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A Word About Your Father

December 19th, 2011

Growing up within the Catholic school system, one of my earliest religious memories as a child was being taught to recite the prayer that Yeshua (Jesus) taught his disciples, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, and found in Matthew 6:9-13. The prayer begins with the words “Our Father.”

At the time, I did not find that opening phrase particularly remarkable but now, upon reflection, it hits me with much more force. That’s because I have since learned that, although billions of people around the world believe in God, many of those people do not see Him as a Father. He is either an impersonal force or a distant ruler.

“Our Father” – even amongst those of us who affirm it in word, we seldom think on it or ponder its significance. I find it interesting that most Jewish people today do not emphasize the idea of God as Father to His people.

After all, this idea was expressed by the Jewish prophets. In the book of Hosea, written during the time when Israel and Judah were split into two kingdoms, God refers to Israel as His son.

Concerning His people, he says: “when Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11:1)”  The rest of the chapter, however, talks of how Israel went away to serve other gods.  Due to their spiritual blindness they were unable to recognize that He was the one who was their provider:

The more they were called, the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to
them and fed them.
(Hosea 11:2-4)

Because of Israel’s disobedience, God had to punish them severely. The punishment that He administered upon His people, however, was not merely retributive justice. It was also a display of His love. He cared for His people, and so He chastened them in order to lead them back. After all, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)”

Furthermore, God did not hold His anger against Israel forever, but eventually withheld it in order to show His mercy towards them:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
(Hosea 11:8-9)

The Lord’s mercy is best exemplified in the B’rit Hadashah (New Covenant):

“But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ [Messiah] died for us. (Romans 5:8)”

When, by faith, we accept this atoning sacrifice on our behalf, we are then adopted into God’s family as His children and He relates to us as our Father. As it is written:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:14-17)

What makes this so amazing is that God no longer limits this adoption to Jews. Rather, He brings into His family children from every nation, tribe and tongue, in keeping with his promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3). His Spirit of adoption is sent first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

Thus, even I, a Gentile, can be a co-heir of God’s promises.  Like the Jewish people, when I put my faith in the Messiah whom my Father sent, I am reconciled to Him:

But to all who did receive him [Yeshua], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:12-13)

Praise be to our Father, maker of heaven and earth!

Want to know more about your heavenly Father and the heaven-sent Son he sent for you?  Contact us.

Contributed by Luis Dizon, a former intern with New Covenant Forum from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in A Gentile perspective, Goyim for God, Knowing God, Luis Dizon, Messiah, Salvation, The Bible | No Comments »

The Trinity in the Torah

December 13th, 2011

The following article is excerpted, with permission from the author,  from an article on the blog site, The Aristophrenium.  To see the article complete with footnotes and further reading suggestions, click here.

God does not change. His nature is the same now as it as has ever been and will ever be throughout eternity. What this means is that the God who reveals Himself in the New Testament is the same God who reveals Himself in the Old. And while the New Testament gives a fuller explanation His nature, aspects of these revelations are nonetheless present in the Old Testament. This is particularly true of God’s triune nature. Even back in the time of Moses and his contemporaries, aspects of the Trinity are already partially revealed in the pages of the Torah.

This does not mean that the Israelites in those days had the exact same understanding of God that Christians do today. The Israelites were limited to what God has chosen to reveal about Himself at that point in time. This is true even today, as even with the fullness of revelation, we continue to be limited to what God has revealed in the books that today comprise the Bible. The reason why the Trinity will always be mysterious and paradoxical to us is that God does not reveal everything that there is to know about Himself, but chooses only to give us what we need to know about Him. As the Torah states: “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29). We shall speak only where He speaks, and we shall remain silent where He remains silent.

That being said, it is worth looking at what is contained in the Torah in order to see what can be gleaned from it regarding the Triune nature of God. In doing so, it must be confessed that we are approaching it in hindsight: we are interpreting it in light of what has been revealed later on in the rest of the Bible. This is not an invalid approach, since truth is necessarily consistent, and the fact that something wasn’t noticed before doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there prior to its being noticed. What matters is that we are being true to the real meaning of the text, and are not merely attempting to import foreign concepts into it.

First of all, it must be pointed out that the Trinity has always been there from the beginning. Even in the opening chapters of Genesis, one can see that when God decrees creation, when He says “let there be” it is His Word that brings about the creative acts. Moreover, we are told that His Spirit hovers over the face of the unformed world just prior to the six days of creation (Genesis 1:2). This same Spirit gives life to creation, as seen when God puts His breath in the first man, and he is said to become a living soul (Genesis 2:7).

It is interesting to note as well that in the sixth day, when God decides to create man, He says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). The usage of the first person plural here is very intriguing, and implies that personal self-distinctions exist within the Being of the Creator. Now, there are alternate ways of attempting to explain this passage. Some say that God is addressing His angels, or that He is speaking in the plural of majesty (just as how the queen of England would say “We are not amused.”) Needless to say, these explanations do not really work, as they cannot be substantiated by the rest of scripture. The best explanation remains that God speaks in the first person plural because He is multi-personal in nature.

One other piece of information to take into account is the appearance of God to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1ff). As He converses with Abraham, He discusses His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:17ff). In the next chapter, God walks towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and their destruction is described. Interestingly, it is written towards the end of the account that “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” (Genesis 19:24). Here, there appear to be two Yahwehs present simultaneously; one on earth and one in heaven. If we read this passage in light of the Triune nature of God, the appearance of more than one person who are both regarded by scripture as Yahweh make perfect sense.

Finally, a word must be said regarding the oneness of God, as it is always important to connect the oneness of God’s Being with the threeness of His person: Every practicing Jew is familiar with the words of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). What is interesting is that the Hebrew language has two words for “one.” The first one is the word yakhid (יְחִֽידְ). This word is used to denote absolute oneness. In the Torah, it is used to refer to a child who has no siblings. If the Hebrew author wanted to indicate that God was an absolute, homogenous unity, he would have used this term.

However, as anybody who can read the shema in Hebrew knows, the word that is used is not yakhid, but rather ekhad (אֶדחָֽ). This is a word that is used to simply mean unity, without the connotation of homogeneity or aloneness that comes with the first word. It is interesting to see how this word is used elsewhere in the Torah. For example, in Genesis 2:24, when a man leaves his parents to become joined to his wife, it is said that they become “one [אֶחָֽד] flesh.” And when the spies are sent by Moses to survey the promised land, when they come to the valley of Eshcol, it is written that “[they] cut down a branch with a single [אֶחָ֔ד] cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs” (Numbers 13:23). As is clear from the way the word is used in these two instances, the word Ekhad can be used to denote a compound unity. That is exactly what the Trinity means: That God is a compound unity of three persons Who together constitute One Being.

Thus, it can be seen that belief in God as a Trinity is perfectly compatible the confession of faith found in the Shema. Furthermore, we can see how this teaching is found embedded in the pages of the Pentateuch. Although it is nowhere near as clear here as it is in the New Testament, we see that even then, God has already provided hints of His Triune nature.

Contributed by Luis Dizon, a former intern with New Covenant Forum from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in Biblical Interpretation, Following God, Luis Dizon, The Bible, Things Doctrinal and Theological | No Comments »

Light for the Nations – and for You

April 20th, 2011

I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
(Isaiah 42:6-7)

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Thus says the Lord,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
(Isaiah 49:6-7)

Who is this Servant of God being chosen to become a light for the nations? It has been said by some that this refers to the nation of Israel.

Granted, Israel was called as a servant of God in one sense, back in the days of when God made his covenant with Moses and up until the fall of the nation and the destruction of the Second Temple (and the coming of Messiah Yeshua).  Do we see the current state of Israel fulfilling this task, however?

If you believe Israel is the servant mentioned in the above passages, then you have a problem.  Isaiah 49:6 states that this Light will “raise up the tribes of Jacob” and “bring back the preserved of Israel.” How could the one who will bring back the preserved of Israel Himself be Israel?

Furthermore, it is said that this Light will be “abhorred by the nation [singular].” Which nation? It cannot be referring to the Gentile nations, since it is referring to a singular nation.   In fact he will be abhorred by one nation and yet will see kings of other nations prostrate themselves.  Who fits that bill?

If we looked at the context of the passages from Isaiah being quoted, they are clearly Messianic prophecies.  Well known rabbinic commentators such as Rashi, Radak , Ibn Ezra and Metsudat David look upon these passages as referring to a person, not the nation of Israel.

It’s not surprising then that the New Testament writers regard them as such, as evidenced by the fact that Isaiah 42 is quoted in Matthew 12 as being fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. Furthermore, we have the words of Yeshua Himself, who says in John 8:12 that “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Thus, if anybody (Jew or Gentile) wants to have light in their life, there is only one person they can turn to, and that is the Saviour of the world, Yeshua (Jesus). He is the light for the nations. He is the chosen servant in Whom the Gentiles will hope and through whom all Israel will be saved. And we continually pray that His salvation would reach the ends of the earth, as God has promised through the prophet Isaiah.

Want more evidence of the light of life?  Contact us!

Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in Biblical Interpretation, Israel, Jesus and Israel, Jesus and Jews, Jewish Tradition, Jews and Jesus, Luis Dizon, Messiah in the Tanach, New Covenant, Salvation, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Bible – Is it in a Pickle?

March 21st, 2011

The Bible (meaning the Tanakh and B’rit Hadashah or Old and New Testament) is well preserved, but it is not in a pickle.  Far from it!

The reason why God revealed His Word to us was so that it may serve as a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). He has promised to abide with us always, and as a corollary to this has promised to preserve His Word so that we may always have access to His revelation and guidance (Psalm 119:160).

That being said, many people (atheists, skeptics, liberal theologians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others – even Jews and Christians) contest this. They contend that God’s Word has not been preserved, but has been lost over the centuries by corruption and alteration.

What they fail to realize is the meticulous care by which the Scriptures have been memorized and copied out over the centuries. The Scriptures came to us by way of a culture that put great emphasis on memory, and accurate preservation of God’s Word was of paramount importance. It is highly unlikely that something as enormously prized as the Scriptures would become corrupted in such a context.

The accuracy of preservation is demonstrated by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of which were manuscripts of the Tanakh (Old Testament). Some dating to as early as 250 B.C.E., these scrolls were written several centuries earlier than the next earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament that we have.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are a remarkable testimony of God’s promise to preserve His Word over the millennia.

The description of it by Royal Ontario Museum shows how significant the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls are:

“The Dead Sea Scrolls are widely considered among the greatest archaeological finds of the past century. They include the earliest written sources for the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament), as well as other less well known writings. Many of the ideas and beliefs contained in this collection of ancient parchments have resonated through the centuries and remain influential today. Indeed, they reflect the foundations of important religions such as Judaism and Christianity and have influenced Islam.

“Dating from around 250 Before Common Era (BCE) to 68 Common Era (CE), the Scrolls include some 207 biblical manuscripts representing nearly all of the books in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament). Approximately 900 Scrolls were discovered; some almost entirely preserved and others in fragments. Together, they comprise one of the most important collections of writings ever discovered. The Scrolls are a collection of biblical writings, apocryphal manuscripts, prayers, biblical commentary and religious laws. Prior to the discovery of the Scrolls, the oldest known copies of biblical texts were written 1,000 years later.” (link)

Richard Deem, writing for the website “Evidence for God,” states that “when we compare these texts which have an 800-1000 years gap between them we are amazed that 95% of the texts are identical with only minor variations and a few discrepancies.” (link)

When compared to every other work that was composed in ancient times, no other piece of literature enjoys the kind of textual attestation that the Word of God has. The textual evidence for other works (such as those of Plato, Tacitus, Suetonius, Julius Caesar etc.) simply pale in comparison to what we have for the Bible. To quote biblical scholar Daniel Wallace, we have an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to attestation for the scriptural texts.

We find that God has kept His promise to accurately preserve His Word for us. He has not left us in the dark, but has ensured that the scriptures that He has given us through Moses and the Prophets would remain with us to this present day. Therefore, we can believe that the Scripture tells us the truth when it says:

“All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.”
(Isaiah 40:6-8)

Since the Bible is not in a pickle, neither are we.  That is good to know!

  Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in Biblical Interpretation, Knowing God, Luis Dizon, The Bible, This, That, The Other Thing | 1 Comment »

Two Kinds of Peace

March 2nd, 2011

According to the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah will be called Sar-Shalom, “The Prince of Peace.”  Christians believe that Yeshua is that Prince of Peace.

Yet some would ask the question: “If Yeshua is the Prince of Peace, why is the world still full of violence, hatred and strife?”  Furthermore, why is it that He is recorded as saying, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)?  Is that not contradictory to this Messianic title?

Both of these questions can be answered by pointing out a simple fact: words don’t always mean the exact same thing all the time.  Words are defined by the context in which they are used.  

In this case, there are two kinds of peace to look at, and one is a kind of peace that Yeshua did not promise to bring.  This is made clear in another passage where He states:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)”

Note that Yeshua talks about two kinds of peace.  One is the peace that He is leaving to His disciples.  The other is the peace that the world gives, and which He did not come to offer.  To understand what it means for Yeshua to be the Prince of Peace, we must differentiate between these two kinds of peace.

The first kind of peace is temporal, worldly peace.  This is the kind of peace that Yeshua says He did not come to bring.  In fact, He stated that His coming into the world would be a cause for division:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-36)

Does this mean that those who follow Him must actively seek to be at odds with others?  Quite the opposite!  Scripture says: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)”  

What He is really saying is that, if a person chooses to follow Him as Lord, then that person can expect to be alienated from his or her unbelieving relatives and friends because they refuse to accept the Messiah’s Lordship.  The “sword” which Yeshua mentions in verse 34 is not wielded by his followers but by those who oppose them. 

This is made clear earlier on in the same chapter where He warns his followers of the impending persecution:

“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles … Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:17-18, 21-22)”

In fact, Yeshua’s followers are not supposed to retaliate against these attackers. When Peter attempted to rescue Yeshua from the temple police, he rebuked Peter and said “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Peter would remember this lesson years later when he writes in his epistle:

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)”

Since we have established what kind of peace Yeshua did not arrive to establish, we must establish what kind of peace He did come to establish. The answer is spiritual peace. It is peace with God.  In our natural state, we are enemies of God, “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).  However, Yeshua by His atoning death came to reconcile God and man.

Paul wrote that when we become justified through faith, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)”  The kind of peace that we obtain by faith is much better than any earthly peace.  Earthly peace will only last for a season, while peace with God will last for eternity – will last no matter what is thrown against it.

As Yeshua stated, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)”

We urge you to seek the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).  Please contact us.

Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary

Posted in Biblical Interpretation, Jewish Tradition, Luis Dizon, Things Doctrinal and Theological, This, That, The Other Thing, Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Unquenchable Fire

February 16th, 2011

One of the least popular beliefs today is the belief that there is such a thing as eternal punishment.  It would seem that people these days would rather believe in anything else.

It is no wonder then that many in today’s society dabble in reincarnation.  Others prefer the atheistic idea that death is simply the cessation of existence.  Even amongst those who believe in God, there are those who believe that the wicked are simply annihilated, or that they go to hell for a temporary period of time until they are sufficiently purified to be released from it.

Such, however, is not the viewpoint of the Scriptures.  The prophet Daniel predicted that on the day of resurrection, there will be those who will inherit eternal life and those who will inherit eternal condemnation.  In his prophecy concerning the end of the age, he writes:

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:1-2)”

Likewise, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the fire that will consume the bodies of the wicked, as it is written:

“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isaiah 66:24)”

Then there is the Messiah Yeshua, who spoke on the existence of hell more than any other individual in the whole Bible. He did not mince words when He taught that the wicked “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

The problem is that from God’s perspective, none of us are righteous enough for eternal life.  In fact, humanity as a whole has rebelled against the Creator.   “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. (Ecclesiastes 7:29)”

This is why it is necessary for the Messiah to intercede on behalf of transgressors and bear their sins (Isaiah 53:4-6,10,12).  The only way to escape from the unquenchable fire is to trust in the one who came to take away the sin of the world, since “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)”

You do not know how much time you have left on the earth, so you would do well to heed the warning of the apostle Paul:

“When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)”

Looking for the way to eternal life not eternal destruction?  Then please contact us.  Feel free to comment on this article, as well.

Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary

Posted in Following God, Jesus and Jews, Jews and Jesus, Luis Dizon, Salvation, Things Doctrinal and Theological | No Comments »

The Divinity of the Messiah

February 3rd, 2011

One of the major Jewish objections towards the acceptance of Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah is the New Testament proclamation that He is God come in human form (incarnate).  It is argued that the Messiah to come is supposed to be an ordinary man of natural birth, rather than a divine person.

In response to this objection, it must be shown that the Tenakh itself contains the seeds of the doctrine of a divine Messiah. Long before Messiah came into this world, the authors of the Tenakh already predicted that He would be God incarnate.  I would like to examine just a few of the more salient passages.

Psalm 45:6-7 (vs. 7-8 in rabbinic texts)

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

The earlier JPS (Jewish Publication Society) translation of this psalm (ESV cited) attempts to get around this by rendering verse 6a, “Thy throne given of God.”  The expression “given,” however, does not appear in the Hebrew text.  The natural reading of the text should be, “Your throne, O God.”

This is significant because, though the psalm in question is one that refers to the king of Israel, verses 6-7 indicate that the psalm also points to someone greater than all human kings. It points to a coming king, divine in nature, who would have a rule lasting “forever and ever,” as opposed to a temporary reign like Israelite kings. No earthly ruler could fit that description; only He who is God “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2) is a possible match.

Furthermore, the fact that He is anointed by “[His] God” also implies that there is in view a plurality of persons within God.  His triune nature is being revealed here in a shadowy form. This will be made clearer with further revelation in the New Testament  passages such as Hebrews 1:8-9 and other texts that elucidate this teaching of the divinity of Messiah.   

Isaiah 9:6-7 (vs. 5-6 in rabbinic texts)

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor,
          Mighty God,
                    Everlasting Father,
                              Prince of Peace.  
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

It is worth noting the titles that are ascribed to the child who will be born. According to Isaiah, He will be called “Mighty God” (El-gibor). Some have suggested that this merely means that He is to be a godlike warrior or hero. However, this interpretation is unlikely considering that in the only other passage in the Tenakh where “El-gibor” is used, Isaiah 10:21, it clearly refers to the Lord God. This establishes the divinity of the child proclaimed here.

Also, the child is also to be called “Everlasting Father” (Aviyad); an indication that He is one who has neither beginning nor end. Furthermore, it is said that there will be no end to the increase of His government (verse 7a). This can never be true of an earthly kingdom, but of a heavenly one, once again indicating the heavenly origin of the Kingdom and its ruler.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

“ ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.” ’ ”

Here, Jeremiah prophecies the coming of the righteous Branch (tsemakh) from the line of David. What’s significant here is the title ascribed to this Branch: “The LORD Our Righteousness” (Adonai tsidkenu). This establishes that the Branch that is to come from the line of David is nobody but the Lord God Himself.

Daniel 7:13-14

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him.  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

Notice that the son of man is one who has access to the throne room of God, and is given universal authority and dominion. No mere mortal is in view here, but one who is exalted above all earthly creatures.

It must be noted that one of the titles that Yeshua frequently used of himself is “Son of Man.” When he was put on trial before the ruling Council in Jerusalem, he quoted this very passage and applied it to himself. It is significant how they responded to this:

“And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?  You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:63-64)”

They understood what Yeshua was saying. By applying the vision of Daniel to himself, he was claiming divinity, thus garnering the ire of the ruling council. They would not have reacted so violently, if He were claiming anything less.

There are other passages where the divinity of the Messiah can be demonstrated. However, these seem to me to be the clearest examples. May the truth be discerned from the Word.

Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary

 

Posted in Biblical Interpretation, Jewish Objections to Jesus, Jewish Tradition, Jews and Jesus, Knowing God, Luis Dizon, Messiah in the Tanach | No Comments »

Majority Rules? NOT!!

January 28th, 2011

Somebody once said that a lie is a lie even if everyone believes it, and the truth is the truth even if nobody believes it. This is certainly the case with regards to religious truth.

It is not uncommon to see people going with what is regarded as the majority opinion among their elders, sages or religious scholars. However, God is not swayed by the majority opinion, and when He sends His prophets to His people, they are often the minority amongst a mass of unbelievers.

There are numerous examples in the Tenakh where the entire Hebrew community, with the exception of one or two individuals, went against the Lord’s will. One example is in the Book of Numbers, when the spies sent to Canaan come back with their report. Numbers 14:1-5 tell us that all the congregation of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

Further on in Number 14:26-35, we find God’s judgment against Israel, stating that not one of the Israelites over the age of twenty will enter into the Promised Land, because they have all rebelled against Him. The only two exceptions to this rule were Caleb and Joshua; everybody else had rebelled against God, and was punished for it by being forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years until every single one of them had died.

Another example is in 1 Kings 22, where King Ahab consults with his prophets, who numbered about four hundred. All of them prophesied that Ahab would be victorious against the Syrians. Ahab then talks to the prophet Micaiah, who alone tells Ahab the truth. Micaiah prophesied: “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’ (1 Kings 22:17)”  

He further mentions that the four hundred prophets had a lying spirit placed upon them, so that they would prophesy the opposite of what would actually happen. Eventually, Micaiah’s prophecy is proven correct, and Ahab dies in battle (1 Kings 22:37).

