Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical ~ Part 3

Messianic Jews 7:20-28
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined Messianic Jews 7:11-19 on The Transitory Cohenhood of Aharon vs. the Eternal Cohenhood of Yeshua. In this post, we wrap up this mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical by examining Messianic Jews 7:20-28 on The Superior Efficacy of Yeshua’s Cohenhood.

The Superior Efficacy of Yeshua’s Cohenhood

20 What is more, God swore an oath. For no oath was sworn in connection with those who become cohanim now; 21 but Yeshua became a cohen by the oath which God swore when he said to him, “Adonai has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a cohen forever.’” 22 Also, this shows how much better is the covenant of which Yeshua has become guarantor. 23 Moreover, the present cohanim are many in number, because they are prevented by death from continuing in office. 24 But because he lives forever, his position as cohen does not pass on to someone else; 25 and consequently, he is totally able to deliver those who approach God through him; since he is alive forever and thus forever able to intercede on their behalf. 26 This is the kind of cohen gadol that meets our need — holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners and raised higher than the heavens; 27 one who does not have the daily necessity, like the other cohanim g’dolim, of offering up sacrifices first for their own sins and only then for those of the people; because he offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up himself. 28 For the Torah appoints as cohanim g’dolim men who have weakness; but the text which speaks about the swearing of the oath, a text written later than the Torah, appoints a Son who has been brought to the goal forever.”  ~ Hebrews 7:20-28 (CJB)

The writer to the Messianic Jews is still accumulating his proofs that the cohenhood after the order of Malki-Tzedek was superior to the Aharonic cohenhood. He opens this passage by what is more. In verses 4-10 we’re given five ways in which Malki-Tzedek is greater than Avraham; in verses 11-19 the author returned the focus from Malki-Tzedek to Yeshua, as he began to show what Yeshua has brought is more significant than what His predecessors brought. In verses 20-28 he continues to show more ways in which Yeshua and what He has done is better than what has gone before Him.

Adonai has sworn and will not change his mind. These verses must be read in the light of 6:13-20 (compare Galatians 3:15-18). The author approaches the Tanakh precisely as do the rabbis, singling out each word or phrase of the text of Psalm 110:4 to extract every ounce of significance. Here his attention is on sworn; in verses 15-17, it was on forever; in verses 11-14, on to be compared with; and in verses 1-10, on Malki-Tzedek.

Why the new covenant, of which Yeshua has become guarantor, is superior to the covenant with Moshe at Sinai will be explained at Messianic Jews 8:5-13.

Another reason Yeshua is better than the Levitical cohanim is that He is alive forever so that He does not need to be replaced; his position as cohen is permanent, it does not pass on to someone else.

Isaiah 53:12 prophesies that the servant of Adonai (i.e., the Messiah) will make intercession for the transgressors. Romans 8:34 states that Yeshua is at the right hand of God… pleading on our behalf; and 1 Yochanan 2:1 that He is the Tzaddik (“the Righteous One”), who pleads our cause with the Father. Other verses stress the universal necessity of approaching God only through Him (Yochanan 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Yochanan 2:22-23).

Another point of Yeshua’s superiority to the Levitical cohanim is that the latter have the daily necessity of offering sacrifices for their own sins, whereas Yeshua offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up himself on behalf of sinners (9:14; Isaiah 53:12). Since he was holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners (Romans 8:3), He did not need to make an offering for Himself. The sacrificial process, as described in the Torah, emphasizes the need for both the cohen and the offerer to identify with the sacrifice; but here we see the ultimate identification; it is perfect, hence needs no repetition.

David Stern comments:

Jewish tradition condemns human sacrifice in the strongest language, recoiling in horror at the primitive notion that an innocent person should be put to death for the sake of an intangible supposed benefit to someone else. But the death of Yeshua breaks this rule by transcending its logic, as is so often the case when the supernatural events of Yeshua invade the natural world. It is true that the sacrifice of a sinful human being would be ineffective in paying even for himself, let alone for others, the just penalty of death which God demands for sin.

God indicates this by specifying that sacrifices must be without blemish (the phrase appears 29 times in Leviticus and Numbers). Because the sacrifice of a sinful human being would not meet this criterion, it would be ineffective, hence pointless, and therefore all the more repugnant. But the sacrifice of Yeshua, since He was sinless, first, was not needed for Himself at all (death has no authority over him ~ Romans 6:9), and, second, was effective for others, since He was a sacrifice without blemish, as the Torah requires. Finally, the horror of his human sacrifice was negated, indeed reversed and transformed into glory, by His resurrection.

He Is Risen!!!

My comments written in my RSV so many years ago state that since God swore an oath, He must be taken seriously.  Yeshua is the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) who offered the perfect sacrifice for our sins ~ Himself!

In my next post, we’ll begin a new mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 8:1 – 10:18. Naturally, I’ll cut that up into bite-size chunks.

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Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical ~ Part 2

Messianic Jews 7:11-19
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded examining Messianic Jews 7:1-10 on The Priority of the Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood.  In this post, we move on to examine Yeshua’s eternal cohenhood surpassing the transitory cohenhood of Aharon in Messianic Jews 7:11-19.

The Transitory Cohenhood of Aharon vs. the Eternal Cohenhood of Yeshua

11 Therefore, if it had been possible to reach the goal through the system of cohanim derived from Levi (since in connection with it, the people were given the Torah), what need would there have been for another, different kind of cohen, the one spoken of as to be compared with Malki-Tzedek and not to be compared with Aharon? 12 For if the system of cohanim is transformed, there must of necessity occur a transformation of Torah. 13 The one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar; 14 for everyone knows that our Lord arose out of Y’hudah and that Moshe said nothing about this tribe when he spoke about cohanim. 15 It becomes even clearer if a “different kind of cohen,” one like Malki-Tzedek, arises, 16 one who became a cohen not by virtue of a rule in the Torah concerning physical descent, but by virtue of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is stated, “You are a cohen FOREVER, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek.” 18 Thus, on the one hand, the earlier rule is set aside because of its weakness and inefficacy 19 (for the Torah did not bring anything to the goal); and, on the other hand, a hope of something better is introduced, through which we are drawing near to God.”  ~ Messianic Jews 7:11-19 (CJB)

As we read this passage, we have to remember the basic idea of faith which never leaves the mind of the writer to the Messianic Jews: access to God’s presence as friends, with nothing between Him and us. The Jewish faith was designed to produce that fellowship in two ways. First, by obedience to the law. If we obey the law and we were the friend of God. Second, it was recognized that such perfect obedience was out of the question for any human; and so the sacrificial system was established.

When humanity was guilty of a breach of the law, the necessary sacrifice was supposed to heal that breach. When the writer to the Messianic Jews says that the people became a people of the law by the Levitical cohenhood, it means that without the Levitical sacrifices to atone for breaches of it, the law would have been entirely impossible. But, in fact, the system of Levitical sacrifices had proved ineffective to restore the lost fellowship between God and humanity. So then a new cohenhood was necessary, the cohenhood after the order of Malki-Tzedek.

If it had been possible to reach the goal. Greek teleiôsis is often rendered “perfection,” but here it means “reaching the goal” of being reconciled with God and able to be eternally in His presence, as Yeshua is now. For sinful human beings to reach this goal, they must indeed become “perfect” by having their sins forgiven by God. The writer will later show that this can never come about through the Levitical cohenhood but can come about through Yeshua’s cohenhood.

Some people might suppose that the goal can be reached through the Torah. This is why the writer offers as an argument for the possibility of achieving it through the system of cohanim derived from L’vi that in connection with it, the Jewish people were given the Torah. But, in verse 19, the writer destroys the validity of this argument by pointing out that “the Torah did not bring anything to the goal.” This is the same point as Sha’ul makes when he observes that mere possession of Torah or legalistic observance of its commandments does not make a person righteous in God’s sight, able to enter God’s presence; but that “what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are” (Romans 3:20).

This is the only passage in the Brit Hadashah that of a transformation of Torah. The Tanakh itself records at least one change in the Torah, the addition of the festival of Purim; and also that a prominent Jewish tradition speaks of a change in Torah when the Messiah comes. The logical necessity for such a transformation is demonstrated by verses 11-14; and the Scriptural basis for the transformation is found in Psalm 110:4.

Our Lord Yeshua the Messiah arose out of the tribe of Y’hudah since Miryam his mother was descendent of Y’hudah, and so was Miryam’s husband, Yosef. Therefore, the very fact that He was the chief cohen meant that the law was set aside. The Greek word used for set aside is athetesis which is used for annulling a treaty, for repealing a promise, for eliminating a person’s name off the register, for rendering a law or regulation inoperative. The whole paraphernalia of the ceremonial law was wiped out in the cohenhood of Yeshua.

A second reason for the transformation of Torah is that the Levitical cohenhood set up by the Torah in the form that Moshe received it from God was based on a rule… concerning physical descent from L’vi’s son Gershon in the case of cohanim in general, and from Gershon’s great-grandson Aharon in the case of the cohen hagadol. While Pinchas, Aharon’s grandson, was given “the covenant of an everlasting cohenhood” (Numbers 25:13), Yeshua by Himself has an everlasting cohenhood by the power of an indestructible life (as suggested midrashically by the life of Malki-Tzedek). This sets aside the need for a system of passing on the cohenhood from generation to generation, as is stated explicitly in Messianic Jews 7:23-25.

Finally, Yeshua can give us direct access to God. How does He do that? What is it that keeps humanity from having access to God?

  • There is fear. So long as we are terrified of God, we can never be at home with Him. Yeshua came to show us the infinite tender love of the God whose name is Abba (Daddy). We know now that God wants us to come home, not to punishment but to the welcome of His open arms (see Luke 15:11-32).
  • There is sin. Yeshua on His execution stake made the perfect sacrifice which atones for sin. Fear is gone; sin is conquered; the way to God is open to all who would believe.

In my next post, we’ll continue in our mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical Part ~ Part 3. We’ll explore Messianic Jews 7:20-28 on the Superior Efficacy of Yeshua’s Cohenhood.

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Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical ~ Part 1b

Messianic Jews 7:1-10
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began a new mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical. We’re exploring Messianic Jews 7:1-10 on The Priority of the Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood.  We covered the first three verses in the last post and will examine the final seven verses in this passage.

The Priority of the Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood

1 This Malki-Tzedek, king of Shalem, a cohen of God Ha‘Elyon, met Avraham on his way back from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; 2 also Avraham gave him a tenth of everything. Now first of all, by translation of his name, he is “king of righteousness”; and then he is also king of Shalem, which means “king of peace.” 3 There is no record of his father, mother, ancestry, birth or death; rather, like the Son of God, he continues as a cohen for all time. 4 Just think how great he was! Even the Patriarch Avraham gave him a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 Now the descendants of Levi who became cohanim have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people, that is, from their own brothers, despite the fact that they too are descended from Avraham. 6 But Malki-Tzedek, even though he was not descended from Levi, took a tenth from Avraham. Also, he blessed Avraham, the man who received God’s promises; 7 and it is beyond all dispute that the one who blesses has higher status than the one who receives the blessing. 8 Moreover, in the case of the cohanim, the tenth is received by men who die; while in the case of Malki-Tzedek, it is received by someone who is testified to be still alive. 9 One might go even further and say that Levi, who himself receives tenths, paid a tenth through Avraham; 10 inasmuch as he was still in his ancestor Avraham’s body when Malki-Tzedek met him.” ~ Hebrews 7:1-10 (CJB)

These last seven verses show five ways in which Malki-Tzedek is great. [1]

1.  He took a tithe of the spoils of battle from Avraham, even though:

a. Avraham was the Patriarch, the father of all the Jews and thus the greatest of them;

b. Malki-Tzedek had no family connection with Avraham, whereas the Levitical priests receive tithes from their own brothers, from whom support is more naturally to be expected than from non-relatives; and

c. Malki-Tzedek was not explicitly entitled to collect tithes from anyone, whereas the Levitical cohanim have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people. The comparison of the Levitical priests with Malki-Tzedek leads later to their similarity with Yeshua.

2.  Malki-Tzedek blessed Avraham, which implies that Malki-Tzedek was greater than Avraham.

3. The Levitical priests receive tithes even though mortal, whereas Malki-Tzedek is testified to be still alive, that is, the text of the Tanakh does not tell us that he died.

4. An ordering of greatness is set forth as follows: Greatest, Malki-Tzedek, who received a tenth from Avraham; second greatest, Avraham, who paid it; third, Levi, who, even though he himself receives tenths, paid a tenth through Avraham, inasmuch as he was still in his ancestor Avraham’s body when Malki-Tzedek met him; fourth, Levi’s descendants, the cohanim, who are the ones who actually receive tenths, rather than Levi; and least, the people of Israel, who pay them.

5. The Jewish people were given the Torah in connection with the system of cohanim derived from L’vi. But this system was not the final one, nor was it possible through it to reach the goal of being eternally in God’s presence; this will be demonstrated in the next four chapters. This fact allows the possibility of and, more than that, shows the need for, another, different kind of cohen, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek, a cohen who by implication is greater than the greatest of the Levitical high priests, Aharon.

In my next post, we’ll continue in our mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical Part ~ Part 2. We’ll explore Messianic Jews 7:11-19 on the Transitory Cohenhood of Aaron vs. the Eternal Cohenhood of Yeshua.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical ~ Part 1a

Messianic Jews 7:1-10
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our study in the series Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption. In this post, we begin a new mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical. We’ll explore Messianic Jews 7:1-10 on the priority of the Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood.  Once again, there is more meat here than meets the eye. To keep the post at a reasonable length, I will only cover verses 1-3 in this post.

The Priority of the Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood

1 This Malki-Tzedek, king of Shalem, a cohen of God Ha‘Elyon [the God Most High], met Avraham on his way back from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; 2 also Avraham gave him a tenth of everything. Now first of all, by translation of his name, he is “king of righteousness”; and then he is also king of Shalem, which means “king of peace.” 3 There is no record of his father, mother, ancestry, birth or death; rather, like the Son of God, he continues as a cohen for all time. 4 Just think how great he was! Even the Patriarch Avraham gave him a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 Now the descendants of Levi who became cohanim have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people, that is, from their own brothers, despite the fact that they too are descended from Avraham. 6 But Malki-Tzedek, even though he was not descended from Levi, took a tenth from Avraham. Also, he blessed Avraham, the man who received God’s promises; 7 and it is beyond all dispute that the one who blesses has higher status than the one who receives the blessing. 8 Moreover, in the case of the cohanim, the tenth is received by men who die; while in the case of Malki-Tzedek, it is received by someone who is testified to be still alive. 9 One might go even further and say that Levi, who himself receives tenths, paid a tenth through Avraham; 10 inasmuch as he was still in his ancestor Avraham’s body when Malki-Tzedek met him.” ~ Hebrews 7:1-10 (CJB)

As we have seen, the two passages on which the writer to the Messianic Jews relies on are Psalm 110:4 and B’resheet 14:18-20. The story of Malki-Tzedek is a strange and almost eerie one. He arrives out of the blue; there is nothing about his birth, his life, his death or his descendants. He just arrives on the scene. He gives Avraham bread and wine, and after Avraham gives him a tenth of the spoils from his battle, then Malki-Tzedek vanishes from the stage of history with the same unexplained suddenness as he arrived. There is little wonder that in the mystery of this story the writer to the Hebrews found a symbol of Yeshua.

Shalem is akin in Hebrew to the word shalom, which means not only peace but also tranquility, safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness, and integrity. Shalem is the city of Jerusalem. This is clear both from Psalm 76:3(2), where parallel lines of poetry identify Shalem (Salem) with Zion, and from traditional Jewish sources. King of peace. In Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7), one of the essential Tanakh prophecies of the Messiah, Yeshua is called “the prince of peace (sar-shalom).

It’s not that Malki-Tzedek had no father, mother, ancestry, birth or death, but that the Tanakh contains no record of them. This fact enables the author to develop the midrash that Malki-Tzedek continues as a cohen for all time, like the Son of God, Yeshua, who had no human father (Matthew 1:18-25) and who existed as the Word before his birth (Yochanan 1:1, 14) and continues to exist after His death. The midrash may be stated thus: the Tanakh presents Malki-Tzedek in no other way than as a cohen; and since the Tanakh is eternally true, Malki-Tzedek’s existence as a cohen may be thought of as eternal. Such midrash making is altogether Jewish; so that it is irrelevant to point out, as do literal-minded critics, that Malki-Tzedek surely was born of parents and died like other men.  The one thing that we can probably all agree on is that Malki-Tzedek is genuinely unique.

As a side note in passing, a parallel the author does not use, presumably because it does not touch on his purpose: the use of bread and wine both by Malki-Tzedek and by Yeshua and all believers in communion.

In my next post, we’ll continue in our mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical Part ~ Part 1b.

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Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 4

Messianic Jews 6:13-20
Letter to the Messianic Jews

 

In my last post in this series, we examined Messianic Jews 6:9-12 ~ Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 2. In this post, we conclude this section by reviewing Messianic Jews 6:13-20 ~ Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 4 to learn that God’s covenant promises are unchanging.

God’s Covenant Promises Are Unchanging

13 For when God made His promise to Avraham, He swore an oath to do what He had promised; and since there was no one greater than Himself for Him to swear by, He swore by Himself 14 and said, “I will certainly bless you, and I will certainly give you many descendants”;
15 and so, after waiting patiently, Avraham saw the promise fulfilled. 16 Now people swear oaths by someone greater than themselves, and confirmation by an oath puts an end to all dispute. 17 Therefore, when God wanted to demonstrate still more convincingly the unchangeable character of His intentions to those who were to receive what He had promised, He added an oath to the promise; 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in neither of which God could lie, we, who have fled to take a firm hold on the hope set before us, would be strongly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as a sure and safe anchor for ourselves, a hope that goes right on through to what is inside the parokhet, 20 where a forerunner has entered on our behalf, namely, Yeshua, who has become a cohen gadol forever, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek.”
 ~ Hebrews 6:13-20 (CJB)

Avraham was a man of great trust. Afterall, he offered his son Yitz’chak as an offering to God trusting that God would supply a substitute. The double security of oath and promise which God offered him in B’resheet 22:17 should strongly encourage us, who also have been given a hope set before us of going right on through… the parokhet of the Most Holy Place in heaven to God Himself (see Messianic Jews 10:22).

We can enter into the Most Holy Place because we are united with Yeshua, and he has entered ahead of us as our forerunner. He has been able to enter because He has become a cohen gadol forever, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek. The author thus returns to the line of thought which he left at 5:10 to urge the readers to diligence. He also is preparing the groundwork for his argument in the next chapter (7:20-21).

In the ancient world, the anchor was the symbol of hope. Epictetus says: “A ship should never depend on one anchor or a life on one hope.” Pythagoras said: “Wealth is a weak anchor; fame is still weaker. What then are the anchors which are strong? Wisdom, great-heartedness, courage—these are the anchors which no storm can shake.”  [1] The writer of Messianic Jews insists that Believers posses the greatest hope in the world.

That hope is one which enters into the parokhet of the Most Holy Place. In the Temple, the most sacred of all places was the Most Holy Place. Within the Most Holy Place, there was held to abide the very presence of God. Into that place, only one person in all the world could go, and he was the Cohen HaGodol; and even he might enter that Most Holy Place on just one day of the year, the Day of Atonement.

The writer to the Hebrews uses a most illuminating word about Jesus. He says that he entered the presence of God as our forerunner. The Greek word is prodromos. It has three stages of meaning: (1) It means one who rushes on; (2) It means a pioneer; or, (3) It means a scout who goes ahead to see that it is safe for the body of the troops to follow. Yeshua went into the presence of God to make it safe for all humanity to follow.

Before Yeshua came, God was the distant stranger whom only a very few might approach and that at the peril of their lives. But because of what Yeshua was and did, God has become the friend of every person. Once humanity thought of Him as barring the door; now they think of the entrance to His presence as thrown wide open for all.

In my next post, we’ll begin a new mini-series on Yeshua’s Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood Surpasses the Levitical. We’ll explore Messianic Jews 7:1-10 on the priority of the Malki-Tzedek Cohenhood.

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

 

Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 3

Messianic Jews 6:9-12
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post in this series, we examined Messianic Jews 5:11-14 ~ Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 2. In this post, we continue to learn in Messianic Jews 6:1-8 ~ Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 3 concerning true Believers encouraged.

True Believers Encouraged

“Now even though we speak this way, dear friends, we are confident that you have the better things that come with being delivered. 10 For God is not so unfair as to forget your work and the love you showed for him in your past service to his people — and in your present service too. 11 However, we want each one of you to keep showing the same diligence right up to the end when your hope will be realized; 12 so that you will not become sluggish, but will be imitators of those who by their trust and patience are receiving what has been promised.”  ~ Hebrews 6:9-12 (CJB)

One thing stands out in this passage. This is the only time in the whole letter where the writer addresses the readers as dear friends. It is precisely after the sternest passage of all that he uses the address of love. It is as if he said to them: “If I did not love you so much I would not speak with such harshness.”

The hellfire-and-brimstone of verses 4-8 is balanced by a positive and comforting word: we are confident that you do not fall in the category of those who have fallen away and are close to being burned, but that you have the better things that come with being delivered.

What we learn is that even if the readers have failed to grow up in their Messianic faith and knowledge and even if they have been falling away from their first enthusiasm, they have never given up their practical service to their fellow Believers. There is a tremendous actual truth here.

Sometimes in the Messianic life, we come to times which are arid; the Kehilah services have nothing to say to us, the teaching that we do in Shabbat school or the singing that we do in the choir or the service we give on a committee becomes a labor without joy. At such a time there are two alternatives. We can give up our worship and our service. Or, we can go doggedly on with them. The strange thing is that the light, the romance, and the joy we first experienced will come back again. In the end, the best thing to do is to go on with the habits of the Messianic life and the Kehilah. If we do, we can be sure that the sun will shine again.

There is no hint of “justification by works” here rather, the work and service to his people constitute “good actions already prepared by God” which those “delivered by grace through trusting should do (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Keep showing the same diligence. Such action-oriented urging to “keep on keeping on” is also found at 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, Philippians 3:13-14, Romans 8:11-13, and Messianic Jews 12:1-2. The point is reinforced by being expressed negatively in the advice not to be sluggish ~ a word found in the Brit Hadashah only at the beginning and end of this exhortation (5:11 and here). He is telling them to go on in the realization that others have gone through their struggle and won the victory. The Believers are not walking an unexplored path; they are walking where the saints of old have walked.

Believers will surely realize their hope and receive what has been promised. We’ll see more on this in my next post.

In my next post, we’ll continue to examine Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 4 in Messianic Jews 6:13-20 to learn that God’s covenant promises are unchanging.

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Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 2

Messianic Jews 6:1-8
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined Messianic Jews 5:11-14 ~ Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 1. In this post, we continue to learn in Messianic Jews 6:1-8 ~ Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 2 about a warning advanced.

A Warning Advanced

“Therefore, leaving behind the initial lessons about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of turning from works that lead to death, trusting God, 2 and instruction about washings, s’mikhah, the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment. 3 And, God willing, this is what we will do. 4 For when people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, 5 and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba  ~  6 and then have fallen away  ~  it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and keep holding him up to public contempt. 7 For the land that soaks up frequent rains and then brings forth a crop useful to its owners receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it keeps producing thorns and thistles, it fails the test and is close to being cursed; in the end, it will be burned.” ~ Hebrews 6:1-8 (CJB)

The writer to the Messianic Jews sets forth the necessity of progress in the Messianic life. No teacher would ever get anywhere if they had to lay the foundations all over again every time they began to teach. The writer to the Messianic Jews says that the readers must go on to maturity.

The initial lessons about the Messiah can be presented as three pairs of doctrines constituting the foundation on which to build a Messianic life. Being born again consists in turning from works that lead to death (repentance from sin) and trusting God. Both aspects are necessary: claiming to trust God without leaving one’s sins behind is hypocrisy, because God is holy. Attempting to turn from sin without trusting God either fails, leads to pride in self-accomplishment, or both.

Two pairs of topics comprise the instruction a baby Believer needs after coming to faith. The first pair deals with this world, the second with the world to come ~ Biblical faith is neither altogether this-worldly nor altogether otherworldly.

Baptism is the normal Brit Hadashah word not for the immersion which accompanies coming to faith (Acts 2:37, 8:38, 16:32) but for washings or purifications, of which the initial immersion is but one. The Messianic Jewish readers would have been familiar with this subject since the Tanakh speaks of such purifications at many places; also Yochanan 13:3-17 and below at 10:22. S’mikhah, the laying on of hands (see Matthew 21:23), refers here to the ordination of an individual for a particular task of ministry by the elders of a congregation, as with Sha’ul at Acts13:1 and Timothy at 1Timothy 4:14. Instruction about washings leads to the whole question of how to live a holy life in a sinful world, while s’mikhah introduces the subject of working for the Kingdom of God.

Without the resurrection of the dead it becomes unclear how God is just (see the book of Job) and a Believer’s life becomes pointless (1 Corinthians 15:18). The hope of eternal reward and the fear of eternal punishment are powerful motivators for Believers to live holy lives and to work for the Kingdom of God.

 

Unlike Sha’ul at 1 Corinthians 3:1, our author believes the readers do not need more milk (5:11-14); but assumes they understand these six basic doctrines outlined in verses 1-3 and are prepared to go on to maturity.

Barclay labels verses 4-8 as “one of the most terrible passages in scripture.” [1]  Since I dealt with the issue of Eternal Security extensively in 2016, I’m not going to address it here except to recap the main issue raised by this passage.
These verses have been commandeered into service of the most amazing variety of theological positions. Arminians (named after their supposed founder, Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)) take them as proof that it is possible for someone who has once been a Believer to fall away from faith irretrievably. Calvinists (after John Calvin (1509-1564)) interpret them in such a way as to make that a practical impossibility. The dispute between them has fueled many fires, but often forgotten is the author’s purpose, which is not to deal abstractly with the “eternal security of the Believer,” but specifically with the readers’ concern that unless the Levitical sacrifices required by the Torah are offered their sins remain unforgiven. Whether they had, in fact, reintroduced sacrifices on their own cannot be determined from the evidence of this book. But it is obvious that they were fixated on the sacrificial system; and it becomes the author’s task to show them that Yeshua’s atoning death and elevation to the office of cohen gadol has brought about by a transformation of Torah (7:12) which alters the sacrificial system and priesthood.

Here is a review of the author’s argument in these verses. He speaks of people who have:

  1. once been enlightened, so that they know who Yeshua is and what He has done;
  2. tasted the heavenly gift of God’s forgiveness;
  3. become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, the Ruach HaKodesh whom God gives only through His Son Yeshua;
  4. tasted the goodness (compare Psalm 34:8) of God’s Word and;
  5. tasted the powers of the ‘olam haba.

In my next post, we’ll take a quick break from our journey through Messianic Jews to observe God’s Appointed Time of Pesach and Hag HaMatzah (Passover and Unleavened Bread).

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

Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 1

Messianic Jews 5:11-14
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined Messianic Jews 5:1-10 ~ Yeshua Is God’s Appointed High Cohen. In this post, we begin to learn to Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption in Messianic Jews 5:11-14. In this post, we focus on the immature reproved.

The Immature Reproved

“11 We have much to say about this subject, but it is hard to explain, because you have become sluggish in understanding. 12 For although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the very first principles of God’s Word all over again! You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who has to drink milk is still a baby, without experience in applying the Word about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by continuous exercise to distinguish good from evil.”  ~ Hebrews 5:11-14 (CJB)

Like me, you may be saying “OUCH!” to yourself. This passage could certainly qualify as one of those “hard-sayings of the Bible. Although I have been teaching from the Word of God for almost forty years, I still learn something new every day. Here the writer to the Messianic Jews deals with the difficulties which confront him in attempting to get across an adequate conception of Messianic Judaism to his hearers.

The phrase, to all who obey Him in verse 9, now becomes the occasion for the third appeal, in which obedience to God is equated with spiritual maturity and with doing God’s work ~ actively putting our energy for the Kingdom, as opposed to receiving doctrine passively. Listening to fundamental doctrine is milk, and anyone who has to drink milk is still a baby; compare Sha’ul’s use of the same metaphor at 1 Corinthians 3:1-2.

What distinguishes the mature is that they have experience in applying the Word, that is, in obeying God, in behaving ethically, in putting out as opposed to taking in. After some time doing this, their faculties have been trained by continuous exercise to distinguish good from evil.

Those whose faculties are still undiscerning cannot make use of the solid food which the author is about to dispense. Namely, the information concerning how Yeshua’s high-priesthood goes beyond the Levitical cohenhood and His death goes beyond the Temple and Tabernacle sacrificial system.

So there are three stages:

  • babyhood, in which one receives fundamental doctrine;
  • moral maturity, in which one applies these essential doctrines to do good works; and,
  • spiritual maturity in which one is ready to accept more advanced doctrine (solid food).

At Yochanan 4:31-34 Yeshua, who is, of course, both morally and spiritually mature, speaks of his food as doing God’s will.

People who continually need to hear the initial lessons about the Messiah (Messianic Jews 6:1) remain, spiritual babies, feeding on milk, not solid food. New Believers ought to seek milk (1 Kefa 2:2). And this milk is enough to orient people toward becoming morally mature and doing God’s work. However, when Believers become sluggish in understanding, due to their failure to grow up and do work ~ when they “ignore such a great deliverance” (2:3), display lack of trust (3:12) and disobey (4:11) ~ it becomes hard to explain things which mature workers need to know.

Have you become sluggish?  Do the work that the Lord has assigned to you in the Kingdom.

As David Stern explains: [1]

It should not be thought that solid food is more important than milk, that the doctrines of cohenhood and sacrifice are more important than those of repentance, trust, purification, ordination, resurrection, and judgment (6:1-2). Rather, each has its place in the life of Believers, according to their degree of maturity.

The Word about righteousness could well be the doctrine that people are declared righteous by God on the ground of their trust (Romans 3:20-21, Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-10). This doctrine is dangerous in the hands of spiritual babies, who may use it to excuse their sins (Romans 3:7-8) and their lack of diligence in doing Kingdom work; it is only for the morally mature, those whose faculties have been trained by continuous use to distinguish good from evil.

In my next post, we’ll focus on a warning advanced in Messianic Jews 6:1-8 as we continue to Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption ~ Part 2.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

 

Yeshua Is God’s Appointed High Cohen

Messianic Jews 5:1-10
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined Messianic Jews 4:14-16 ~ Yeshua Is the Way to approach God. In this post, together we learn that Yeshua Is God’s Appointed High Cohen in Messianic Jews 5:1-10.

1 For every cohen gadol taken from among men is appointed to act on people’s behalf with regard to things concerning God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and with those who go astray since he too is subject to weakness. 3 Also, because of this weakness, he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor upon himself, rather, he is called by God, just as Aharon was. 5 So neither did the Messiah glorify himself to become cohen gadol; rather, it was the One who said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” 6 Also, as He says in another place, “You are a cohen forever, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek.” 7 During Yeshua’s life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions, crying aloud and shedding tears, to the One who had the power to deliver Him from death; and He was heard because of His godliness. 8 Even though He was the Son, He learned obedience through His sufferings. 9 And after He had been brought to the goal, He became the source of eternal deliverance to all who obey Him, 10 since He had been proclaimed by God as a cohen gadol to be compared with Malki-Tzedek.”  ~ Hebrews 5:1-10 (CJB)

The qualifications for the office of cohen gadol within the framework of the Levitical system of cohanim include the ability to sympathize with the people and divine appointment (verses 1-4). Yeshua meets these requirements (verses 5-10). The Levitical cohanim could empathize with those for whom they interceded because they shared the latter’s human weakness in that both intercessor and interceded-for sinned. Yeshua did not sin, but He can sympathize because He suffered temptation without giving in to it.

He is called by God, just as Aharon was.  See Exodus 28 and Leviticus 8 for a description of the Levitical cohanim. This passage sets out three essential qualifications of the cohanim in any age and any generation.

  1. A cohen is appointed on humanity’s behalf to deal with the things concerning God.
  2. The cohen must be one with humanity.
  3. The cohen does not appoint himself; his appointment is of God. [I use the masculine pronoun here as the Tanach did not allow for female cohanim.]

Today I have become your father. We saw this earlier when we studied Messianic Jews 1:5 and learned that it was quoting Psalm 2.

To be compared with, often rendered, “after the order of,” as if there were an order of cohanim of which Malki-Tzedek was the founder; but this is not the meaning.  Malki-Tzedek (Melchizedek; the Hebrew name means “my king is righteousness”) appears first at Genesis 14:18 as both cohen of El Elyon (“Most High God”) and king of Shalem, identified with Jerusalem. But in Judaism, kingship, and cohenhood were separated. Saul, the son of Kish, was the first king; after him came David and all kings of Judah since then have been from the House of David (including Yeshua). On the other hand, the cohenly line ran from Moshe’s brother Aharon. Thus at Zechariah 6:13 there is a reference to two persons; by context, these must be King Zerubabbel (of the House of David) and Joshua the cohen hagadol (a descendant of Aaron). Yeshua is to be compared with Malki-Tzedek because, in Yeshua, Jewish cohen and Jewish king are united in one person. So far as is known, the author makes a chiddush (“innovation”) in presenting the idea of king and cohen combined in one person. [1]

Verses 7-10 expands on Messianic Jews 2:17 and 4:15 espousing Yeshua’s sympathizing with human beings because He became one of us, but, unlike us, He was utterly obedient to God.

Compare Yeshua’s prayers and petitions, crying aloud and shedding tears in the Garden of Gat-Sh’manim, as reported at Matthew 26:36-46 and Luke 22:39-46. You might think that He was not heard because of his godliness since the One who had the power to deliver Him from death did not do so. But He prayed that God’s will be done, and according to the Tanakh, it was God’s will that Yeshua die, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Kefa 3:18) so that he might become the source of eternal deliverance to all who obey Him.

After He had been brought to the goal. This is usually translated, “having been made perfect.”  But Yeshua was not imperfect; instead, it was God’s goal to have Yeshua made our perfect cohen gadol, fully representative of and empathetic with the human condition (as we learned Messianic Jews 4:15). Through His heavenly cohenhood He became the source of eternal deliverance to all who obey him, as explained further in Chapters 7-10.

In my next post, we’ll examine Messianic Jews 5:11-14 to learn to Lay Hold of Yeshua and His Redemption.

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[1] Ibid.

Yeshua Is the Way

Messianic Jews 4:14-16
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, I concluded this topic of rest by examing Messianic Jews 4:11-13. We now begin a journey from Messianic Jews 4:14 thru 7:28 discovering how Yeshua is superior to the Aaronic Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood was well known to the readers of this letter. They were highly respected in the Jewish community.  In this post, we learn that Yeshua Is the Way to approach God.

14 Therefore, since we have a great cohen gadol who has passed through to the highest heaven, Yeshua, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we acknowledge as true. 15 For we do not have a cohen gadol unable to empathize with our weaknesses; since in every respect He was tempted just as we are, the only difference being that He did not sin. 16 Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne from which God gives grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:14-16 (CJB)

In my last post, we learned that the author of Messianic Jews left his readers terrified of God’s judgment. Now he reassures them that even though Yeshua will one day be our judge, now He is our intercessor and advocate (Messianic Jews 7:25, 1 Yochanan 2:1). Here we are to come to grips with the great characteristic conception of Hebrews that of Yeshua as the perfect cohen gadol. His task is to bring the voice of God to humanity and to usher humanity into the presence of God.

The subject of Yeshua as cohen gadol was introduced at Messianic Jews 2:17. Here the author recapitulates what he said in 2:5-18, namely, that Yeshua had a human nature exactly like ours, enabling him to empathize with our weaknesses, the only difference between Him and the rest of us being that He did not sin. His readers understood that their earthly cohen gadol was also a sinner just like themselves.  He had to atone for his own sins before he could offer the sacrifice for theirs.

In every respect, He was tempted just as we are. Yochanan calls the basic three kinds of temptations “the desires of the old nature, the desires of the eyes, and the pretensions of life” (1 Yochanan 2:15-17). Adam and Eve succumbed to them in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6), whereas Yeshua resisted them when the Adversary tempted Him (Matthew 4:1-11).

Because we are His, united with Him, we can follow Him; and with Him, we can confidently approach the throne from which God gives grace. This may be an implied contrast with the mercy seat of the Tabernacle and Temple here on earth, which only the Levitical cohen gadol could approach.

Many Jewish people feel distant from God and His throne; this is often due to an overemphasis in some forms of Judaism on God’s perfection. New believers are frequently amazed to experience God’s warm and loving nearness. They find that God’s love is not merely an abstract phenomenon without relevance to their hearts’ needs. Like Moshe and Avraham before us, we can experience God’s mercy and grace.

As Yeshua, Himself said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; and everyone living and trusting in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  ~ Yochanan 11:25-26 (CJB). Therefore because He is our cohen gadol as well as our future judge, let us approach the throne to find grace in our time of need.

In my next post, we’ll examine Messianic Jews 5:1-10 to learn that Yeshua Is God’s Appointed High Priest.

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