Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha Terumah Sh’mot (Contribution) Ex. 25:1-27:19
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 5:26-6:13
B’rit Chadashah: Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 8:1-6; 9:23-24; 10:1
In Parasha Terumah, we read about the plans for the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle); the curtains, the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat, the various tables, lamps and utensils. All the things were to be made exactly as HaShem showed Moshe. Why? Because the book of Hebrews tells us that the Mishkan is a copy of that which is already in the heavenlies (8:5). The purpose of the Mishkan is described in Sh’mot 25:8. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them.” This tells us something very fundamental about our relationship with YHVH Elohim
Why did and does YHVH want to dwell among us? It is because He wants us to know Him in a personal and intimate way. He doesn’t have to come down to know us for He is YHVH, all knowing and He already knows the innermost thoughts of each man, woman and child. However, as we learned last week, he gave 74 elders the privilege of seeing His feet; an example of G-d coming to Earth without revealing Himself in total. So what is the purpose of the Mishkan? It is to help us know HIM. It is a specific and local revelation of Himself. This reveals one of the great differences between the religion described in the Scriptures and other religious systems. In other religious systems the quest is always about the adherent trying to find their G-d, however defined. In the Hebrew Bible, a constant theme is of YHVH Elohim seeking man. The Bible is replete with G-d revealing himself to man desiring that mankind know Him. The greatest expression of this is the revelation of Messiah, the Cohen Gadol (High Priest), Who sympathizes with our sufferings, who tabernacles among us giving us a complete revelation of YHVH. He walked and talked with men the way it was in the beginning and the way it will someday be again.
With that idea in mind, the Mishkan also tells us how we get to know Him. The central feature of the Mishkan was the Holy of Holies in which was the Ark of the Covenant. And what was in the Ark of the Covenant? It is the Torah. The primary revelation of G-d is the Torah; the Written Torah and the Manifested Word (Torah), Yahshua HaMashiach. In contrast with a book like the Koran and others, Torah is not just rules for life, but it is the way to know YHVH, and if you really want to know what Yahshua is like He can be found in Torah for He is the Living Torah. I’m always amused when I see the bumper sticker, WWJD? (What would Jesus Do?). My comment is that if you really want to do what “Jesus” would do, look in the Torah.
Commentary from Jewish sources, in contrast to most Yahshuaian sources, which will only explain what a verse means in historical context (past, present or future); Jewish sources explain what a verse or word means in relationship to YHVH and what it says about Him. This primary use of Torah was not limited to Moshe’s time but it is true for the followers of Messiah. If we really want to know Messiah and the revelation of Elohim through Him we must understand Torah; we must study Torah because it speaks of Him (Lk. 24).
What this means for us in our daily lives is that the study of Torah should be our top priority. Nothing should come before Torah studies; even prayer or service. Why? Because prayer and service, while vitally important, derive from our study of Torah. They are in a way circular, they originate with HaShem in His Torah and they flow through us and back to Him. Study is the key for in it we are discovering Him, getting to know Him more intimately; it is a conversation in which we do the listening and G-d does the talking. As we listen to Him, we learn about Him. The more we know Him the more intimate our relationship. That kind of relationship is what we were created for and it is G-d’s deepest desire.
Haftarah: 1 Kings 5:26
Our Parasha describes the Mishkan and everything in it. B’nai Yisrael volunteer and contribute whatever they can to participate in this great event. Our Haftarah describes the building of the First Temple. Now that Israel has established themselves in the Land, they need a permanent structure in which G-d can reside. The Temple was built by King Solomon, who spared no expense to make it a glorious house for G-d.
B’rit Chadasha: Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 8:1-6
8 1 Here is the whole point of what we have been saying: we do have just such a Cohen Gadol as has been described. And he does sit at the right hand of HaG’dulah (The Greatness) in heaven. 2 There he serves in the Holy Place, that is, in the true Tent of Meeting, the one erected not by human beings but by Adonai. 3 For every Cohen Gadol is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so this Cohen Gadol too has to have something he can offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he wouldn’t be a Cohen at all, since there already are cohanim offering the gifts required by the Torah. 5 But what they are serving is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original; for when Moshe was about to erect the Tent, G-d warned him, “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain.” 6 But now the work Yahshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant he mediates is better. For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises (JNT).
The author turns from Yahshua’s credentials, character, and status as Cohen Gadol (chapter 7) to the nature of his work in the heavenly Holy Place as he sits (10:11–14, Psalm 110:1) or possibly stands (Ac 7:55–56) at the right hand of G-d.
We need to explore His work for a few minutes. We are speaking of Malki-Tzedek King and Priest of Shalem the fore shadowing of Messiah. Shalem—akin in Hebrew to the word shalom, means not only “peace” but also “health, integrity, wholeness” is the city of Jerusalem. This is clear both from Psalm 76:3, where parallel lines of poetry identify Shalem (Salem) with Zion, and from traditional Jewish sources.
King of peace. In Isaiah 9:5–6, one of the most important Tanakh prophecies of the Messiah (see Lk 1:79), he is called “prince of peace” (sar-shalom).
In the Bible,Malki-Tzedek is spoken of as having no father, mother, ancestry, birth or death, of course he did but the Tanakh contains no record of them. This fact enables the author of Hebrews to develop the midrash that Malki-Tzedek continues as a Cohen for all time, like the Son of G-d, Yahshua. who had no human father (Mt 1:18–25) and who existed as the Word before his birth (Yn 1:1, 14) and continues to exist after his death. The midrash may be stated thus: the Tanakh presents Malki-Tzedek as a Cohen; and since the Tanakh is eternally true, Malki-Tzedek existence as a Cohen may be thought of as eternal. Such midrash-making is altogether Jewish in character; so that it is irrelevant to point out, as do literal-minded critics, that Malki-Tzedek surely was born of parents and died like other men. Traditional Jewish identification of Malki-Tzedek as a son of Shem (Babylonian Talmud, N’darim 32b) is likewise irrelevant; since the Tanakh is authoritative, while the traditions are not.
Note in passing a parallel the author does not use, the use of bread and wine both by Malki-Tzedek and by Yahshua and all believers in Passover or as Christians celebrate communion.
Chapter 7 shows five ways in which Malki-Tzedek is great (v. 4).
(1) He took a tithe of the spoils of battle from Avraham, even though
(a) Avraham was the Patriarch, the father of all the Jews and thus the greatest of them;
(b) Malki-Tzedek had no family connection with Avraham, whereas the Levitical priests receive tithes from their own brothers, from whom support is more naturally to be expected than from non-relatives; and
(c) Malki-Tzedek was not specifically entitled to receive tithes from anyone, whereas the Levitical cohanim have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people. The comparison of the Levitical priests with Malki-Tzedek leads later to their comparison with Yahshua.
(2) Malki-Tzedek blessed Avraham, which implies that Malki-Tzedek was greater than Avraham (vv. 6b–7).
(3) The Levitical priests receive tithes even though mortal, whereas Malki-Tzedek is testified to be still alive, that is, the text of the Tanakh does not tell us that he died.
(4) An ordering of greatness is set forth as follows: Greatest, Malki-Tzedek, who received a tenth from Avraham; second greatest, Avraham, who paid it; third, L’vi, who, even though he himself receives tenths, paid a tenth through Avraham, inasmuch as he was still in his ancestor Avraham’s body when Malki-Tzedek met him; fourth, L’vi’s descendants, the cohanim, who are the ones who actually receive tenths, rather than L’vi; and least, the people of Israel, who pay them (vv. 9–10).
(5) The Israelites “were given the Torah” in connection with the system of cohanim derived from L‘vi. But this system was not the final one, nor was it possible through it to reach the goal of being eternally in G-d’s presence; this will be demonstrated in the next four chapters. This fact allows the possibility of and, more than that, shows the need for, another, different kind of Cohen, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek, a Cohen who by implication is greater than the greatest of the Levitical high priests, Aharon.
V2 The author turns from Yahshua’s credentials to the true Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle in heaven before there was an earthly Tent of Meeting. One of the Hebrew words the Tanakh uses for “tent” is “mishkan,” which is related to both “shakhen” (“neighbor”) and “Sh’khinah” (“G-d’s immanent presence. Not only is Yahshua himself better than the Levitical Cohanim, as shown in chapter 7, but the work Yahshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, since the place where they serve is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original, referred to in Rev 15:5 as “the Tent of Witness in heaven.” The term, “Tent of Meeting,” speaks of G-d’s communicating with his people; whereas “Tent of Witness” bespeaks G-d’s witness to his own righteousness (compare with Yn. 5:37–40 and Romans 3:25–26).
4-6 There is no conflict between the Levitical priesthood established by the Torah of Moses and that of Yahshua as predicted by Psalm 110; it is not necessary to think of Yahshua’s priesthood as superseding the Levitical one. In fact Levitical priests will serve in the future Temple of the millennium. The Torah says that earthly Cohanim must be descendants of L’vi, and Numbers 25:12 speaks of G-d’s “covenant of an everlasting priesthood” with Pinchas, the son of Aharon. But since Yahshua serves in heaven, he can be from the tribe of Y’hudah (7:13–14) and can also have an eternal ministry (7:23–25).
6a Is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant he mediates is better, literally, “is as far superior to theirs as the covenant he mediates is better.”
The covenant which Yahshua mediates is the refreshed, renewed Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah in the passage quoted below (vv. 8–12). It is better than the covenant Moses mediated at Mount Sinai, as proved by vv. 6b–13. However, it does not annul the Mosaic Torah as many Christians think. The subject here is the priesthood and not G-d’ Written Torah that is the Manifested Living Torah, Yahshua.
6b–13 This passage is one of the New Testament’s two most important discussions of the refreshed, renewed Covenant in relation to the Covenant with Moses at Mount Sinai (the other is 2C 3:6–18). Non-Messianic Jews claim that G-d did not establish a New Covenant with Israel through Yahshua—and indeed they must say this, otherwise they have no excuse for not adhering to its terms and accepting Yahshua as the Messiah. When discussing the “New Covenant” in the context of these verses, they raise four objections.
(1) Objection: “The covenant with Moses is eternal, so there is no ground for expecting a new one.”
Answer: The covenant with Moses is indeed eternal (see v. 13), but the conclusion that there is no renewed, refreshed one does not logically follow. The eternal covenant with Avraham did not prevent G-d from making an eternal covenant with Moses, nor did the latter cancel the former (Ga 3:15–18). Moreover, it is patently false that there is no ground for expecting a refreshed, renewed covenant; this is proved by the Jeremiah text (vv. 8b–12), written six centuries before the time of Yahshua.
(2) Objection: “Who needs a new covenant? What you call the ‘old’ one is good enough for me.”
Answer: This is not an argument but an expression of emotion. The Mosaic covenant is excellent, but the decisions whether it is “good enough” and whether one should reject the Covenant should not be based on feelings, not even feelings of loyalty to the Jewish people. If G-d decided to establish a renewed, refreshed or new covenant with the Jewish people, who, as the Jeremiah passage proves, he did promise to do, then one ought to agree that G-d did this for the benefit of Jews, not to hurt them, and one should welcome whatever G-d offers.
(3) Objection: “I welcome whatever G-d may offer, including a new or refreshed, renewed covenant; and there is ground in the Tanakh for expecting one. But Yahshua did not bring it, and the New Testament does not express it—as proved by the following four arguments, which are based on the very text, you use to support your own view.
(a) “Jeremiah writes that the new covenant will be over the house of Israel and over the House of Y’hudah. It does not say that G-d will make his new covenant with Gentiles or with Christians.”
Answer: Yahshua introduced and announced this covenant to his twelve talmidim, who, Yahshua explained moments later, are in a special representative relationship with the twelve tribes of Israel as their judges (Lk 22:30; compare Mt 19:28, Rev 21:12–14). It is the twelve tribes of Israel of whom Jeremiah speaks collectively when he writes, “the house of Israel and the house of Y’hudah.” Gentiles enter this covenant only by being “grafted in” to Israel (Rom 11:17–24; Eph 2:11–16).
(b) “G-d says he will put his Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts. It is no secret that Christians have done cruel things to Jews in Yahshua’s name, things which are altogether alien to Torah, things which prove that Torah was far from their minds and hearts. I do not suppose it necessary to show how each one of the Ten Commandments has been violated by Christians in their dealings with Jews.
“However, I will pass over these things and take a different tack. I will grant that not all deeds done by Christians were necessarily authorized by Yahshua—some even adduced Yahshua’s name to justify acts contrary to his teachings and to the Ten Commandments. Moreover, I know that there are Christians who love G-d and who desire to do good. But—and here is the point—this is not the same as having the Torah written on their hearts. For the Torah is the body of laws and instruction given to Moses for Israel all 613.
Answer: First, concerning Christians who act against Torah in their dealings with Jews: G-d is indeed putting his Torah, his teaching, in the minds and hearts of his true followers by means of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, whom Yahshua sent to teach us all the truth (Yn 16:13–15; on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Torah, see Ac 2:1 on the Jewish holiday Shavu’ot, and compare 2C 3:16–18, Rom 8:1–4). Having the Torah in one’s mind and written on one’s heart is Scriptural language for being holy. The path to holiness commences with trusting G-d and his son Yahshua, and following Torah. This path is a process, not an instantaneous event—believers do not suddenly become perfect. A genuine follower of Yahshua will have an inner desire to please G-d; so that as he understands more and more of what G-d wants and expects from him, he will be increasingly prepared and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do it. On the other hand, a professed follower of Yahshua still has free will and can resist “the finger of G-d” writing on his heart. Some who have acted against Jews have called themselves Christians but in fact have been unbelievers; while others have been believers who resisted G-d’s will. None of this negates G-d’s action (compare Ro 3:3–4), which he has been accomplishing according to the terms of the Refreshed Renewed Covenant ever since Yahshua inaugurated it, of writing his Torah on the heart of any willing person, Jewish or Gentile, who puts his trust in Yahshua the Messiah.
Second, your understanding of “shomer-mitzvot” is that of non-Messianic (and probably Orthodox) Judaism; my response is that any form of Judaism which fails to recognize that the New Covenant itself has been given as Torah (v. 6b) has a defective understanding of Torah and therefore of “shomer-mitzvot.” Someone with the Torah written in his heart puts his trust in Yahshua and should accept the New Testament’s understanding of what Torah really is. That understanding does not give the Oral Law the authority which Orthodox Judaism grants it (although, unlike much Christian theology, the New Testament certainly does not denigrate the Oral Law, properly used; see 1 Ti. 1:8). A person with the Torah in his mind and heart should indeed be shomer-mitzvot, but in a way consistent with the p’rushei-Torah (expositions of the Law) set forth by Yahshua and the other New Testament writers. Let me add that there is no reason why a Messianic Jew might not choose to be shomer-mitzvot in a sense that would include obedience to much of the Oral Law; nothing in the New Testament prevents it, and a number of passages lend support (Mt 5:19–20; 23:2, 23; Yn. 7:37–39; Ac 21:20; Ga 5:3). But Christians and Messianic Jews should understand that everyone under the Refreshed renewed Covenant has the Torah to observe. That is the plain sense of the phrase, “I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts.” It is not some new Torah, different from Old Testament Torah. It is the one and only Torah, understood in the spirit of the Messiah, “as upheld by the Messiah” (Ga 6:2; 1C 9:21). Christian theology all too often tries to escape or water down the plain sense of what is said here, so that what is required is very little, usually a vague “sensitivity to G-d’s will” that becomes impossible to pin down. Not infrequently the motivation for devising such theology has been to portray or create separation, spiritual distance and invidious comparison between the Church and the Jews. But other Christian scholars have had a correct understanding, for example, A. Lukyn Williams: “G-d’s words through Jeremiah do not announce the coming of a new Law, but of a new principle of keeping the Law, according to which G-d forgives the sinner, writes the Law on his heart, brings him into a new relation to Himself, and makes Himself known to him.” (Manual of Christian Evidences for Jews, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919, I:184.)
(c) “The text continues, ‘None of them will teach his fellow-citizen or his brother, saying, “Know Adonai!” ’ If so, why do you proselytize us? Moreover, the condition that all will know G-d remains unfulfilled; therefore what you offer is not what Jeremiah prophesied.”
Answer: Like the individual process of becoming holy, the social process whereby everyone comes to know G-d is a gradual one. In the centuries since Yahshua’s time on earth, the number of believers has grown enormously. The day will come when there will be no need for a believer to teach his fellow-citizen or his brother; but until that day arrives, and so long as there is anyone who has not accepted G-d’s offer of forgiveness through Yahshua, there is need not to proselytize, which means to convert someone to another religion, but to evangelize, which means to communicate the Good News that G-d has provided a means for salvation, here and now, and for the eventual certain salvation of the Jewish people too (Ro 11:26a). Since Scripture says that there will be unbelievers right up until the time the Messiah returns, the consummation of the process, when all will know G-d, must not take place until the Messiah removes and punishes those who have made themselves resistant to G-d and the Gospel (Rev 20:11–15). Those who remain will all know G-d and will no longer need to teach others about him (Revelation 21–22).
(4) Objection: “The author’s comments in vv. 6–8a and 13 denigrate both the people of Israel and G-d’s covenant at Sinai. G-d would not impugn his own chosen people or his own covenant; the true new covenant will not be anti-Semitic, as is this book. Here are four anti-Semitic statements by the author of Messianic Jews:
(a) “He says the new covenant contains better promises than those in the covenant at Sinai (v. 6c); this directly impugns G-d and the Mosaic covenant.”
Answer: This charge is false because it is based on a misuse of what the author says. See v. 6c for a specific refutation.
(b) “The author says the first covenant was defective (v. 7).”
Answer: He does not say this, but the impression that he does is based on a mis-translation found in most versions. The first covenant is not itself faulty, but it has given ground for faultfinding. For details, see vv. 7–8a.
(c) “The author says that G-d found fault with his own chosen people, the Jews (v. 8a).”
Answer: This is not a serious criticism. It was not the author of this book but Jeremiah, quoting G-d, who said that Israel did not remain faithful to G-d’s covenant (v. 9). In noting that G-d does find fault with the people the author is only reporting the obvious. One of the glories of the Tanakh is that even though no human being—neither the individual heroes nor the Jewish people as a whole are perfect but is shown as sinful and errant, nevertheless are loved by G-d. In the New Testament, G-d finds plenty of faults with the members of the Messianic Community, and, as in the Tanakh, lovingly sets out to correct them.
(d) “The author calls the first covenant old, … aging, … vanishing (v. 13). This statement not only depreciates the Mosaic covenant and the G-d who made it, but, as we can see 2000 years later, it is false. The Mosaic covenant has not vanished. Rather, >am-Israel chai (“the people of Israel live”); and we live by virtue of our covenant, the old-new one, fresh, not aging, not vanishing now or ever.”
Answer: Good rhetoric, but see v. 13.
In conclusion, we find that these objections to a Refreshed, Renewed Covenant do not hold up. Instead of objecting, we should explore the refreshed, renewed Covenant in order to understand its promises and conditions, so that we can obey it properly.
6b The New Covenant has been given as Torah. This is a virtually unknown theological truth of far-reaching importance. First, although there are many, both Jews and Christians, who suppose that the New Testament abrogated the Torah, the New Testament here explicitly states that it has itself been given as Torah. Obviously, if the New Testament is Torah, then the Torah has not been abrogated. Instead, the New Testament has been given the same status as the Torah of Moses; that is, it has come to have the highest authority there is, the authority that accompanies promulgation by G-d himself. One might say that Torah has been expanded—or, better, that Torah has been made more explicit (compare Mt 5:17–48).
Second, the fact that the New Covenant has been given as Torah means that a Jew is not Torah-true, he is not a Torah-observant Jew, unless he accepts the New Testament as Torah. A Jew who considers himself shomer-mitzvot, “an observer of [the] commandments,” is deluding himself if he does not obey the New Covenant. Unless he trusts in Yahshua as Messiah and as his atonement for sin, he is disobeying Torah.
And third, it means that a Gentile grafted into Israel by his faith in Yahshua the Messiah (Rom 11:17–24, Eph 2:8–16) has himself come into the framework of Israel’s Torah. A Gentile Christian should never think of himself as “free from the Law,” as many do.
That the New Covenant has become Torah is absolutely crucial for understanding the New Testament. Yet, so far as I know, not one existing translation brings out this truth; nor, to my knowledge, does any commentary so much as mention it. In fact, the issue is avoided altogether. To give a typical example, the Revised Standard Version in this verse says merely that the New Covenant “is enacted” on better promises.
A look at the Greek text will explain why the subject has been ignored. The phrase, “has been given as Torah,” is a rendering of the passive, perfect-tense verb, “nenomotheteÆtai.” This is a compound word formed from “nomos” and “titheÆmi.” “TitheÆmi” is a common word meaning “lay, put, place, make”; and in general—that is, when there is no specifically Jewish context—“nomos” may be translated “law.” Thus “nenomotheteÆtai” in a non-Jewish context means simply “to make law”; when it is used in connection with the Roman Senate or the Athenian Areopagus (see Ac 17:19–22) it is quite properly rendered “to legislate, enact, establish as law.”
But “nomos” is also the word used in the Septuagint and other Jewish literature written in Greek to render the Hebrew word “Torah.” Since the New Testament was written by Jews, the word “nomos” or any of its compounds must always be checked wherever it appears to see whether it refers to “law” in general or “Torah” in particular. The word “nomos” appears 14 times? in the book of Messianic Jews; and every time, without exception, it means “Torah” and never merely “law.” Also, every place in the New Testament or the Septuagint where there appears a compound word related to “nonomotheteÆtai,” it always has to do with “Torah” and never with “law.” At Ya 4:12 the word “nomotheteÆs,” the noun formed from the verb used in our verse, is used to describe G-d as the “one Giver of Torah, with the power to deliver and to destroy.” At Rom 9:4 “nomothesia,” the verbal noun (gerund), is rendered “giving of the Torah.” In the Septuagint “nomothetein,” which is the active voice of the verb in our verse, is used more than a dozen times to mean “instruct,” the context always implying “instruct in Torah” (and at the same time implying that instruction in Torah involves not only the legal component but the full range of G-d’s “Teaching”—the literal translation of “Torah”).
6c The better promises of the New Covenant were not invented by the author of the book of Messianic Jews but were announced by G-d in the Tanakh through the prophet Jeremiah (vv. 10–12). Having the Torah internalized is better than having it written out (v. 10; compare Rom 2:13–29), and it is better to have sins forgiven permanently than temporarily (v. 12; how this can happen is explained in 9:1–10:18). The “New”, Refreshed, Renewed Covenant was not given to a group of Gentiles (let alone to Christians as there weren’t any), but to an exclusively Jewish company at a Passover Seder (Lk 22:15–20).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart