Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 4

Messianic Jews 12:3-11
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we moved on to a new topic entitled Trust and the Believer covering Messianic Jews 12. We begin with Messianic Jews 12:1-2 – Yeshua ~ Our Example. In this post, continue on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments.

3 Yes, think about Him who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners so that you won’t grow tired or become despondent. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in the contest against sin. 5 Also, you have forgotten the counsel which speaks with you as sons: “My son, don’t despise the discipline of Adonai or become despondent when he corrects you. 6 For Adonai disciplines those he loves and whips everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Regard your endurance as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons. For what son goes undisciplined by his father? 8 All legitimate sons undergo discipline; so if you don’t, you’re a mamzer and not a son! 9 Furthermore, we had physical fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them; how much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! 10 For they disciplined us only for a short time and only as best they could, but He disciplines us in a way that provides genuine benefit to us and enables us to share in His holiness. 11 Now, all discipline, while it is happening, does indeed seem painful, not enjoyable; but for those who have been trained by it, it later produces its peaceful fruit, which is righteousness.” ~ Messianic Jews 12:2-11 (CJB)

The author of the Messianic Jews uses two very vivid words when he speaks of being despondent or growing tired. They are words frequently used by an athlete who collapses after the final surged to win the race. So Messianic Jews is in effect saying: “Don’t give up too soon; don’t collapse until the finish line is passed.”

Compare verse 4 with what the author wrote in Messianic Jews 4:15, which says of Yeshua, “In every respect, he was tempted just as we are, the only difference was he did not sin.”

Verses 3-4 stress the essential costliness of Messianic faith. It cost the lives of the martyrs; it cost the life of Him who was the Son of God. Something that requires so much cannot be discarded. A heritage like that is not something that a man can hand down tarnished. These two verses make the demand that comes to every Messianic: “Show yourself worthy of the sacrifice that men and God have made for you.”

The author of the Messianic Jews sets out still another reason why we should cheerfully bear affliction. He has urged them to endure it because the great saints of the past have suffered from it. He has advised them to experience it because anything they may have to face is a little thing compared to what Yeshua had to bear. Now he says that they must take hardship because it is a discipline from God and no life can have any value apart from obedience.

Become despondent in verse 3 anticipates Proverbs 3:11-12 quoted in verses 5-6 of our text.

God is dealing with you as sons. Israel collectively is God’s son (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15, Romans 9:4); but more than that, each Believer, Jewish or Gentile, is individually God’s son, by virtue of being united with God’s only-begotten Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Romans 8:14-19, 29; Galatians 4:1-7; Revelation 21:7).

In rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew word mamzer is a technical term referring to the child of a marriage prohibited in Leviticus 18. Popularly it means “illegitimate son,” and like “bastard” it can express strong contempt.

The discipline of God, our spiritual Father, produces holiness (see v. 14) and righteousness (Messianic Jews 5:13; 10:38; 11:4, 7, 33).

A faithful father always disciplines his child. It would not show love to let a son or daughter do what he or she likes. We submit to our earthly father’s discipline which is imposed only for a short time until we reach maturity. The earthly father is whom we owe our bodily life; how much more should we submit to the discipline of God to whom we owe our immortal spirits and who, in His wisdom, seeks for our highest good.

In my next post, we will move on to Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 3

Messianic Jews 12:1-2
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our topic on the Definition and Illustration of Trust by exploring the Trust of the Judges and the Prophets in Messianic Jews 11:32-40. In this post, we move on to a new topic entitled Trust and the Believer covering Messianic Jews 12. We begin with Messianic Jews 12:1-2 – Yeshua ~ Our Example.

1 So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us, 2 looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua — who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Messianic Jews 12:1-2 (CJB)

Chapter 12 is one of the most significant, moving passages of the Brit Hadasah. In it, the author has given us a perfect summary of the Messianic life. In addition to completing the discussion of trusting he began at 10:35, verses 1-4 introduce the idea that Believers in Yeshua are running in a contest against sin (verses 1, 4), a competition which calls for endurance (verses 1-3, 7). Having endurance means regarding the pains, setbacks and troubles which are inevitable in a Believer’s life (Acts 14:22, Yochanan 16:33) as the discipline of Adonai (verses 5-13 constitute a sermon on this subject ~ the text is verses 5-6, the three points are verses 7-8, 9-10, 11-13). Only then will we be displaying the “trust-grounded obedience” (Romans 1:5, 16:26) which is the goal of the Besorah.

The contest has been set before us; it is the “life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Sha’ul used sports metaphors when he wrote to Greeks (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:12-14, 2 Timothy 4:7-8), for whom athletic contests were an essential part of life. But the author of this letter is writing to Messianic Jews, for whom, at the time, such games smacked of Hellenistic paganism. The sports-metaphor language of verses 1-4 returns in verses 11-13, where the author compares believers with athletes in training who care for their injuries to remain active sportspeople.