One more example is in the Book of Jeremiah, where Jeremiah prophesies against all the cities of Judah that came to worship in the temple. In Jeremiah 26:7-11, it is recorded that all the priests and prophets who were present laid hold of Jeremiah, saying that he deserved the sentence of death for prophesying against Judah.

It was only by the intervention of certain officials that Jeremiah was spared. (Jeremiah 26:16) Later on in the chapter, another prophet is mentioned, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. Jeremiah 26:20-23 recounts how he was put to death by King Jehoiakim for doing the exact same thing Jeremiah did.

Most significant of all is the arrival of the Messiah Yeshua. True, Yeshua experienced brief periods of popularity in which He attracted large crowds of people. However, we see in the Gospels that they often turned out to be unbelievers and left Him when confronted with the truth. For example, after He declared that He was the bread of life and that faith in Him was necessary for eternal life, it is recorded that “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” (John 6:66)

He also went against the religious opinions of the Scribes and Pharisees, those religious leaders of His day that prescribed the laws that governed the lives of the people in Israel at that time. In rebuking them for substituting God’s laws with their own traditions, He pointed out that it was about them that Isaiah spoke these prophetic words:

“These people honour Me with their lips,
     but their hearts are far from Me.
They worship Me in vain;
     their teachings are merely human rules.
(Mark 7:6-7, cf. Isaiah 29:13)

It did not matter how many of the leaders there were, or how many of the people believed them.  They were (and are) wrong!

One may reject Yeshua based on the argument that He transgressed the rulings of all the sages and religious teachers, it’s true.  However, if we are to take that argument to its logical conclusion, then we must admit that it was not only Yeshua who was wrong, but virtually all of the prophets.

If it is the majority opinion that determines the truth, then we would have to conclude that we should accept the judgment of the whole congregation of Israel over against Caleb and Joshua, or of the four hundred prophets over against Micaiah, or of the priests and prophets in the temple over against Jeremiah. After all, in each of these cases, they formed the consensus of religious opinion, did they not?

Someone once said, “God is a majority of one!”  So before you decide to side with the majority on the issue of Yeshua as Messiah, you might want to consider what God thinks first.  You can find His thoughts in the Scriptures.  Want to know more?  Contact us!

  Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in Biblical Interpretation, Following God, Jesus and Jews, Jewish Tradition, Jews and Jesus, Knowing God, Luis Dizon, This, That, The Other Thing | No Comments »

The Trans-Cultural Nature of the Gospel

December 10th, 2010

Christianity has its roots in the Jewish religion and culture. Nobody who knows anything about Christianity disputes that. However, what is amazing about the Christian Gospel – the message of the Good News of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) – is that it has never been bound by its cultural roots.  This has enabled it to spread far and wide and to adapt to other cultures in a way that no other religion has ever been able to do.

From the beginning, God said to Abraham that through his seed, all the nations shall be blessed (Genesis 22:18). We see this fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Yeshua. When he commissioned His disciples to spread the Gospel, he told them to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). As they did, they learned to, “become all things to all people”, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

Although the core of the Gospel message remains the same, it has a certain fluidity to it that enables it to transcend its Jewish roots. When it arrived to the Greeks, the apostles were able to communicate it in such a way that the Greeks were able to understand and accept the Gospel. From there, the Gospel travelled northwards and was received by the Barbarians. From then until only recently, Christianity became a predominantly European and North American religion. In the past century, however, we have been seeing a rapid growth of Christians in Africa, Latin America and China.

This is unparalleled as far as the religions of the world go. Islam, for example, is so inextricably linked to its Arab roots that it forces its non-Arab adherents to learn its holy book and recite its prayers in a language that is foreign to them. Hinduism suffers from this as well, seeing that it is so bound up in the culture it was formed in that it can scarcely gain adherents from outside its cultural bounds (except perhaps by marriage).  Even within Judaism, there are those that would limit the scope of rabbinic learning to a Jewish cultural framework.

Why has the Gospel been so successful in breaking these kinds of cultural barriers? The simple reason is that God has intended the Gospel to be trans-cultural. It is recognized by human rights activists that all cultures are equally human, and none can be considered inferior or superior to any other. Thus all cultures are to be respected, since they are created by God.

God therefore created a Gospel that could be adapted to different cultures without compromising its core contents, or assimilating one’s culture into another, be it Jewish, European or otherwise (regardless of – or, rather, proven by – failed attempts of that kind in the past). Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan notes, “There is, of course, a core of teachings… to which all forms of Christianity are committed. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of freedom in how these absolutes are expressed and take form within a particular culture.”

In other words, what began in the matrix of second-temple Judaism was intended to be a global phenomenon that would retain the core of what the Jewish Scriptures professed (belief in one God, His divine revelation, the Messiah, etc.), but would not be bound by Jewish culture. The Messiah redeemed “persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9), but He isn’t going to turn them all into Jews. Jews who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah are perfectly free to continue worshipping as Jews, both liturgically and culturally, and many of them do. 

That being said, however, Jewishness is not the requirement for other cultures. As Daniel Muller once told me, God loves diversity. Because He created Africans, He will redeem Africans and let them worship Him according to their African culture. The Chinese will worship God according to their Chinese culture. Filipinos (like me) will worship God as Filipinos, and so on.

We do not have to pray in a specific language or while facing a specific earth-based locale, as some manmade religions require its adherents to do. It is just as Yeshua said when He spoke to that Samaritan woman on the well about what true worship is:

“Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-24)”

  Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in A Gentile perspective, Evangelism, Jews and Christianity, Luis Dizon, This, That, The Other Thing | No Comments »

Light and Darkness at Hanukkah

December 2nd, 2010

In anticipation of Hanukkah, Daniel Muller and I decided to go handing out flyers in the Bathurst and Lawrence area of Toronto, declaring Yeshua (Jesus) as the light of the world and the promised Messiah.  This is in a very Jewish neighborhood and as we were walking along, we met various people (some Jewish, some Gentile), passed flyers to as many of them as we could, and tried to engage whoever were willing to converse with us regarding the Gospel.  

We had mixed reactions; some were friendly and open, some were indifferent, and some were downright hostile to the message we were sharing with them.  In particular, there was one man who was quite boisterous in his rejection of the message we were sharing with him and his companions.  He said he knew more about the issues involved than we did, and why Yeshua could not have been the Messiah.  When Daniel tried to ask him to share what his reasons were, the man did not really give any.  He simply reiterated his earlier claim, and threw the flyer we had given him away.  

One cannot help but wonder whether he really believed what he was claiming, or if he was simply grasping for excuses not to contend with the message we brought. Whatever the case, it was clear that he was not really willing to consider Yeshua’s claims, so we moved on.

This is not really the first time I’ve encountered such hostility. I’ve seen it many times, and it comes not just from Jews, but from Muslims, Atheists and others as well. But why is there this strong hostility to the Gospel message of Yeshua as Messiah? There are any variety of reasons why, but from a biblical perspective they all boil down to one thing: the depravity of the human heart.

Our hearts do not naturally seek God, and when we are confronted with Yeshua’s claims to be Messiah and Lord, the natural instinct of our flesh is to recoil against them. After all, “the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)”  When I heard that man’s excuses for not consideringJesus, I was immediately reminded of the hardening that Paul mentions in Romans 11:25. It also made me think of how darkened human hearts naturally react to the light that comes from Yeshua. I think He Himself said it best when he said these words to Nicodemus:

“Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21)”

Those of us who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah and take seriously His call to preach the Gospel to all the nations (both Jew and Gentile) will undoubtedly continue to be met with resistance. However, as many great people have repeatedly pointed out to me, it is ultimately not our job to convince people that they must accept Jesus as the Messiah and as Saviour. That is the work of God through His Holy Spirit, since no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). If people respond positively to the Gospel that we are proclaiming, it is because God is the one drawing them to Yeshua, not us (cf. John 6:44,65).

We will continue to share our message with the world, whether people are willing to hear it or not. We pray that the Lord God will bless our efforts and cause those precious seeds that we plant during evangelism to grow and bear fruit.  We continue to proclaim His Gospel to the praise and glory of His name alone, who is the true Light of the World at Hanukkah and all the days of our lives.

Contributed by Luis Dizon, New Covenant Forum intern from Toronto Baptist Seminary.

Posted in A Gentile perspective, Evangelism, Following God, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jewish Objections to Jesus, Jews and Jesus, Knowing God, Luis Dizon, Personal Stories | 3 Comments »

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