Yeshua and the law
Parashat Metzora (Leprosy)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1–15:33
Our weekly portion starts with a precise description of a law that deals with someone who suffered from leprosy, and how he or she was to be cleansed from the disease. This portion directly connects to last week’s portion in how it defines someone who is a leper.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper.”
A leper needed to be outside the camp, in part because the disease was so contagious. But the infected person did not just suffer physically; s/he also suffered emotionally. Lepers were considered outcasts and “impure”. This impurity was the main reason they had to be outside the camp, and also the reason the Priest needed to go outside the camp to examine if the leper was healed.
Only after the Priest ruled that the leper was healed that he would start with the different acts of purification of the leper. Why was this important? I believe the entire cleansing ceremony was prophetic and was actually fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. The elements of the cleansing ceremony directly point to Yeshua, from the requirement that the birds offered as a sacrifice needed to be spotless and pure, and the unblemished lamb, to the significance of the number seven, which symbolizes completion and holiness, and the living waters which symbolize Yeshua Himself. All these things point directly to Him!
This week’s portion brings to mind Matthew 8:1–4, in which we learn of Yeshua healing the leper:
And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”
This passage is so rich in meaning, but I want to briefly focus on two points. The first is that Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched the leper. Please understand how significant this is! Yeshua understood the Law of Moses better than anyone and He knew that touching this “unclean” man would create quite a stir. Not only did He honor the leper’s faith, but also wanted to show His power to cleanse that which is unclean. Yeshua showed us the real meaning of the Word of God; all it took was Him speaking healing over the leper, touching Him, and the leper was healed.
The second point I’d like to emphasize is that Yeshua told the leper to go and present the offering to the priest, which Moses commanded (and appears in our parasha). Why would He do this? I believe He did so for two reasons. The first reason was His way to testify of Himself through this amazing miracle. The second is that He showed that He loved the Torah — His Father’s teachings — and He lived by it as an example for us all. As He said,
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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I call you friends
I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends…’ – Yeshua (John 15:15)
These words spoken by the Messiah to his disciples were uttered at the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. The central memorial of that festival is the remembering of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, where a nation of slaves became a nation of free men and women. The long-standing Passover tradition is the singing of avadim hainu (‘we were slaves’) ‘but now we are free’. It is in that context that Yeshua spoke those revolutionary words in Hebrew, the word for ‘servants’ being avadim,the same word for slaves. Thus a closer translation would be, ‘No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.’
The Hebrew word for friends is haverim, from the singular haver, the root word meaning to be closely connected. It is written of Abraham, the father of all Israel and of the faithful, as well as of Ishmael, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God’ (James 2:23). The town in which Abraham and Sarah his wife are buried (as well as his sons Isaac and Israel, and their wives) is called Hebron (Hebrew: Hevron), and in Arabic Al-Khalil, both meaning ‘the friend’, after Abraham, the great friend of God. Thus the allusion of Yeshua’s pronouncement at the Passover was to that relationship that Abraham had with God as a friend, which his work and mission was to restore that personal relationship between men and God as it was with Abraham. They would no longer be slaves to sin and thus enemies of God, or slaves even to God, but would now become close friends with God- and to each other. That is the central message of the Gospel.
What is a friend? A friend is one with whom we have a close and deep relationship of trust and love and loyalty. A friend is one you can count on, who gives you the benefit of the doubt, often overlooking shortcomings. It also may be said that it is a long and lasting relationship, which normally entails at times even misunderstandings and disagreements, as do most long and close relationships. A real friend is one who know just how bad you can be- and also how good. But patience and respect and love- and very often forgiveness- are applied in maintaining that friendship, including marriage. That is the essential recipe given to the disciples of the Messiah, to whom he said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Though sometimes easier said than done, that is the intended universal objective of the Gospel.
At that same Passover, the Messiah said also, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13), which he would certainly do for not only his disciples the following day in crucifixion, but for all humankind that would trust in his kindness and grace, and call him Friend.
There is nothing quite so precious as old and true friends. They are like an old wool hunting shirt that has kept you warm in the blowing winds of winter and adversity, and are full of memories. They are also like your old faithful hunting dog that saw you miss the shot and spew obscenity and looked the other way and never brought it up again. Old friends are folks you have trusted and continue to trust because they have proven trustworthy, for without trust there cannot be friendship, or real love. Your real friends know your strengths and also your weaknesses, having weathered some good and bad times together, and who love you despite both, appreciating you for who and what you are, not for what you should be, or are not yet.
I have been blessed with a score of real old friends- several as long as sixty-five years so far, nearly twice the time my firstborn son has been alive. My business partner and I have known each other that long – since five years old- and have worked together successfully for nearly forty without a written agreement, or even a handshake – just trust. Other longtime friends share a very different political and even spiritual understanding from myself and we have wrestled quite heatedly but, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, continue tolerating and respecting and loving one another as friends.
Old friends are those you may not speak with for years at a time, but when you reconnect you pick up right where you left off without a hesitation in the conversation. They are folks who can be counted on to cover your back in a struggle, even if you may not be completely right. Those real friends, even when you aren’t thinking of them, are like stars in your skies, that if one should disappear your night would be darker for lack of their light. My wife is my old friend at forty years so far, being through thick and thin, sick and sin, sharing memories and still laughing and in love most of the time. My golden retriever is my loving friend at all times, day and night, never disappointing (and would expect to see in Heaven). Some people I have offered friendship, but they were either unwilling or unable, or unworthy. And the worst of pains is a trusted friend who has betrayed trust, which is irreparable as a broken spinal cord. I have been the true friend to my children since they were born, though it takes time for them to understand that.
My brother is my oldest of old living friends, who has known me since I was born seventy-four years ago, even before I knew him. And the Lord is the most amazing and faithful of old friends, also loving for who I am currently, not for what I should be, but never giving up on urging me forward toward that better goal. He said, “I call you friends,” and that is what counts in the end, and beyond. May the communion we take in this Passover eve be among friends indeed.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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Reflections of redemption in Nisan, Part 2
We saw in Part 1 that rabbinic leaders created no community celebrations to mark Rosh Ha-Hodashim. For Yeshua’s disciples, this is a great advantage: We have a nearly empty arena in which to build traditions for this Milestone that are distinctly Messianic.
As always, we should build on a foundation of the Scriptures, and there we can find a surprising number of references to this date.
The Biblical Record
God’s word never gives pointless information, so we would do well to ponder the events that were recorded as happening “on the first day of the first month”:
– The Flood waters finally disappeared from the ground (Gen. 8:13).
– The Tabernacle was first set up (Exod. 40:2,17).
– Ezra began his journey from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:9).
– Ezra finished his investigation of the men who had married foreign wives (Ezra 10:17).
– Priests under Hezekiah began to cleanse and rededicate the Temple (2 Chron. 29:17).
– God announced that He was giving Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as wages (Ezek. 29:17).
– Ezekiel’s (future) Temple will be purified (Ezek. 45:18)
What do all these different events have in common, besides the date? We see here new beginnings, historical turning points… all following a theme of cleansing and closure. The earth emerged freed from an irreversible corruption, a Jewish leader left behind his life of exile, disobedient Jews were made accountable to the Covenant, God rewarded a king who had carried out His judgment, and three different Sanctuaries were (or will be) made ready for pure worship.
All of these can be seen as pictures showing the different results of being redeemed – in terms of both rights and responsibilities.
The absence of celebration doesn’t mean the rabbis never talked about the significance of Nisan 1 for Israel. Following are a few examples showing the unintentional (?) hints of the Messianic redemption that we experience through the New Covenant.
A new or stronger creation. As we saw in Part 1, Jewish teachers insisted that God’s activity in creating the world on Nisan 1 was stronger than any of the aspects of creation associated with Tishrei 1. And so it is with the New Creation, which God first promised through the prophets (the “Tishrei” phase) and then fulfilled through Yeshua (the “Nisan” phase). Even if someone learns to know God through the Scriptures, and/or has returned to the Land of Israel according to the promises, he is in an embryonic state of redemption. He must be “born of the Spirit” to enter the Kingdom of God and the New Creation (John 3:3-7). The teachers of Israel are supposed to know these things from what is revealed in Tanach (v.10).
