It is often asked by our fellow Christians, “Are you trying to be a Jew?” Or they might say something like this, “I am a Baptist, not a Jew.” Both the question and the statement are misunderstandings of the issue.
I am a Baptist pastor’s wife whose family has adopted the Messianic lifestyle. I am not a Jew, nor do I think that I can become one physically. However, I am a disciple of a Jew. His name is Yeshua/Jesus. This is an important distinction that must be made. As a believer in Yeshua I have been filled with the Holy Spirit/ Ruach HaKodesh and it is His job to transform my life into the image of Yeshua, the Son.
In Matthew 28 the disciples were told to make disciples. This term is very specific. A disciple is a student of a teacher/rabbi. The student or disciple seeks to pattern his life after his rabbi. In 1 John 2:6 we are told to walk as our rabbi walked if we are going to abide in Him. A disciple desires to place each step in the step of his rabbi and not veer off the path of his master. The disciple should end up looking exactly like his rabbi so that he teaches what his rabbi taught and lives as his rabbi lived. This is the call of the disciple.
Earlier in my walk with the Lord I often wondered if our faith really looked like His life. I wanted so much to look like Him, but there seemed to be a disconnect from what I read about His life to the way I lived out my faith. He lived as a Jew, completely submitted to the Torah or instructions/teachings of His Father. Yet we are often told in the church that the teachings of the Father are not for us today. Yeshua fulfilled them so we do not have to. So, let me get this straight. Yeshua obeyed and lived out the teachings of His Father so we would not have to obey and live out those teachings.
If that is the case than our lives do not look like our rabbi and never will. In fact, our lives would be the exact opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Christians love the Father very much and want to please Him and for the most part they obey much of His Torah.
However, there seems to be an attitude of not wanting to look like a Jew. Many will say, “I am a Gentile”. While this may be true of our physical heritage, it is not true of our spiritual heritage. We have been adopted into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the blood of Yeshua. We have been grafted into the tree of Israel. We have been made citizens of God’s household, Israel. We may have been far away but now in Yeshua we have been brought near.
To make it clear, we are not to steal the identity of the Jewish people. We do not replace them in any way. We do, however, enlarge them. The God of Israel takes us gentiles and enlarges His people and makes us one. We are now one people, believing Jew and Gentile. All those who come under the banner of Adonai through Yeshua are one people.
But what does this have to do with being a disciple? It is not my goal or aim to live like a Jew, but I do seek to live like a particular Jew, Yeshua. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah.”(TLV) Paul, a Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah, is telling gentiles to follow his example in their walk as believers.
James in Acts 15:21 makes it clear that he fully expects the gentile believers to be going to their local synagogue each Shabbat to hear Moses read. He expects them to learn from Moses and so follow the example of their fellow Jewish believers in how to live this life.
The disciples were Jewish believers and never once intended for the faith to be disconnected from their Jewish way of life. After all it was God Himself that had instructed the redeemed of Israel on how to live. That is right, the instructions of the Father were given to a redeemed people. They had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Then they were taken to the mountain and taught how to live, how to love God and their neighbor.
To be sure this is not a matter of justification, but sanctification. We are saved only by the blood of Yeshua. I do not seek to make a Gentile a Jew or a Baptist a Jew, I am merely pointing out that we follow a Jew. And, once we are saved, we must learn to live the life of a disciple to a Jew, and not just any Jew, but the King of the Jews.
Yeshua was not a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic or any other denomination. He was a Jew who lived a Jewish lifestyle. To separate our faith from this way of life is to, in part, separate ourselves from who He was and is. I know that is not the intention, but it is the result. If we truly want to be transformed into the image of Yeshua/Jesus than we need to walk in His footsteps so that we can completely look like our master. Or to say it another way, we need to be totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit/Ruach HaKodesh in being transformed into His image, the image of the Son.
Yeshua is our Rabbi, He is our example. The ONLY perfect example of how to live a life that pleases the Father. Therefore, if we seek to please the Father than we must live as Yeshua lived.
So, I ask the question to anyone who seeks to be transformed into the image of Yeshua. What is keeping you from living the life of a Messianic Believer and following in the steps of your Rabbi?
Yeshua obeyed and taught the Torah. The sermon on the Mount, the only sermon recorded for us, is His teaching of the Torah. It begins with the Beatitudes that sound like a Psalm.
He then goes on to speak of not abandoning the Torah but practicing it and the importance of teaching it. His standards are high, and it is not as if He has a higher standard than His Father. No, He is giving the proper interpretation.
For any commandment that is given by God there is the issue of the heart at its core. Adonai sees the heart, not just the outward appearance or observance. That does not mean that the outward observance is not important. Instead it means that the observance should flow from a heart truly devoted to Him. Out of such a heart the observance of the commandment will be true and pure.
To observe the commandments with an impure heart is sin and to have a pure heart and not actually observe the commandment is also sin. Both are disobedience. It cannot just be interesting information to enlighten our hearts, it must move to observing what has been learned to make a true and complete transformation in the person.
Let us love Him with a pure and clean heart so that we may serve Him through obedience to His commands!
This is what we are to strive for through the power of the Holy Spirit!
In Matthew 4 we see that Yeshua leaves Nazareth and goes to live in Capernaum. Matthew in verses 14-16 connects this move to the fulfillment of another prophecy by Isaiah in 9:1-2. Matthew records it like this, “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, along the road by the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles! The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, a light has dawned for those living in the land of the shadow of death.”
Isaiah lets us know that God had formerly humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. The enemies of Israel would come through them first as they came from the north and moved southward through the country. These tribal territories were the first to see the terror, the first to experience the pain, humiliation and defeat.
However, with the coming of the Messiah they would experience a great Light and they would be honored instead of shamed. I find this interesting since Yeshua was, of course, born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judah as fitting for a Davidic King then grew up in Nazareth to be the Branch and now His ministry would be from Capernaum in Galilee to be the Light.
Yeshua cared for all Israel, from the south to the north. Every tribe and every part of the land was special to Him.
He would fulfill prophecy! He is the King, He is the Branch, He is the Light. God be Praised!
Matthew in 2:6 quotes from Micah 5:2 & 4, “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the princes of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”
This quote only quotes part of the verses. Here are both verses in their entirety in Micah, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; yet one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from everlasting…He will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of ADONAI His God. They will live securely, for then His greatness will extend to the ends of the earth.”
This One to be born in Bethlehem, the Messiah, would be from eternity. In other words, He is God, yet the LORD is His God. Suggesting the Messiah is the Son of God, born in Bethlehem to the family of David. And this Son of David would have a Kingdom that would extend to the ends of the earth.
Even the scholars who were speaking to Herod in Matthew 2 understood that the true King of Israel would come from Bethlehem and that His Kingdom would be greater than any kingdom that the earth has seen. The Magi from the East ascribed this identity to Yeshua, who they had come very far to worship.
So, in this passage we see that the One who would shepherd the people of Israel had to be born in Bethlehem, which the census of Caesar Augustus, arranged by the LORD, made possible. Ha Shem (The Name/The LORD) had this all planned out!
Next verse 15 Matthew says, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” When referring to this prophecy from Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1 Matthew is connecting what happened to Israel as God’s firstborn son to the Messiah.
The Messiah was called out of Egypt not because He was redeemed, but so that He could redeem. The Lamb of God had to be called out of the world, which Egypt represents, in order to save the world. He was set apart for this purpose as Ben Yoseph.
He did not go to the mountain to receive the Law but will one day, according to Isaiah 2, teach the Law Himself from Jerusalem as the Living Word. In doing so, He will rule as King as Messiah Ben David.
Then Matthew connects the killing of the babies in Bethlehem by Herod to Jeremiah 31:15. Jeremiah is taking up a lament for the lost children of Rachel. Why Rachel when Bethlehem is the home of David who was a descendant of Leah? It is because Rachel was buried near Bethlehem after she gave birth to Benjamin.
It is as if Rachel is weeping over those young ones who suffered the pain of death at the hand of the tyrant, Herod. What I find interesting about this passage in Jeremiah is that this verse that Matthew uses here comes directly after a prophecy about God returning His people to the land of Israel and giving them great prosperity in the land. It is then followed by the prophecy of Ephraim calling out to the LORD and being restored (returning to God by obedience to Torah – Psalm 19:7). God calls Ephraim His precious son. Rachel is the mother of Ephraim.
So, we see that this passage in Jeremiah is speaking of the loss of children in Bethlehem (from Judah) in the time of Yeshua, but it is also speaking of the return of Ephraim. Again, God will reconnect Ephraim with Judah. It will be the Messiah that returns us all to the land together as one people (Jew and Gentile together as one new man), Israel. What rejoicing that will be!
In Matthew 1 we see the genealogy of Yeshua on display. In that account it takes Yeshua’s genealogy through David and back to Abraham. This is vital when speaking to our Jewish friends who do not know Yeshua yet. So, we will spend some time looking at Matthew’s words to his people, the Jews.
In showing Yeshua’s genealogy back through David and Abraham Matthew is showing the legitimacy of His claim as the Messiah. Then throughout the rest of Matthew he continues to show prophecy after prophecy being fulfilled and we will go through some of these in the coming days.
Yes, it is true that Yeshua did not fulfill every prophecy in the Torah, Prophets and Writings, but He did speak of returning and fulfilling the rest. Interestingly, what Jews and Christians expect the Messiah to fulfill when He comes to claim His Kingdom is the same. The issue is that in Yeshua’s first coming many Jews were expecting those prophecies to be fulfilled then (for Him to be the Messiah Ben David) and yet the prophecies about the Messiah redeeming His people from their sins (Messiah Ben Yoseph – the prophecies that Matthew primarily deals with) have not been dealt with very much in the Jewish community even today.
However, before the King can sit on His throne and rule His people He needed a people who were redeemed, holy and righteous.
Then in verses 18-25 we are faced with the fulfillment of another prophecy. Matthew hits it home hard and fast as to who Yeshua truly is. He tells us that He was born of a virgin who was espoused to a man from the House of David, Yoseph/Joseph. This fact is the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore Adonai Himself will give you a sign, the virgin will conceive, have a son and name him Immanuel.”
Interestingly, this prophecy in verse 13 of Isaiah 7 was specifically addressed to the house of David. The angel in Matthew 1 makes sure to reference Joseph as being a son of David. He also tells Joseph that he is to call the child Yeshua and tells him why. Yeshua, which means salvation, would save His people from their sins (He would be Messiah ben Joseph).
What is amazing about the fact that He was born in Bethlehem is that it was the home of the house of David. Therefore, the first ones to see Him were of the house of David, again this sign was given to the house of David.
In Yeshua’s day there was a debate occurring about whether there would be one Messiah who would fulfill both roles of Savior (Messiah ben Yoseph) and Lord (Messiah ben David) or if it would be two different people. Here in this passage of Matthew we see both addressed. There would be one Messiah and He would fulfill both roles. He would save the people from their sins (Messiah ben Yoseph), but He would also be King as the heir of David and as Immanuel, God with us (Messiah ben David).
Yeshua came to save His people, the whole house of Israel, from their sins. He will return again as Messiah King, son of David, to be Immanuel, God with us!