, teaching that neither sacrifice nor cohenhood is necessary for God to forgive sin. The author expresses the view that sacrifice and cohenhood are indeed essential, that the Mosaic system was imposed until the time for God to reshape the whole structure and thus prefigured the system established by Yeshua the Messiah.

In my next post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 9:11-14 ~ The Eternal Heavenly Sacrifices of Yeshua.

Click here for PDF version.

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 3a

Messianic Jews 9:1-10
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which covers Messianic Jews 8:1-10:18. In this post, we begin to examine Messianic Jews 9:1-10 the Temporary Levitical Sacrifices as we compare the Old and New Covenant Sacrifices.

Temporary Levitical Sacrifices

1 Now the first covenant had both regulations for worship and a Holy Place here on earth. 2 A tent [Tabernacle]was set up, the outer one, which was called the Holy Place; in it were the menorah, the table and the Bread of the Presence. 3 Behind the second parokhet was a tent called the Holiest Place, 4 which had the golden altar for burning incense and the Ark of the Covenant, entirely covered with gold. In the Ark were the gold jar containing the man, Aharon’s rod that sprouted and the stone Tablets of the Covenant; 5 and above it were the k’ruvim representing the Sh’khinah, casting their shadow on the lid of the Ark — but now is not the time to discuss these things in detail. 6 With things so arranged, the cohanim go into the outer tent all the time to discharge their duties; 7 but only the cohen hagadol enters the inner one; and he goes in only once a year, and he must always bring blood, which he offers both for himself and for the sins committed in ignorance by the people. 8 By this arrangement, the Ruach HaKodesh showed that so long as the first Tent had standing, the way into the Holiest Place was still closed. 9 This symbolizes the present age and indicates that the conscience of the person performing the service cannot be brought to the goal by the gifts and sacrifices he offers. 10 For they involve only food and drink and various ceremonial washings — regulations concerning the outward life, imposed until the time for God to reshape the whole structure.” ~ Hebrews 9:1-10 (CJB)


Photo Courtesy of Google
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Chapter 9:1-10:18 shows that the New Covenant’s system of cohenhood and sacrifice, in which Yeshua offered up Himself once and for all to clear the way to the Holy of Holies for everyone, is better than the Old Covenant’s system and effectively replaces it.

Both Tent and later the Temple consisted of an outer court, a Holy Place, and a Holiest Place (Holy of Holies), according to the pattern outlined in Exodus 25-31, 35-40. Verses 1-5 above provide only the minimal background found in Exodus 40:6-10 and therefore end with one of the more tantalizing lines in Scripture; would that the author had chosen to discuss these things in detail!  This is yet another excellent example of needing to know the Old Testament before trying to interpret the New Testament. As I like to say, “you need to know the left side of the book to understand the right side of the book.”

For those who may not have had the opportunity to read the Old Testament yet, let me briefly explain the symbols in verses 2-4.

  • The menorah (lampstand) had seven branches and was made of gold.
  • The gold-covered acacia-wood table had on it the Bread of the Presence, one loaf to represent each of the twelve tribes, replaced fresh every Shabbat; only cohanim were allowed to eat it.
  • The first parokhet or curtain separated the Holy Place from the outer court, whereas the second parokhet separated the Holiest Place from the Holy Place. It was the second parokhet that was torn from top to bottom when Yeshua died on the execution stake as reported by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
  • The Holiest Place had associated with itself the golden altar for burning incense. Critics have been quick to conclude that the author did not know what he was talking about since the Torah states that the golden altar was outside the curtain (Exodus 30:6, Leviticus 16:18, 1 Kings 6:22) as depicted above in our illustration. Actually, the author knew his subject well. Although the incense altar was used daily for other purposes, it was used especially by the cohen hagadol on Yom-Kippur, when he would take from it a golden censer of coals and bring them into the Holiest Place (Exodus 30:10, Leviticus 16:12, 15).
  • Inside the Holiest Place was the Ark of the Covenant, the box in which were the gold jar containing a sample of the manna (plural for man)on which the Israelites lived for forty years in the Wilderness; Aharon’s rod, the dry almond branch that sprouted overnight as a sign to Korach and his rebels that Moshe and Aharon were God’s authorized representatives (Numbers 17:25); and the second set of stone Tablets of the Covenant that Moshe brought down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:1-4, 28-29; Deuteronomy 10:1-5), which were in Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 5:10) but disappeared later, perhaps at the time of the Babylonian Exile (587 BCE).
  • The lid of the Ark was also known as the “mercy seat,” meaning the physical place where Adonai met the cohen hagadol on Yom-Kippur (Leviticus 16:2) and from which, in His mercy, He forgave the sins of the people of Israel. Thus the Tabernacle’s mercy seat prefigured the eternal mercy seat, Yeshua.
  • Casting their shadow on the mercy seat were two figures, the k’ruvim (cherubim). K’ruvim guarded the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). God spoke to Moshe from between the k’ruvim (Exodus 25:22, Numbers 7:89); and because the Tanakh often speaks of God’s presence there (1 Samuel 4:4; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 10:1-22; Psalms 80:1, 99:1), the author regards the k’ruvim as representing the Sh’khinah (God’s presence).

Now that we have this brief history lesson about the Tabernacle from the Old Testament, in my next post, we will examine what the author is conveying in this passage.

Click here for PDF version.

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 2b

Messianic Jews 8:6-13
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which covers Messianic Jews 8:1-10:18. In this post, we examine Messianic Jews 8:6-13 the New Covenant Based on a Superior Promise.  In this post, we will concentrate on verses 7-13.

New Covenant Based on a Superior Promise

6 But now the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant He mediates is better. For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises. 7 Indeed, if the first covenant had not given ground for faultfinding, there would have been no need for a second one.

8 For God does find fault with the people when he says, “‘See! The days are coming,’ says Adonai, ‘when I will establish over the house of Isra’el and over the house of Y’hudah a new covenant. 9 “‘It will not be like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by their hand and led them forth out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, did not remain faithful to my covenant; so I, for my part, stopped concerning myself with them,’ says Adonai. 10 “‘For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,’ says Adonai: ‘I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 “‘None of them will teach his fellow-citizen or his brother, saying, “Know Adonai!” For all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest, 12 because I will be merciful toward their wickednesses and remember their sins no more.’” [Quoted from Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34).]

13 By using the term, “new,” he has made the first covenant “old”; and something being made old, something in the process of aging, is on its way to vanishing altogether.” ~ Messianic Jews 8:6-13 (CJB)

 

Indeed, if the first covenant had not given ground for faultfinding, there would have been no need for a second one.  The first covenant, so well known to the Jews, was the one made with the people after the giving of the law. God graciously approached the people of Israel. He offered them a unique relationship to Himself, but that relationship was entirely dependent on the keeping of the law. We see the Israelites accepting that condition in Exodus 24:1-8.

Verses 8b-12 is the longest citation from the Tanakh in the Brit Hadashah, and appropriately so; for this prediction of Jeremiah’s is the Tanakh’s most explicit ground for the very existence of the New Covenant. In the passage quoted from Jeremiah (verses 8-12), we can distinguish certain marks of the New Covenant which Yeshua brought.

  1. The author of Messianic Jews begins by pointing out that the idea of a new covenant is not something revolutionary. It is already there in Jeremiah 31:31-34, which he quotes in full.
  2. This covenant will not only be new; it will be different in quality and kind.
  3. Wherein is this covenant new? It is new in its scope. It is going to include the house of Israel and the house of Judah. One thousand years before this, in the days of Rehoboam, the kingdom had split apart, into Israel with the ten tribes and Judah with the two, and these two sections had never come together again. The new covenant is going to unite that which has been divided.
  4. It is new in its universality. All humanity would know God from the least to the greatest. That was something entirely new. In the ordinary life of the Jews, there was a complete cleavage. On the one hand there were the P’rushim and the orthodox who kept the law; on the other hand, there were what were contemptuously called The People of the Land, the ordinary people who did not fully observe the details of the ceremonial law. They were completely despised. It was forbidden to have any fellowship with them; to marry one’s daughter to one of them was worse than to throw her to a wild beast; it was forbidden to go on a journey with them; it was even banned, as far as it was possible, to have any trade or business dealings with them. To the rigid observers of the law, the ordinary people were beyond the pale. But in the new covenant, these breaches would no longer exist. All humanity, wise and simple, great and small, Jew and Goyim would come to know the Lord. The doors which had been shut were thrown wide open.
  5. There is one even more fundamental difference. The old covenant depended on obedience to an externally imposed law. The new covenant is to be written upon our hearts and minds. We are to obey God, not because of the terror of punishment, but because we love Him. We are to obey Him not because the law compelled us unwillingly to do so, but because the desire to obey Him is written on our hearts.
  6. It will be a new covenant which will affect forgiveness. God said that He would merciful toward their wickednesses and remember their sins no more. The new relationship is based entirely on his love. The tremendous thing about the new covenant is that it makes our relationship with God no longer dependent on our obedience but entirely dependent on God’s love. [1]

One thing remains to be said. In Jeremiah’s words about the new covenant, there is no mention of animal sacrifices. It would seem that Jeremiah believed that in those sacrifices would be abolished as irrelevant; but the author to the Messianic Jews cannot think except in terms of the sacrificial system and very shortly he will go on to speak of Yeshua as Himself the perfect sacrifice, whose death alone made the new covenant possible for all humanity.

In my next post, we’ll continue our new mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 9:1-10 ~ The Temporary Levitical Sacrifices.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Adapted from Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 2a

Messianic Jews 8:6-13
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which covers Messianic Jews 8:1 – 10:18. In this post, we examine Messianic Jews 8:6-13 the Brit Hadashah Based on a Superior Promise.  Both Stern, Barclay and I have much to say about this passage. Consequently, I’m breaking it up into bite-size chunks.  In this post, we will concentrate only on verse 6 since it is pivotal in our understanding the superior promise.

Brit Hadashah Based on a Superior Promise

6 But now the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant He mediates is better. For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises. 7 Indeed, if the first covenant had not given ground for faultfinding, there would have been no need for a second one.

8 For God does find fault with the people when he says, “‘See! The days are coming,’ says Adonai, ‘when I will establish over the house of Isra’el and over the house of Y’hudah a Brit Hadashah. 9 “‘It will not be like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by their hand and led them forth out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, did not remain faithful to my covenant; so I, for my part, stopped concerning myself with them,’ says Adonai. 10 “‘For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,’ says Adonai: ‘I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 “‘None of them will teach his fellow-citizen or his brother, saying, “Know Adonai!” For all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest, 12 because I will be merciful toward their wickednesses and remember their sins no more.’” [Qouted from Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34)]

13 By using the term, “new,” he has made the first covenant “old”; and something being made old, something in the process of aging, is on its way to vanishing altogether.” ~ Hebrews 8:6-13 (CJB)

The covenant which Yeshua mediates is the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant) spoken of by Jeremiah in the passage quoted below (verses 8-12). It is better than the covenant Moshe mediated at Mount Sinai, as proved by verses 6b-13. Whether the idea of a mediator between God and humanity is Jewish, (see 1 Timothy 2:5b-6a).

Stern states that this passage (verses 6b-13) is one of the two most important discussions of the Brit Hadashah in relation to the Covenant with Moshe at Mount Sinai (the other is 2 Corinthians 3:6-18).

Non-Messianic Jews claim that God did not establish a Brit Hadashah with Israel through Yeshua – and indeed they must say this, even though it undermines ecumenical tolerance by attacking the foundation of Believer faith. Otherwise, they have no excuse for not adhering to its terms and accepting Yeshua as the Messiah. He goes on to raise and answer four traditional objections made by Non-Messianic Jews ~ the scope of which is beyond our discussion at this point.

The Brit Hadashah has been given as Torah. This is a virtually unknown theological truth of far-reaching importance.

  1. Although many Jews and Believers believe that the Brit Hadashah abrogated the Torah, the Brit Hadashah here explicitly states that it has itself been given as Torah. Apparently, if the Brit Hadashah is Torah, then the Torah has not been abolished.
  2. The fact that the Brit Hadashah has been given as Torah means that a Jew is not a Torah-observant Jew unless he accepts the Brit Hadashah as Torah. A Jew who considers himself shomer-mitzvot, “an observer of [the] commandments,” is deluding himself if he does not obey the Brit Hadashah. Unless he trusts in Yeshua as Messiah as his atonement for sin, he is disobeying Torah. Let us not forget that the author of Messianic Jews is writing under the influence of the Ruach HaKodesh.
  3. Finally, it means that a Gentile grafted into Israel by faith in Yeshua the Messiah has himself come into the framework of Israel’s Torah. Although what this Torah demands of him differs from what it requires of a Jew, a Gentile Believer should never think of himself as “free from the Law,” as many do.