The Patriarchs entered Heaven. According to a pre-existing tradition recorded in the Talmud, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yakov all died on Nisan 1. This provides interesting context for the statement in Hebrews that our faithful forefathers all considered themselves strangers in the earthly Land of Promise, because they were “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10) How fitting is the idea that they should receive that longed-for inheritance on Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the day of cleansing and closure in Scripture which God ordained to represent “the Head” of all “new things”. This idea in turn leads to Messiah – for in that Heavenly architecture built by God, we are told (Matt. 21:42, Acts 4:11, 1 Pet. 2:7) that Yeshua is the Cornerstone (Heb: “Rosh Pina”, quoting Psa. 118:22).
The Patriarchs were also portrayed (Pesiqta Rabbati 162) as interacting directly with Messiah during Nisan. “The Fathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] will in the future rise up in the month of Nisan” to beg Him to go and redeem their descendants. Curiously, in the story they are conscious of “the sins of our children” and that Messiah has already “suffered on their account”; now they fear He has rejected Israel because of it. For the remarkable answer Messiah gives them (and similar stories), see our collection on the Restorers of Zion site
Future Nisan miracles will dwarf the Exodus. Hassidic teaching (Sefer Ha-Yetzira) characterized the First Month as brimming with miracles, by relating its name to “nisim/miracles” and suggesting a translation of “nisan” as “miracles of miracles.” For Israel’s future, the commentary quoted God as promising: “As the days of your exodus from Egypt, I shall reveal to him wonders.” They explained that the future Redemption will be like the deliverance from Egypt, but more miraculous.
What could surpass national liberation from slavery, except spiritual liberation from slavery to sin? This expectation is reinforced by God’s oft-repeated declaration (Exod. 13:3, 13:14, 20:2; Deut. 5:6, 6:12, 8:14, 13:5, 13:10, etc.) that He has brought us “out from Egypt” AND “from the house of slaves.” Given the Jewish view that God never needlessly repeats Himself, these are taken as two deliverance experiences. Yet the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 11a) expected that second deliverance also in the Passover month: “in Nisan they will be redeemed in the time to come.”
The consecration of God’s dwelling place. The Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) was first erected on the first day of the First Month, the date set by God (Exod. 40:2,17). After it was cleansed, His glory covered and filled it so intensely that even Moshe could not enter it (v. 35). Many details about this structure, beginning with its name (“mishkan” comes from “lishkon/to dwell”), portray the kind of intimate dwelling place that God desires within His people. Paul makes this connection explicit (1 Cor. 6:19).
The Talmudic rabbis also taught that we are meant to be individual dwelling places for God. “Since the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One has no place in this world except for the four Amot of Halacha” (Brachot 8a). “Four amot” are roughly 1 square meter, interpreted as the space occupied by a human torso. But we know that “halacha”, performance of the Law, will not make the human temple a fit dwelling place for Him. How do we know? The original Mishkan needed to be “atoned” by blood and “sanctified” by oil (Lev. 8) before God was willing to inhabit it.
To paraphrase Paul (1 Cor. 9:9-10), is God concerned about inanimate objects, or about us? Torah’s message: Yes, we are designed to be God’s Mishkan; but no, we cannot serve that purpose until we are cleansed with the Blood of Messiah’s atonement and set apart by the Oil of God’s Spirit. Both are essential in the gospel (Acts 2:38, 8:15, 19:2)
According to Torah, God’s indwelling Presence depended on one more thing: the Olat Tamid, the daily sacrifice. This was the first offering commanded for the newly dedicated altar, and note the amazing promise attached:
Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one-year-old lambs each day, continuously…. And I will dwell among [or, within*] the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am YHVH their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among [or, within*] them; I am YHVH their God. (Exod. 29:38-46
*The Hebrew word here, unlike the more definite “bekerev/among” (בקרב), is “betoch” (בתוך) which can mean both “among” and “within”. It’s an unmistakable reference – twice – to some unique power of the Tamid (not attributed to any other sacrifice) to make Israel a fit dwelling place for their God.
The Mishkan’s first use and the Tamid command were logically assumed by the sages to have happened on the same day, Nisan 1. As we already saw, the command concerning the Passover lamb also came with the command to mark Nisan 1. It’s no coincidence that the Tamid and the Passover lamb both belong to the “first things” of Nisan, and now we will explore that connection.
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.
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No longer alone
“I don’t know another soul here,” I thought to myself during the class break, feeling distant from the other adult students I was observing. I began to face the fact that, in a way, we are always alone. That is, we are bound within our mind, our consciousness, our self. Even our closest friends, even our spouses cannot breach that border. I have often wished not to be so alone, trapped within my own thoughts.
But are we really alone? Those of us who have experienced full reconciliation with God through Messiah’s atonement have been reunited with our Maker. In wrestling with my own “aloneness” I want to explore the divine response to this phenomenon—as a type of “therapy, healing and change of outlook.” First, let’s see what Yeshua went through on the cross.
Yeshua felt alone, was alone, on the cross. He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was in blunt contrast to His prayer conversations in which He addressed God as “Father.” Yeshua knew that His Father was always with Him. Yet in being crucified, the Son of God submitted to temporary “abandonment” in order to bear our rebellion. He experienced the penalty we deserved—separation from a holy God, i.e. absolute aloneness. The one person who was never truly alone embraced isolation from everyone and everything—utter darkness—in order to liberate us from the aloneness birthed in sin.
After His resurrection, as our Shepherd finished His work on this earth, He gave us this guarantee, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)!!! Knowing our capacity to feel alone, separate, detached, disconnected, He assured us as His disciples, “I’ll always be with you, in every situation, no matter what’s going on inside of you.”
Elijah thought he was alone. In a cave, following the astounding victory on Mt. Carmel, the prophet was convinced of his aloneness. Then God spoke to him in a whisper. The Author of the universe was right there, with the prophet, at the mouth of the cave, when Elijah was depressed and suffering by himself. God, entirely aware of His servant’s inner state, challenged him to come out of his introspection and go back to his history-altering calling. Thus he “finished well,” setting in motion the destinies of two kings and the young prophet who succeeded him.
I sometimes find myself in such a cave. There, I become consumed with self-doubts, self-condemnation, and pointless regrets about my past. In that cave I need to hear the whisper of my God. I need to remember and rejoice in the truth David learned. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [a fitting metaphor for the loneliness of depression/discouragement/self-focus] I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Practicing His Presence
Now I’m sitting alone. It is a holy moment. Silence…and I am with Him. Simply with Him. No agenda, no list, no regrets. It is not a lonely aloneness. Because Someone is with me. This must be what is called “the secret place.” The psalm that speaks of such a place (Psalm 91) contains enormous promises of God’s presence, protection, and abundance when I “abide with him.” This practice of being “alone,” but conscious of His presence with us is, I believe, our indispensable communion. Once united with Him, I can enjoy the richness of shared life with the people around me, and I am no longer alone.
This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, April 2019, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.
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Bibi wins unprecedented fifth term! Here is what it means
I woke up just before 7 a.m. to see that…drumroll please…Benjamin Netanyahu has won a fifth term as prime minister of Israel. It was a rollercoaster of a night. Every exit poll had Likud coming in second place, not first. One had them losing to the Blue and White Party, 33 to 27, which would have been the end of Netanyahu as prime minister.
Likud could afford to come in second place, but only by a few Knesset seats. A six-seat gap would have spelled disaster. However, with nearly all votes counted, Likud and Bibi have a slight lead over Benny Gantz’ Blue and White, with both parties receiving 35 Knesset seats.
That is not a Tie?
Why is this a victory for Likud? Simply put, there are enough smaller right wing parties, two considered racist even, that Bibi can work with to form a 65-seat coalition, whereas Blue and White could only muster up 20 new partners, for 55 seats, and that would include the far left (as in, doesn’t live in reality) Meretz (Energy) party and the Arab parties.
My hope, and it is not based on reality, is that Bibi will instead bring the Blue and White into his government and have just two parties—Likud and Blue and White. Why?
- Bibi will not be forced to work with racists.
- Bibi will not be blackmailed into giving millions of shekels to ultra-Orthodox parties that represent people who don’t want to work (but pray) and despise the Israel Defense Forces and refuse to serve.
Bibi under Indictment
However, it is uncertain if Blue and White would work with Netanyahu, as they have repeatedly said that as long as the prime minister is under indictment, they would not join his government. Yes, Bibi will stand before a grand jury soon who will decide whether or not corruption charges will be brought against him as the attorney general has recommended. If so, how can a prime minister run the country while on trial? Technically, he is allowed, but is that good for the country?
Some have wanted to pass what we call, “The French Law.” In France a sitting prime minister cannot be indicted while in office. If that happens, and I think the chances are slim, then Netanyahu’s gamble for early elections clearly paid off. He has a new four-year mandate from the people and there would be no chance of his being prosecuted until out of office. If nothing else, Benjamin Netanyahu has proven to be one of the greatest political minds in modern history.
Middle of the Night Gaffe
Based on the exit polls, Benny Gantz came out to greet jubilant supporters, and declared, “We are the winners.” But by morning he would have to eat those words, finding that it was more or less a tie. And in this case, the tie goes to Likud.
Houdini of the Left
One of the interesting aspects of this election is the disappearance of the Israeli left. The Labor Party is the historic party of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founder and first prime minister. It has lost most of its significance and may soon disappear. The question is why?
Is it because Israel is a center/right nation? Maybe. But it is also because of the way the Labor party treats is leaders. Most parties have iconic leaders who remain leaders whether the party wins or loses. That gives the charismatic leader four more years to appeal to the public. But Labor beheads losing leaders (which would be every leader since 2000!) and thus, they can never build momentum. For instance, Likud has had one leader, Netanyahu, for roughly 15 years. Yesh Atid has been led by Yair Lapid since its inception in 2011. Labor’s current leader took the reins less than two years ago and is sure to be shown the firing squad any day after their poor showing.
For believers, the most troubling result is that the ultra-orthodox Shas party, led by the anti-Messianic Aryeh Deri, who spent several years in jail for accepting bribes, will now be the second largest party in Bibi’s coalition with eight seats. Shas had fought against granting natural born Jews who have embraced Yeshua citizenship. Also getting eight seats is United Torah Judaism. So in order for Bibi to form a government, he will have to woo (bribe) 16 ultra-orthodox minsters, giving them a disproportionate amount of power in relation to the population. In exchange, they will vote for anything Bibi wants—just as long as they get their money.
Also, it was stunning that the very popular, at least on the right, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who left the Jewish Home party several months ago to form the right wing secular New Right party, did not break the threshold of 3.25 percent and will be excluded from the government.
Former Likud member, Moshe Feiglin, started a new party called Identity, hoping to get back in the Knesset. They focused on rebuilding the third Temple (something Israelis don’t think about, save a few radicals) and legalizing marijuana. My guess is the legalizing marijuana platform was merely to get votes from the pro-pot public. It didn’t work as he went from a projected seven seats a one point, to not breaking the 3.25 percent threshold.
Bibi is back. He will have, unless he goes for a national unity government with the center party Blue and White, 65 seats in his coalition. He could be prosecuted in the midst of his term for corruption and bribery. If he goes to jail, new elections could be called and Blue and White will be waiting to challenge a Bibi-less Likud. But if he skates, we may be hearing the popular chant that was heard all over Israel yesterday—rak Bibi—only Bibi—for years to come.
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, April 10, 2019, and reposted with permission.
RELATED ARTICLE: The phenomenon that is Bibi – Election Day
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.