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.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 1b

Messianic Jews 10:26-31
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we were going through the topic of 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 Judgment for Failure to Hold Firm in Messianic Jews 10:26-31.

“26 For if we deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but only the terrifying prospect of Judgment, of raging fire that will consume the enemies. 28 Someone who disregards the Torah of Moshe is put to death without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses. 29 Think how much worse will be the punishment deserved by someone who has trampled underfoot the Son of God; who has treated as something common the blood of the covenant which made him holy; and who has insulted the Spirit, giver of God’s grace! 30 For the One we know is the One who said, “Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay,” and then said, “Adonai will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” ~ Messianic Jews 10:26-31 (CJB)

Every now and again the author of Messianic Jews speaks with a sternness that is almost without parallel in the Brit Hadashah. Few authors have such a sense of the sheer horror of sin. In this passage, his thoughts are going back to the grim instruction in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. There, if any person shall be proved to have gone after strange gods and to have worshipped them, “you are to bring the man or woman who has done this wicked thing to your city gates, and stone that man or woman to death. The death sentence is to be carried out only if there was testimony from two or three witnesses; he may not be sentenced to death on the testimony of only one witness. The witnesses are to be the first to stone him to death; afterward, all the people are to stone him. Thus you will put an end to this wickedness among you.”

These verses recap, in even stronger language, the exhortation of Messianic Jews 6:4-8, with emphasis on fearing God. There is a tendency to modernize the “fear of God” into “reverence for God” or minimize it by exalting the love of God as a higher motivation for right behavior than fear of Him. But doing so blunts the impact which the prospect of judgment ought to make (vv. 27, 30-31). There is a right reason for fearing God; there is such a thing as “holy fear” (Messianic Jews 11:7). “The fear of Adonai is the beginning of wisdom” ~ Proverbs 9:10. And, as we will later discover: Our God is a consuming fire!” ~ Messianic Jews 12:29.

Those who deliberately continue to sin (v. 26) are doing what the Torah calls sinning “with a high hand,” and for such sins, the Levitical system of sacrifices prescribed in the Torah does not atone (see Ya’akov (James) 2:10-11). Think how much worse it will be for those who highhandedly ignore Yeshua’s atoning sacrificial death (v. 29)! This is the whole point of this passage.

However, in addition, v. 26 by its very position in the overall text emphasizes the seriousness of neglecting congregational meetings (v. 25), even though the specific sin actually referred to, as clarified by v. 29, is that of disregarding the Messiah’s once-for-all sacrifice for sin and trusting in the Levitical system which only foreshadowed it.

Note: Since I also covered this passage in my series on Eternal Security, I won’t be further examining this passage as to how it relates to the topic of Apostasy.

According to Barclay, the author gives three definitions of sin. [1]

  1. Sin is to trample Yeshua It is not mere rebelliousness against the law; it is the wounding of love. Once Yeshua had come, the awfulness of sin lay not in its breaking of the law but its trampling of the love of Yeshua underfoot.
  1. Sin is the failure to see the sacredness of sacred things. Nothing produces a shudder like sacrilege. The author of Messianic Jews says in effect: “Look at what has been done for you; look at the shed blood and the broken body of Yeshua; look at what your new relationship to God cost; can you treat it as if it did not matter? Don’t you see what a sacred thing it is?” Sin is the failure to realize the sacredness of that sacrifice upon the Cross.
  1. Sin is an insult to the Ruach. The Ruach speaks within us, telling us what is right and wrong, seeking to check us when we are about to sin and to urge us on when we are drifting into apathy. To disregard these voices is to insult the Ruach and to grieve the heart of God.

Sin is not disobedience to an impersonal law; it is the wrecking of a personal relationship and the wounding of the heart of the God whose name is Abba.

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

In my next post, we complete our mini-series dealing of Exhortation to Hold Firm in the topic of Faith: The Better Way by exploring The Future Reward for Those Who Endure beginning with Messianic Jews 10:32-39.

Click here for PDF version.

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

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 1a

Messianic Jews 10:19-25
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our topic on Yeshua: His Better Covenant by digging into Messianic Jews 10:11-18 ~ The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant and examining The Evidence of Yeshua’s Finished Work. In this post, we begin a new topic on Faith: The Better Way. We start by reviewing an Exhortation to Hold Firm by looking at Our Access to God in Messianic Jews 10:19-25.

Our Access to God

19 So, brothers, we have confidence to use the way into the Holiest Place opened by the blood of Yeshua. 20 He inaugurated it for us as a new and living way through the parokhet, by means of His flesh. 21 We also have a great cohen over God’s household. 22 Therefore, let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting — with our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Messianic Jews 10:19-25 (CJB)

Note: As I have stated before, Stern typically translates “faith” as “trust.”

After commencing the exhortation by addressing the brothers (Believers), the author summarizes the content of his argument, expressed at length in Messianic Jews 2:17-3:6, 4:14-5:10, 6:13-10:18. From theology, he turns to practical exhortation. He is one of the most profound theologians in the Brit Hadashah, but his pastoral instinct governs all his theology. He does not think merely for the thrill of intellectual satisfaction but only that he may forcibly appeal to us to enter into the presence of God.

He begins by saying three things about Yeshua.

  • Yeshua is the living way to the presence of God. We enter through the torn parokhet into the presence of God.
  • Yeshua is Cohen HaGadol (THE High Priest) over God’s house in Heaven. This means that Yeshua not only shows us the way to God but also when we get there introduces us to His very presence.
  • Yeshua is the one person who can cleanse us from all our sins. The sacrifices of the Tanakh were ineffective to remove the real pollution of sin. Only Yeshua can cleanse us. By His presence and His Spirit, He purifies the inmost thoughts and desires until we are clean.

The author of the Messianic Jews goes on to outline our duty to others in a most practical way. He sees that commitment extend in three directions.

  1. We must spur each other on to love and good deeds. Best of all we can do that by setting an excellent example. We can do it by reminding others of their traditions, their privileges, their responsibilities when they are likely to forget them.
  1. We must not neglect our own congregational meetings to worship together. There were some amongst those to whom the author of the Messianic Jews was writing who had abandoned the habit of meeting together. It is still possible for us to think that we are a Messianic Believers and yet quit the practice of worshipping with God’s people in God’s house on God’s day. The best example of this is the “C&E Messianic Believer” who only shows up for worship only on Christmas and Easter.
  1. We must encourage each other. It is easy to laugh at or pour cold water on others enthusiasm and to discourage them. The world is full of discouragers; we have a Messianic duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a someone else on their feet. Blessed is the person who speaks such a word.

Finally, the author of Messianic Jews says that the Messianic Believer’s duty to each other is all the more pressing because the time is short. The Day is approaching. He is speaking of the Second Coming of the Messiah when things, as we know them, will end. The early Believers lived in that expectation. Whether or not we still do, we must realize that no person knows when the summons to rise and go will come to him also. In the time we have, we must do all the good we can to all the people we can in all the ways we can.

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

In my next post, we continue in our new mini-series dealing with Faith: The Better Way by examining The Warning to Hold Firm in Messianic Jews 10:26-31.

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Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 8

Messianic Jews 10:11-18
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our study of Messianic Jews 10:1-10 ~ The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by focusing Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice. In this post, we’ll conclude our topic on Yeshua: His Better Covenant by digging into Messianic Jews 10:11-18 ~ The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by examining The Evidence of Yeshua’s Finished Work.

The Evidence of Yeshua’s Finished Work

11 Now every cohen stands every day doing his service, offering over and over the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this one, after he had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from then on to wait until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has brought to the goal for all time those who are being set apart for God and made holy. 15 And the Ruach HaKodesh too bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “‘This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days,’ says Adonai: ‘I will put my Torah on their hearts, and write it on their minds…,’” 17 he then adds, “‘And their sins and their wickednesses I will remember no more.’” 18 Now where there is forgiveness for these, an offering for sins is no longer needed.” ~ Messianic Jews 10:11-18 (CJB)

The author of the Messianic Jews is drawing a series of implicit contrasts between the sacrifice that Yeshua offered and the animal sacrifices that the cohanim offer. Yeshua’s death and resurrection assured the once for all salvation for all those who by faith accept Him as the Son of God and keep God’s commandments.

The point is the once-and-for-all-ness, the eternal effectiveness of Yeshua’s sacrifice, as opposed to the repeated but only temporarily sacrifices of the first system for a sin offering. This is reinforced by the requoting of Psalm 110:1 in verse 12: Yeshua, after performing His ritual service, did what no Levitical cohen gadol ever did, He sat down at the right hand of God.

In verse 16, the author quotes from Jeremiah 31:32(33): “For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,” says Adonai: “I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  In verse 17, he adds: “No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, ‘Know Adonai’; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more.” ~ Jeremiah 31:33(34) (CJB)

Having God’s Torah written in one’s heart and mind implies that God has forgiven one’s sins so that an offering for sins is no longer needed. Therefore the original readers of this sermon should free themselves from their compulsion to offer animal sacrifices as sin offerings and instead be fully assured of the sufficiency of Yeshua’s sacrifice of Himself on their behalf. We moderns have no such compulsion, but we too should be convinced of the necessity of blood sacrifice for sin while having the assurance that Yeshua’s blood sacrifice fulfills that requirement.

But the author is limiting in what he says. An offering for sins is no longer needed and is ruled out. But the other sacrificial offerings remain part of God’s order even after Yeshua’s death, as proved by Sha’ul’s activity in the Temple at Acts 21:26 and his own offering of sacrifices which he speaks of at Acts 24:17.

With the destruction of the Temple, sacrificial offerings became impossible; but if the Temple is rebuilt, thank offerings, meal offerings, and praise offerings may be offered once again. The author of this letter does not proclaim the end of the sacrificial system in its entirety, only the end of animal sacrifices for sins. Personally, I look forward to the peace offerings as described in Leviticus 7:11-21, especially verse 15. “The meat of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for giving thanks is to be eaten on the day of his offering; he is not to leave any of it until morning.” Remember, this is not a sin offering, but a peace offering. To me, that’s nothing more than a good, old fashion family barbeque!

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

In my next post, we begin a new mini-series dealing with Faith: The Better Way covering Messianic Jews 10:19 thru 12:29.

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Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 7b

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

In my last post, we began to examine Messianic Jews 10:1-10 ~ The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by focusing Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice. In this post, we’ll conclude digging into Messianic Jews 10:1-10 ~ The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by examining Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice. Once again, I broke this passage into two parts. In this post, we will cover verses 8-10.

Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice

1 For the Torah has in it a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals. Therefore, it can never, by means of the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, bring to the goal those who approach the Holy Place to offer them. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t the offering of those sacrifices have ceased? For if the people performing the service had been cleansed once and for all, they would no longer have sins on their conscience. 3 No, it is quite the contrary — in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins, year after year. 4 For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. 5 This is why, on coming into the world, he says, “It has not been your will to have an animal sacrifice and a meal offering; rather, you have prepared for me a body. 6 No, you have not been pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. 7 Then I said, ‘Look! In the scroll of the book it is written about me. I have come to do your will.’” 8 In saying first, “You neither willed nor were pleased with animal sacrifices, meal offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings,” things which are offered in accordance with the Torah; 9 and then, “Look, I have come to do your will”; he takes away the first system in order to set up the second. 10 It is in connection with this will that we have been separated for God and made holy, once and for all, through the offering of Yeshua the Messiah’s body. ~ Messianic Jews 10:1-10 (CJB)

Recall in the last post we learned that verses 5-7 refer to Psalm 40:7-9(6-8). Notice that God does not take away the Torah; rather, he takes away the first system of sacrifices and priesthood in order to set up the second within the framework of the one eternal Torah.

So the author of Messianic Jews says in essence: “The sacrifice of animals is powerless to purify humanity and give them access to God. All that such sacrifices can do is to remind us that we are unredeemed sinners and that the barrier of our sin is between us and God.” So far from erasing our sin, the sacrifices underline it.

God does not want animal sacrifices but obedience to His will. Yeshua’s sacrifice meant that we take something dear to us (time, talent and treasures) and give it to God to show our love. But human nature being what it is, it becomes easy for the idea to slip into a “works” mentality which is a way of buying God’s forgiveness.

The author to the Hebrews was not saying anything new when he said that obedience was the only true sacrifice. Long before him, the prophets had seen how sacrifice had deteriorated and had told the people that what God wanted was not the blood and the flesh of animals but the obedience.

“Sh’mu’el said, “Does Adonai take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying what Adonai says? Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams.” ~ 1 Samuel 15:22 (CJB)

“Offer thanksgiving as your sacrifice to God, pay your vows to the Most High.” Psalm 50:14 (CJB)

“For you don’t want sacrifices, or I would give them; you don’t take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God, you won’t spurn a broken, chastened heart.” ~ Psalm 51:16-17 (CJB)

“For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” ~ Hosea 6:6 (CJB)

“Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” asks Adonai. “I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs and goats! Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! Rosh-Hodesh, Shabbat, calling convocations— I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals; they are a burden to me— I’m tired of putting up with them! “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil, learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow. “Come now,” says Adonai, “let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be eaten by the sword”; for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 1:11-20 (CJB)

“With what can I come before Adonai to bow down before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings? with calves in their first year? Would Adonai take delight in thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Could I give my firstborn to pay for my crimes, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you — no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God.”~ Micah 6:6-8 (CJB)

Always there had been voices crying out for God that the only sacrifice was obedience to His will. Nothing but obedience could open the way to God; disobedience set up a barrier that no animal sacrifice could ever take away. Yeshua was the perfect sacrifice because He perfectly did God’s will. He took Himself and said to God: “Do with me as you will.” He brought to God what no person had been able to bring – the perfect obedience, that was the perfect sacrifice.

If we are ever to have fellowship with God, obedience is the only way. What we cannot offer, Yeshua offered. In His perfect personhood, He offered the perfect sacrifice of the perfect obedience. Obedience by believing in Yeshua is the only way!

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

In my next post, we conclude our mini-series Yeshua: His Better Covenant by examining Messianic Jews 10:11-18 ~ The Evidence of Yeshua’s Finished Work.

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Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 7a

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

In my last post, we examined Messianic Jews 9:23-28 concerning Yeshua As the Sufficient Offering for Our Sins. In this post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant by digging into Messianic Jews 10:1-10 ~ The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by examining Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice. Once again, I will break this passage into two parts. In this post, we will cover verses 1-7.

Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice

1 For the Torah has in it a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals. Therefore, it can never, by means of the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, bring to the goal those who approach the Holy Place to offer them. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t the offering of those sacrifices have ceased? For if the people performing the service had been cleansed once and for all, they would no longer have sins on their conscience. 3 No, it is quite the contrary ~ in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins, year after year. 4 For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. 5 This is why, on coming into the world, he says, “It has not been your will to have an animal sacrifice and a meal offering; rather, you have prepared for me a body. 6 No, you have not been pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. 7 Then I said, ‘Look! In the scroll of the book, it is written about me. I have come to do your will.’” 8 In saying first, “You neither willed nor were pleased with animal sacrifices, meal offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings,” things which are offered in accordance with the Torah; 9 and then, “Look, I have come to do your will”; he takes away the first system in order to set up the second. 10 It is in connection with this will that we have been separated for God and made holy, once and for all, through the offering of Yeshua the Messiah’s body. ~ Messianic Jews 10:1-10 (CJB)

To the author to the Messianic Jews, the whole business of sacrifice was only a copy of what real worship ought to be. The purpose of religion is to bring humanity into a close relationship with God, and that is what these sacrifices could never do. The best that they could do was to give a distant and spasmodic contact with God.

Shadow… originals. The notion of earthly copies and heavenly originals is Hebraic and grounded in the Tanakh, but here it is expressed in Hellenistic imagery drawn from Plato’s Republic.[1]

The author brings proof. Year by year the sacrifices of the Tabernacle and especially Yom Kippur go on. A valid thing does not need to be repeated; the very fact of the repetition of these sacrifices is the final proof that they are not purifying humanity’s souls and not giving full and uninterrupted access to God. Our author goes further ~ he says that all they are is a reminder of sin. So far from purifying a man, they remind him that he is not redeemed and that his sins still stand between him and God.

In effect, he is saying: “Without the Messiah, you cannot get beyond the shadows of God.”

The Torah has in it a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation (or “image”) of the originals. The author does not belittle the Torah but gives it its place in the unfolding of God’s work in history. In respect to the sacrificial system, the Messiah’s death and entry into the heavenly Holiest Place brings to humanity an actual manifestation here and now of what the Torah previewed, namely, the good things still to come when Yeshua returns.

But the argument does not extend to other components of the Torah. First of all, just as Sha’ul at Galatians 3:17-25 uses the term Torah to refer to only its legal aspects, the author of this book frequently uses Torah in reference only to its food and drink and various ceremonial washings (9:10), not its moral elements. Secondly, nothing is said one way or another about Jewish rituals unconnected with the sacrificial system, such as kashrut or Jewish festivals.

In Judaism, the daily synagogue services are thought of as having replaced the daily Temple sacrifices. This connection is made clear in the Siddur itself, where the first part of the morning service includes portions recalling the sacrifices. Other portions of the liturgy are directly concerned with sin and forgiveness. Thus, with the Temple no longer in existence, it is the daily synagogue service which serves as a reminder of sins, year after year. In fact, it makes sense for the Conservative and Reform Jewish movements to apply the term “Temple” to synagogues if synagogue prayers are equivalent to Temple sacrifices.

Compare verse 4 with Do I [God] eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” ~ Psalm 50:13 (CJB).

Opponents of the Brit Hadashah sometimes claim that in this passage (verses 5-7) the author distorts the Tanakh to prove that Yeshua is the Son of God. More specifically, they hold, first, that Psalm 40 (especially verses 6-8) does not refer to the Messiah at all, and second, that several of its lines are intentionally misquoted.

The answer to the first objection is that although the Psalm itself expresses its author’s gratitude at deliverance from trouble or sickness, our author, aware that the Messiah could have revealed His conception of His task on earth with these words, uses the passage midrashically for this purpose. This procedure, legitimate if all understand that the text is being used in this elastic fashion, was common among Jewish authors of the time.

The answer to the second objection is that the author accurately quotes the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Tanakh prepared by Jewish translators more than two centuries before Yeshua was born; but it is necessary to examine three phrases more thoroughly.

There is so much more that could be said about these seven verses, but time doesn’t permit it now.

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

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

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.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

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.