That the Brit Hadashah has become Torah is crucial for understanding the Brit Hadashah

The better promises of the Brit Hadashah were not invented by the author of the book of Messianic Jews but were announced by God in the Tanakh through the prophet Jeremiah (as we will see in verses 10-12). Having the Torah internalized is better than having it written out, and it is better to have sins forgiven permanently than temporarily.

In my next post, we’ll continue our new mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant as we continue to unpack Messianic Jews 8:6-13.

Click here for PDF version.

Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 1

Messianic Jews 8:1-7
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we completed our mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical by examining Messianic Jews 7:20-28 on The Superior Efficacy of Yeshua’s Cohenhood. We now start a new mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 8:1 – 10:18. In this post, we examine Messianic Jews 8:1-5 the New Covenant Better than the Old.

New Covenant Better than the Old

1 Here is the whole point of what we have been saying: we do have just such a cohen gadol as has been described. And He does sit at the right hand of HaG’dulah [“the Greatness,” a euphemism for God] in heaven. 2 There He serves in the Holy Place, that is, in the true Tent of Meeting, the one erected not by human beings but by Adonai. 3 For every cohen gadol is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so this cohen gadol too has to have something He can offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He wouldn’t be a cohen at all, since there already are cohanim offering the gifts required by the Torah. 5 But what they are serving is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original; for when Moshe was about to erect the Tent, God warned him, “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain. ~ Messianic Jews 8:1-5 (CJB)

The author turns from Yeshua’s credentials, character and status as cohen gadol (Chapter 7) to the nature of His work in the heavenly Holy Place as He sits at the right hand of God. We saw this declared earlier in Messianic Jews 1:3, 13.  The author of the Messianic Jews has finished describing the cohenhood after the order of Malki-Tzedek in all its glory. He has described it as the cohenhood which is forever, without beginning or end; the cohenhood that God confirmed with an oath; the cohenhood that is founded on personal greatness and not on any legal appointment or racial qualification; the cohenhood which death cannot touch; the cohenhood which is able to offer a sacrifice that never needs to be repeated; the cohenhood which is so pure that it has no necessity to offer sacrifice for any sins of its own. Now he makes and underlines his great claim: Yeshua is our Cohen HaGadol ~ our Great High Priest.

That there is the true Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle in heaven is proved by the passage cited in verse 5. The Tent constructed in the Wilderness (Exodus 25-31, 35-39), long before there was any thought of a Temple, demonstrated that God dwells with His people; indeed, one of the Hebrew words the Tanakh uses for “tent” is “mishkan,” which is related to both “shakhen” (“neighbor”) and “Shkhinah (“God’s immanent presence” ). [1]

Not only is Yeshua better than the Levitical cohanim, as shown in Chapter 7, but the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs since the place where they serve is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original. The term, Tent of Meeting, speaks of God’s communicating with His people.

There is no conflict between the Levitical cohenhood established by the Torah of Moshe and that of Yeshua as predicted by Psalm 110; it is not necessary to think of Yeshua’s cohenhood as superseding the Levitical one. The Torah says that earthly cohanim must be descendants of Lvi, and Numbers 25:12 speaks of God’s “covenant of an everlasting cohenhood with Pinchas, the son of Aharon. But since Yeshua serves in heaven, He can be from the tribe of Yhudah (Messianic Jews 7:13-14) and can also have an eternal ministry (Messianic Jews 7:23-25).

My scribbled notes in my RSV say of this passage: “Jesus serves as the high priest in the heavenly sanctuary, while the Jewish priests had to settle for an earthly copy.  Jesus is the true mediator between God and man.”

In my next post, we’ll continue our new mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 8:6-13 ~ The New Covenant Based on Superior Promises.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.