Scripture provides countless prophetic pictures of Messiah. Because God loves His chosen people so much, He chose to reveal Himself and His plan to the Jews through their own prophets and writings — through the Tenach. The Torah introduces the revelation of Messiah; and the Jewish prophets and the holy writings say that Messiah would be a living and loving person. He would give His life a ransom so that all mankind may know that their sins have been taken away, and know that they are forgiven.
The burning question is "Who is He?" Who is Messiah? Scripture answers: He was, and forever will be, the Messiah of Israel, the Redeemer of mankind, and the Son of God.
Allow Messiah's love to draw you to Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." The prophet Joel proclaimed to the Jewish world that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered," or saved (Joel 2:32). Our responsibility is to simply receive Him.
Isaiah 53, (see below), provides a beautiful portrait of Messiah as God, in the flesh, sacrificing His own life as a spotless lamb slain for sinful man. Allow His love for you to lead you to repent of your unbelief and accept Jesus as your Redeemer, your atonement, and your Messiah.
1. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2. For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
1 מִ֥י הֶאֱמִ֖ין לִשְׁמֻעָתֵ֑נוּ וּזְרֹ֥ועַ יְהוָ֖ה עַל־מִ֥י נִגְלָֽתָה׃
2 וַיַּ֨עַל כַּיֹּונֵ֜ק לְפָנָ֗יו וְכַשֹּׁ֙רֶשׁ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ צִיָּ֔ה לֹא־תֹ֥אַר לֹ֖ו וְלֹ֣א הָדָ֑ר וְנִרְאֵ֥הוּ וְלֹֽא־מַרְאֶ֖ה וְנֶחְמְדֵֽהוּ׃
3 נִבְזֶה֙ וַחֲדַ֣ל אִישִׁ֔ים אִ֥ישׁ מַכְאֹבֹ֖ות וִיד֣וּעַ חֹ֑לִי וּכְמַסְתֵּ֤ר פָּנִים֙ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ נִבְזֶ֖ה וְלֹ֥א חֲשַׁבְנֻֽהוּ׃
4 אָכֵ֤ן חֳלָיֵ֙נוּ֙ ה֣וּא נָשָׂ֔א וּמַכְאֹבֵ֖ינוּ סְבָלָ֑ם וַאֲנַ֣חְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻ֔הוּ נָג֛וּעַ מֻכֵּ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים וּמְעֻנֶּֽה׃
5 וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻכָּ֖א מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלֹומֵ֙נוּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָתֹ֖ו נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃
6 כֻּלָּ֙נוּ֙ כַּצֹּ֣אן תָּעִ֔ינוּ אִ֥ישׁ לְדַרְכֹּ֖ו פָּנִ֑ינוּ וַֽיהוָה֙ הִפְגִּ֣יעַ בֹּ֔ו אֵ֖ת עֲוֹ֥ן כֻּלָּֽנוּ׃
7 נִגַּ֨שׂ וְה֣וּא נַעֲנֶה֮ וְלֹ֣א יִפְתַּח־פִּיו֒ כַּשֶּׂה֙ לַטֶּ֣בַח יוּבָ֔ל וּכְרָחֵ֕ל לִפְנֵ֥י גֹזְזֶ֖יהָ נֶאֱלָ֑מָה וְלֹ֥א יִפְתַּ֖ח פִּֽיו׃
8 מֵעֹ֤צֶר וּמִמִּשְׁפָּט֙ לֻקָּ֔ח וְאֶת־דֹּורֹ֖ו מִ֣י יְשֹׂוחֵ֑חַ כִּ֤י נִגְזַר֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּ֔ים מִפֶּ֥שַׁע עַמִּ֖י נֶ֥גַע לָֽמֹו׃
9 וַיִּתֵּ֤ן אֶת־רְשָׁעִים֙ קִבְרֹ֔ו וְאֶת־עָשִׁ֖יר בְּמֹתָ֑יו עַ֚ל לֹא־חָמָ֣ס עָשָׂ֔ה וְלֹ֥א מִרְמָ֖ה בְּפִֽיו׃
10 וַיהוָ֞ה חָפֵ֤ץ דַּכְּאֹו֙ הֶֽחֱלִ֔י אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשֹׁ֔ו יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע יַאֲרִ֣יךְ יָמִ֑ים וְחֵ֥פֶץ יְהוָ֖ה בְּיָדֹ֥ו יִצְלָֽח׃
11 מֵעֲמַ֤ל נַפְשֹׁו֙ יִרְאֶ֣ה יִשְׂבָּ֔ע בְּדַעְתֹּ֗ו יַצְדִּ֥יק צַדִּ֛יק עַבְדִּ֖י לָֽרַבִּ֑ים וַעֲוֹנֹתָ֖ם ה֥וּא יִסְבֹּֽל׃
12 לָכֵ֞ן אֲחַלֶּק־לֹ֣ו בָרַבִּ֗ים וְאֶת־עֲצוּמִים֮ יְחַלֵּ֣ק שָׁלָל֒ תַּ֗חַת אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֶעֱרָ֤ה לַמָּ֙וֶת֙ נַפְשֹׁ֔ו וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִ֖ים נִמְנָ֑ה וְהוּא֙ חֵטְא־רַבִּ֣ים נָשָׂ֔א וְלַפֹּשְׁעִ֖ים יַפְגִּֽיעַ׃
ISRAEL, A MIRACLE NATION
by Dr. Orman L. Norwood
Shalom Aleichem…Peace Be Unto You
In fresh waves of blessing, we are seeing God at work in the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, moving in ways we could never have imagined a few years ago. The miracles in Israel are only just beginning.
The fact that Israel still exists today is one of the greatest of miracles. Hunted and hounded, hated and harassed, the Jewish people relocated from place to place, seeking safety and peace. The Jew has wept, waited, and wandered among the nations as an unwanted entity, finding but little rest for his restless feet. He has encountered ridicule and persecution. It was a miracle that the Jew ever survived the wars of the Caesars, the cruel captivities and bondage of Egypt and other enemies, the terrible pogroms of Europe, and the devastating Holocaust of 1933-1945.
No weapon formed against them has prospered, and those who cursed the Jew have been cursed, themselves. Adolf Hitler and his henchmen paid a severe price for their attempts to destroy the Everlasting Nation.
There is only one modern country in history which revived a dead language - Israel. Hebrew is spoken on the streets by the children and older people as well. That's a miracle. Not so long ago, there were no flowers. Now, millions of flowers are grown and then shipped out to Europe to grace the tables of the world. It's another miracle. God said the once-barren desert would blossom as a rose. Our eyes have seen it…a miracle.
God said they would fill the earth with fruit. Agriculture was not the business of Jews, but since 1948 they have set the pace, and Israel has the best citrus fruit in the world. They invent and manufacture the best avionics and have the best aviation guidance systems in the world. Today, they are on the cutting edge of an exploding computer and electronics industry. These, too, are miracles. Like David, the little nation had only a handful of stones to work with, yet they have developed a top-notch defensive army, recognized as the best in the Middle East.
More journalists are based in Jerusalem today than any other spot on earth, except Washington, D.C. Why? Because that is where the action is! We have seen literally hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants coming home to Israel from the north, out of the former Soviet Union, in literal fulfillment of prophecy. This is nothing short of a miracle. The Jewish prophets spoke of such miracles in the latter days. Ezekiel 36 and 37 have been fulfilled, and the miracle of Israel's spiritual rebirth is coming, just as Ezekiel 38 prophesied long ago.
What is ahead? They will come to the Messiah. They will look upon Him, and the nation will be born in a day. That means people will be saved. There are signs of a spiritual awakening in the Land. It will take nothing but a miracle, but nothing is too hard for the Lord. Thank you for being our partners in a miracle ministry.
Wisdom from the Tenach
The Tenach (Bible) is very specific concerning our obligation to a holy and just God. Its words give men wisdom unlike the knowledge of this world.
"Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." Job 28:20, 28.
Listen to the wisdom of the Tenach, and heed its words.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…" Isaiah 53:6
"The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they were all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Psalm 14:2, 3.
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 51:5.
" …The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:4.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9.
"For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." Ecclesiastes 7:20.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags," Isaiah 64:6.
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." Leviticus 17:11.
What is our sacrifice today?
God has Provided for Us
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, they King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Zechariah 9:9.
"I will raise them up a Prophet form among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Deuteronomy 18:18, 19.
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11.
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 45:22.
"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." Psalm 2:12.
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:5, 6.
Our Personal Future (when you receive Messiah)
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." Ezekiel 36:26, 27.
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death…" Hosea 13:4.
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." Job 19:25-27.
Do it Now! Receive Jesus the Messiah!
"Today if you will hear his voice, Harden not your heart…" Psalm 95:7,8.
"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Proverbs 27:1.
The Tenach predicted the Messiah's first coming. He was not just a holy man or great teacher. He was the One spoken of by the prophets who would redeem Israel from her sins, and will today become your Savior if you will humble yourself and ask Him to come into your heart.
If you would like to receive a FREE copy of the Tenach, in Hebrew/English or Hebrew/Russian, please contact us specifying the Tenach edition you want, your name and mailing information here.
Various Branches of Judaism
by Steve Herzig
MESSIAH CAN’T BE FAR OFF…
Fundamentalist Jews are also interpreting the Gulf War as the catalyst that will hasten their own end-time scenario and their long-awaited Messiah.
JEWS WHO DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD GATHER IN CHICAGO
What should Jewish people do who like bar mitzvahs, rabbis, Jewish weddings, Jewish holiday traditions, Bible stories and songs but do not believe in God? 1) Fake it? 2) Stay at home and sigh? 3) Join a temple with a congregation and a rabbi where no one believes in God?
These headlines pose quite a contrast. It is important to note that these two groups are the extremes statistically. Only a small percentage of Jews hold either view. But they do reflect just how difficult it is to explain what Jewish people believe.
Theology, as defined by Webster, is a “rational interpretation of religious faith, practice and experience.” Christianity has been characterized by systematizing its theology. Books on systematic theology just do not exist in Judaism. Rather than developing a creed or system of belief, Judaism has defined itself more by its practices.
[Judaism] has no dogma and lacks entirely any formal catechism which all believing Jews would accept….One must abandon absolutes in ritual and in dogma and examine instead the broad philosophy which underlies our faith. What we believe about the Bible, about miracles, about life after death, is secondary to what we believe about human potentialities and our responsibilities toward our fellow men.
In ancient times, the Temple in Jerusalem was the common ground to which all Jews gathered to worship God according to His laws. Still, differences in interpretations of those laws made for diverse groups. We know of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, and people of the land. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. and the Jewish people scattered, interpretations of the Word of God became as widespread theologically as the people were geographically. Jews fled to the Far East, India, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, and other countries along the Mediterranean. Cultural practices began to influence true biblical injunctions.
Volumes have been written to explain, define, or categorize the Jewish people and their beliefs. Let’s examine the most familiar branches of Judaism, the ones into which the majority of the Jewish population fits today.
No other branch of Judaism is more concerned with doing than Hasidism (the pious ones). In all that he does, the Hasid is to joy in God. Ba’al Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), founder of this movement, believed that there should be joy (simcha) in worship. All beliefs and practices are based on Proverbs 3:6, “In all thy ways acknowledge him.”
Holiness is paramount to the Hasidic Jews. Being separate and fit (kosher) for God are of utmost importance to them. A wife is not fit or kosher to sleep with her husband during her monthly cycle. Food is not kosher unless allowed by the Torah. Clothing is not kosher unless modest. The list seems endless, but the concept of being fit is essential to the understanding of the Hasidim. They separate themselves physically from the rest of the world as well.
The Hasidim live in many of the large cities of the world, but they are best known in the Williamsburg and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn, New York, and in Mea-Shearim in Jerusalem. These communities are patterned after the shtetls (Jewish villages) of 18th-century Eastern Europe and are completely self-sufficient. There is no need for any exchange with outsiders; these pious ones keep to themselves and their own kind.
Hasidic men wear long beards and dangling earlocks in accordance with God’s command in Leviticus 19:27, “Ye shall not shave around your temples; neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” They dress in exactly the same manner as their brethren did two hundred years ago: a wide-brimmed hat, black suit, white shirt buttoned at the neck, no necktie. The only exception to this dress is for special occasions such as the Sabbath, weddings, or high holidays, at which times they don great sable-trimmed hats called shtreimels.
The women dress more fashionably but always with extreme modesty. When a Hasidic woman marries, she cuts her hair (or even shaves her head) to show her modesty regarding her husband. Her head will always be covered, however, either with a wig or with a scarf of some kind.
The language spoken in Hasidic households—whether in the United States or Israel—is Yiddish. It is felt that Hebrew is too holy to be spoken and will be used only when the Messiah comes. Until that time, Hebrew is used only in the study of the holy books. The men most highly regarded in this ultra-Orthodox sect are their leaders, the Tzaddiks. This title comes from the Hebrew word meaning righteous. A Hasidic man was once asked who could replace his beloved “Rebbe” upon his death. The man answered, “We don’t like to think about it. Only the Messiah Himself can replace so great a Tzaddik as the Rebbe.”
The Hasidim fervently believe in the coming of the Messiah. Their Messiah will not be a deity but, rather, a man empowered by God to bring peace to His people. Commitment to the law, both written and oral, performing mitzvot (good deeds), and assurance of an afterlife are basic beliefs of the Hasidim.
The Orthodox Tradition
Orthodox Jews share many common beliefs and practices with the Hasidim. They hold the Halacha (the law) in high regard; they see the written and oral law as binding; they believe that any problem facing them can be solved in the teaching of the law; there is a strong emphasis on religious training for the children; the Sabbath is strictly observed; dietary laws are kept. And, like the Hasidim, the Orthodox look for a powerful, personal Messiah who will come to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated over the years.
The major difference between the Orthodox and the Hasidim is in their lifestyles. To these traditional Jews, commitment to their belief does not mean total separation from the world. In what circumstances is a Jew defiled? To the Orthodox, there is no defilement in wearing modern clothing, provided that it is modest. Working outside the Jewish community is acceptable. The Rebbe is not the final authority. Although the Orthodox have great respect for scholarship, they are not as enthralled with the somewhat mystic elements found in Hasidism. For the Orthodox Jew, there is no defilement in dependent thinking, as long as it remains within the bounds of general tradition.
To use a phrase more familiar in Christian terminology, Orthodox Jews feel they should be “in the world but not of the world.”
The Reform or Liberal Tradition
In his book What the Jews Believe, Rabbi Bernstein alluded to the noted scientist Albert Einstein. He said, “Although not observant of formal religion, [Einstein] is profoundly Jewish in his religious outlook.” He quoted Einstein as saying, “It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we dimly perceive….”
If we are to understand the Reform Jew, we must understand two features of this quotation: first, the intellect of Einstein (Reform Jews value the intellect, the pursuit of knowledge to explain our world); and second, the statement “It is enough for me,”which characterizes the independent, freethinking Jew. Reform Jews think and act independently of the written revelation of God because, for them, this revelation is, in fact, not from God but from mankind.
Reform Judaism “believes in progressive revelation and takes into account changes brought about through history.” Neither the Tenach (Bible) nor the Talmud (oral law) is binding. Men and women worship together, in colloquial language, complete with choir and organ.
Founded in 19th-century Germany, Reform Judaism is, for many Jews, the middle ground between assimilation and what they see as Jewish fanaticism. Because of the strong commitment to education and the emphasis on the intellectual, the Reform movement has encouraged, if not insisted upon, scientific logic to explain the world. Creation, miracles, and a personal Messiah are replaced with evolution, logic, and a messianic era brought about by mankind. Judaism that is true to the Torah looks for a future resurrection; Reform Judaism sees it as a time when mankind will awake to realize its potential. Torah-believing Jews practice their Judaism according to the Torah; Reform Jews are more interested in working out their Jewishness in a Gentile world.
The Conservative Tradition
Conservatism is the middle ground. Conservative Jews think in a way similar to Reform Jews, but they have a strong desire to maintain their Yiddishkeit (Jewishness) in worship and family life. In almost every aspect of Jewish life, the Conservative lives a compromise between the Orthodox and Reform traditions. Worship in a Conservative synagogue is conducted half in Hebrew and half in colloquial language. Many Conservatives keep kosher at home but not necessarily in a restaurant or in someone else’s home.
The goal of Conservative Jews is to carry on as much Jewish tradition as possible, maintain Jewish solidarity, and yet not have to fashion their lives around the beliefs and rituals of their more observant brothers.
“Both the idea and the movement owe their inspiration to Mordecai Menahem Kaplan.” For Kaplan, Judaism evolves. It is a system that must change with the culture in which it lives. In 1935 the magazine Reconstructionist was published using many of Kaplan’s ideas. The concept of Jewish law was replaced with Jewish guidelines. A new prayer book was written, eliminating many traditional prayers and ideas. At the heart of this movement is not the person of God but, rather, the sociological reality of Judaism. The survival of the practice of being a Jew is very important. Jewish identity must be maintained, although achieving this is left to the individual, within very loose parameters.
A word should be said about two other groups. The first is the Zionists. Zionism is not a branch of Judaism. People can be Zionists whether or not they are Jewish. Nor are all Jews Zionists. To be a Zionist, one must believe that the Jews have a right to a homeland called Israel situated in its ancient location. Hasidic Jews are not Zionists because they believe that Israel will be established as a nation only when the Messiah comes to establish His Kingdom there. Many Bible-believing Christians are Zionists because of their strong agreement with God’s Word. God is a Zionist.
There are also those who do not concur with the Bible but who see Zionism as racist. The United Nations came to that conclusion some years ago. Still others see Zionism as some offbeat radical group.
Zionism was conceived by Theodor Herzl in 1897. It was born in 1948 with the founding and recognition of the State of Israel. It has since grown from infancy and childhood into its teen years, and it will come to full maturity when the Messiah Himself, the Lord Jesus, returns to the Mount of Olives to set up His Kingdom in His land.
There remains yet another group of Jewish people who do not fit into the other existing branches of Judaism. These are the Hebrew Christians, also called completed Jews or Jewish believers. If people are born Jewish (that is, descendants of Abraham), they will die Jewish. Nothing can change that. What they believe may, however, change. Any person who receives Jesus as his or her Messiah becomes a new creation in his or her heart. Believing Jews can never go back to what they were, nor should they want to. In Christ, they have become a part of a body, a family of fellow believers whose head is Christ Himself.
Each of the groups we have looked at is sincere in its own beliefs and practices. Each of the traditional branches of Judaism tries to reach and/or please God in its own ways, most of which are inconsistent with the Word that God Himself gave to them. But the greatest Jew who ever lived did something none of us could ever do. He fulfilled the law and became the perfect sacrifice for the evil brought into this world. Jewish Christians have the best of both worlds: the rich heritage, “the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and…the promises” (Romans 9:4), and the fulfillment of those promises, the Messiah Himself, Jesus our Lord.