This morning we had the privilege of corporately chanting the Shema. Probably the most famous prayer of the Jewish people.
A proclamation of the greatness of God, His uniqueness and His very character. It's ironic that this wonderful declaration is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to our Jewish people coming to know Y'shua as the Messiah. How many of us have been accused by family and friends of idolatry. You now worship 3 gods. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We Jews worship the one true God. He is echad. One!
This very accusation was brought forth in another letter to the editor printed in the Jewish advocate last week. As a side note I find it absolutely amazing that the Jewish Advocate has allowed this debate of Jews believing in Jesus to continue in 6 separate editions of their paper since mid- September. Incredible!
Of course some of the discussion has been centered on this issue of the shema. To quote Mr. Weiner of Lexington:
(Note: Article will be included when made available to Sar Shalom webmaster!)
In essence Mr. Weiner is saying because of our deep-rooted commitment to the Shema, you cannot be both Jewish and believe in Jesus. It's a contradiction.
We of course believe otherwise . But because of deep-seated beliefs like this it is no wonder that the deity of our Messiah is one of the hardest concepts for us as Jewish believers to grasp and understand. In fitting with the theme of studying the character of our Messiah I thought it would be good to take a look at a passage in the Tenakh that deals with this very issue. Judges 13, which Garrett has already read to us.
Now it may strike you as interesting that we would turn to the Hebrew Scriptures and not the New Covenant to discuss the deity of the Messiah. But personally I believe we can gain a lot more understanding and clarity on this topic from the Tenakh than one may realize. Having said this I do feel that it is important that I point out that this evidence is not found in a single verse or even a single passage but from taking a holistic and broad view of a number of passages. Most noteworthy are those passages dealing with THE Angel of the Lord. There are many passages in the Tenakh in which the "The angel of the Lord" appears. One of them is Judges 13. If you have not yet opened your Bibles to this passage please would you turn there with me?
Now before looking at the passage in detail just a little background. The book of Judges chronicles the time between Joshua and Samuel. Essentially the 250-300 years between the time of Joshua's entrance of the promised land, gaining possession of it AND the time of Samuel, who came along to anoint the first Kings of Israel, more specifically King Saul and King David. It was a time in Israel characterized by the phrase used a number of times in the book of Judges, "when everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Again and again Israel would disobey and turn from God. God would then bring an oppressor on Israel, Israel would return and cry out to God for a deliverer and God in His mercy would send one.
And Judges chapter 13 fits within this framework. As you can see from verse 1 which begins with:
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD,
so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for
But of course God provides deliverance and this is the story of the birth of the great deliverer God raised up by the name of Samson. And in verse 5 we read that "he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."
RE-TELLING OF STORY
Now this passage is a birth narrative and like her matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel we see here that Manoah's wife too is barren and remains childless. And not uncharacteristic of God he sends an angel to reveal to Manoah's wife that she is going to bear a son. This birth narrative is much like the birth narratives of Isaac, the prophet Samuel and even similar to that of John the Baptist and Jesus. We see the common phrase found in verse 3 "but you are going to conceive and have a son." The passage goes on to describe the fact that this child, like John the Baptist, would be a Nazirite and that he was to drink no wine or other fermented drink and that he could not eat anything unclean. In addition no razor could be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite. Set apart to God from birth.
Having received this message, the mother to be, of course runs back to her husband to share this exciting news! How would you have liked to have sat in on that conversation? Now I have used some license in this interaction, but just imagine the conversation:
Wife: Well Manoah honey you know how we have been struggling
to have children. Well guess what, a man of god came to me today,
he looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him
where he came from and oh, yeah, and he said we should not give
the kid grape juice.
Manoah: (The next line is not at all in the text, it's my
speculation but can't you just see Manoah asking.) Mmm so, you
did not ask where he was from, great dear, but did you at least
get his name?
Wife: No he didn't tell me his name. Now this is not speculation
but directly from the text.
Now Manoah was a little more trusting than I might have been because as wild as his wife's story was he actually believed it and more than that from verse 8 we see that he prays to God.
O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to
us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be
And sure enough, God heard and answered Manoah's prayer and sends the angel of the Lord back again. But oh yet again Manoah is not around. This time, though his wife runs back to get him.
He's here! The man who appeared to me the other day!"
MEANING OF MALAKH
Manoah then gets to meet this messenger first hand. Now I have used the word "messenger" purposefully. The text uses the term angel. The Hebrew word for "angel" is mal'akh which means "one who is sent" or "a messenger."
I found it interesting to learn from the most recent edition of the Jews for Jesus Issues publication that, in the Hebrew Scriptures, this term mal'akh has a twofold meaning. It is used to speak of human figures like prophets, priests or even messengers of a king BUT then it is also used to speak of an angel, a non-human, finite, created beings who bear messages for God.
The article went on to say that of the 214 references to mal'akh in the Hebrew Scriptures, 33% are best translated as "THE angel of the Lord," rather than "an angel." The Scriptures distinguish this particular angel from all other angels. In the Talmud he is given the name Metatron, which indicates a special relationship with God, more specifically "one who serves behind the throne" of God. So the angel of the Lord is the primary messenger of God, the one sent by God, the one who represents God.
And it is in fact this Malakh Yahweh that comes to visit Manoah and his wife - "THE angel of the Lord". But from verse 16 we learn something very important. Take a look at what is written in the brackets.
"Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the
Right off the bat this tells us that the Angel of the Lord was known. And why was he known? Because he appears elsewhere. In fact he appears about 70 times.
So if Manoah does not realize that this was "THE angel of the Lord" who did he think this was? ... A special man, a messenger of God. But a man none the less. 4 times Manoah and his wife refer to this visitor as a man, Verse 6, 8, 10 and again in verse 11 we see Manoah casually approaching the Angel of the Lord asking "are you the one who talked to my wife?" Not only that, but as was customary of the time, Manoah extends hospitality to his visitor. To paraphrase: "come in, make yourself comfortable and enjoy a meal with us." They are about to prepare a young goat. A barbecue J.
In the comfort of their home it's about time that Manoah finally inquires of his guest what his name is. And here is where Manoah and his wife must have begun to frown and say wait a moment. Something's up here? Take a look at verse 18:
"Why do you ask my name? It is "beyond understanding".
The Hebrew word for "Beyond Understanding" is Pelie. In
fact I find it interesting that a closely related noun from the
same Hebrew root is found in Isaiah 9:6. The well-known
passage listing the titles for the Messiah:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and
the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of
Among these great titles for the Messiah, including Mighty God, is the title wonderful counselor. The Hebrew word used for "wonderful" comes from the same Hebrew root as "Beyond Understanding" In fact most of your Bibles probably have the word "Wonderful" listed in the foot of your Bible for verse 18.
Both Wonderful and Beyond Understanding are from the Hebrew word- Pelie.
Is there some connection between these 2 passages? Probably. Especially once we discover what this word Pelie actually means. The Theological Wordbook claims it refers to:
· Things unusual
· Beyond human capabilities. Beyond human capabilities?
Well from what happens next in this story we see that Menoah and his wife quickly realize that this visitor is no mere human being. That he in fact does have beyond human capabilities.
Take a look at verse 19 and 20:
19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the
grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the
LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20
As the flame blazed up from the altar towards heaven, the angel
of the LORD ascended in the flame.
Just like that? One minute the visitor is there, the next he is gone. Disappeared into the flames? Can you imagine? How might you have reacted? Here you invite a guest into your home, one minute you are having a conversation, asking their name and the next they ascend into the flames of the barbecue. And this is not David Copperfield. This is real stuff.
Of course Manoah is terrified and we read in verses 20-21
When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again
to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realised that it was the angel
of the LORD.
Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces
to the ground.
"We are doomed to die!" "We have seen God!" they exclaim
In that moment Manoah realizes that this is not a man, not even a special man, this visitor was The angel of the Lord himself, who they knew immediately to be God Himself. "We have seen God!"
It's hard not to see the parallel between this encounter and 2 other passages in the Tenakh:
One is just earlier in the book of Judges, in Judges chapter 6 where the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon before he is to attack the Medianites. In this passage we read:
"20 The angel of God said to Gideon, "Take the meat
and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out
the broth." And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that
was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the
unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat
and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When
Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed,
"Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to
face!" 23 But the LORD said to him, "Peace! Do not be afraid.
You are not going to die."
And then the 2nd parallel passage is the well known wrestling match of Jacob, where Jacob wrestles with a man until daybreak.
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man
wrestled with him till daybreak.
25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him,
he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched
as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go,
for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go
unless you bless me."27 The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no
longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God
and with men and have overcome." 29 Jacob said, "Please tell me
your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he
blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,
"It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
So let's ask ourselves, what were the parallel's:
Jacob, Gideon and Manoah all clearly
initially thought they were interacting with a man
In both passages in Judges the angel
of the Lord just disappears, puff into the flames
Both Manoah and Jacob inquire by asking
"What is your name?" and both times the response is "Why do you
ask my name?"
But most notable in all three passages
is the fact that by the end of the encounter Jacob, Gideon and
Manoah believe they have seen God face to face.
This is radical stuff. They all three clearly thought they were interacting with a human being and yet in the end they all realize that they had seen God face to face.
So why is this so important?
Aside from the fact that these 3 encounters are really interesting I believe that they are invaluable in understanding who Y'shua is? Y'shua made a number of claims about his deity, when he walked among us. By deity we mean the fact that Y'shua is more than a man, that he is in fact divine. Evidence of this is found throughout the New Testament. In the Gospel of John alone we hear Y'shua say:
"Before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58)
"I and the father are one" (John 10:30)
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
And then Thomas words when he sees the risen
"My Lord and my God" (John 20:28)
And no doubt this truth has impacted each one of us. The fact that Y'shua was not just :
a good Jewish man
not just a rabbi
but in fact God incarnate.
And it is because God has touched us with this truth that we are here today at this congregation worshipping Y'shua the:
Prince of Peace - - Sar Shalom.
From which this congregation gets its name. Isn't it great to be worshipping at a congregation named after our Messiah? A congregation which as part of it's mission statement has the goal of
"lifting the name of Messiah Y'shua above all other
And yes people like Mr Weiner will want us to believe that this is idolatry. How can we worship Y'shua? That this is not Jewish. That this is defying the very core of the shema.
But I don't think we can argue with Manoah, Gideon and certainly not with our patriarch Jacob; who actually saw God walk the face of this earth. Who believed to be conversing with a man one-minute and the next exclaimed, "we have seen God face to face!"
God appearing in human form is not a New Testament phenomenon friends, it began thousands of years earlier during the lifetimes of Manoah, Gideon and Jacob and even Moses, Abraham and Joshua. I can't help but wonder how they might respond in a letter to the editor of the Jewish advocate to someone who claims that you cannot be Jewish and believe in Y'shua because HE was just a man.
I hope that if nothing else, this morning has given you confidence in this fact; that Y'shua is worthy of all our worship because he is not just a man, He is God Incarnate. Who came into our world for to pay the penalty for our sin so that you and I can be in a relationship with the Father. One of the most awesome characteristics of Y'shua, is that he is very God and very man. May God help us as we seek to understand the greatness of our Messiah. May we endeavor to love and serve Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. Shema Israel, Adonai, Elohanu, Adonai, Echad. He is ONE!