The Everlasting Gospel: The Mystery Of The Bread Of Life

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joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

The gospel was always and ever meant to be good news. It tells us who God is and how we can be saved.
For many, the modern gospel has become a fear-based method of behavior control and doubt and jumping through hoops, just in case the “how” didn’t work, or in case we didn’t do it right. 😦 But it is meant to be joyful. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved! Jesus, our God and Savior! Our Deliverer! Yeshua the Messiah!
“There is born to you this day….”
For those sitting in the region of the shadow of death (Heb. 10:1Matt. 4:16Luke 1:79), could there be any greater news than that light and life have come? Good news, people! Your light has come! (Is. 52:72 Cor. 4:3-4)

Sadly, the joy did not last for the house of Israel. The Apostle John tells us what happened: He came unto His brethren, but they despised and rejected Him: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:11-12; see also John 5:18) Ultimately they killed him, not knowing this was the plan all along (1 Cor. 2:7-8) so He would rise from the dead and become the perfect sacrifice and the perfect priest (Heb. 7:22-25).

The rejection and the redemption of the Messiah is hidden in prophetic shadow in one of my favorite typologies of Christ: Joseph. His brothers also despised him. They were jealous of their father’s love for his son, who was born to Rachel following many years of barrenness. They mocked his dreams (Genesis 37:18-28) and plotted to kill him, but rather sold him as a slave until the appointed time.

Until the 7 years of famine.

“And the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” (Gen. 41:54-55)

“Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there.” (Gen. 43:25)

“Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, “Serve the bread.” (Gen. 43:30-31)

We see that, eventually, the famine grew worse: 

“Now there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine.” (Gen. 47:13)

And the famine grew worse after that:

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matt. 4:4)

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, But shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)

The Revelation
The hunger for bread brought Joseph’s brothers to him. They did not know him, of course. They had sold him into slavery at seventeen years old (Gen. 37:2), and now, many years later, presumed him to be dead. They did not recognize this man, a powerful ruler in Egypt who had married a Gentile bride before the famine came. In a seven-year time of distress and famine, the only man who could save them was their own flesh and blood.
But he knew them. Listen to the longing in his heart to be known!

“Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself knownto his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. [H6413, peletah: “an escape.”] So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Gen. 45:1-8)

When I realized the astonishing prophetic nature of this story, these words left me in belly sobs and messy tears.

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.”

And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Gen. 50:15-21)


It is salvation by G R A C E.

The brothers of a dreamer named Joseph came to Egypt to be saved by bread. Thousands of years later, by the hand of a dreamer named Joseph, bread came from Egypt to save.
 

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matt. 2:13-14)

 

The Bread of Life

Jesus explained this mystery to the Rabbis of Israel in John 6:26-58. Here He is laying the foundation for salvation that is found not through the laboring that perishes, which are the continual works and sacrifices for righteousness (perfection), but through Him alone.

I know this is long, but please take the time to read the following several passages. They are profound and powerful and will help bring understanding for what is to come:

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:26-58)

Notice that the Jews glorified and admired the mystical bread in the wilderness. It did nothing to bring eternal life, yet Jesus, the Living Bread From Heaven, stood before them in the flesh, offering eternal life

But they wanted a sign. They continued in unbelief and mockery. They complained about Him, murmured among themselves, and quarreled over the message. How quickly they forgot that their fathers did the same, even about that miraculous manna!

“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”

So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:4-9)

To this day I cannot hold back my adoration for God and His wisdom in giving us all things, including salvation and Scripture! For even here in the wilderness, with fiery serpents and complaining wanderers, we are given so much if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Look at this:

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:1-17)


As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up. 

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

They looked.
We believe.

(AS…) Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness.

  • The people looked at it and lived.
  • The people did not look at it, then say a special prayer.*
  • The people did not look at it and apply poultices to the serpent bites.
  • They did not look at it and offer burnt offerings or sacrifices.
  • They looked and lived.

(EVEN SO…) Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again.

  • We believe He did this and receive eternal life.
  • We do not believe and say a special prayer.*
  • We do not believe and keep the laws of Moses.
  • We do not believe and offer burnt offerings or sacrifices.
  • We believe and live.

*Prayer may accompany salvation, and confession of faith (2 Cor. 4:13), but these things do not of themselves save. It is the heart that matters. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Matt. 15:8)

This message is important to truly understand because it is the everlasting gospel, which tells us who God is and how we can be saved. And it offers pristine clarity for some of the more difficult passages in the Bible, which must be understood in context.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 1 Cor. 1:21

Salvation, the free gift of eternal life, is clearly laid out in Scripture as a gift that comes by grace through faith (belief) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day. Our works, which include how we live as believers and how we serve the Lord, are part of our lifelong journey with the Lord.

(See Romans 4:4Rom. 11:5-7Eph. 2:8-9, et. al.)

All passages of Scripture must be understood and interpreted in the light of the gospel. If there seems to be a contradiction, that just means full understanding has not been reached yet, or the passages are not being read in the proper context. This is an invitation to go deeper and pray constantly for wisdom and revelation from the Holy Spirit.

The pleasure of the Lord

Isaiah 53 tells us a mystery:

“It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lordshall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.”

It pleased the Lord? Pleasure!?

The book of Hebrews magnificently unveils this mystery!

“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.’ ”

Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:1-10)

“He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.”
“It is finished.” (From John 19:30)

The pleasure of the Lord: one perfect sacrifice that once, for all, takes away sins and makes those who approach perfect.

What is pleasure to the Lord: faith. (Heb. 11:5-6)

What is not pleasure to the Lord: Unbelief.

“Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” (Heb. 10:38-39)

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do [go on to perfection] if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (Heb. 6:1-6)

“If they fall away.” Interestingly, this word (G3895) is similar to, but does not translate the same as, apostasiain the Greek. It is is used only once in the Bible. It describes falling away as falling back, as in returning to the old ways of seeking forgiveness and atonement for sin. This is why the writer urges them in Hebrews 10:20 to approach boldly, in a new and living way, through the veil of His flesh. Not the old way of burnt offerings and sacrifice of bulls and goats, with scarlet wool and ashes or hyssop.

But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

Remember? God did not desire this; He had no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices. But He did have pleasure in one perfect sacrifice that took away sin forever. He had pleasure in the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Saints of the Lord in grace, this is not about you. This is not about me. It is written to testify and bear witness to the Hebrews, who were introduced to the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, and warn them to not draw back to the old sacrificial system of atonement.

Ariely, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

We are living in a day and time where this message is as relevant as it was almost two thousand years ago. On Monday, December 10, 2018, the last day of Hanukkah, Israel dedicated the third temple altar. A sheep was slaughtered and a portion burned on the altar. This altar, and the third temple, are in satanic opposition to the once-for-all sacrifice of our beloved Lamb of God. This is exactly what the writer of Hebrews warns against. He writes, clearly, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” There was ONE perfect sacrifice; it happened around 33AD when Yeshua was crucified for you. No other sacrifice or offering will be accepted. If you reject that, there are no more sacrifices or offerings you can bring that will atone for your sin. (See Heb. 10:11-18)

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:29)

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

The entire context of this passage is for those whose souls, just like in the wilderness with Moses, “loathed this worthless bread.”

Remember what the Lord did when the people complained? Hundreds of years after Moses, the prophet Jeremiah declared, “For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,” says the Lord.” (Jer. 8:17) God does not overlook the rejection of His Son, the living bread of God who gives life to the world. The day of His vengeance is coming.

Soon, we don’t know when, but soon, once the Church has departed from the earth to be with the Lord, an angel will come with a message. It will be different than when the shepherds were feeding their flock by night and the glory of the Lord shone around. This time, the angel does not say, “Don’t be afraid.” He tells them to be afraid. He says, “Fear God.” He reveals who God is: “Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” Another angel tells how to be saved:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Rev. 14:6-13)

Today we live during the astonishing age of grace, where we can become a child of God through believing from the heart that Jesus paid the debt for our sins through His death on the cross. It has never been, and never will be, as free and simple as it is now. “Take, eat,” Jesus says. He stands before you, the Living Bread from Heaven, offering eternal life.

One bread. One body.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:26-28)

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. (1 Cor. 10:16-17)

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)


This is truly good tidings of great joy!  (Click to Source)
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Getting ‘Unhitched’ from the Old Testament? Andy Stanley Aims at Heresy

August 10, 2018

Reading the Torah

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their’s also was.

10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

(2 Timothy 3:1-17)King James Version (KJV) Public Domain

 

Eventually, we learn to take an individual at his word. Andy Stanley is a master communicator, and he communicates very well and very often. His preaching and teaching often bring controversy, and he quite regularly makes arguments that subvert the authority of Scripture and cast doubt upon biblical Christianity. He returns regularly to certain themes and arguments — so regularly that we certainly get the point. He evidently wants us to understand that he means what he says.