Looking away, like a runner with his eye on the finish line, to the initiator and completer of our trusting, YeshuaThe theme of Yeshua as beginning and end, aleph and tav are found at Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13. We are to emulate His endurance. He, in exchange for obtaining the reward of the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, i.e., “in the place of honor by God’s throne” (Living Bible).

  • In the Messianic life, we have a goal. We are all pilgrims forever moving toward the goal set before us. The goal is nothing less than to become like Yeshua.
  • In the Messianic life, we have an inspiration. We have the thought of the unseen cloud of witnesses: and they are witnesses in a double sense. For they have witnessed their confession to Yeshua and they are now witnesses to our performance.
  • In the Messianic life, we also have a handicap. If the greatness of the past encircles us, we are also encircled by the impairment of our sin. There may be habits, pleasures, self-indulgences, associations which hold us back. We must shed them as the athletes shed their tracksuits when they go to the starting-mark, and often we will need the help of Yeshua to enable us to do so.
  • In the Messianic life, we have a means. That means is steadfast endurance. It is a determination, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected. Obstacles do not daunt it, and discouragements do not take its hope away. It is the steadfast endurance which carries on until in the end; it gets there.
  • In the Messianic life, we have an example. That example is Yeshua For the goal that was set before Him, He endured all things; to win it meant the way of the Cross.
  • In the Messianic life, we have a presence, the presence of Yeshua. He is at once the goal of our journey and the companion of our way; at once the one whom we go to meet and the one with whom we travel.

As Barcley has said: The wonder of the Messianic life is that we press on surrounded by the saints, oblivious to everything but the glory of the goal and forever in the company of Him who has already made the journey and reached the goal, and who waits to welcome us when we reach the end.

In my next post, we will move on to our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2f

Messianic Jews 11:32-40
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined the Trust of the Israelites and Rahab in Messianic Jews 11:29-31. In this post, we move on to explore the Trust of the Judges and the Prophets in Messianic Jews 11:32-40.

32 What more should I say? There isn’t time to tell about Gid‘on, Barak, Shimshon [Samson], Yiftach [Jepthah], David, Sh’mu’el [Samuel] and the prophets; 33 who, through trusting, conquered kingdoms, worked righteousness, received what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, had their weakness turned to strength, grew mighty in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead resurrected; other people were stretched on the rack and beaten to death, refusing to be ransomed so that they would gain a better resurrection. 36 Others underwent the trials of being mocked and whipped, then chained and imprisoned. 37 They were stoned, sawed in two, murdered by the sword; they went about clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, 38 wandering about in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground! The world was not worthy of them! 39 All of these had their merit attested because of their trusting. Nevertheless, they did not receive what had been promised, 40 because God had planned something better that would involve us, so that only with us would they be brought to the goal.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:32-40 (CJB)

In this passage, the author looks back over the history of his people with name after name of those men who were heroic souls. The whole list is of men who faced incredible odds for God. It is of men who never believed that God was on the side of the big battalions and were willing to take tremendous and even terrifying risks for Him. It is of men who cheerfully and courageously and confidently accepted God-given tasks which, on human terms, were impossible. They were all men who were never afraid to stand alone and to face immense odds for the sake of their loyalty to God. This honor roll of history is of men who chose to be in God’s minority rather than with earth’s majority.

The author singles out the three best-known judges, a general, David the most renowned king, Shmu’el the judge-prophet, and the other prophets.

Gid’on (Judges 6:11-8:35) is remembered for the faith demonstrated when he accepted God’s decision that he should reduce the size of the Israelites’ army from 32,000 to 300 before defeating the Midianites’ force of 50,000 (Judges 7).

Genal Barak (Judges 4-5), though not independent of Dvorah [Deborah] the judge and Ya’el, had faith of his own, for even though he knew that these women would get the glory for the victory instead of himself (Judges 4:9), he led the Israelites in conquering Sisera, Yavin, and the Canaanites.

Shimshon (Judges 13-16) lived much of his life with his eyes, not on the Lord. But after he was blinded he saw clearly enough to pray for strength to destroy the Philistines’ temple; this is what qualifies him for the faith hall of fame (Judges 16:25-30).

At first glance Yiftach (Judges 11:1-12:7) seems an even less likely candidate, but his rash vow to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house, which turned out to be his daughter, does not detract from the undiluted faith in God which this simple man demonstrated as he defeated the Ammonites.

