Keyword:

Light from the Sidra

Re’eh (‘Behold!’). 3rd September 2016. 30th Av 5776

Torah: Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17. Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1–24

No strange god

Deuteronomy 13 sounds a severe warning to Israel not to listen to false prophets who attempt to persuade them to follow other gods. ‘If there should stand up in your midst a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes about, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us follow gods of others you did not know and we shall worship them!” do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream, for HASHEM, your God is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.’

Certain passages in the Talmud as well as the medieval anti-Christian tract Toldot Yeshu claim Jesus was a necromancer who performed miracles through the dark arts in order to lead Israel away from their God. The Talmud was completed in the fourth century of the Common Era while the Toldot was written in the tenth century. Sources from within forty years of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, however, record him teaching that the most important mitzvah is, 'Hear, O Israel: HASHEM is our God. HASHEM is the One and Only. You shall love HASHEM your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources.’

When the Satan offered to hand the kingdoms of the world over to Jesus if he would bow down and worship him, Jesus replied in the words of Deuteronomy 6:16 and 13: ‘You shall not test HASHEM your God.’ ‘HASHEM, your God, you shall fear, Him shall you serve.’

Does that sound like a false prophet calling Israel to serve other gods? And which sources should be more trustworthy? A few isolated verses dating to 300 years after the life of Jesus or four books written within a generation of the events they record? A fantastic (in the proper sense of the word) tract written a thousand years after the events it purports to record or eye-witness testimonies written shortly after the events they report?

In the last few years, opponents of Christianity have seized on claims made in Dan Brown’s potboiler The Da Vinci Code that Jesus ‘became a god’ in the fourth century as the result of a majority vote by Christian bishops at the Council of Nicaea. There are also Jewish people who think Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians believe in three gods: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

When Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians say Jesus is God, they are not saying Jesus is ‘a god’. If Christians believed Jesus was a god they would be breaking the first commandment. Nor are they saying Jesus became God, which is an impossibility. Man can never become God but God can become man.

Anyone who is willing to make the effort to read the Gospels will quickly discover that Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians believe in one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Shema. However, it seems to me that some ‘anti-missionaries’, in their zeal to keep Israel true to HASHEM, become guilty of the very sin of which they accuse Christians. They are calling Israel to worship a god other than HASHEM.

If HASHEM is anything, he is almighty. Anyone who can create the universe from absolutely by speaking can do anything he sets his mind to. That means he could, if he so chose, become man without ceasing to be God. Nothing is impossible for HASHEM, therefore such people, however pious they might be, actually worship a deity other than the God revealed in the Torah. Either HASHEM can become human while still remaining God or else we should stop calling him the Almighty and worship a God who is truly worthy of that title.

The New Testament teaches that 2,000 years ago the Creator of the universe – HASHEM –lived and walked among humans for 33 years. And he did so as a Jew. He came into the world through a miraculous virginal conception but was born in the same way as everyone else. When people saw Jesus, they saw HASHEM. When they heard Jesus, they heard HASHEM. When they spoke to Jesus, they spoke to HASHEM.

Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians believe not only that HASHEM is able to become human but also that he actually did take on human nature in order to redeem Israel and the world. The Most High came into this world as a Jew. He came as a servant and became obedient to death; death by crucifixion. Three days later he took back his life.

Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians are not idolaters. They worship HASHEM alone because they believe he came in the world and lived as the most Torah-observant Jew in history. But we rejected him. We killed the Creator. We murdered the author of life. But his death was planned before the creation of the world and became the greatest demonstration of HASHEM’s love not only for Israel but also for the nations. Writing in the New Testament, the Second Temple Era rabbi Shaul sums up the mystery of HASHEM becoming man in this way:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Messiah Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a tree. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


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