Earlier this year, Stanley brought controversy when he argued in a sermon that the Christian faith must be “unhitched” from the Old Testament. He claimed that “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.”

Later, explaining his statement, Stanley told Relevant magazine, “Well, I never suggested we ‘unhitch’ from a passage of Scripture or a specific biblical imperative . . . . Again, I was preaching through Acts 15 where Peter, James, and Paul recommended the first-century church unhitch (my word, I’m open to an alternative) the law of Moses from the Gospel being preached to the Gentiles in Antioch.”

Indeed, in the sermon Stanley did not argue that any specific Old Testament command should be nullified. Instead, he went even further and told his listeners that the Old Testament should not be seen as “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church.” In his view, the first century leadership of the church “unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish Scriptures.”

Again, controversy rightly erupted after those comments, spoken earlier this year. But in recent days Andy Stanley has returned to the same theme, this time in a conversation with Jonathan Merritt on his podcast, Seekers and Speakers.

In this conversation, Stanley speaks of outgrowing a childhood belief about the Bible and coming to understand what he presents as a far more complex reality. How complex? Well, Stanley argues that we must know that biblical references to the Scripture “did not mean the Bible.”

Note his words carefully:

This is something I’m trying desperately to help people understand and every time I try to explain it I get misunderstood so here I go again. There was no “The Bible” until the fourth century. When we think about the Bible we think about a book that contains the Jewish Scripture and the Christian writings and such a thing did not exist until after Christianity became legal and scholars could come out of the shadows and actually put such a thing together.”

There is more:

So the early church no one ever said in the early church, ‘the Bible says, the Bible teaches, the Bible says the Bible teaches,’ because there was no ‘The Bible.’ But the point of your question, there was Scripture but every time we see the phrase ‘the Scripture’ or ‘Scripture’ in the New Testament, as you know we have to stop and ask the question, what was this particular group of people referring to because there was no ‘The Bible’ and there was no book that contained all the Jewish Scripture because it was contained in synagogues and as you know virtually no one could read and write.”

Well, wait just a minute. It is true that Jesus and the Apostles did not have the Old Testament and the New Testament bound together in a book (codex) form. It is, of course, also plainly true that the New Testament did not exist until it was given, book by book, by the Holy Spirit to the church in the first century. But it is not true that references to “the Scriptures” or “the Scripture” by Jesus and the Apostles are any mystery to us. They are plainly referring to what we know as the Old Testament. There are references to “Moses and the Prophets” (Luke 16:29) and to the “Law and the Prophets”(Luke 16:16), but faithful Jews in the first century would emphatically have known exactly what the Scriptures are.

As a matter of fact, Mark Hamilton has documented the fact that the Greek phrase, ta biblia, “the books” was “an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books several centuries before the time of Jesus.”

The fact that the Old Testament Scriptures were at the time in scroll form in synagogues rather than book form is plain, but the fact is that the Jewish authorities made their arguments on the basis of appeal to the Scriptures, and so did Jesus and the Apostles. Both Jesus and the Apostles did make their arguments “according to the Scriptures” (see, for example, Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Consider Jesus preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth:

“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:17-21)

Jesus was powerfully arguing “the Bible says” in a way that his hearers in the synagogue clearly understood, and that pattern is found throughout the New Testament. Geerhardus Vos underlines this fact when he states, with reference to the Kingdom of God: “The first thing to be noticed in Jesus’ utterances on our theme is that they clearly presuppose a consciousness on his part of standing with his work on the basis of the revelation of God in the Old Testament.” In John 5:46-47 Jesus rebuked those who did not believe in him with these words: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Similarly, the Apostles made their arguments for the gospel of Christ with reference to the Old Testament and its testimony to Christ and the saving purpose of God. At no point in the New Testament is the Old Testament dismissed. Rather, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:17-19)

The pattern is promise and fulfillment, not rejection and repudiation. This is true even in the case of Acts 15, with the apostles citing the authority of Amos 9:11-12 and even citing the binding authority of Genesis 9:4 on the Gentile believers. Again, the pattern is promise and fulfillment. Andy Stanley argues that the Old Testament should not be cited as “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church,” but the moral law of the Old Testament remains honored by the church and repeated (even intensified) in the New Testament.

Peter, James, and Paul did not “unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish Scriptures,” nor can we.

We are looking here at the ancient heresy of Marcion, who argued that the Old Testament must be repudiated by the church. Marcion, who lived about the years 85-160, taught that the Old Testament revealed a Creator deity who is not even the same God who sent Jesus. Unsurprisingly, he also held to a heretical Christology. The Old Testament deity was repugnant to Marcion, who argued that Christianity just make a clean break from Judaism. The Old Testament, he taught, reveals a vindictive law-giving creator deity who bears no resemblance to the merciful redeeming God revealed in Jesus Christ. As Irenaeus, one of the most significant church fathers argued, “Marcion himself divides God in two, saying that one is good, the other judicial, and in so doing takes God away from both.”

Marcion was embarrassed by the Old Testament, and so are many modern people. Andy Stanley, at the very least, seems to fear that embarrassment in others, even if he does not identify with it himself.

He spoke this way with Jonathan Merritt: “I’m convinced that we make a better case for Jesus if we leave the Old Testament or the old covenant out of the argument.” We can make a better case for Jesus than the case Jesus made for himself?

But the embarrassment comes through clearly in Andy Stanley’s comments in the interview. He spoke of people who have “lost their faith” because they read the Old Testament, and then said this:

It’s the same God. But he was doing two different things. All that differentiating between those things is so important. Again, in this sermon, I said, ‘Hey, it’s time that we face the facts and unhitch our faith and our practice from some of these Old Testament values that we can appreciate in their original context, but we really don’t have any business dragging them into a modern context.’”

To be clear, Andy Stanley does not endorse the full heresy of Marcionism, which was universally condemned by the early church. He actually appears to aim for the heresy of Marcionism, and his hearers are certainly aimed in that direction. He clearly says that God is the same God in both testaments, but says that he reveals himself in two completely different ways. Just like Marcion, he argues that the church must “unhitch” from the Old Testament. He actually says: “I am convinced for the sake of this generation and the next generation, we have to rethink our apologetic as Christians, and the less we depend on the Old Testament to prop up our New Testament faith the better because of where we are in [the] culture.”

The church cannot “unhitch” from the Old Testament without unhitching from the gospel Jesus preached. Speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus said “it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39)

Alarmingly, in the podcast Stanley questions whether Jesus actually meant his own references to Old Testament narratives to be taken as historical. He said: “Then a person has to decide, okay, well actually Jesus references the Garden of Eden, or he references in the beginning when God created the first two people, he references Jonah. Then you have to decide when the Son of God references these people and these incidences and these prophets, what did he mean? I am comfortable, not everybody is, but I am comfortable letting the conversation go from there.”

It is very instructive to remember that the most influential theological liberal of the twentieth century, Adolf von Harnack, chose Marcion as his theological hero. Why? Because, like Marcion, he wanted to reduce Christianity to what he claimed to be its essence, the benevolent fatherhood of God. All the doctrines of orthodox Christianity, including the doctrines concerning the divinity of Christ, were dismissed as either Jewish or Greco-Roman encrustations.

[By the way, I am sure that Andy Stanley means no anti-Semitism in referring to the Old Testament as the “Jewish Scriptures, but this use does have the implied effect of identifying these Scriptures only with the Jewish people, and not with Christianity. But the Christian identification of the Old Testament as the “Jewish Scriptures” has a dangerous pedigree. In any regard, Adolf von Harnack must also be remembered as seeking to champion Marcion within German Protestantism just as anti-Semitism was rising once again with deadly power in Germany. As Alister McGrath notes, “Sadly, Marcionism is a heresy that seems to be revived with every resurgence of anti-Semitism.”]

The issues actually reach deeper. In recent years, Andy Stanley has encouraged getting over “the Bible tells me so.” He actually claimed in 2016 that the church veered into “trouble” when it began to make its arguments on the basis of the Bible. He cited “deconversion” stories in which people told him that they lost their Christian faith when they lost confidence in the Bible. He said: “If the Bible is the foundation of your faith, here’s the problem: it’s all or nothing. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards religion.”

In the podcast interview, he gives us another glimpse of what he means:

“Now, for you and me, it is much easier for us to embrace all of those things as historical primarily because of how we were raised, but I totally get when a 25-year-old or a 35-year-old comes to faith in Jesus and then starts reading the Old Testament. They’re kind of looking like, ‘Really?’ Well, you know, that’s difficult, but that doesn’t undermine my faith, and I would never press somebody to say, ‘Well if you can’t accept all of it as historically true, then you can’t really be a Christian.’ I think that’s a little bit absurd.”

But another key question is whether one can be a faithful Christian while denying the truthfulness of Scripture. Jesus himself makes the point that without the Old Testament as the Word of God, we really do not know who he is. Then what does it mean to be a Christian?

As we sing, Jesus Christ is the church’s one foundation, but we cannot know him apart from the Bible.

In this latest interview, Andy Stanley also suggests that “Christianity ultimately and eventually created the Bible.” That is consistent with Roman Catholic theology, but not with evangelical Christianity. In the interview Stanley affirmed again that affirmation of the virgin birth is not necessary. He had earlier stated, “If someone can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world.”

But the New Testament is very concerned about how Jesus got into the world, and if he was not conceived by the Holy Spirit, then he was conceived in some other way. Here we need to remember that the etymology of heresy is rooted in choice. A heretic denies a belief central and essential to Christianity. But heresy also takes the form of choice. You can choose to believe in the virgin birth or not, Stanley argues; he is not all that concerned about it.

Several years ago, I argued that Andy Stanley represents a new face of theological liberalism. In our day, he is playing the role that was played by Harry Emerson Fosdick in the early twentieth century. Stanley may not intend to play that role — he sees himself as an apologist.

So did Fosdick. He sought to rescue Christianity from itself, from its doctrines and truth claims. He cited his own “deconversion” stories as justification for remaking Christianity.

He also sought to “unhitch” Christianity from the Old Testament. In his famous 1923-1924 Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale, Fosdick called for a new, modern understanding of the Bible. This would require jettisoning what were for him and many others the embarrassing parts of the Old Testament. He described the effort to retain much of the Old Testament as “intellectually ruinous and morally debilitating.” To the young preachers of that day, Fosdick argued: “The Old Testament exhibits many attitudes indulged in by men and ascribed to God which represent early stages in a great development, and it is alike intellectually ruinous and morally debilitating to endeavor to harmonize those early ideals with the revelations of the great prophets and the Gospels.”

Here we go again.

_________________________________

Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Modern Use of the Bible (New York: Macmillan, 1924), p. 27.

Alister McGrath, Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), p. 131.

Irenaeus quote from Judith M. Lieu, Marcion and the Making of a Heretic: God and Scripture in the Second Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 36-37.

Mark Hamilton, “From Hebrew Bible to Christian Bible: Jews, Christians, and the Word of God,”  (PBS FrontLine, April 1998). http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/scriptures.html

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Bo (Go) – “Signs for Us” – JANUARY 3, 2014 – TorahScope

This past week, the Lord has given me much to think about as I have meditated upon our Torah portion, which is most especially known for recording the Exodus of Ancient Israel from Egypt. Determining what to share can be rather difficult, as the Exodus is probably the most important event in our faithafter the crucifixion and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. I believe that a systematic study of the Torah has the ability to help us scrutinize and mature in our individual walks of faith. The Torah portions compile the foundation for the rest of Scripture, and teach us valuable lessons that we must integrate into our relationship with God and our understanding of His plan for the ages.

In Bo, we see the final three judgments God issues upon Egypt (Exodus 10:1-11:10), the institution of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-32), and the departure of Israel and a mixed multitude from bondage (Exodus 12:33-13:16). Many diverse thoughts came to mind as I considered these things, going through the challenges of my own workweek. In retrospect, the element that best summarizes my experience this week concerns the signs that we observe and how the Lord wants us to pay attention to what He is doing.

Since the beginning of time, the Lord has used various phenomena to get the attention of the righteous, and of the world in general. These things may be physical indicators, they may be a message proclaimed, or when reading the Bible they may be grammatical forms used in the text to make an important point. Yeshua the Messiah said, “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 22:44).

Consequently, when we examine the Torah and Haftarah readings, we need to be looking for those various “signposts” that portray His redemption. Some of these things may be clear prophecies of the Messiah to come, but others may be subtle hints or patterns that can only be seen by a careful examination of Scripture. Regardless of which is the case, some distinct “signs” were used by God in order to communicate His power and supremacy to the Egyptians:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine [otai eleh, hLa ytta] among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs [otai] among them, that you may know that I am theLord’” (Exodus 10:1-2).

Signs (Heb. sing. ot, tAa) used by God may not always be good things, and not all signs need be specific prophecies or indicators of the Messiah to come. As we examine Bo, we find that three signs are scheduled to show both Israel and Egypt that the God of Israel is indeed the Creator and is superior to the elements. This would have been contrary to what the Egyptians believed, as they believed that the elements themselves were “gods.” Between the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20), the imposition of a thick, tangible darkness (Exodus 10:21-29), and finally the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 11:1-10), the Pharaoh finally gets the message to let the people of Israel go. These signs indicate that God is not unwilling to judge the world when His demand of change goes unheeded. Pharaoh only capitulated to God’s demands when the plague of the firstborn was released (Exodus 12:30-41).

The most important sign seen, within Bo for certain, is the giving of the Passover. The Israelites are given a sign by God that will make them a distinct group of people set-apart from the Egyptians around them:

“Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you [v’hayah ha’adam l’khem l’ot, tal ~kl ~Dah hyhw] on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy youwhen I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance” (Exodus 12:7-14).

Moses instructed the Ancient Israelites to apply the blood of the lambs upon the doorposts and doorframes of their dwellings. In so doing, the judgment that God issued upon the firstborn of Ancient Egypt does not apply to those who followed these instructions. In a summary remark that is repeated throughout the instructions of the Passover meal and Festival of Unleavened Bread, God stated that the remembrance of the Passover is a chuqat olam (~lA[ tQx), meaning “an ordinance for ever” (RSV), a “perpetual ordinance” (NRSV), or a “permanent statute” (HCSB).

Within the further instruction given regarding the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13:7-10, 16), a rather intriguing remark is made so that the Israelites will remember how God delivered them forth with His mighty hand:

“And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:9).

A verse like Exodus 13:9 has been interpreted throughout Jewish history as meaning that one must literally “bind God’s Word” on the hand and forehead. In Exodus 13:16 the further remark is made, “So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead [l’ot al-yadkhah u’l’totafot bein, !yB tpjAjlW hkdy-l[ tAal], for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.” The term totafot (tApjAj) can mean “bands, frontlet-bands, between the eyes” (BDB, 377), and this is why up until today, Orthodox Jewish men traditionally wrap tefillin (!yLpT) or phylacteries at specified times of prayer.

The key thrust of the Exodus 13:9, 16 instruction calls for God’s people to remember that what they do with their hands and with their minds is to be focused on His work. We certainly follow this every year when we keep the Passover, as we must work with our hands to prepare the meal. At the same time, we also have to consciously think about what the Passover and Exodus mean, and what they can teach us for our lives today. As a result, the Law of God will surely be on one’s mouth or speech, as we should want to discuss what it is telling us with others we meet.

By remembering to commemorate the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread in their future generations, is it possible that the Ancient Israel themselves became a sign to the nations around them (cf. Exodus 15:14-15)?Was not the Exodus itself a confirmation of the covenant established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to Abraham about delivering his descendants from the bondage of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:40-41; cf. Genesis 15:13)? By the mere existence of Israel and their consistent celebration of the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, they would certainly testify to the world that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is faithful.

Today, via the growth of the Messianic movement, many people are being exposed to the significance of the Passover. Jewish Believers who remembered the Passover as a part of their upbringing in the Synagogue are experiencing great fulfillment as they get to see the Jewish Messiah in the sedar meal. Evangelical Christians are discovering the great blessings of celebrating Passover, as they likewise experience enrichment and see how the Last Supper meal Yeshua conducted with His Disciples was the Passover. People around the world are returning to the ancient paths!

This can be a very confusing reality to many who have grown up in traditional Judaism and traditional Christianity. Both have taught for centuries that the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread only apply to the Jewish people. Christianity has largely replaced Passover with Easter, which is supposed to commemorate the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. But nowhere does the Bible negate the command to celebrate the Passover, nor are we to ever somehow forget the Exodus. On the contrary, Paul’s words to the Corinthians were, “let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). When we commemorate the Passover as Messianic Believers today, the message that we are to communicate is that the Lord is blessing us for remembering an event that portrays what Yeshua has done for us. We have a dual blessing that Jews who only celebrate Passover for what it represents for Israel, or Christians who only remember the Messiah’s resurrection at Easter, miss out on.

When you read the critical passages within our Torah portion, and apply them to your daily walk of faith, do you realize that you are to be a witnesses or sign of the work the Lord has done for us? We are to testify of His transforming power in our lives by obeying Him and by being blessed for our obedience. This includes being faithful to God among our family members, within our neighborhood, or in our work environment. All people need to see the Holy Spirit emanating from us when we keep a holiday such as Passover, so that they too can learn about the saving grace of Yeshua! The challenge with this is that some of us may have to face some criticism or rejection from our peers.

My prayer for you is that you can be a “sign” via a consistent walk of faith by following the Scriptures diligently, and representing Yeshua faithfully in a world that desperately needs Him. Yeshua the Messiah is The Sign who was crucified for our sins. As we choose to follow Him, let us in return be a sign for those many others perishing without a knowledge of His saving grace. Let us remember that Yeshua Himself was like the bronze serpent raised centuries earlier by Moses to bring salvation and deliverance for all who would believe upon Him in faith:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16; cf. Numbers 21:9).

Are you going to be a sign to others of the good news of salvation in Yeshua, the One who has provided us with final atonement for sin? What will you be doing the next time you celebrate Passover? Will you remember not only the Exodus of Ancient Israel from Egypt—but your own exodus from sin to new life in Him? Consider these things as you reflect on what Passover means to you.

Click to http://outreachisrael.net/torahscope/2013-2014/02_exodus/03_bo.html

Tazria (She Conceives) – “What Did Yeshua Do?”

Tazria (She Conceives)

Leviticus 12:1-13:59
2 Kings 4:42-5:19

“What Did Yeshua Do?”

leperYeshua

One of the many blessings that today’s Messianic Believers receive in committing themselves to a consistent, weekly examination of the Torah portion, is the much fuller perspective that they naturally receive of the Scriptures. Too frequently, people who read the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, when reading references about the Mosaic Law, have very little idea about what is being talked about. This week as we encounter Tazria, “She Conceives,” we actually see some interesting commandments that directly relate to the birth of Yeshua and how Joseph and Mary were obedient to the Torah. Our parashah begins by saying,

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: “When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed”’” (Leviticus 12:1-4).

In many years Tazria is coupled with the following parashah, Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33), as both of these selections continue to focus on Leviticus’ theme of holiness. In this section of the Pentateuch, we see various regulations regarding what it means for something to be “clean” (Heb. tahor, rAhj), rather than “unclean” (Heb. tamei, amj). Our previous parashah, Shemini, actually ended with God delivering instructions on clean and unclean meats, and how following them would contribute to His people being holy:

“‘For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten” (Leviticus 11:45-47).

Now that the Lord has laid out the restrictions on what is to be considered edible food, some further instruction is given regarding cleanliness and uncleanliness. The two specific sets of commandments given in Tazria regard the blood of childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-8) and the handling of leprosy (Leviticus 13:1-59).

Proper Parental Influence

While reflecting on Tazria, and how little I knew about postnatal care or the intricacies of various skin afflictions, the most dominant thoughts that came to mind were recollections from the Apostolic Scriptures on the birth of Yeshua and what His parents did. Joseph and Mary followed the Torah’s commandments with what were to be done with a newborn child. Examining Luke’s record of what took place after Yeshua was born, we see that Joseph and Mary followed the instructions we see in this Torah portion, having brought the infant Messiah to the Temple in Jerusalem for dedication:

And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’ [Exodus 13:2, 12, 15]), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’ [Leviticus 12:8]” (Luke 2:21-24).

In this account, we note that Joseph and Mary were obeying the instructions regarding the circumcision of a male child, and his dedication before the Lord. Luke makes some direct quotations from the Torah, detailing the commandments that Joseph and Mary were following:

Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me…you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord” (Exodus 13:2, 12).

“But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean” (Leviticus 12:8).

We can discern that Joseph and Mary were relatively humble in their means, because of the reference to the turtledoves and/or pigeons that were made. But, they did follow the Law of Moses, and they raised Yeshua—as well as their sons James and Jude—in a Torah-keeping environment. Luke later summarizes the kind of home in which Yeshua was reared, noting how they went to Jerusalem on a regular basis to keep the appointed times:

“When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast” (Luke 2:39-42).

Yeshua’s Torah Obedience

As you read through Tazria, you are given a very detailed account of instruction regarding how to deal with the disease commonly referred to as leprosy (Heb. tzara’at, t[rc), although other forms of skin eruptions are also described. As I read these passages, my mind flashed forward to scenes where Yeshua healed lepers during His ministry. The ability to heal a leper would have been a sign that the Messiah had come:

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Messiah, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matthew 11:2-6; cf. Isaiah 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).

As Yeshua healed lepers of their illness, He instructed them to follow the Torah’s instruction—specifically so that those healed could testify of their cleansing:

“And a leper came to Yeshua, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Mark 1:40-44).

“And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Matthew 8:2-4).

Yeshua knew the instructions that had been given in Tazria. Even though He knew that lepers had been completely healed of the debilitating disease, He upheld the Torah’s instruction so that the priests might inspect the cleansing:

“If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean” (Leviticus 13:37).

As we read and reflect upon Tazria, we can be reminded that Yeshua, as well as His parents, followed the commandments in the selection that we are reviewing this week. It does not appear from these testimonies that Yeshua attempted to annul the importance of these commandments because of His ministry—even though the lepers who were healed would no doubt speak to the priests of the One who healed them!

WWJD?

Many of us in the community of faith are aware of the popular acronym WWJD that has been fashioned into bracelets, t-shirts, and a variety of other commercially viable forms for sale in the evangelical world. I do not at all want to belittle those who have used the simple admonition What Would Jesus Do? I am convinced that many people have been prompted to do many positive things from the WWJD acronym. It has been an easy way to promote holiness among many Christians, who need a visible reminder of the Lord we serve.

As Messianic Believers, though, our engagement level with who the Messiah is and how He lived—goes a little beyond the simple commands to love God and neighbor, as important as those are (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). This week, many of us are taking a look at Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59), a selection of text which for most people might seem pretty dry and boring, detailing things that are really not that applicable in the Twenty-First Century. Yet, in studying this part of Scripture, we can learn more of the details of how Joseph and Mary, and how the Messiah Himself, lived their lives in the First Century.

If I did not take the time to read and study passages like this from the Book of Leviticus, I might not know how God is concerned about mothers who give birth to children, or those who are afflicted with leprosy. I would not have any idea what the commandments were that Yeshua directed healed lepers to follow, as they would go and testify to the priests at the Temple of the Messiah who had healed them. By not reading Tazria, I might not know of the simple fact of how our Heavenly Father is concerned about our hygiene, and how He surely does not want us to contract diseases like leprosy.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua the Messiah was clear that He did not come to abolish, but to fulfill, the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17-18). He also stated how “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). The commandments we read about this week in Tazria can largely not be followed today, because of the lack of a Temple in Jerusalem—but most importantly because of the fact that leprosy is not as rampant as it once was in past centuries (for which we should all praise God!). But not following largely inapplicable commandments is different than teaching against them, and how they instruct us as God’s people. By reading Tazria this week, I am sure that we have all learned some things about the character of our Heavenly Father that we have not known, or at least thought about, before.

Yeshua the Messiah came to fulfill the Torah of Moses, meaning that He came to show people how to live it properly. As Believers in Him, we can actually learn things about His life and His ministry in the Gospels by studying the Torah. Obscure parts like healed lepers going to the Temple, actually make much more sense.

Unfortunately, many Christians (but thankfully not all!) who wear the WWJD bracelets conclude that Yeshua “fulfilled and thus abolished” the Torah of Moses. From this vantage point, what we are considering in Tazria this week has largely nothing to do with Yeshua’s birth or with His ministry. As it is often said, “We as New Testament Believers do not have to be concerned with any of restrictions on our lives, imposed by adherence to an antiquated list of do and don’ts.” How far from the truth is this? The New Covenant actually involves God supernaturally writing the Torah’s instructions onto our heart for our remembrance (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). A view of holiness, emulating the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, that excludes any kind of obedience to the Law, has done considerable harm to the Body of Messiah. Simply look at all of the people who claim to be following the Messiah, but have very little concept of Biblical ethics or morality. To them, WWJD is just a cloth bracelet, but not really a committed lifestyle.

I am not trying to unfairly criticize those who are unaware about some of the finer details of the Torah as seen in readings like Tazria. There are plenty of things in the Torah that today’s evangelical Christians and Messianics all agree need to be followed. The high standard that Yeshua gives us in His Sermon on the Mount—a teaching firmly rooted within Moses’ Teaching—is a place where we can come together with Christians, and learn what it means to fulfill the Law. When we get to areas like Shabbat, the appointed times, or kosher as detailed last week—how can we approach these areas in a constructive, investigative spirit? How can today’s Messianics demonstrate that emulating the Messiah Yeshua means not only treating others with love, but also deriving the blessings that other parts of the Torah will undeniably bring to one’s life?

Today’s Messianic Believers need to learn to demonstrate, as Yeshua instructed, a proper Torah obedience by good works (Matthew 5:16; cf. Ephesians 2:10). When evangelical Christians who wear that What Would Jesus Do? bracelet witness our actions of faith, will they be able to really see some of the things that Yeshua did? What about Jewish people who need to know the salvation available in the Messiah Yeshua, and inquire of our good deeds? I certainly hope and pray that we can see a generation of Messianic Believers come forth who can provide answers to the question What Did Yeshua Do? in a manner that brings honor and glory to Him.

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