Through trustingMoshe conquered the kingdoms of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35). Daniel shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:1-29). Chananyah, Misha’el, and ‘Azaryah (Shadrakh, Meishakh and ‘Aved-n’go) quenched the power of fire (Daniel 1:6, 3:1-30). Elijah and Elisha were among those who escaped the edge of the sword (1 Kings 19:2ff., 2 Kings 6:31ff.). The widow of Tzarfat and the woman of Shunem received back their dead resurrected through Elijah and Elisha’s ministries (1 Kings 17:8-24, 2 Kings 4:8-37). From the Apocrypha, we learn how in the days of the Maccabees, there were those stretched on the rack and beaten to death, refusing to be ransomed, so that they would gain a better resurrection (2 Maccabees 6:18-31). Yeshua himself was mocked, whipped, chained and imprisoned (Yochanan 19:1-3, Mark 15:1-9); also compare the prophets Mikhayahu (Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:24) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah 20:2, 7; 37:15).

Z’kharyah, the son of Y’hoyadah, the priest, was stoned to death (2 Chronicles 24:21).

Being sawed in two was indeed a known form of torturing people to death (2 Samuel 12:31), and according to the first-century partly Jewish, partly Christian book, The Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet Yesha’yahu was killed in this way.

Jeremiah 26:20-23 mentions the prophet Uriah as having been murdered by the sword, and Elijah speaks of others who suffered the same fate (1 Kings 19:10, Ro 11:3).

Went about clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, wandering about in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground. The description fits Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 19:13, 2 Kings 2:14), as well as the pious Jews who fled from the persecution of Antiochus IV in the time of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 2:38). Yochanan the Immerser wore camel skins (Matthew 3:4) and led a similar life, while Yeshua Himself had “no home of his own” (Luke 9:58).

In other words, the people who trusted God were utterly unrewarded and unappreciated in their time by the rest of humanity. The reverse side of this coin is seen when our author writes that the world was not worthy of them! Worldly people cannot fully appreciate those whose lives are based utterly on trust, because their values are so different. But as soon as worldly people, by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), take the tiniest step of faith themselves, then the great trust reported in this chapter takes on an altogether different significance for them and becomes a source of inspiration.

Chapter 11 is a homily on 10:35-39. In summarizing the two central themes of Chapter 11, verses 39-40 refer back to the earlier passage, which expresses the necessity of continuing to trust God despite all obstacles and setbacks, physical or spiritual, to receive what had been promised.

On the one hand, all the heroes of faith had their merit attested because of their trusting. For indeed the only meritorious acts there are, are those based on trusting in God, as expounded in Galatians and Romans. The original readers of this letter are to renew their trust in Yeshua’s atoning death; there is no other way for them to attain the reward of eternal life.

Nevertheless, on the other hand, these heroes of faith, even though they kept on trusting, did not receive what had been promised in their lifetime, because God had planned something better, namely, something that would involve us who came later; so that only with us would they be brought to the goal. God’s secret plan for history, including the perfecting of human beings from all times, places and cultures, Gentiles as well as Jews, is glorious beyond imagining.

Only by trusting God can anyone enjoy its benefits.

“Faith in God is more than just believing He exits; it is living with confidence that He will fulfill all His promises and bring salvation to us.”

~ Dr. Charles F. Stanley

In my next post, we will move on to a new topic of the Trust and the Believer beginning in Messianic Jews 12.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2e

Messianic Jews 11:29-31
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined the Trust of Moshe the Deliverer in Messianic Jews 11:23-28. In this post, we move on to explore the Trust of the Israelites and Rachav in Messianic Jews 11:29-31.

“29 By trusting, they walked through the Red Sea as through dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the sea swallowed them up. 30 By trusting, the walls of Yericho fell down — after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31 By trusting, Rachav, the prostitute welcomed the spies and therefore did not die along with those who were disobedient.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:29-31 (CJB)

By trusting, they walked through the Red Sea recalls the familiar story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14:1-15:21.

The author to the Messianic Jews has been citing as examples of trust the great figures of the time before Israel entered into the Promised Land. Now he takes two people from the period of struggle when the children of Israel were winning a place for themselves within the Promised Land.

The first is the story of the fall of Jericho. That strange old story is told in Y’hoshua 6:1-20. Jericho was a fortified city, barred and fortified. To take it seemed impossible. It was God’s commandment that once a day for six days and in silence the people should march around it, led by seven priests marching in front of the ark and bearing shofars. On the seventh day, the priests were to blow upon their shofars after the city had been encircled seven times. So the people shouted, with the shofars blowing. When the people heard the sound of the shofars, the people let out a great shout; and the wall fell down flat; so that the people went up into the city, each one straight ahead of him; and they captured the city. Y’hoshua 6:20 (CJB)

The second story is that of Rachav. It is told in Y’hoshua 2:1-21 and finds its sequel in Y’hoshua 6:25. When Y’hoshua sent out spies to Jericho, they found a lodging in the house of Rachav, a prostitute. She protected them and enabled them to make their escape; and in return, when Jericho was taken, she and her family were saved from the general slaughter. It is extraordinary how Rachav became imprinted on the memory of Israel. James (James 2:25) quotes her as a great example of the good works which demonstrate faith. The Rabbis were proud to trace their descent to her. And, amazingly, she is one of the names which appear in the genealogy of Yeshua (Matthew 1:5).

When the author of the Messianic Jews cites her, the point he desires to make is this ~ Rachav faced the facts and believed in the God of Israel. Rachav believed and staked her whole future on the belief that God would make the impossible possible. When common sense pronounced the situation hopeless, she had the uncommon incite to see beyond the situation. The real faith and the real courage are those who can take God’s side when it seems doomed to defeat.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by moving on to explore the Trust of Judges and Prophets in Messianic Jews 11:32-40.

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Faith: The Better Way -~ Part 2d

Messianic Jews 11:23-28
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our examination of the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22. In this post, we move on to examine the Trust of Moshe, the Deliverer in Messianic Jews 11:23-28.

23 By trusting, the parents of Moshe hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they weren’t afraid of the king’s decree. 24 By trusting, Moshe, after he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose being mistreated along with God’s people rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. 26 He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes fixed on the reward. 27 By trusting, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered as one who sees the unseen. 28 By trusting, he obeyed the requirements for the Pesach, including the smearing of the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Isra’el.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:23-28 (CJB)

To the Hebrews, Moshe was the principal figure in their history. He was the leader who had rescued them from slavery and who had received the Law from God. To the author of the letter to the Messianic Jews, Moshe was pre-eminently the man of faith. As with the other great characters whose names are included in this roll or honor of God’s faithful ones, many legends and elaborations had gathered around the name of Moshe, and doubtless, the author of this letter had them also in his mind.

The parents of MosheAmram, and Yoch’eved (Exodus 6:20), hid him by placing him in a basket to float in the Nile so that he wouldn’t be killed according to Pharaoh’s decree. In answer to their faith, Pharaoh’s daughter found him there and raised him as her own son, even employing the child’s actual mother to nurse him (Exodus 2:1-10).

Moshe had every possible advantage Egypt could offer. Jewish tradition maintains that as the adopted child of Pharaoh’s daughter he may even have been in line for the throne. But he also had knowledge of God’s revelation and his own identity as an Israelite and chose being mistreated along with God’s people rather than enjoying the perquisites of his position, until finally (Exodus 2:11-15) he was forced to flee for his life.

He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah. At the time, Moshe did not know of Yeshua, nor is there evidence that he had specific knowledge of a coming Messiah, Savior or Son of God.  Although he did refer to a Star that would come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17-19) and to a future prophet like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19). In Luke 9:28-38, Moshe knew Yeshua on the Mount of Transfiguration. And, Yochanan 5:46 says that Moshe nevertheless wrote about Yeshua. One may reasonably assume that Moshe suffered on behalf of all God’s promises, both those known to him at the time and those God would make in the future; and, after the fact, it is clear that this implies his suffering abuse on behalf of the Messiah. Sha’ul, in many ways the Moshe of his day, suffered similarly.

By trusting, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered as one who sees the unseen. There came the day when Moshe, because of his intervention on behalf of his people, had to withdraw from Egypt and had to make all the arrangements for the first Pesach. The account is in Exodus 12:12-48.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by moving on to explore the Trust of the Israelites and Rahab in Messianic Jews 11:29-31.

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Faith: The Better Way -~ Part 2c2

Messianic Jews 11:8-22
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to explore the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22. We looked at only verse 8. In this post, we continue to examine the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22 starting in verse 9.

8 By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. 9 By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. 11 By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. 12 Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. 14 For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. 15 Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; 16 but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. 17 By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz’chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, 18 to whom it had been said, “What is called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak.” 19 For he had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him. 20 By trusting,Yitz’chak, in his blessings over Ya’akov and Esav, made reference to events yet to come. 21 By trusting, Ya‘akov, when he was dying, blessed each of Yosef’s sons, leaning on his walking-stick as he bowed in prayer. 22 By trusting, Yosef, near the end of his life, remembered about the Exodus of the people of Isra’el and gave instructions about what to do with his bones.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:8-22 (CJB)

After Avram arrived in the land of Cana’an God told him, “I will give this land to your seed” (Genesis 12:7). But later He said, “I will give it to you and your seed forever” (Genesis 13:15). [1]

Avraham lived as a temporary resident, wandering in and out of the Land (Genesis 12:6-10; 13:1-12, 17-18; 14:13-16; 20:1; 21:34; 22:19; 23:4) which God had promised him (13:14-18; 15:7, 18-21; 17:8); so did Yitzchak (Genesis 26:3-4) and Ya’akov (Genesis 35:12, 27). But they all died without inheriting the land God had promised to them personally as well as to their descendants (v. 13). As a matter of fact, the Jewish people have never possessed the entire land that God has bequeathed to them.

Is the promise therefore unfulfilled? No, because Yeshua testified that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov are still alive (Matthew 22:31-32). When their seed, the Jewish people, come into full possession of Eretz-Israel, as God has promised them, the Patriarchs will be alive to inherit with them.

But perhaps the promise that Avram will inherit the Land has been spiritualized in the Brit Hadashah? Perhaps “the Land” now refers to heaven and not to a piece of real estate in the Middle East? No, because God instructed Avram, “Arise, and walk through the length and breadth of the Land, for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:17). Obviously, God did not mean for him to walk through heaven. God keeps his promises, He does not renege on them by spiritualizing them into something else.

He was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations. The author is thinking Jewishly, remaining conscious of several levels of meaning. He does not deny the simple sense of the promises concerning the Eretz-Israel, where Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov lived as aliens and temporary residents. But at the same time, he implies that Avraham understood a deeper level of meaning in God’s promise, a meaning relating not only to Eretz-Israel but to earth and heaven. This we learn from the author’s citing the phrase, “aliens and temporary residents on the earth,” from 1 Chronicles 29:15. The last three words could be rendered from the Greek as “in the Land,” according to the context here. But in 1 Chronicles the Hebrew word means “on” not “in,” and the context there makes it clear that “ha’aretz” means “the earth.” [2]

Avraham’s awareness of the deeper meaning gave him the faith to remain obedient to God in the face of not receiving during his lifetime what had been promised, namely, Eretz-Israel. This is why he could aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one (compare Philippians 3:20), namely, the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God (v. 10), elsewhere called “the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim” (Messianic Jews 12:22; compare 13:14 and Galatians 4:26).

Avraham’s faith was such that he trusted God to fulfill His promise, even if it required miracles, first, of making an aged couple able to have children (Genesis 17:19, 18:11-14, 21:2; compare Ro 4:17-22), and second, of resurrecting Yitzchak from the dead, a possible implication of the story of the ‘Akedah (the “binding” of Isaac for sacrifice by Avraham, Genesis 22:1-19).

Avraham… offered up Yitzchak as a sacrifice. The story of the ‘Akedat-Yitzchak, the “Binding of Isaac,” Genesis 22:1-19, is read in the synagogue as part of the liturgy for the second day of Rosh-HaShanah. The events of the ‘Akedah prefigure the atoning death of Yeshua the Messiah. The ‘Akedah is referred to again in the Brit Hadashah in James 2:21-23.

Although he lived as a highly honored Egyptian entitled to an elaborate tomb, Yosef believed the promises to Avraham that there would be an Exodus. His instructions that his bones be carried to Eretz-Israel (Genesis 50:24-25) were carried out more than four centuries later (Genesis 50:26, Exodus 13:19, Joshua 24:32).

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by moving on to explore the Trust of Moshe, The Deliverer in Messianic Jews 11:23-28.

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[1] I can’t pass up this opportunity to impress upon my readers that the Brit Hadashah makes absolutely no sense without reading and understanding the Tanakh.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2c1

Messianic Jews 11:8-22
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to explore what many call The Hall of Faith or as Stern might say The Hall of Trust. We started in Messianic Jews 11:4-7 to learn of the Trust of the Early Patriarchs. In this post, we examine Trust of Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22. Obviously, this is a massive chunk of scripture to digest in one post so we will begin with verse 8 in this post. That explains the weird numbering system I have had to employ to maintain the topical headings from my old RSV.

8 By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. 9 By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. 11 By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. 12 Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. 14 For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. 15 Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; 16 but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. 17 By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz’chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, 18 to whom it had been said, “What is called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak.” 19 For he had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him. 20 By trusting,Yitz’chak, in his blessings over Ya‘akov and Esav, made reference to events yet to come. 21 By trusting, Ya‘akov, when he was dying, blessed each of Yosef’s sons, leaning on his walking-stick as he bowed in prayer.
22 By trusting, Yosef, near the end of his life, remembered about the Exodus of the people of Isra’el and gave instructions about what to do with his bones.”
~ Messianic Jews 11:8-22 (CJB)

The Tanakh itself extols Avraham’s faith (Nehemiah 9:7-8), as does Sha’ul (Romans 4, Galatians 3). Our author devotes more space to him than to anyone else, giving no less than four instances of his trusting: his obeying God’s call to leave home for an unknown land (v. 8), his steadfast hoping for the unseen heavenly city (vv. 9-10, 13-16), his trusting God to provide an heir through Sarah despite its natural impossibility (vv. 11-12), and his offering of that heir as a sacrifice (vv. 17-19). The passage may also be divided into these two parts: faith for this life (vv. 8-12), and trust that transcends death (vv. 13-19).

