Yom Rvi'i, 26 Shevat 5777 — יוֹם רְבִיעִי כו שְׁבָט ה' תשעז Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Raising the Bar of Our Devotion to Yeshua

Recently I've been reading through the book The Rebbe, the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference by David Berger, who is an Orthodox rabbi and professor of History at Brooklyn College. In this book, Professor Berger documents the extent to which Chassidic Jews today believe that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, is the Messiah and even the Creator of the Universe. These ultra-Orthodox Jews believe that the Rebbe bore their sins through his suffering and death in 1994 and will come again to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. One Chassidic publication that Professor Berger quotes states:

...the Rebbe is the "Essence and Being [of God] enclothed in a body", that a Rebbe is by nature "omniscient" and "omnipotent", that all material and spiritual blessings flow from the Rebbe.

...the Rebbe can foresee and control and coordinate the finest details of someone's personal life effecting his powerful blessings over many years and many miles removed...there is nothing shocking about the Rebbe's powers given that his nature is above the limitations of nature.

So who [is] Elokeinu [our God]? Who Avinu [our Father]? Who Malkeinu [our King]? Who Moshianu [our Redeemer]? Who Yoshianu V'Yigaleinu Shaynis B'Karov [will save and redeem us once again shortly]? The Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach. That's who. (p. 83).

The Lubavitch Chassidim place a great deal of emphasis on the exaltation of their Messiah. Pictures of him abound in their community. His teachings and miracles are the subject of constant discussion. Even their liturgy has been changed to reflect their belief that the Messiah has come. One addition to their Siddur is the yehi prayer, a declaration of praise to their Messiah. It proclaims-"May our Master, Teacher, and Rabbi [some add here 'Creator'], the King Messiah, live forever" (p. 81). In some yeshivas, students pray facing a picture of the Rebbe, their Messiah, their Creator. If this is how ultra-Orthodox Jews exalt their Messiah, even to the extent of worshiping him in the synagogue, it begs the question, "How do we as Messianic Jews exalt Yeshua? Do we exalt Yeshua as high as the ultra-Orthodox exalt their Rebbe? How high should the bar of our devotion be to Yeshua?"

I. Let's examine a few Scriptures. I'd like to ask everyone to open a Bible (or Tanakhav):

a. Hebrews 1:1-3. Written by a Messianic Jew to a community of Torah observant Messianic Jews.

i. V. 2a tells us that Yeshua is the heir of all things. He owns the heavens and the earth

ii. V. 2b also tells us that Yeshua made the universe

iii. V. 3a tells us that Yeshua is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. He is God in the flesh.

iv. V. 3b also tells us that Yeshua sustains all things by his Word. He is the glue that holds the universe together. See also Colossians 1:14-20

v. Finally, Hebrews 1:6 states, "And again, when God brings his Firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all God's angels worship him.'" God desires his angels to worship Yeshua. (aor1.gif-Aor act impf 3rd pl) from shacha.gif in Psalm 97:7. Shacha = bow down/worship, translated "worship" here because of context: Yeshua is the Creator/God in flesh. God desires his angels to worship Yeshua. What about us? Should we worship Yeshua?

b. I would like to put forward for your consideration this morning the biblical case to worship Yeshua. You are the scholar. It's up to you to determine if the context warrants the translation "bow down" or "worship."

i. Matthew 2:11 (aor3.gif-Aor act ind 3p from aor2.gif). Note that Matthew's gospel was written by a Messianic Jew to a community of Torah observant Messianic Jews.

ii. Matthew 14:22-33 (aor3.gif)

iii. Matthew 28:16-17 (aor3.gif). Similar to John 20:24-28.

iv. Luke 24:50-52 (-Aor act ptc nom m pl)

v. Revelation 5:13-14 (aor3.gif)

vi. These scriptures make it clear that the first Jewish believers worshiped Yeshua and that every creature in heaven and on earth is to worship Yeshua

II. Do we worship Yeshua? It is important to point out that worshipping Yeshua is distinct from having faith in Yeshua

a. Faith in Yeshua says-"I believe in Yeshua. He is the Messiah, the Son of God" (Ben HaElohim). It is heart knowledge that comes by revelation. There is an element of trust

b. Worship of Yeshua arises out of faith. It is a next step. It says-"I bow down before you, Yeshua. I praise you, Yeshua. I worship you with all my heart. I glorify your name." It is an overflow of love and thankfulness. A falling down before his majestic kavod (glory).

c. Both are important. We should have faith in Yeshua and we worship Yeshua

III. What keeps us many of us from worshipping Yeshua?

a. For some of us, it was not part of our upbringing. Growing up in a Messianic synagogue, Yeshua was the object of my faith but not the object of my devotion in worship. I believed in him, I followed him but I did not worship himÉI had a dream several months ago where Yeshua appeared to me. I think it was from the Lord because I still remember it vividly. It really impacted me. His eyes lit up. That's how I knew it was Yeshua. In that dream, the reality that he was the Son of God (Ben HaElohim) hit me. I couldn't speak. I just got lower.

b. I think it is harder for us as Messianic Jews to worship Yeshua because it is our calling to uphold the oneness of God. We have said a thousand Shemas. It is ingrained in us. We must uphold the oneness of God. But the Brit Chadashah is the culmination of the Word of God (Davar HaElohim) and interprets the Shema for us. It teaches us that worshipping Yeshua does not violate the Shema. It is simply that we now know more about God. He has revealed himself in greater detail in the Brit Chadashah. HaShem is complex, and the more that we know of his complexity, the more complex our worship becomes. I will say it again, "The more that we know of HaShem's complexity, the more complex our worship becomes."

c. A related issue to our Jewishness is the difficulty that most of our people have with Jews who believe in the divinity of Yeshua, although this may change over time if Chassidic Jews continue to believe that their Rebbi is the Holy One of Israel. BTW, Lubavitch Chassidism is probably the fastest growing sector of the Jewish community today. In other words, their group is growing rapidly, not shrinking, as they are proclaiming a Messiah who is worthy of worship. Is it possible that our outreach would be more fruitful if we stood on the truth of Yeshua's worthiness to be worshiped? Are the floodgates blocked because of our hesitancy in this area? Dennis Prager recently suggested in Moment Magazine that if Messianic Jews would simply deny Yeshua's divinity before a beit din and agree not to proselytize fellow Jews, they should be accepted as full members in the Jewish community. Worshipping Yeshua is therefore perceived to be a huge stumbling block to good relations with many of our people. And yet, at the same time, it may be the truth that opens the door of more hearts than we realize.

d. Finally, it is not only our Jewishness that makes it sometimes a challenge to worship Yeshua; it is also our humanity. We are simple and God is complex. His nature is beyond our human capacity to grasp fully. We have trouble simultaneously acknowledging his oneness and his complexity in our worship. But truth is truth. And the Brit Chadashah is the culmination of the Word of God (Davar HaElohim). The early Jewish believers acted on their knowledge of the complexity of God. They directed their adoration to both the Father and the Son. They worshipped Avinu and Yeshua. This is clearly expressed in Revelation 5:13: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!" This is the Messianic Jewish yehi!

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!"

This is our proclamation of praise to the Messiah! Lets say it together:

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!"

IV. Words to consider for a young Messianic Jewish congregation

In some sectors of our movement, the importance of worshiping Yeshua has become lost in the more of the theological discussion over how to best understand the complexity of God's nature. As important is this subject is to study, understand, and articulate from our unique perspective, we must not miss the forest for the trees. It would suggest that we must, as a movement, worship Yeshua (as the first Messianic Jews did, as we are taught in the Brit Chadashah to do), even as we refine and nuance our theological understanding.

a. In my opinion, there is a direct correspondence between Jewish tradition and Yeshua's divinity on the devotional level. Jewish life is devotionally rich and all-encompassing. In order to see Yeshua through it, and within it, he must be raised above it. Emphasizing his Messiahship is not enough. He is more than a great teacher and a prophet of Israel. He is more than the Moshiach. He is the Creator of the Universe. We must worship him to make sure that he receives his proper place in our lives and in our community. Then everything else we do as Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles will fall into its proper priority.

V. I leave you with this thought, "Is Yeshua part of your devotional life? Do you worship him? Do you bow down before him?" Let us seek to raise the bar of our devotion to Yeshua. This is the Derekh HaChaiyim (the way of life) for Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles.