In talking to our Jewish friends about Yeshua one of the things that might come up is Matthew 2:23, “Then he went to settle in a town called Nazareth to fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, that He will be called a Nazarene.” The reason that it comes up is because they struggle to find the prophecy that it speaks of fulfilling in the prophets.
This is an honest issue however, it is brought on by our English versions that were, of course, translated from the Greek. This is important because with this verse one must have a background in the Hebrew language and mindset. This verse is perhaps one of the strongest arguments that Matthew may have been written in Hebrew originally and definitely to the Jewish people.
Let me explain what I mean. Translating this verse from the Greek to the English you really don’t get the proper understanding of what is being said here. The prophets do not speak of the Messiah as being a Nazarene the way we understand it. It is the Hebrew word that Nazarene represents that gives this significance and the proper understanding.
The prophecy that it comes from is found in Isaiah 11:1 where Isaiah says this, “Then a shoot will grow from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from out of his roots will bear fruit.” The word being spoken of in Matthew is the word for “branch” in this verse. The Hebrew word here is “netser”. This is the Hebrew word that was used in the naming of the Hebrew village, Natzeret.
It is also important to know what this type of branch is. This word for branch means a shoot that grows up away, sometimes quite a distance away, from the original tree. It can also spring up many years later, yet it is connected to the original tree.
Yeshua sprung up many years after Jesse and to grow up in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem means that he is also coming up a distance away as well, yet he is connected to the tree of Jesse. In both ways Yeshua fulfills the definition of this type of branch. How awesome is that! Therefore, the prophet Isaiah did say that He would be a Netser, a Natzeret.
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!
Mark 12:28-34 discusses the first and second greatest commandment. Mark who is writing to a primarily Gentile audience is the only one of the Gospel writers who at the front end of His quote of the greatest commandment includes verse 4 of Deuteronomy 6 in his answer. It states, “Hear/shema, O Israel, the Lord/Adonai our God/Elohenu, the Lord/Adonai is one/echad.”
This part of the greatest commandment is quoted regularly by Jews who take their faith seriously. The Gospel of Matthew which was primarily written to a Jewish audience does not include this portion. So why would Mark include it?
Mark is wanting his Gentile audience to become familiar with this piece of liturgy, which the Jews would have already been very familiar with. It was and is quoted regularly in any synagogue.
The Jews did not need to grow accustomed to hearing this spoken, but the new Gentile believers who were now attending synagogue to hear Moses and the prophets read and learn about their new faith needed to know and become comfortable with it. They needed to know that what they were hearing on a weekly basis was not of human origin but comes straight from the Scriptures.
We need to know why we do things even still today. We need to make sure that we are not doing what we do just for the sake of doing or holding to a man made tradition, but because it is part of our Faith and from Scripture.
Three basic questions we should ask are: 1) Do we do what we do because we have always done it that way or because we see it being done in the pages of Scripture? 2) If we are doing things that are not in Scripture, why are we and when and how did we start? 3) If we are not doing things in Scripture why aren’t we and when and how did we stop?
1 John 2:3-6 states, “Now we know that we have come to know Him by this–if we keep (obey) His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep (obey) His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps (obeys) His word, in him the love of God is truly made perfect. We know that we are in Him by this–whoever claims to abide in Him must walk (live) just as He walked (lived).” Yeshua, the perfect Son of God in whom the love of God was perfect, is our role model on how to live this life. He always obeyed the Father and never broke one of His Father’s commandments. He never broke the Law of the Kingdom. Therefore, He practiced the Shabbat, the Feasts (Moed), the New Moons and all the commands of His Father that applied to Him as a man of Israel. He was not a priest, farmer or women so none of those laws applied to Him.
If He is our perfect example on how to live the life of a citizen of the Kingdom then shouldn’t we live as He lived, in perfect obedience to the Father?
Mark wanted His readers to understand that their salvation/Faith is from the Jews. Even Yeshua said to the women at the well that “salvation is of the Jews”. After all, in the first century we were first known as The Way, a sect of Judaism. Mark wanted them to understand their new Faith and not reinvent it to look more like the pagan world they were familiar with. Unfortunately, much of that was done and now we find ourselves having to ask the three basic questions given above.
Today I want to discuss the Feast Days/Moedim in Leviticus 23. When we practice these Moedim, including Shabbat, we are remembering what God has done and what He will do.
These are our God’s Moedim or appointed times. They are appointed times for us to hold holy convocations or assemblies. These assemblies are really meant to be holy called out dress rehearsals for what is to come (the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘mikra’). They are dress rehearsals in the same way a wedding rehearsal is a practice for the wedding party of the event to come, the wedding.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:16-17 that, “All Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (doing what is right according to Torah/The Law), so that the man of Elohim may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In other words, the Moedim are part of the way God trains or prepares us for the main events still to come, so that we will be ready when they arrive, when God fulfills His Word.
They also give us hope as we remember what He already has done. If He will do those things than He will surely see all of His Word fulfilled. Halleluyah!
Isaiah 8:13-16 says, “ADONAI/The LORD Shaddai is the only one you are to regard as holy, He alone are you to fear, He alone are you to dread, and He will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel He will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured. Bind up the testimony and seal up the law/Torah among my disciples.”
In Romans 9:33 Paul says that the stone that makes men stumble is Yeshua and in 1 Timothy 2:6 he calls Yeshua the testimony that was given in its time. So, Yeshua is the stumbling block and the testimony.
Historically, Christians have held tight to the testimony of Jesus and the Jews have held tight to the Torah. However, as we see in the Isaiah passage it is about both.
Revelation 12:17 lets us know it is the ones who hold to the testimony of Yeshua and keep the commandments of God that the dragon goes after. Both are important!
Finally, we see this in Isaiah 8:20, “To the Law/Torah and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they will have no dawn.”
Is it any wonder that the enemy wants us to keep these two, the testimony (Yeshua) and the Torah, apart? It is that all too familiar strategy of divide and conquer. Let’s not give him that satisfaction! Let us hold to the testimony, Yeshua, and the Torah!
Now, as we begin to witness to our older brother, the Jews, we need to be honest with ourselves and them. We have presented in the past a Messiah they could not recognize. Not only have we presented a Gentile looking Messiah devoid of His Jewishness, but we have also said that because He fulfilled the Torah/Law that we don’t have to obey it. That is and has been a big turn off to the Jewish people and rightly so.
We have essentially said to them, “believe in Jesus to come to God, but don’t serve and obey God.” That is essentially what they hear. And it is and has been a huge clue to them that the one we are presenting to them, at least the way we have presented Him, sounds and looks more like a false prophet than the real Messiah written about in the Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament). Let me explain this statement.
Deuteronomy 13 says that even if someone prophesies and it comes true or does signs and wonders (miracles), but they lead you away from your God and from serving Him they are a false prophet. Since to serve Him means to obey Him the false prophet is encouraging you to disobey the one you claim to serve.
Even Yeshua when speaking of those who come to Him and say, “Lord, Lord didn’t we do things in Your Name,” he said to them, “Go away from me you workers of Lawlessness, I never knew you.”(Matthew 7:22-23) This comment of Yeshua takes place in the context of a discussion about false prophets. This should be very sobering to us. We need to be very careful about how we present our Messiah.
Yeshua was a Jew and practiced the Torah. If He did not He would have been a sinner and not an acceptable sacrifice. He not only practiced the Torah, He also taught the Torah. If He didn’t He would have been coming against the teachings of His Father. He Himself said that His words were the words of His Father (John 8:28, 14:24). Remember, He is the Living Torah, which also means He would have been coming against Himself. He would have also, at the least, been calling Himself the least in the Kingdom according to His own words (Matthew 5:17-20).
Yeshua is the Living Torah, He practiced the Torah, He taught the Torah and promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would also teach us the Torah (John 14:26 & 16:13-15, Romans 8).
My point is this: Let’s be honest about our mistakes of the past and seek to rectify them with truth and grace. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I also want to say I am not passing judgement on those who have taught this. I believe those who have come before us have done the best that they knew to do from what was taught to them. It is not about them, but about us and how we present Yeshua now and in the future, now that the LORD has opened our eyes.
“To the Law/Torah and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they will have no dawn.”