Emor

Emor

Speak

“Hear, Obey, Walk”

Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Ezekiel 44:15-31


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Emor or “Speak” continues the Book of Leviticus, and directs and enlightens us a great deal about the responsibility Messiah followers have to serve as priests in the world today. From the beginning chapters of Leviticus, the Torah’s code of behavior is intended to specifically set Ancient Israel apart from the other peoples around it in the Ancient Near East, and then the succeeding generations who would turn to Moses’ Teaching for guidance and direction. The previous Torah portion was appropriately named Kedoshim or “Holy Ones” (Leviticus 19:1-20:27), because the requirements for Israel to be a holy nation are laid forth. In Emor, God instructs Moses to deliver further instructions to the priests and the sons of Aaron,[1] the issue of flawless animals to be used in sacrifice is addressed,[2] the appointed times or Biblical holidays are listed,[3] instruction about the lamp burning in the sanctuary and its oil is detailed,[4] and finally the well known axiom of “an eye for an eye” in view of an incident of blasphemy is described.[5]

Since Ancient Israel was originally called to be a Kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 17:18), it is important for us—by extension as Believers in Messiah Yeshua—to understand the responsibility that such a priestly calling carries. We are God’s representatives on Earth, and we must reflect who He is to others. A great duty rests upon us, because we know who He is, to communicate the good news of Yeshua’s salvation effectively. Consequently, it is not only incumbent upon us to “talk the talk,” but most importantly “walk the walk.” These expressions are useful because in this day and age, as lines of demarcation between the children of God and the followers of the enemy are being drawn, it is imperative that we stand up for what we know is right as embodied in the Holy Scriptures.

One of the most obvious ways we can see this accomplished is first by hearing God’s Word, and then by obeying it. This week one of the most visible ways, that Messianic Believers can tangibly do this, is to follow the prescriptions given to us in Leviticus 23. Here, we are introduced to the moedim or appointed times of the Lord. Many other times throughout the Torah, these same observances are mentioned in order to confirm that the Lord is very serious about His people following these commands. Leviticus 23 is not the only place in the Torah where instructions regarding the appointed times are listed. And, while many people associate the appointed times as just being various annual holidays, the first appointed time that God instructs His people to observe is actually the weekly Sabbath (cf. Exodus 31:13-17).

Once we can realize that the Sabbath rest is one of the primary signs we can demonstrate via our obedience to God, it should not be surprising at all to see it listed as the first appointed time in the list given in Leviticus 23:

“The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The LORD’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them”’” (Leviticus 23:1-4).

As you continue reading Leviticus 23, other appointed times such as Passover and Unleavened Bread,[6] the Feast of Weeks,[7] the Feast of Trumpets,[8] the Day of Atonement,[9] and Feast of Tabernacles are listed.[10] In this time of significant growth and expansion for the Messianic movement, Jewish Believers who have recognized their Messiah are experiencing the appointed times in a way in which they were never able to when they had grown up, seeing Yeshua in the feasts. And for evangelical Christian Believers seeing the importance of their Hebraic and Jewish Roots, seeing the Messianic significance of the appointed times and how they portray the message of salvation, is most enriching and encouraging to them.

In this season of restoration, many are turning to the appointed times as they are wanting to know how Yeshua the Messiah actually lived while on Earth, and what some of the holidays were that He celebrated. Many are beginning to recognize the deep symbolism contained in each of the appointed times, and as a result the Messianic movement gets a little bigger each year, especially right after Passover. We have the responsibility as able Believers in Yeshua to demonstrate how wonderful it is to truly obey the Lord and be blessed by Him, because we celebrate the moedim. The action of observing the appointed times will often speak much louder than words.

This can be a challenge for some in the Messianic community, however, because many are spiritually immature and they often use the Biblical holidays as a time to demonstrate their “spiritual superiority” to their Christian brothers and sisters who do not keep them. The problem is that in spite of some of the arrogance of various Messianics, God still uses the Christian Church and there would be no Messianic movement if there were no institutional Church. People still get saved today on Sunday morning in the name of Jesus! Over time, I believe that many of our Christian brothers and sisters will recognize that there is a better way, and turn to remembering the Lord’s appointed times—but much of that is contingent upon us as Messianics and what we do, demonstrating the value of the appointed times properly to them. I think the most important thing to remember is the admonition that Yeshua had for His Disciples when they saw someone who was casting out demons, without being a part of their inner circle:

“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.’ But Yeshua said, ‘Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us’” (Mark 9:38-40).

Yeshua was gently instructing His Disciples about how to deal with those who were doing various things in His name, and yet they were not doing things exactly like them. Yeshua told His Disciples, “Do not stop him” (NIV). In other words, He said to leave such people alone because God is the only One who can be the ultimate judge of anyone. Certainly, if God is the only One who can judge sinners, He is likewise the only One who can judge the heart intent of Christians who do things in ignorance without knowing any better. And which is worse, the sin of ignorance—not having enough information—or the sin of arrogance? Think about all of the Christians living in the third world who face death every day for believing in Jesus, and how some Messianics act as though Yeshua did not die for these people because they may not “keep Sabbath.” If you are a non-Jewish Believer in the Messianic community, consider your own position as one who was likely in the Church at one point in time, and did exactly the same things as some of those who are judged mercilessly. I remember hearing a popular voice one time, who said that he believed that Christians worship the sun god on Sunday morning, yet when he was in church he did not. How unfair a scale is this?

My friends, we must grow up and be more mature about just where we are in this hour. How much spiritual maturation must we go through, in addition to all of the theological and intellectual maturation that we have not even dealt with? Consider where you may have been half a dozen years ago. Many of you did not even know what the word Torah meant in Hebrew, or what the word Shabbat was.

I urge you to pray every day that the Lord transforms your heart and your mind to do good works, and demonstrate the great supernatural change He has enacted within you. Pray that you can experience all of who He is because of your obedience to Him, and that it shines brilliantly in the sinful world in which we live. Pray that He can use you as a means of grace to others, and you can demonstrate the true substance of the appointed times—Messiah Yeshua—to those who need to experience His salvation.

Let the appointed times of the Lord help set you apart, so that you can truly be a part of the kingdom of priests and holy nation that Israel is supposed to be. Recognize that we are all works in progress, and that each of us has a long way to go. Allow the Word of God to speak to you, so that you may truly reflect His love and mercy to others. Then and only then will we become the set-apart people who can properly minister to Him and to others in all of its fullness!


NOTES

[1] Leviticus 23:1-22:16.

[2] Leviticus 22:17-33.

[3] Leviticus 23:1-44.

[4] Leviticus 24:1-9.

[5] Leviticus 24:10-23.

[6] Leviticus 23:5-14.

[7] Leviticus 23:15-22.

[8] Leviticus 23:23-25.

[9] Leviticus 23:26-32.

[10] Leviticus 23:33-44.

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

After the death
Holy Ones

“Holiness and the Golden Rule”

Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Ezekiel 22:1-19 (A); 22:1-16 (S)

Leviticus 19:1-20:27
Amos 9:7-15 (A); Ezekiel 20:2-20 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week we get to examine a dual Torah portion with Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. After the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, the text details the requirements for the Day of Atonement that are performed annually by the high priest of Israel.[1] Reflecting on this instruction some five to six months before—or after—its yearly remembrance, should readily remind each of us of the atonement and permanent forgiveness we need for our sins of commission or omission. This is something that ultimately can only be found in the Messiah Yeshua! But rather than go into an exhaustive study on this topic, I would instead like us to focus upon the holiness that God’s people are to evidence in their lives.

The overriding premise of our text selection has to be the admonition to be holy:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’…‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine’” (Leviticus 19:1-2; 20:26).

Our reading does include a list of various do’s and don’t’s, which are intended to promote this requirement for God’s people. From simple ways on how to handle the harvest,[2] properly manage labor,[3] restrictions issued about the occult[4] and deviant sexual activity,[5] the wide variety of instructions are all designed to sanctify a people for the Lord and His purposes in the Earth.

As we consider the great value and strength of these instructions, as they are to guide God’s people—a sense of protection from the wickedness of the world should hopefully prevail within us. Even though the thought of participating in many of these activities is often never considered by us, the sad reality is that these depraved activities have occurred in many civilizations from the Biblical period to the present. Lamentably, even in the Judeo-Christian culture of the West, the laxity of moral codes and basic human ethics is fostering a proliferation of many of these formerly illegal actions. One could readily conclude from observing the society that surrounds us, that we are seeing some of the same things that Paul warned Timothy about:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

When you take a look at this list of how humans will behave in the Last Days, you can see some parallels between these gross sins and the instructions Moses gave in Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. But rather than focus on all of the negative aspects of this, I would like to focus instead upon the positive commandments about how we should treat our neighbors. This is something that every Messiah follower, who has been born again from above, needs to absolutely grasp a hold of in his or her heart and mind. The uniqueness of our walk with Yeshua the Messiah, and the salvation we possess in Him, should testify that we are indeed living out the just requirements of the Torah:

“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:15-18).

Leviticus 19:18, the command to love one’s neighbor, is repeated numerous times throughout the Apostolic Scriptures (Mark 12:32; Matthew 19:19; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). Even with the debate present in much of today’s broad Messianic movement over how much or how little Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are to keep of the Torah, no one on any side of the discussion disputes that this commandment is to be steadfastly followed by all.

The concept of how we should properly treat our neighbors, especially our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, is something that is sorely needed in the emerging Messianic movement. Regrettably, it has been my experience that many who profess to be pursuing a “Torah observant” lifestyle, do not adhere to the basic ethical commandments of how we relate to our neighbors. This is very troubling, because unlike some of the more obscure commandments buried in the Torah, with little or no reference in the Apostolic Scriptures, the instruction for God’s people to treat others fairly and with love, is something that should really be second nature to us. Is not the Holy Spirit resident in our hearts to produce a love for others, especially when they wrong us? How often do we not allow God to handle those who have offended us or made us angry, taking matters into our own hands?

When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment of the Torah was, He responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. Perhaps you need to review some of the key passages witnessed in the Synoptic Gospels?

“And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Yeshua answered, ‘The foremost is, “HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. The second is this, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ And the scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF [Deuteronomy 6:4; 4:35; Isaiah 45:21; Deuteronomy 6:5; Joshua 22:5; Leviticus 19:18], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Yeshua saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:29-34).

“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered and said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18]. And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-27).

The greatest commandments of the Torah are considered to be one’s love for God, followed by one’s love for his or her neighbors. It is commonly observed that if you love a God who cannot be seen, then you should certainly love your neighbors who can be seen. We have the opportunity every day, to visibly display love for our neighbors or brethren, by the actions we demonstrate toward them. Whether these actions are positive or negative is entirely up to us. Will we lend a helping hand when needed, or will we treat others with discord and disgust?

Loving Our Neighbors

As you dig deeper into Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, you should detect how Leviticus 19:15-18 explicitly tells us how to love our neighbors. We are commanded to judge fairly. “You shall not render an unjust judgment” (Leviticus 19:15a, NRSV) or “You shall not render an unfair decision” (NJPS). We should not fall into the trap of thinking that our neighbors are totally beyond judgment, because life being what it is, there will inevitably be times when we are called to judge circumstances, make decisions, and render some kind of evaluation about another person’s character. Of course, when we find ourselves in such predicaments, the admonition is very clear to judge fairly and equitably:

“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15).

The Prophet Zechariah reemphasizes this premise, telling us that impartiality is critical for implementing proper justice:

“‘These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the LORD” (Zechariah 8:16-17).

It is certain that if you judge with evil in your heart, that you will be in opposition to the Holy One of Israel. You will have exposed yourself as one who does not love the Lord, or love his neighbor as himself.

The second principle that Acharei Mot-Kedoshim declares to us relates to the chronic problem of the evil tongue. In Leviticus 19:16, the offender is referred to as a “slanderer” or “gossipmonger” (ATS):

“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:16).

There is nothing more damaging to a person, short of physical harm, than the wickedness of defaming someone by speaking falsehoods. Sadly, this is one of the most prevalent sins among God’s people today. Within the siddur or prayer book, the Jewish Sages have included a traditional, daily prayer that people might be guarded against evil speech, and other similar acts:

“May it be Your will, HASHEM, my God, and the God of my forefathers, that You rescue me today and every day from brazen men and from brazenness, from an evil man, an evil inclination, or evil companion, an evil neighbor, and evil mishap, an evil eye, evil speech, informers, false witnesses, the hatred of others, libel, unnatural death, harmful illnesses, unfavorable occurrences, the destructive spiritual impediment, a harsh trial and a harsh opponent—whether he is a member of the covenant or whether he is not a member of the covenant—and from the judgment of Gehinnom.”[6]

The Talmud makes some very poignant remarks about the effect of the tongue on the community of Israel:

It has been taught on Tannaite authority: Said R. Eleazar b. Parta, ‘Come and see how great is the power of slander [evil speech]. From whence do we learn that lesson? From the case of the spies. Now if such [was the penalty exacted from] one who slandered wood and stone [that is, the spies spoke poorly of the Land of Israel], how much the more will be [the penalty] for one who slanders his fellow.’ [Compare T. Ar. 2:11, as follows: R. Eleazar b. Parta says, ‘Lo, it says, And the men who brought forth an evil report about the Land died (Num. 14:37). Now about what did they bring forth an evil report? Concerning wood and stones. And does not this yield an argument a fortiori: Now if they who brought forth an evil report only about wood and stones were punished, and not by a trifling punishment but by a most severe punishment, and not by a transient punishment but by one which lasts for generations, he who brings forth an evil report concerning his fellow man, in like manner how much the more so will he be punished!’]” (b.Arachin 15a).[7]

Among some Rabbis, the admonitions about avoiding slander are coupled with the command to “not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed” (Leviticus 19:16, ATS). With this being the case, how should we react when we hear our neighbor’s name or character being slandered—meaning murdered? Should we not stand up and prevent character assassination? Sadly, I have found via life experience that various people within the Body of the Messiah largely do not know how to properly do this. We would all benefit greatly if we simply came to our brother’s or sister’s defense, when we know that they are being unjustly spoken against.

Next, we are commanded not to hate our neighbors in our hearts:

“You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17).

Many Believers talk a great deal about the “intentions of the heart.” Here in the Torah, the Lord makes sure that the issue(s) about what is present in one’s heart is amplified. We are not to hate our fellow countryman. Some may assume that this pertains only to acts of hatred, but by telling us “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (NIV), any confusion is immediately stopped. The teachings of the Apostles mention the sin of one’s heart many, many times. In fact, John equates it to a battle of light and darkness in the human soul:

“The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).

If a person has any hatred for a brother or sister, he or she needs to check if any darkness is present in the heart. We should not have any malice toward someone, but the reality is that disagreements do occur in human relations. The Torah gives us a very solemn warning about reproving our neighbors without incurring sin. The Apostle Paul further amplifies our understanding of how to lovingly rebuke those in the faith:

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Messiah Yeshua and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin” (1 Timothy 5:19-22).

Here, Paul gives Timothy instruction about how to properly handle a problem with an elder in the assembly. The key is to do so soberly and without falling into sin. Too often, people level charges against other people for the slightest provocation. In this account, as should be practiced with others, the necessity for multiple witnesses to a charge should be obtained. The sin of a spirit of partiality is sternly warned against. Obviously, if you harbor hatred in your heart, then you will not be able to be impartial.

Finally, Leviticus 19:18 tells us that we are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is very important that the concept of loving is coupled with the prohibition against taking vengeance. The Apostle Paul reiterates this, instructing the Romans to let God discipline those who do them wrong:

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY’ [Leviticus 19:18], says the Lord. ‘BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD’ [Proverbs 25:21-22]. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

Paul links verses seen in Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, with teachings that Yeshua Himself made, as well as a well-known proverb:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

The Final Measure

When we consider the referenced verses in this week’s Torah selection, we lay the foundation for one of the most important commandments in the Bible. Many refer to this as the Golden Rule, derived from Yeshua’s statement, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, NRSV). Remember that after loving our Heavenly Father, we are supposed to love our neighbors. As you meditate upon this word, you might ask yourself just how well you are presently loving your neighbor.

If you are married, you might start by considering your spouse as your closest neighbor. Are you looking out for his or her needs? Are you putting his or her needs ahead of yours (cf. Philippians 2:3-4)? Are you seeking ways to serve him or her? Are you coming to the defense of him or her when your spouse is being wronged? This list could go on and on. But, when considering this most crucial of human relationships, you must exercise love by putting your husband or wife’s needs ahead of your own.

After going through this exercise, you might want to consider contemplating how you love your other neighbors. This can range from those in your fellowship or those in your neighborhood that you interact with on a daily basis.

Finally, allow me to give you an important thought to meditate upon. Imagine that the Golden Rule is a measuring rod which determines your degree of holiness. If you are honest with yourself, hopefully you will conclude you are probably lacking some holiness. After all, when analyzing our human interactions with other “neighbors,” just about all of us can recall times when we were partial in judgment. What about times when we said something that could be considered slanderous? What about the times when we hated someone in our hearts because of something done to us? Is it possible we said or did something to take vengeance? Is it possible that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves?

I hope that you see the picture. If you take the time to perform some personal introspection you might conclude that this is a very convicting exercise. Obedience to the second greatest commandment may be more theory than it is reality in your life. But this is why the faithful Torah student can be blessed. Every year we have the opportunity to let the Spirit of God instruct us about loving our neighbor!


NOTES

[1] Leviticus 16:1-34.

[2] Leviticus 19:9-10.

[3] Leviticus 19:13.

[4] Leviticus 19:31; 20:6.

[5] Leviticus ch. 18.

[6] Scherman and Zlotowitz, Complete ArtScroll Siddur, 23.

[7] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary.

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.