Why is the story of the Binding/ha-Akedah of Isaac so important to Judaism/Christianity? Why are we so interested in the “testing” that we perceive G-d to have placed upon us? Do we believe that G-d is testing us to find something out? Does G-d not know the end from the beginning? Of course yes, He knows the end from the beginning. Perhaps we should follow the translators of the ASV and read “G-d proved Abraham,” then we might have a better understanding of what is happening in ha-Akedah/the Binding. We prove bread in its final stages, we seek to prove worth in a soldier in whom we already see merit. This in part is the meaning of proving.
G-d does not prove us to gain proof of us. G-d does not need to find us out. He proves us for our sake. Perhaps we would be less inclined to treat G-d with incredulity in times of trial if we understood that He is journeying with us to teach us about ourselves. After all, He knows us completely, we know ourselves only in part—it is hilarious to consider that knowing so little of ourselves we are none the less often eager to pretend to know others.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of “proving” is the lesson of humility. Abraham responds three times in the Akedah using the Hebrew word “Hineni”—I am humbly ready to receive you/your words. Firstly to G-d--ha-Av, then to his son--ha-ben, and finally to the Messenger of G-d--ha-Ruach. Abraham is nothing if not in full submission to G-d in this text (Genesis 22). Bread is proved by yeast, sugar, warmth and time. Dough is at the mercy of waiting and reliant on well measured ingredients. The quality of bread is the result of the skill of the baker.
Our Messiah found himself in this most vulnerable of positions in the garden of Gethsemane when the proving of all proving was made manifest in Him. His words mirror the faith He had placed in Abraham so many years before, “Not my will but Your will be done,” Hineni— I am humbly ready to receive you/your words, Your plan for my life.
© Yaakov Brown 2013
Genesis/Bereshit 37 begins this way, “Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojourning’s.” One of our yeshiva students recently observed that Abraham and Isaac—Jacob’s father’s—were temporarily employed in the land as sojourners, Jacob on the other hand was a resident. The Webster dictionary defines the word sojourn as, “a temporary stay,” others have inferred the idea that to sojourn is to work and live in a land while journeying to another. Both these ideas are present in the text of Genesis 37:1.
This concept is important for us today both physically and spiritually. Firstly Jacob being a resident, one who dwelt in the land, would have the right of return to the land of promise. Today we see the media and the majority Muslim world surround the physical land of Israel, often demanding that Jacob/Israel leave the land for the sake of peace. In fact the schools of surrounding Muslim nations teach that the Shoah—Holocaust—is a lie and the religious zealots in these same nations preach that the genocide of Jacob is the only answer. It should be noted that even in the unlikely event that Israel/Jacob were to leave the land, he would eventually return, not by his own strength but by the strength of Hashem—G-d. Abraham and Isaac saw the promise and journeyed toward it, but Jacob received the promise.
Spiritually speaking perhaps we should do a reboot of our Messianic/Christian philosophy and consider this; Abraham and Isaac journeyed but Jacob dwelt. It has become popular to disassociate ourselves from immutable truth with the words, “everyone is on a journey,” while this is of course true, it must be held loosely within the mystery of absolute truth. What if we, as followers of and heirs with Messiah are no longer on a temporal journey? What if we are already dwelling? Those who journey suffer fatigue and look perpetually forward to a goal, which, as long as they journey, is always out of reach. What if we, like Jacob, have started at the finish? What if we are leaving our destination to find our destination? Of course this is only possible if we have a Joseph. It is important to note that Genesis 37 also begins with these words, “These are the generations of Jacob.” Then, in the very next line it says, “Joseph.” We do not read the words, “Therefore these are the generations of Jacob.” We read, “These are the generations of Jacob.” Then, “Joseph.” Without Joseph there are no generations of Jacob/Israel. Joseph, being a type for Mashiyakh allows us retrospective insight into the plan of G-d. Joseph is called “the lord of dreams,” He dreamed--chalam/made firm—a dream--chalom. His dreams are firmly bound both to the earth and to the universe in the eternal plan of G-d’s redemption of humanity. Who is our Joseph? Who is our lord of dreams? Is it not Mashiyakh Yeshua? It is Yeshua who leads us from our destination in Him to our destination in G-d.
Does all this mean that we are no longer sojourners? No, but, one who dwells temporarily in a land that he will one day dwell in permanently is beyond the temporal journeying of humanity. We have already begun an eternal journey in Messiah that is outside time. Our forefathers gave us the hope--ha-tikvah—which they heard from the Word--ha-d’var—of G-d. Now in our time we have been given the success of Jacob, the filling of that hope, the ability to dwell in the journey through Messiah. We have been made secure and from security we birth transformation—both personal and corporate.
Jacob dwelt in the land his father’s had journeyed through—on their way to where Jacob would dwell—and this was made possible through the life of the l-rd of dreams, without whom there are no generations.
© Yaakov Brown 2013
One of the greatest mistakes made by the protestant—predominantly evangelical—Christian church since its inception has been to consistently define itself by what it is not; we don’t light candles for the dead, we don’t pray to Mary, we don’t use incense, and so on into perpetuity. As a result many modern Protestants from all walks of life are now able to share with great accuracy what they are not, but very few can truly articulate who they are. In part, Messianic Judaism reemerged in opposition to this kind of anti-faith, the irony being that—like Hassidism—we now find ourselves in opposition to ourselves.
In order to meet my financial obligations I work as a Christian bookstore manager. This position affords me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people from many different spheres of the Christian faith including but not limited to: Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Conservative-Evangelical and yes, of course, Messianic. Of this wide range of believers it seems that many know what they disagree with but few are able to speak for very long about their positive belief. What disappoints me most however is the rising ferocity in the anti-faith talk of the Messianic Zealots I encounter on a regular basis. I wish to make it clear once again that these Zealots are not Jews, rather they are Gentile converts to Messianic Judaism—if there is such a thing. I am more and more convinced that Rabbi Shaul himself—Paul the apostle—would have given harsh rebuke to these ones who speak more often of what others should not do than they do of the Savior, our Messiah Yeshua—Jesus.
I am consistently told by my Messianic extremist brothers and sisters that I should not celebrate Christmas, worship on Sundays, go to Easter services, use the name “Jesus,” etc. Though it must be said they are entirely misinformed regarding Christmas and the use of the name Jesus and fail to understand that all days belong to G-d; the more poignant issue is, that they are passionately endowed with teaching regarding what they and others shouldn’t do, but are unable to articulate the many wonders and depths of faith found in a Messiah centered Messianic Jewish Tradition.
When we define ourselves by what we are not, we are repeating the error of our forebears both Jewish and Christian. Those we seek as converts to our way of thinking are instantly disillusioned, in our zeal we turn them away from the beauty and traditions we might otherwise have positively offered them. Often our fierce words of rebuke are based on poor historical knowledge, misinterpretation of scripture, inaccuracies and myth; passed on by lazy teachers and blinded guides. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Mattitiyahu/Matthew 23:14-16
This is not who we are, it is who we were, before we met Messiah, but now, in Him, we are to be a light to the nations. It is time to stem the flow of darkness that is issuing from our mouths. We are, “A royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a people belonging to G-d. That we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Kefa/Peter 2:9
If we continually define ourselves by what we are not, we will inevitably forget who we are.
© 2013 Yaakov Brown
This past week I was asked, “Which is correct, Jesus or Yeshua?” The question came from a person who had been told by certain Messianic zealots—again, Gentiles rather than Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua—that the only correct name to use for Messiah is Yeshua “because that’s His Hebrew name.” There are of course many other arguments proposed by these zealots, including numerous additional reasons for not using the name Jesus. The uneducated nonsense they offer up as fact serves only to muddy the waters further. Therefore I will not include them here. Suffice to say, if we set out to find fault with others, we will find it in the place where hatred dines upon waning reason.
We know from the Scriptures and by following the etymology of names, using as our source the original languages, that Jesus is simply the anglicized form of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (pronounced; ee-ay-sooce): this being the Greek equivalent of Joshua, which in Hebrew is pronounced Y’hoshua—not Yeshua. It is therefore ludicrous to suggest that Yeshua—the Hebrew word for salvation—is the only way to say His name. Yeshua means “salvation,” Y’hoshua, “The L-rd Saves.” The writers of the New Testament/Brit ha-chaddasha chose the Greek Ἰησοῦς to represent their Jewish King Messiah. Surely this offers more than enough evidence for using the Greek Eeaysooce? The Hebrew Y’hoshua also makes sense given the fact that Yeshua is a Jew. If these two are acceptable then why not translations of the name into other languages—“is He G-d of the Jews only? Is He not also the G-d of the nations? Yes, of the nations as well!” (Romans 3:29) Further to this we must add that the Jewish desire for Messiah was and is just that, a desire for Messiah--Mishiyach—the affirmation of the name “The L-rd Saves.” Hence Y’hoshua ha-mashiyach.
Regarding experience: if like myself you have seen people delivered from demonic entities at the sound of the name of Jesus Christ, then reality will be your teacher alongside Scripture and reason, revealing that His name carry’s authority in every language. It is of utmost importance that He be known as the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the Universe however even in my writing this I need not say it in Ivrit—Hebrew—in order for it to be true.
I could articulate numerous arguments in favor of calling our Messiah by the names given Him in the many languages of the nations, but I will not waste my time further on the futile pursuit of attacking the name supremacy movement that breeds like a cancer among us. His name is Yeshua, Y’hoshua, Eeaysooce, Jesus, Yesu, Issa and so on. In the final summation the Scripture makes it clear:
“At the name of Jesus, (or any of the other aforementioned translations) every knee shall bow and every language confess… that, ‘Jesus Christ is L-rd!’” Philippians 2:10-11
If He doesn't have a name in every language, how will every person from every nation on earth confess Him as L-rd in their own tongue?
Regardless of the way we pronounce His name, it is our belief in the person of Yeshua that allows us to carry His name within us.
So, “should I call Him Jesus or Yeshua?” The answer of course is “Yes!”
© 2013 Yaakov Brown
After staying up all night trying unsuccessfully to convince Bob Dylan to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Messianic singer songwriter Keith Green came home and opened his journal, frustrated, he recorded these few simple words, “Tried to be the Holy Spirit to Bob Dylan tonight.”
Perhaps like me you have labored under the false notion that the salvation of those around you relies on how well you represent or articulate the gospel of Messiah Yeshua. Perhaps you have been under the impression that to, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” (Mattitiyahu /Matthew 28:19) means that every believer has a quota to fill. If so, then you and I have been greatly deceived. Frankly, G-d doesn't need our help but He does invite us to participate with Him in reconciling the world through His Son Yeshua—Jesus. Does that mean you should never consider sharing your faith? No, of course not, but it does mean that your personal perfection is not necessary for the salvation of others. Think of it as a fishing trip with Dad. The weights off, you’re not obligated to make disciples, you’re instructed. You’re not needed, but you are invited.
On the other hand, perhaps you consider yourself a soul winning super hero for Jesus—Yeshua? Maybe you've clocked up one hundred or more salvation prayers or a thousand baptisms? You might be articulate, educated, gifted in the art of communication? No matter how articulate you are, you are never articulate enough. No matter how gifted or how educated you may be, not one among your ample arsenal of skills has won, or will ever win you a single convert. Why? Because, “It is not by might or by power but by My Spirit says The L-rd Shaddai.” (Zechariah 4:6) Why? Because, “These are the things G-d has revealed to us by His Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) That’s right, not by your intellect, not by your skill or personality or your zeal, not by your might but by G-d’s Spirit.
Stop, reset, and return to the face of Messiah Yeshua. You will never meet your quota because in order to meet a quota you must first have been given one. You will never be able to claim the salvation of another because it is by G-d’s Spirit that He reveals His Son as the path to reconciliation. (Mattitiyahu /Matthew 16:15-17)
Yeshua has said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mattitiyahu/Matthew 11:28-30)
© 2013 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.