Avraham first appears in Scripture beginning in Genesis 11:26 as the son of Terach. “Then Avram [1]and Nachor took wives for themselves. The name of Avram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nachor’s wife was Milkah, the daughter of Haran. He was the father of Milkah and of Yiskah. Sarai was barren — she had no child. Terach took his son Avram, his son Haran’s son Lot, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram’s wife; and they left Ur of the Kasdim to go to the land of Kena‘an. But when they came to Haran, they stayed there.” ~ Genesis 11:29-31 (CJB)

Verse 8 is essentially a summary of Genesis 12:1-5. “Now Adonai said to Avram, ‘Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you, and by you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ So Avram went, as Adonai had said to him, and Lot went with him. Avram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Avram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, as well as the people they had acquired in Haran; then they set out for the land of Kena‘an and entered the land of Kena‘an.” ~ Genesis 12:1-5 (CJB)

It has always amazed me that Avram left his homeland with all his possessions and traveled to a land that God would not show him until he got there. Now, my family and I have lived in several parts of the United States, but it has always been a move that was to someplace where we had family members close by. As kids, we learned in school the basic geography of our country, but Avram had no idea where he was going and what it would be like. He certainly didn’t have Google Maps available. By trusting, Avraham obeyed!!! I confess that it is hard for me to put my mind around that kind of trust.

When we have no idea where God is leading us or where he wants us to change in our hearts, listening is the first and most crucial.

~ Dr. Charles F. Stanley

Barclay offers some interesting background information on this dilemma: [2]

Jewish and eastern legends gathered largely round Avraham’s name, and some of them must have been known to the author to the Messianic Jews. The legends tell how Avraham was the son of Terach, commander of the armies of Nimrod. When Avraham was born a very vivid star appeared in the sky and seemed to obliterate the others. Nimrod sought to murder the infant but Avraham was concealed in a cave, and his life saved. It was in that cave the first vision of God came to him. When he was a youth, he came out of the cave and stood looking across the face of the desert. The sun rose in all its glory, and Avraham said: “Surely the sun is God, the Creator!” So he knelt down and worshipped the sun. But when evening came, the sun sank in the west and Avraham said: “No! the author of creation cannot set!” The moon arose in the east, and the stars came out. Then Avraham said: “The moon must be God and the stars his host!” So he knelt down and adored the moon. But after the night was passed, the moon sank, and the sun rose again, and Avraham said: “Truly these heavenly bodies are no gods, for they obey the law; I will worship him who imposed the law upon them.”

The Arabs have a different legend. They tell how Avraham saw many flocks and herds and said to his mother: “Who is the lord of these?” She answered: “Your father, Terach.” “And who is the lord of Terach?” the lad Avraham asked. “Nimrod,” said his mother. “And who is the lord of Nimrod?” asked Avraham. His mother bade him be quiet and not push questions too far, but already Avraham‘s thoughts were reaching out to him who is the God of all. The legends go on to tell that Terach not only worshipped twelve idols, one for each of the months but was also a manufacturer of idols. One day Avraham was left in charge of the shop. People came in to buy idols. Avraham would ask them how old they were and they would answer perhaps fifty or sixty years of age. “Woe to a man of such an age,” said Avraham, “who adores the work of one day!” A strong and hale man of seventy came in. Avraham asked him his age and then said: “You fool to adore a god who is younger than yourself!” A woman came in with a dish of meat for the gods. Avraham took a stick and smashed all the idols but one, in whose hands he set the stick he had used. Terach returned and was angry. Avraham said: “My father, a woman brought this dish of meat for your gods; they all wanted to have it and the strongest knocked the heads off the rest, lest they should eat it all.” Terach said: “That is impossible for they are made of wood and stone.” And Avraham answered: “Let thine own ear hear what thine own mouth has spoken!”

All these legends give us a vivid picture of Avraham searching after God and dissatisfied with the idolatry of his people. So when God’s call came to him, he was ready to go out into the unknown to find him! Avraham is the supreme example of faith.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by examining further The Trust of Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Remember that Avraham (father of many) was originally named Avram (exalted father) until the God changed it in Genesis 17:5.

[2] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2b

Messianic Jews 11:4-7
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began a new mini-series on our topic of Faith: The Better Way by exploring the Definition and Illustration of Trusting. We started by defining Trust (Faith) in Messianic Jews 11:1-3. In this post, we start to explore what many call The Hall of Faith or as Stern might say The Hall of Trust. We begin in Messianic Jews 11:4-7 to learn of the Trust of the Early Patriarchs.

4 By trusting, Hevel [Able] offered a greater sacrifice than Kayin [Cain]; because of this, he was attested as righteous, with God giving him this testimony on the ground of his gifts. Through having trusted, he still continues to speak, even though he is dead. 5 By trusting, Hanokh [Enoch] was taken away from this life without seeing death — “He was not to be found, because God took him away” — for he has been attested as having been, prior to being taken away, well pleasing to God. 6 And without trusting, it is impossible to be well pleasing to God, because whoever approaches Him must trust that He does exist and that He becomes a Rewarder to those who seek Him out. 7 By trusting, Noach [Noah], after receiving divine warning about things as yet unseen, was filled with holy fear and built an ark to save his household. Through this trusting, he put the world under condemnation and received the righteousness that comes from trusting.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:4-7 (CJB)

The author of the Messianic Jews begins his honor roll of trust with the name of Hevel whose story is in Genesis 4:1-15. Kayin tilled the ground and brought God an offering of the fruits of the earth; Hevel was a shepherd and brought God a blood offering from his flocks. God preferred the gift of Hevel to the gift of Kayin who moved to bitter jealousy, murdered his brother and became an outcast upon the earth. In the original, the meaning of the story is ambiguous. There is no indication why God preferred the gift of Hevel to the gift of Kayin. It may well be that the only offering which a man can properly bring to God is his most precious possession. This is life itself, and to the Messianic Jews blood always stood for life. We can well understand that because when the blood flows away, life ebbs away. On that principle, the only true sacrifice to God was a sacrifice of blood. Hevel’s sacrifice was of a living creature, Kayin’s was not; therefore Hevel’s was the more acceptable.

Whereas Kayin’s offering of field crops was rejected, Hevel’s animal sacrifice was accepted, God giving him this testimony in Genesis 4:3-10, which says that the voice of his blood cries out from the ground. Through Scripture, which mentions this voice, Hevel continues to speakHevel is referred to in the New Testament at Matthew 23:35 and 1 Yochanan 3:12. In Jewish writings, the 6th-century Tanchuma (Balak 16) gives Hevel second place in a list of “seven righteous men who built seven altars, from Adam to Moses.”[1]

There are those who accuse God of being unfair to Kayin. How could Kayin have known what to offer? If he didn’t know, why did God punish him for it? God’s nature is such that He always gives those who sin an opportunity to repent. This is precisely what he did in Genesis 4:6-7. Unfortunately Kayin, instead of rising to the occasion, “Kayin had words with Hevel his brother; then one time, when they were in the field, Kayin turned on Hevel his brother and killed him.” ~ Genesis 4:8 (CJB) It was for this deliberate murder that he was punished (Genesis 4:9-15), not for making the wrong offering.

Hanokh (Genesis 5:18, 21-24), like Elijah, is an object of rabbinic speculation, since both are reported to have been taken by God without dying. Was well pleasing to God. This is the Septuagint’s rendering; the Hebrew text says he “walked with God.”

For me, verse 6 is the most critical instruction in the passage. It continues the definition of trusting begun in v. 1. Whoever approaches God must trust that He does exist. This rules out atheism and agnosticism. But God answers people who are not sure whether God is there and are praying to find out if He is.

Although God is who He is for eternity, He becomes something He is not for others ~ a rewarder of those who seek him out. This idea rules out deism, the belief that God started the universe but now it runs by itself without His involvement, and it underlies the concepts of judgment, heaven, and hell. The idea that it is more exalted to behave appropriately regardless of whether God will reward is prideful and anti-biblical; God does not require us to simulate a supposedly higher motive than He provides! In fact, such behavior is a form of self-righteousness.

Noach, after receiving divine warning about things as yet unseen, namely, of course, the Flood (Genesis 6:13-7:1). Like Enoch, Noach walked with God (Genesis 6:9). Through this trusting, he put the world under condemnation. Righteous behavior condemns sin (Romans 12:20-21). The righteousness that comes from trusting is explained in Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17, 3:22, 4:13, 9:30.

As a side note, Barclay has some fascinating comments on this passage which I have included in a PDF document you can access here.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by beginning to examine the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2a

Messianic Jews 11:1-3
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continue in our mini-series Exhortation to Hold Firm by examining The Future Reward for Those Who Endure in Messianic Jews 10:32-39. In this post, we start a new mini-series on our topic of Faith: The Better Way by exploring the Definition and Illustration of Trusting. Let’s start by defining Trust (Faith) in Messianic Jews 11:1-3.

1 Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. 2 It was for this that Scripture attested the merit of the people of old. 3 By trusting, we understand that the universe was created through a spoken word of God so that what is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:1-3 (CJB)

To the author of Messianic Jews, trust is the absolute certainty that what is believed is accurate and that what is expected will happen. It is not the hope which looks forward with wistful longing; it is the hope which looks forward with absolute conviction.

As I have frequently noted before, Stern generally translates “faith” as “trust.” Well, here is why: [1]

“Trust: Greek pistis, “belief, trust, firm reliance, firm conviction, faith,” corresponding to Hebrew emunah. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, though he honored Yeshua his “elder brother,” tried in his book, Two Types of Faith, to demonstrate that the pistis of the New Testament and the emunah of the Tanakh are different. He claimed that pistis is primarily mental assent to doctrines and facts, while emunah is a heart attitude of trust that expresses itself in righteous acts. In fact, however, the latter is the only kind of faith God honors, in both the Old Testament and the New. True Messianic faith is not different in character from that of the Tanakh; it means acknowledging who God is and what He has done, believing His promises, relying on Him for power to live a holy life, and then living that life.

The Jewish New Testament generally uses the word “trust” instead of “faith” to translate pistis because “trust” more clearly signifies to English-speakers the confident reliance on God that generates holy deeds, as opposed to the mere mental acknowledgment of facts and ideas.”

Being confident, Greek upostasis (literally, “that which stands under”), is what gives present reality to what we hope for.

The importance of trusting is that Scripture(here the word stands for God Himself) regards it as the sole basis for human merit, that is, for righteousness and thus for pleasing God (vv. 5-6). “Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, quoted at Romans 4:3).

In contrast to the rest of the chapter, which analyzes various “heroes of faith” chronicled in the Tanakh, this verse sets forth an essential function of trusting, namely, that by trusting we understand. Those who refuse to take the tiny step necessary to trust in God cannot understand the most fundamental truths: the benevolent consequences of faith are not only emotional but affect the realm of the mind.

What is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena but was created through a spoken word of God. In Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 26, we read that God said and it was! Space and time keep me from postulating on creationism versus evolution.

In my next post, we will continue in our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by examining the Trust of the Early Patriarchs in Messianic Jews 11:4-7.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 1c

Messianic Jews 10:32-39
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued our new topic on Faith: The Better Way. We started by examining an Exhortation to Hold Firm by looking at Our Access to God in Messianic Jews 10:19-25. In this post, we continue in our mini-series Exhortation to Hold Firm by examining The Future Reward for Those Who Endure in Messianic Jews 10:32-39.

The Future Reward for Those Who Endure

32 But remember the earlier days, when, after you had received the light, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. 33 Sometimes you were publicly disgraced and persecuted, while at other times you stood loyally by those who were treated this way. 34 For you shared the sufferings of those who had been put in prison. Also when your possessions were seized, you accepted it gladly; since you knew that what you possessed was better and would last forever. 35 So don’t throw away that courage of yours, which carries with it such a great reward. 36 For you need to hold out; so that, by having done what God wills, you may receive what he has promised. 37 For “There is so, so little time! The One coming will indeed come, he will not delay. 38 But the person who is righteous will live his life by trusting, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39 However, we are not the kind who shrink back and are destroyed; on the contrary, we keep trusting and thus preserve our lives!”  ~ Messianic Jews 10:32-39 (CJB)

There had been a time when those early Believers had been up against it. When they first become Believers, they had known persecution and plundering of their goods, and they had learned what it was to become involved with those under suspicion and unpopular. They had met that situation with gallantry and with honor; and now, when they were in danger of drifting away, the author to the Messianic Jews reminds them of their former loyalty.

The Messianic Jews to which this book was addressed had bravely endured a hard struggle for the sake of the Gospel. Having proved their courage once, they are urged to continue to hold out for the little time necessary, to receive the promised reward. The way to do this is not by returning to the familiar Levitical system but through trusting[1] in Yeshua’s once-for-all sacrifice (vv. 38-39). Trusting then becomes the subject of an entire sermon in itself (see Messianic Jews 11:1-12:4 which we begin to examine in my next post).

The appeal of the author to the Messianic Jews is one that could be made to every man. In effect, he says: “Be what you were at your best.” If only we were always at our best, life would be very different. Yeshua does not demand the impossible; but if we were still as honest, as kind, as courageous, as courteous as we can be, life would be transformed.

To be transformed as mention in Romans 12:2: [2]

  • We need to keep our hope before us. If life is only routine, we may well sink into a trap of drift; but if we are on the way to heaven, effort must always be at full pitch.
  • We need perseverance. Most people can start well, and almost everyone can be okay in minor trials. To everyone, it is sometimes given to mount up with wings as eagles. In the moment of persecution, everyone can run and not be weary; but the greatest gift of all is to walk and not to faint.
  • We need the remember of the goal. The author of the Messianic Jews makes a quotation from Habukkak 2:3 in verse 37. The prophet tells his people that if they hold fast, God will see them through their present situation. The victory comes only to the those who hold on to their faith.

To the author of the Messianic Jews life was a thing that was on its way to the presence of Yeshua. It was therefore never something that could be allowed to drift; it was its end which made the process of life all important, and only the man who endured to the end would be saved.

We should never be less than our best, and always remember that the end always comes. If life is the road to Yeshua, none can afford to miss it or to stop half-way.

Verse 38 references Habakkuk 2:4 as the introduction to the primary discussion of trusting, a topic already mentioned in Messianic Jews 3:12-4:3; 6:1, 12; and 12:22.

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

In my next post, we continue our mini-series dealing with Faith: The Better Way by exploring the Definition and Illustration of Trusting beginning with Messianic Jews 11:1-3 ~ Trust Defined.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] For those who may have begun to follow this series recently, David Stern translates “faith” as “trust.”

[2] Thoughts from William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible.