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The Audio Archive study on The Pastoral Epistles has just been completed. Some new audio and video podcasts, going through our extensive FAQ section, as well as based in the book Confronting Critical Issues, are planned for the Summer.

Salvation on the Line, Volume I: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity–Gospels and Acts is presently in post-production. The eBook for Kindle has already been created. The book is presently going through its final proofreading.

Salvation on the Line, Volume II: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity–General Epistles, Pauline Epistles, & Later New Testament is presently being written. We are anticipating a release sometime in 2017.

Salvation on the Line, Volume III: The Messiahship of Yeshua is presently in pre-production. This mainly involves the acquisition of various books and resources, and cataloguing the Bible passages, issues, and sub-issues which will need analysis.


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April 2017 Outreach Israel News


OIM Update

April 2017

Late last month the senior director of partner relations for the Joseph Project and I were on a trip to East Texas to meet some people, who have been faithful supporters of that humanitarian aid effort in Israel. When we got back to Dallas, Margaret and John had dinner with us, where they had an opportunity to get better acquainted with our new friend. During our conversation about how the Lord is using the donations of people to minister to the needy in Israel, I was taken aback by the term “restitution” used by John, to describe what he has noted for years in his study of the Holy Scriptures. Since he had recently completed his commentary on 2 Corinthians, the subject of taking offerings from the First Century assemblies of the Mediterranean Diaspora to minister to the saints in Jerusalem, was something he had recently written about. He had noted parallels between the Apostle Paul taking monetary gifts from the Greek and Roman Believers to Jerusalem to bring physical relief to needy Jewish Believers, and how that was a nascent prophetic fulfillment of the wealth of the nations streaming to Zion in the Last Days.

Needless to say, I had never considered the concept of “financial restitution” when reflecting on the prophesied restoration of all things noted in Acts 3:19-21. But I was aware of verses like the following that dealt with the wealth of people and nations:

“And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).

“Foreigners will build up your walls, and their kings will minister to you; for in My wrath I struck you, and in My favor I have had compassion on you. Your gates will be open continually; they will not be closed day or night, so that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly ruined” (Isaiah 60:10-12).

In addition, when we were discussing the fulfillment of the many prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel and how the past seventy years have seen incredible progress in the Land of Israel, the mention of the concept of “restitution” made me think about God’s perfect justice with the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As a congregation, we had just been through the commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people, as found in the Book of Esther. I recalled the edict of King Ahasuerus that not only protected the Jews, but allowed them to be enriched by the wealth of Persia:

“In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar)” (Esther 8:11-12).

Contemporaneously, we had just studied through the Book of Exodus with the Passover seder rapidly approaching. As a result, I had a memory flash about what happened to the Israelites when they were preparing to leave Egypt. These verses came to mind, as the distinctive term “restitution” of wealth from the plunder of the Egyptians could conceptually be a repayment for years of bondage in Egypt:

“I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:21-22).

Next month, I will be writing an article that addresses God’s Justice and Restitution. This month we have featured an excerpt from the forthcoming book Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity—Gospels and Acts. It addresses the scene of Yeshua walking on water in Mark 6:45-52 and Matthew 14:22-33, which has key Tanach background in the parting of the Red Sea in the Exodus—in addition to Yeshua speaking forth “I am” and being worshipped.

We want to encourage everyone to download the new Messianic Apologetics app for their iPhone or Android. It is available for free in both the iTunes store and on Google Play!

Because of our growing associations with Messianic Jewish Believers and leaders over the past few years, we will be focusing more efforts on how we can make a substantial contribution to Jewish outreach and evangelism, particularly in the apologetics of the nature of Yeshua, His Messiahship, and Bible difficulties. This is very exciting! Please continue to support our efforts with your financial contributions! Without your offerings and gifts, it would be difficult to dedicate the time and energy to produce our many educational resources.

Thank you in advance for your partnership with our ministry endeavors!

“The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Shalom and blessings,

Mark Huey


Yeshua Calms the Wind and the Sea, and is Worshipped

by J.K. McKee
editor@messianicapologetics.net

This entry has been reproduced from the forthcoming book
Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity

“Immediately Yeshua made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, ‘Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.’ Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mark 6:45-52).

“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Yeshua spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Yeshua. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” (Matthew 14:22-33).

The scene of Yeshua walking on water, for advocates of either a high Christology of Yeshua being God, or a low Christology of Yeshua being a created agent of God, obviously indicate that Yeshua possesses significant supernatural power. When the Disciples had gone off on a boat journey across the Sea of Galilee, their Teacher had gone off to pray. The boat was being tossed to and fro, and as the Messiah walked on the water to His Disciples, they thought that they were seeing a ghost or phantasma (Mark 6:49; Matthew 14:26). Yeshua assured them that it is, in fact, Him (Mark 6:50; Matthew 14:27). Peter beckoned to Yeshua, actually getting out of the boat to meet Him, but then started sinking due to his doubt (Matthew 14:28-30). The wind stopped when Yeshua got into the boat, and the water was calmed (Mark 6:51; Matthew 14:32). While having hard hearts (Mark 6:52), not fully recognizing or processing everything, their reaction was one of veneration toward their Master (Matthew 14:33).

Yeshua walking on water is important for Christological evaluation because (1) of the obvious miracle witnessed in Yeshua walking on water, (2) of Yeshua’s identification of Himself to the Disciples in the boat, and (3) the Disciples’ response in venerating Yeshua.

That God has supreme power, over the sea and the waves, is testified by Psalm 77:16-20:

“The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were in anguish; the deeps also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth a sound; Your arrows flashed here and there. The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

It may indeed be that the sentiment of the Psalmist, “Your way was through the sea, Your path, through the mighty waters; Your tracks could not be seen” (Psalm 77:20, NJPS), could be applied to the ability of Yeshua to walk on the water. Peter, notably, was unable to walk on the water himself, without asking the Messiah to command him to come meet Him (Matthew 14:28). Isaiah 51:9 attests, “Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a pathway for the redeemed to cross over?” Yeshua, concurrent with this, walked on the water and had the ability to stop the waters.

More theological attention is notably given to the self-identification statements of the Messiah in Mark 6:50 and Matthew 14:27, which a version like the NASU has as, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Significant discussions abound, as the source text has egō eimi, more literally “I am,” and whether or not Yeshua’s self-identification of “I am” is to be associated with the self-identification of the LORD or YHWH in the Tanach, in some key places where the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew has notably employed egō eimi or “I am”:

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:14).

“‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?’” (Isaiah 43:10-13).

In the theophany of the burning bush, the Hebrew ehyeh asher ehyeh, in Exodus 3:14, was translated by the Septuagint as egō eimi ho ōn. In the oracle of Isaiah 43:10-13, where the God of Israel declares Himself to be the One True God and Savior, the Hebrew clause ki-ani hu, “that I am He,” was translated by the Septuagint as hoti egō eimi. It should hardly be surprising that when the source text of the Mark 6:50 and Matthew 14:27, incorporate egō eimi into Yeshua’s dialogue, examiners recognize that there might be a connection with Tanach or Old Testament passages such as Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 43:10-13—and the self-identification of the LORD or YHWH. And, Yeshua speaking “I am” in Mark 6:50 and Matthew 14:27 is hardly isolated; Yeshua speaking “I am” is associated with His walking on water and calming the waves.

Commentators on both the Gospels of Mark[1] and Matthew have tended to positively weigh some kind of a connection between egō eimi and statements of self-identification appearing in the Tanach or Old Testament. Yet, not all English readers tend to detect egō eimi as being “I am.”

There is a variance of perspectives witnessed among English versions of Mark 6:50: thareite, egō eimi mē phobeisthe, with some having “I am,” and others having “it is I”:

  • “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (RSV).
  • “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (NIV).
  • “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (HCSB).
  • “Take heart! I AM! Stop being alarmed and afraid [Exod. 3:14.]” (The Amplified Bible).
  • “Have courage. I AM! Do not fear” (LITV).
  • “Take courage! I am. Do not be afraid” (TLV).

The variance of approaches for thareite, egō eimi mē phobeisthe is even witnessed in various interlinear resources, as Mounce and Mounce has, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid!”,[2] but with Brown and Comfort having, “Have courage, I am; do not be afraid.”[3] A selection of commentators on the Gospel of Mark, in evaluating the usage of egō eimi in Mark 6:50, have associated it with either the burning bush theophany of Exodus 3:14 or various other statements of the Lord’s or YHWH’s self-identification in the Tanach:

  • E.B. Cranfield: “[egō eimi]: the ordinary Greek for ‘it is I’. It is conceivable that Mark intends his readers to be reminded of the O.T. use of the expression in Exod. iii. 14; Isa. xli. 4, xliii. 10, liii. 6.”[4]
  • Alan Cole: “[I]n answering with the words It is I, Jesus may have been deliberately using the name of God (Ex. 3:14). This would have only increased the awe of the disciples, although it could also have given them a clue as to the true nature of Jesus, if their hearts had not been hardened (verse 50).”[5]
  • Larry W. Hurtado: “It is I: The Greek phrase used here can function simply as a self-identification. But it is used in the OT (e.g., Isa 43:25; 48:12; 51:12;) with special force as a formula for self-description by God, resembling the phrasing in Exod. 3:14 where God first reveals himself to Moses. Note especially how the whole passage in Isa. 51:9-16 is a most interesting background for the sea miracle account here. In Mark the phrase reappears on the lips of Jesus in the trial scene (14:62), and there, also, is probably intended as an allusion to these OT passages.”[6]
  • William L. Lane: “For Mark the event is a theophany, a manifestation of the transcendent Lord who will ‘pass by’ as God did at Sinai before Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) or on Horeb before Elijah (I Kings 19:11)….The emphatic ‘I’ in verse 50 is ambiguous. It can be understood as a normal statement of identity (‘it is I, Jesus’), but it can also possess deeper significance as the recognized formula of self-revelation which rests ultimately on the ‘I am that I am’ of Ex. 3:14. Not only the immediate context of the walking upon the water but the words with which the emphatic ‘I’ is framed favor the theophanic interpretation. The admonitions to ‘take heart’ and to ‘have no fear’ which introduce and conclude the ‘I am he’ are an integral part of the divine formula of self-revelation (e.g. Ps. 115:9ff.; 118:5f.; Isa. 41:4ff., 13ff.; 43:1ff.; 51:9ff.).”[7]

There is a similar variance of perspectives witnessed among English versions of Matthew 14:27: thareite, egō eimi mē phobeisthe, with some having “I am,” and others having “it is I”:

  • “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (RSV).
  • “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (NIV).
  • “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (HCSB).
  • “Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid! [Exod. 3:14.]” (The Amplified Bible).
  • “Be comforted! I AM! Do not fear” (LITV).
  • “Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid” (TLV).

The variance of approaches for thareite, egō eimi mē phobeisthe is also witnessed in various interlinear resources, as Mounce and Mounce has, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid.”,[8] and with Brown and Comfort having, “Have courage, I am [here]. Do not be afraid.”[9] A selection of commentators on the Gospel of Matthew, in evaluating the usage of egō eimi in Matthew 14:27, just as with Mark 6:50, have associated it with either the burning bush theophany of Exodus 3:14 or various other statements of the Lord’s or YHWH’s self-identification in the Tanach:

  • Donald A. Hagner: “[egō eimi], ‘It is I,’ probably had a deeper meaning to Matthew and his readers than the simple self-identification of Jesus that it is to the disciples. In a theophany-like context such as this, the words allude to the definition of the name Yahweh ([egō eimi]=I AM) given in the LXX of Exod 3:14 (cf. Matt 22:32; John 8:58; Mark 14:62) and Isa 43:10; 51:12. God is present uniquely in Jesus.”[10]
  • Leon Morris: “In all three Gospels Jesus identifies himself with the words ‘it is I,’ employing the emphatic pronoun commonly used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament where God is the speaker. The expression is sometimes used in the Old Testament where God is revealing himself, such as ‘I am who I am’ (Exod. 3:14). Its use on the lips of Jesus at this point might perhaps be said to be natural under the circumstances. The disciples were scared and in need of reassurance; it was important that they should know right away that the one they were seeing was no ghost, so Jesus identifies himself. But the expression has overtones of deity, and who but God could walk on the stormy waters?”[11]
  • Michael J. Wilkins: “The disciples may be thinking that some evil spirit is attempting to deceive them. Jesus gives them immediate assurance that he is no deceptive evil spirit but truly their Master: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ The expression ‘It is I’ (lit. ‘I am’) may allude to the voice of Yahweh from the burning bush (Ex. 3:14) and the voice of assurance to Israel of the Lord’s identity and presence as their Savior (Isa. 43:10-13). Throughout this section Jesus continues to reveal his true nature to the disciples, and this powerful statement accords with his miraculous calming of the storm.”[12]

While He was walking on the water, and as He spoke forth “I am,” it is doubtful that the fearful Disciples understood everything that was going on. Only in retrospect of the encounter of Yeshua walking on water, and calming the waves, would they have been able to fully process what they experienced. In his commentary on Matthew, Nolland actually takes the approach that it is sufficient for egō eimi, for the identification of Yeshua to His Disciples, to serve as “It is I.” However, Nolland also concludes that egō eimi does likely involve some Tanach or Old Testament identification of God, given how the Disciples thought that they were witnessing a ghost:

“While an echo of the divine self-naming of the OT is possible, in the context of the emphatic [egō] (‘I’) in [egō eimi] (lit. ‘I am’) is sufficiently accounted for by the need for Jesus to identify himself as himself, over against the possibility that the disciples are encountering a parodying spirit (but perhaps [egō eimi] takes both roles simultaneously).”[13]

In their book Putting Jesus in His Place, Bowman and Komoszewski assert that there are explicit connections intended between the scene of the Messiah walking on water, and the Lord God operating in the parting of the Red Sea for the Ancient Israelites in the Book of Exodus:

“As various scholars, both conservative and liberal, have observed, the Gospel accounts of Jesus walking on the sea allude rather clearly to the account in Exodus 14-15 of the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites walked in ‘the midst of the sea’ (Exod. 14:16, 22, 27, 29 NASB) and crossed to the other side (Exod. 15:16). Likewise, the disciples’ boat was ‘in the middle of the sea’ (Mark 6:47 NASB) and they also ‘crossed over’ the sea (Mark 6:53). A strong wind from the east blew across the Red Sea and, close to daybreak, the Egyptians found it increasingly difficult to drive their chariots as they attempted to follow the Israelites (Exod. 14:21, 24-25). Likewise, an adverse wind blew across the Sea of Galilee and, based on the geography, it also would have been blowing from the east; this wind also blew close to daybreak and made it difficult for the disciples to row their boat (Mark 6:48). According to Mark, the disciples had the same problem as the Egyptians: their hearts were hardened (Exod. 14:4, 8, 17; Mark 6:52).

“…Jesus appears…to fulfill the role of a greater Moses and of Yahweh. Jesus’ response to his disciples’ fear encompasses both roles. Moses had told the Israelites ‘Take heart!’ (tharseite, Exod. 14:13 LXX) and Jesus told the disciples the same thing: ‘Take heart!’ (tharseite, Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50). But then Jesus added, ‘It is I [egō eimi]; do not be afraid!’ (Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20). This statement echoes statements by the Lord God in Isaiah, where he speaks of a kind of ‘new Exodus’ when the Jews would be restored to their land…{quoting Isaiah 43:1-2, 5, 10, 15-16}…”[14]

Bowman and Komoszewski further associate the activity of the Lord God in the Tanach, with Yeshua the Messiah walking on the water, noting the response of worship to the Son of God, on behalf of the Disciples:

“The most striking aspect of the account, is, of course, Jesus’ actually walking on the sea. In the historical Exodus miracle, the Israelites crossed through the sea but on dry land. In later poetic reflection on this defining moment in Israel’s history, biblical authors pictured God walking on the sea…{quoting Psalm 77:16-20}…

“By walking out to the disciples’ boat on the sea, Jesus demonstrated a mastery over the forces of nature unparalleled among human beings. Moses was merely the human agent through whom the Lord led the Israelites across the dry bed of the Red Sea. Jesus walked across the raging waters of the Sea of Galilee and spoke divine words of assurance and sovereign control to his disciples. No wonder, according to Matthew, the disciples responded by worshiping Jesus and affirming that he was God’s Son (Matt. 14:33).”[15]

In the scene of Yeshua walking on the water, theologians, examiners, and readers who conclude that Yeshua is God, do not make this conclusion only on the basis of the Messiah walking on water as the Lord God is portrayed as being superior to the elements, or the Messiah just speaking “I am.” The response of the Disciples to what took place, is recorded in Matthew 14:33: hoi de en tō ploiō prosekunēsan autō, “And those in the boat worshiped Him” (TLV). While Matthew 14:33 includes a definite employment of the verb proskuneō or “worship,” various versions which are employed in either Messianic Judaism and/or the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, indicate that their translators or publishers, are unsure about the kind of veneration issued by the Disciples to Yeshua:

  • “The men in the boat fell down before him” (CJB/CJSB).
  • “And those in the boat paid homage to Him” (Power New Testament).
  • “And those in the boat came and did bow to Him” (ISR Scriptures-2009).
  • “Those who were in the boat came and bowed down before him” (The Messianic Writings).

While it is lexically acceptable to render proskuneō in Matthew 14:33 as “bow down,” is it theologically acceptable? The honor displayed by the Disciples to Yeshua—in spite of them not fully processing all of the events—is religious veneration. Nolland broadly states, “There are those who discover, in their experience of being rescued by Jesus, that in Jesus they encounter God, worship God, and Jesus as the Son of God.”[16] Morris is more assertive, concluding, “The experiences of seeing Jesus walk on the water and then of seeing him call Peter to walk there and of delivering that disciple when his faith failed made a profound impression; as a result they worshipped Jesus…It betokens the worship that should be offered to deity and thus shows us the effect the incident had had on those who saw it all.”[17]

As obvious as it might be, upon Yeshua getting into the boat and the waves being calmed, the Disciples could have all simply quieted themselves and wondered. Or they could have actually been said to have remembered their Israelite ancestors crossing the Red Sea. Instead, they worshipped Yeshua. And how serious is this? If Yeshua is not God, the One who identifies Himself as the “I am,” then to worship Yeshua would be to commit idolatry against the God of Israel. Wellum properly notes how “when Jesus was on earth, he received the praise and worship given to him without ever rebuking the persons who acted in this way (Matt. 14:33; 21:15-16; 28:9, 17; John 20:28; cf. 5:22-23).”[18] Yeshua did not refuse the Disciples’ worship of Him. In his book Jesus and the God of Israel, Richard Bauckham concurs,

“Matthew’s consistent use of the word proskunein, and his emphasis on the point, show that he intends a kind of reverence which, paid to any other human being, he would have regarded as idolatrous. This is reinforced by the fact that his unparalleled uses tend to be in epiphanic contexts (Matt. 2:2, 8, 11; 14:33; 28:9, 17). Combined with his emphasis on the presence of the exalted Christ among his people (18:20; 28:20), Matthew’s use must reflect the practice of the worship of Jesus in the [First Century] church.”[19]

The scene of Yeshua walking on the water, Yeshua declaring Himself to be “I am,” and Yeshua subsequently being worshipped by His Disciples—are together all strong signs of His Divinity. Many people throughout religious history who have concluded that Yeshua the Messiah is God, integrated into the Divine Identity, have not just made this conclusion on the basis of blind religious dogma. If Yeshua were just a created supernatural agent, we would not expect Him to just say “I am” as God at the burning bush, or permit Himself to be worshipped.


NOTES

[1] France, Mark, 273 fn#71 is one who notably takes a negative view of any association of egō eimi in Mark 6:50 with various Tanach statements of the LORD’s or YHWH’s self-identification.

[2] Mounce and Mounce, 156.

[3] Brown and Comfort, 144.

[4] Cranfield, Mark, 227.

[5] Cole, Mark, 180.

[6] Larry W. Hurtado, New International Biblical Commentary: Mark (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1989), 106.

[7] Lane, Mark, 237.

[8] Mounce and Mounce, 58.

[9] Brown and Comfort, 56.

[10] Donald A. Hagner. Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 14-28, Vol 33b (Dallas: Word Books, 1995), 423.

[11] Morris, Matthew, 382.

[12] Michael J. Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 516.

[13] Nolland, Matthew, 601.

[14] Bowman and Komoszewski, pp 204-205.

[15] Ibid., pp 205-206.

[16] Nolland, Matthew, 603.

[17] Morris, Matthew, 384.

[18] Wellum, “The Deity of Christ in the Apostolic Witness,” in The Deity of Christ, 142.

[19] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 131.

Tazria-Metzora

Tazria-Metzora

She Conceives
Infected One

“Clean! Clean!”

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

Leviticus 14:1-15:33
2 Kings 7:3-20


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Every year, in a systematic fashion through the consistent study of the Torah, we have an excellent opportunity to review one of the most devastating transgressions that plagues not only the human race, but even those within the community of faith. With the double portion of Tazria-Metzora, the issues regarding unclean and clean and their relationship to leprosy (Heb. tzara’at), are once again considered:

“As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46).

For centuries the Jewish Rabbis have taught that this text, which addresses a wide array of physical issues, actually reaches beyond the physical dimension and reflects upon a person’s spiritual condition. One of the challenges that faces all people is the reality of our fallen nature. Whether a person believes the fact that he or she is a recipient of the Fall in the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 3:16-19), the empirical evidence speaks for itself.

Fallen humanity is burdened with various degrees of understanding or misunderstanding inherited from tasting the forbidden fruit. The problems generated affect all of us, and Ancient Israel even though chosen by God as His special people, was not exempted. Israel was called by the Lord, however, to obey Him and be a testament to the rest of the world so that all might be redeemed. The Bible is a Divine chronicle of what the Creator wants to convey to the world, so that all might have reconciliation and redemption. The problem is that all of us have to constantly battle with a proclivity to follow the ways of our flesh instead of turning toward God for our salvation and deliverance.

Speak No Evil

Traditionally in Judaism the material of Tazria-Metzora and the law of leprosy (Leviticus chs. 13-14) has been probed beyond just the need for a leper to be physically cleansed of the ailment, but has been viewed as the root of what the Sages refer to as lashon ha’ra or “the evil tongue.” J.H. Hertz details how “The Rabbis regard leprosy as a Providential affliction in punishment for slander or tale bearing….; thus teaching that the slanderer is a moral leper, and should find no place in the camp of Israel.”[1]

One of the most prevalent calamities that can infect the human soul is the inherent need to build oneself up, and in so doing, in the deep recesses of the mind, a person can attempt to justify, or at the very least, cover up and deny his or her sin nature. One of the most frequent ways to enhance one’s personal image and self-estimation is to put other people down and to disparage them. This can occur by leveling insults against someone, thinking oneself to be superior, or by simply hating another person. By doing so, this allows the sinner to believe that he or she is better than the one being disparaged. The Scriptures are replete with admonitions against this, as God’s people are to be those who fight against the temptation to look down upon others with discord and revulsion (cf. James 3:9)! This is most especially true when negative thoughts and feelings manifest in the spoken (or even written) word. Consider this admonition from Proverbs regarding how vile the Holy One considers improper use of the tongue, among other bad things:

“There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Upon reading this, it seems likely that there are six major causes of lashon ha’ra or the evil tongue. They all originate from “A mind that hatches evil plots” (NJPS), because what comes forth from our mouths somehow originates with us. Yeshua taught that what comes out of one’s mouth is often a reflection on the wicked nature of one’s inner person:

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:18-19).

As you read this instruction from the Messiah, did you notice His use of the words “false testimonies [and] blasphemies[2]” (HCSB)? These are two of the most vicious forms of killing that are present in our age today—and they go far beyond homicide. In fact, when you compare the difference between physical murder and the chronic character assassination perpetrated by a false witness against a person by slander, you might conclude that to be murdered is (sometimes) preferred over the possible perpetual consequences of lies. An example to be considered is that slander against another is like tearing open a feather pillow that has been cast into the wind. There is no way to recapture all of the feathers that have been blown in all sorts of directions!

Due to the fallen nature of humans, with our proclivity to want to feel better about ourselves more than what reality often dictates, when gossip or rumor or slander of false witness is heard, there is a natural inclination to want to share such “juicy news” with others. This innate problem in our psyche has the effect of not only spreading a bad word, but it often goes in every direction and lands down upon others at almost any unexpected time. Even though attempts can be made to stop such sinful news, it is impossible for it to stop, just like it is impossible to collect all the feathers from a pillow that has been ripped in two.

Unclean and Clean

I hope that you can see some of the reasons why these Torah passages deal with the condition of unclean versus being clean. When reviewing Leviticus chs. 13-14, and looking at some of the statements made about skin conditions and different conditions because of various excretions from the body—you should see that a point being made is that for a considerable amount of time during the normal course of our lives, men and women are simply in a state of “uncleanness.” Our tendency to be unclean is something we cannot do very much about, with having leprosy as one of the most significant forms of uncleanness. A condition of physical uncleanness should highlight the spiritual cleanness we can only have via the salvation of the Messiah Yeshua!

There is a prophetic picture seen in the Book of Ezekiel, which does an excellent job at describing some of the inherent problems associated with being spiritually unclean. The Prophet Ezekiel was moved by the Lord to speak forth on how sinfully unclean Israel has been, but in the end how He will restore Israel, and the people will all be clean once again:

“Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols. Also I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them. When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you’” (Ezekiel 36:17-29).

In this passage, Ezekiel compared Israel to a woman in a major state of menstrual uncleanness. Because Israel did not walk in obedience before the Lord, it was scattered to the nations and punished. In spite of the gross sin committed, however, God Himself will restore His people and declare them to be clean (Heb. tahor) before Him. Israel will be forgiven of its idolatrous sins of filth, and be supernaturally empowered to keep God’s Torah.

When I think of the process of God making each of us clean by the power of the gospel, I am most prompted to consider Paul’s words about Yeshua dying for us as the ekklēsia, and us being washed by the water of the message:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the [assembly] and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

What is perhaps important to note is that the “word” being referred to here is rhēma, meaning “that which is said or spoken, a word, saying” (LS).[3] While we all must be made clean by the continual study of God’s written Word, has He spoken the words “Clean, clean!” over us as a result of our being convicted by Scripture? The key “spoken word” that is to make each of us clean is that quintessential declaration “Yeshua is Lord!” (Romans 10:9), as we acknowledge Him as the Supreme One to whom all must give honor and worship (Philippians 2:10; cf. Isaiah 45:23).

As Ezekiel continues his prophecy, he talks about the new heart of flesh that God is going to give His people in order for them to be able to fully obey Him, and experience all of the blessings that He has in store:

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Along with Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27 is regarded as a key Tanakh attestation to the New Covenant that Yeshua inaugurated by His very sacrifice (cf. Luke 22:20).[4]

As I contemplated these verses in light of what Tazria-Metzora admonishes us this week, I have readily concluded that a heart of flesh, washed by the message of the gospel, with the Spirit of God indwelling us—is the only way to enter into a degree of being clean before a holy and righteous God. Attaining “cleanness” by human means is something that is almost impossible, given the proclivities of the sinful world in which we live. The Apostle Paul understood the absolute need for us to be made into new creatures, so that we might be transformed into those significant vessels able to function in the Master’s service:

“Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Messiah according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

The Apostle Peter also reflects on this, indicating that we can partake of Messiah Yeshua by exhibiting His Divine qualities in the world around us:

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:4-9).

Both of these Apostles were urging the First Century Believers to take their purification in Yeshua most seriously. When you see the character traits that Messiah followers should be evidencing as a result of being made clean, you will find that they are the exact opposites of the evil sins and behavior that cause malicious gossip and slander to manifest.

Those who perpetually operate in lashon ha’ra, and yet to some degree claim to know Yeshua or Jesus, may not be as much immature as they may still have a fallen, unregenerated heart of stone. We need to pray that they are convicted by God’s Word so that they can be saved and cleansed by the Lord, and that He can pronounce “Clean!” over them. Some might be reading the Word, but things are not changing in their stony hearts. Instead, they continue to evidence common sinful traits like the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). These are the people who speak words of destruction from their mouths, rather than words of life and edification to others.

The only solution to all of these maladies, whether they are spots on one’s skin, lips that attempt to praise God when the heart is far removed from Him, or speaking slander and false witness against one’s brethren, is only embodied in the faithful decision to confess the inherent need mortals have for a Divine Savior.

Understand your need for a Redeemer! Confess and repent of your individual sins and transgressions, and cry out to the Lord for mercy! In His mercy to you, as a result of the sacrifice of His Son, you can be transformed into a new creature and be made clean (Revelation 7:14). With your new heart of flesh, you will be compelled by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to continue to be cleansed as you grow in your love for God because of the work He has done to make you His own.


NOTES

[1] Hertz, Pentateuch & Haftorahs, 461.

[2] Grk. pseudomarturiai, blasphēmiai.

[3] LS, 717.

[4] Consult the article “What is the New Covenant?” by J.K. McKee.