Yom Rvi'i, 26 Shevat 5777 — יוֹם רְבִיעִי כו שְׁבָט ה' תשעז Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Yeshua And The Shema

"Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai, Echad"

These six words are perhaps the most revelatory and significant words ever uttered. This is the affirmation of faith that we recite every Shabbat. Jews throughout the world for thousands of years have recited these words, often several times a day throughout their entire lives. And it is record that on more than one occasion, Yeshua noted that these words were the foundation of the greatest commandment and greatest revelation of the Scriptures. Often referred to simply as the "Sh'ma" these six words for the foundation for our understanding of Who G-d is in His uniqueness.

There are at least four different ways to translate/interpret these six words, all of which are defensible from a scholarly perspective, and each of which have their adherents. Two of the most common renderings include:

"Hear O Israel! HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is One" and alternatively, "Hear O Israel! HaShem is our G-d, HaShem Alone"

In each of these two cases, as well as the others, several things are made apparent:

1) Israel is to pay attention and take this seriously. The command to Hear is an active command - one meant to take this heart, this is serious, stand up and pay attention stuff. One is not to merely let the sounds hit the ear drums, but rather let it penetrate deeply into our very souls. LISTEN! Pay Attention! What follows is of utmost importance! HEAR O Israel!

2) Next, the affirmation that it is HaShem Who is our G-d. In the world of ancient Israel, the pagan nations that surrounded them, and from which they had most recently been freed (Mizrayim) all had many and various so-called gods which they worshipped. Israel, however, in distinction from all of these other nations and peoples, was to only worship, praise, follow and obey HaShem. HaShem gave them His personal Name, the ineffable Name, which speaks of His love, mercy, and compassion, as the Name which they were to speak as their G-d.

3) Finally, not only was Israel to pay attention to the fact that their G-d is HaShem, but perhaps even more importantly, they were to pay attention to the fact that HaShem is not only their G-d, but that He is the ONLY G-d; there is no other G-d in heaven or on Earth or under the Earth. He is the One and Only G-d, He and He Alone.

The word Echad, which we have translated two ways - "One" and "Alone" - is in itself an interesting word. It does not merely mean "one" in the numeric sense, as in "I have one book" but rather it means one in a composite sense; a composite oneness. It also means Unique, in the sense that there is nothing else like it.

Some examples of things that in Hebrew are referred to as an Echad, include marriage and grape clusters. A marriage is a union of two people, a man and a woman, both of whom remain the individuals they were prior to the union, yet in some mysterious way, they form a new entity which is a composite Oneness, an Echad. Similarly, the cluster of grapes is a grouping of many pieces, yet functionally a unity or single cluster. So, Echad is a complex word, meaning not only singularity, but more specifically, complex unity, oneness, uniqueness; a oneness that is indivisible. In other words, in the dividing of the unity, it ceases to be a unity. It cannot be subdivided or broken into its component parts and remain an Echad. This is a crucial concept to deal with.

Throughout the history of Israel, this emphasis on G-d being their G-d alone - unique and One - was often reiterated by the prophets. One of the most compelling of these reiterations can be found in the book of Isaiah. In three closely related passages, in Isa. 43, 44, & 45, this Oneness, uniqueness, and aloneness of G-d is impressed upon Israel.

10 "You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. 11 "I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me. 12 "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange {god} among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And I am God. 13 "Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?"

6 "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. 7 'Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place. 8 'Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced {it} to you and declared {it?} And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any {other} Rock? I know of none.' "

5 "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. ... I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

Clearly, then, it can be seen just from these few passages that HaShem is the ONLY G-d; there is none else, neither before, after, nor equal to. He is it. He is the creator and redeemer, the first and the last. This has been the bedrock foundation of confession for Jews, including Messiah Yeshua, for thousands of years and will remain so l'olam vaed - forever and ever.

In Mathematics, there is something that is called the "Transitive Property of Equality." It is stated something like this: "If 'A' equals 'B', and 'B' equals 'C', then 'A' is also equal to 'C' (if A=B, and B=C, then A=C)." In other words, if I have one thing which is in all aspects equivalent to a second thing, and that second thing is, in all aspects, equivalent to a third thing then, then by definition, the first thing is equivalent in all aspects to the third thing. For instance, if I go down stairs and put five chairs in a circle, I have a set of five chairs. If I then rearrange the chairs, but still have the same five chairs, the set of five chairs in the second case is equivalent to the set of five chairs in the first case. If I do this again, such that I have a third arrangement of five chairs, the third set of chairs is equal to the second, and by definition, equal to the first. In all three cases, I have ONE set of FIVE chairs.

With this idea in mind what I'd like to do now is to look through the Scriptures and see if we can find this concept applied to G-d. In other words, what we are looking for are descriptions of G-d that are different yet the same. Is everyone with me?

Turn with me to Genesis, chapter 1.

26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In this passage from the creation account, G-d is speaking to someone, and says "Let US make man in OUR image." This is clearly in the plural (Elohim, in the Hebrew). Yet, one sentence later it says "G-d created man in His own image..." - singular. In the Isa. passages cited earlier, G-d is quite clear that He alone is the creator, and there is none else, yet in this passage it appears that He is speaking to someone else, and that the creation is occurring in cooperation with that someone else.

In Gen 16:7-13, Hagar, the maidservant to Sarah, who conceived Ishmael through Abraham, encountered G-d. Scripture records that "The Angel of the Lord, i.e., the Malach Adonai, spoke to her. But it also says the she "called the name of the LORD who spoke to her (i.e., HaShem), and was astonished that she remained alive, having seen G-d. The Malach Adonai is equated with HaShem: they are equal, one in the same.

16: 7 Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur 8 He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?" And she said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." 9 Then the angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority." 10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count." 11 The angel of the LORD said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 "He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand {will be} against everyone, And everyone's hand {will be} against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers." 13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

Continuing on in Genesis 18:1ff, we come to a very pivotal event in the lives of Abraham and Sarah. They are visited. Scripture refers to the visitors as three men, but also as the LORD - HaShem. HaShem speaks to Abraham; the men speak to him. They appear to be interchangeable in terms of who is speaking. This continues into chapter 19 with the three going to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah. The passage concludes in 19:25 where it states that the Lord (who is on earth and speaking) rained down fire and brimstone from the Lord who is in heaven.

18:1 Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw {them,} he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, "My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 9 Then they said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "There, in the tent." 10 He said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" 13 And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear {a child,} when I am {so} old?' 14 "Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah denied {it} however, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh."

16 Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. 17 The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him." 20 And the LORD said, "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. 21 "I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know." 22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD.

19:24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, 25 and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

One of the most famous examples of this occurs with the appearance of G-d to Moses in the burning bush. In Exodus 3:1ff, it is recorded that the Angel of the Lord (again, the Malach Adonai) appeared to Moses from the midst of the bush. It then goes on to say that the HaShem Himself spoke to Moses from out of the bush, and lastly, concludes with Moses hiding his face, because he dare not look upon G-d Himself! Once more, the Malach Adonai, the angel of HaShem is equated with HaShem Himself.

1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, "I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up." 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 6 He said also, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Throughout the Tenach there are numerous references that equate "G-d" with the "Spirit of G-d." An example of this in the opening words of the Bible in Gen. 1.

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

Last week Nici spoke to us about the passage in Judges 13 which spoke of the Malach Adonai as a man, but at the same time as G-d!

Throughout Zech. We see this interweaving of The Lord, The Angel, and the Servant, each of Whom appear to be simultaneously separate from and equal to HaShem. He speaks of the King being the Servant, i.e., Messiah, and he speaks of the King being HaShem - which is it? The Messiah, or HaShem? In 12 these distinctions blur the most when he says "...they will look upon ME Whom they have pierced, and mourn for HIM, as one mourns for an only son..." The same person is herein referred to both as "him" and as "Me", meaning the Messiah, who was pierced, and G-d himself.

We are only touching the surface as time prohibits an exhaustive study of similar passages in the Tanach, but I hope that though these few examples it illustrates the idea that G-d is revealed in various ways: as Father, as Spirit, as Holy Spirit, as Angel of the Lord, as Servant, etc. and in many cases two references that appear to be separate occur in the same sentence!

With these thoughts in mind, let's turn to another passage of scripture that is as impactful in our lives as is the Sh'ma:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. ...

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

For those of us who accept Yeshua as the Messiah, these are equally some of the most famous and revelatory words in the Scriptures, for through these words were are let in on another mystery for it is herein stated that not only was the Word, which is a metaphor for Yeshua, with G-d in the beginning, but that He was G-d! This is an astonishing statement for in these few short sentences, the author, a devout Jew, appears to turn the Sh'ma on its head. What is John suggesting here? Is he suggesting:

1) A new god has appeared on the scene, or

2) The One G-d, indivisible, has somehow become divided.

At the very least, it is clear that he is making the bold statement that Yeshua, in some way which we can not comprehend, is sharing in the identity and nature of G-d. And the question that this begs, and which has been hotly debated and contested for nearly 2000 years down to this day, is this: How can we reconcile the very clear and unambiguous revelation that G-d is One, unique, alone, with the claim that Yeshua is divine, and shares in the identity of G-d? Is this irreconcilable? Can we profess belief in Yeshua as Lord, and continue to espouse the Sh'ma?

This is a challenge that we as believers are faced with - to hold two apparently contradictory ideas in tension. Not only do have to reconcile the idea that G-d is one, unique, and indivisible, with the idea that Messiah Yeshua is in fact the very incarnation of G-d on earth, that is, being fully G-d, but also that Yeshua is a man, a human being, and thus in every way possible, fully human - just as we are - and separate from G-d.

There are two phrases which Yeshua was frequently referred by - Son of Man, and Son of G-d. The term "son of" in the Hebrew vernacular, means to have the nature and likeness of. An example of this is the reference to Ya'akov and Yochanan, the sons of Zebedee, where they are called "the sons of thunder". Does this mean that they are the physical children of Thunder? Does it mean that Zebedee, their father, was Thunder, like some Greek god? NO! What it means is that they had the NATURE, or LIKENESS of thunder - that is, loud, raucous, noisy, powerful, stormy, etc. Likewise, Son of Man and Son of G-d are similar. Son of Man means that the one in question has the nature and likeness of man - the qualities and attributes of being human. Similarly, Son of G-d suggests having the likeness and nature, or attributes of G-d such that if one has seen Yeshua, then one has seen G-d. Scripture describes Yeshua in both of these ways - as a man, fully human, and as the fullness of G-d - fully divine.

One the side of Messiah's humanity, the Scriptural evidence is plentiful. The record of Messiah's life begins with the account of his conception (albeit miraculous), and his birth. His earthly lineage is recounted several times, going back through the history of Israel to the Patriarchs, and even to Adam. Paul states in I Cor 15: 21-22 that "21 For since by a man {came} death, by a man also {came} the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive." The fact that Messiah, was conceived, born, lived, worked, walked, ate, and ultimately died, all speak to the fact that by nature he was human in every respect.

We are also confronted with the testimony by Yeshua, and others, of his being separate and distinguished from G-d. The following are some brief examples of this:

When someone spoke to Yeshua and said that he was "good" his response was to say (Mk 10:18) "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone." The suggestion here is that Yeshua was telling the speaker that the term "good" should be used only in reference to G-d. It can be argued that Yeshua was distinguishing himself from G-d; it can equally be argued that he was pointing that that if he was in fact good, that he was equal to G-d.

Yeshua prays to G-d - if he is G-d does this mean that he is praying to himself? Again, the implication is that there is a separateness between He and G-d. At Yeshua's immersion, the Bat Kol (voice from Heaven) spoke audibly saying "This is my Son, in Whom I am well pleased." Here we have G-d in heaven speaking about Yeshua, on earth, as a separate being.

In contrast to this picture, we have other passages that bespeak of the unity and Oneness of Messiah with G-d Himself. As examples, we have Yeshua's testimony that:

• Whoever has seen him has seen the Father (John 14:9)
• I and the Father are One (John 10:30)
• Before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58)

People will often say that Yeshua never claimed to be divine, i.e., G-d, yet when he made that statement, the teachers picked up stones to kill him, because they believed he had blasphemed - that he had CLAIMED to BE G-d, and that was punishable by death. Those who heard him very clearly and unambiguously understood his claim (cf. John10:33).

So we are left with these apparent contradictions: Is Yeshua Human, or is He Divine? And if He is Divine, how can he be the same as, and separate from G-d? And what does that do to the foundation established through the Sh'ma? Can we profess His divinity, and continue to affirm the Sh'ma?

To our Western mindset, trained in classical Greek logic, we are not comfortable with contradictions. Things must be one way or the other; not both, and certainly not at the same time. To deal with this over the centuries people have tried to reconcile these things through many different explanations ranging from dualism, (i.e., the idea that G-d is two separate beings), to Modalism (the idea that G-d appears as in different forms at different times), to Trinitarianism, and other ideas to reconcile the contradictions.

But to the Hebrew mind, things were not considered contradictions. Paradoxes, perhaps, (i.e., two things that have the appearance of being different, but aren't in reality, though we may not be able to grasp that reality). In the Hebrew way of thinking, hold an idea in one hand, with an apparently contradictory idea in the other, was a normal way of thinking - ambiguity was acceptable.

The bottom line is simply this: Can the ocean fit inside of a single seashell? Can the universe fit inside of a single atom? Can our minds, limited, finite, tiny, hope to ever comprehend the Infinite? How can we ever hope to fully grasp the nature and majesty of the Most High? And should we even try?

Scripture presents us with concepts that are true: On the one hand, G-d is One, unique, indivisible, and alone. On the other hand, G-d has revealed Himself throughout human history as Father, Spirit, Malach Adonai, Son, Pillars of smoke and fire, etc. On the one hand, Yeshua is revealed as fully human, with all the nature and qualities of being a man. And on the other hand, Yeshua is revealed as the Word of G-d come to dwell amongst us, equal to in power and glory and majesty with the Father. He is separate from the Father; He and the Father are One in the same. How can this be? Baruch HaShem is the only answer we need to come up with.

And so even though our tiny minds cannot grasp it, define it, label it, or understand it, still we can affirm with unwavering certainty:

"In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among man..."

"Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad. Hear O Israel! The LORD is our G-d; the LORD is ONE!"