Messiah in the Tanakh
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Home » Messiah: The Way to Righteousness
Suppose through a study of the Tanakh that you are inclined to believe Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazereth was and is the Messiah of Israel. What does that mean you should do now? Before answering this question, let's ask another one.
How does one become righteous before God? These two questions are inherently related: belief in Yeshua as Messiah brings you to a righteous standing before God. But how could that possibly be?
Is it by prayers and good works? No, it is by faith. The Torah explicitly states that God counted Abraham's faith as righteousness:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,
"Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great."
Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)
Abraham's faith--he believed in Ha Shem--was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Abraham's belief in Ha Shem followed the revelation and promise just given to him by God. He believed God, and God counted that faith as righteousness. Two millenia later, God gave Israel a new revelation, Yeshua, the Messiah, whom he had sent to his people Israel. To believe in God today is to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah. If you believe this, then like Abraham, your faith will be reckoned as righteous: you will be righteous before God.
But is this belief merely mental assent to a religious proposition? Indeed, no. Much more is involed. But what? If you now believe Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, what does it mean you should do? First, let me tell you what it does not mean.
You may have come to see that the prophets point to Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah, but as a Jew, the stakes are high for you. There are many troubling questions. Perhaps what follows will answer some of them.
Christianity does not teach that.
It is true that Israel as a nation and the Jewish people in general rejected Yeshua as the Messiah. But not all of them did. What of those who did not? Did they cease to be Jews? Here is what the Apostle Paul said, himself a Jew who came to accept Yeshua as Messiah:
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"? And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. (Romans 11:1-5)
You, like Paul and like all the other Jewish people who through the centuries have come to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, remain a Jew, a son of Jacob, and one of God's chosen people.
Christianity does not teach that.
First, the word "convert" is entirely inappropriate. Over and over in the Tanakh, when Israel strayed from God, the message of the prophets was to "return" to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And this is exactly what the Apostle Peter preached to his Jewish audience in Jerusalem:
But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Yeshua. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people."
Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, "Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed." When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways. (Acts 3:18-26)
So, then, you are not "converting" to something that you previously had not been.
Second, what about the word "Christianity"? Christ is the Greek work for the Hebrew word Messiah. Therefore, a "Christian" is simply someone who believes Yeshua is the Messiah. So when you accept him as the Messiah of Israel, yes, you are by definition a "Christian." But you are a Jewish Christian, a Hebrew Christian, or a Messianic Jew--just like Peter and Paul were. On the other hand, Titus, a friend and fellow worker with Paul, was a Gentile Christian. Both Gentiles and Jews become Christians when they accept Yeshua as Messiah, and neither Gentiles nor Jews cease thereby to be Gentiles or Jews.
However, over the centuries many who were part of formal "Christianity" and called themselves "Christians" were certainly not true believers in Yeshua. The terms came to describe a religious system--often far removed from New Testament teaching--rather than an indicator of personal faith. Therefore, since the term "Christian" has negative connotations to Jewish people, the terms "Messianic Jew" or "Jewish believer" are certainly acceptable substitutes. What is important is the content of your belief.
Christianity does not teach that.
First, as an Israelite, you are a child of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Messianic Jews still fall within the scope of that covenant, including both its blessings and obligations. Therefore, they should have their sons circumcised on the eighth day, which has always been the sign of that covenant. Paul agreed with this.
Second, Messianic Jews often form congregations or synagogues. Gentiles are welcome of course, but these congregations are Jewish in form and worship. Many Messianic Jews, and their Messianic congregations, choose to observe the Sabbath, Passover, and the other Jewish holy days.
If you believe in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah, here is what it means for you: righteousness before God. Why? Because God reckons your faith, like Abraham's faith, as righteousness--if it is genuine. Of what, then, does genuine faith in God's Messiah consist?
Here is what the prophet Isaiah wrote about Messiah's first coming:
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
(Isaiah 53:3-6, 10-11)
Prayer and good works cannot atone for sin. Only a blood sacrifice can do that (Leviticus 17:11), and that is what Messiah achieved on the cross. The Lord placed your sin on him, and he paid the penalty for your sin. He was the "guilt offering" (Hebrew, asham) that "satisfied" the Lord and will "justify" you--make you righteous before God.
Therefore, to believe that Yeshua is Israel's Messiah means that you must commit you life to him. It also means that you entrust your eternal destiny to his sacrifice for your sin to make you righteous before God.
The prophets are clear: this is the promise of God to his people Israel. Moreover, it is what the Jewish leaders and people were looking for when Yeshua came to them two thousand years ago. But most in Israel at that time overlooked the passages in the prophets predicting that before the glory of the Messianic reign, the Messiah would suffer as the sin-bearing sacrifice for his people. Yeshua himself said this: "Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and [then] to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26).
As the prophets have foretold, God will regather all of Israel back into the land he gave Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an everlasting possession. Then when Yeshua returns, the great masses of Israel will accept him as their Messiah:
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
Why will the Lord be gracious to Israel and accept their repentance? Because he remembers the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
Therefore, your belief in Yeshua as Messiah in no way means that you are giving up the hope that has sustained the people of Israel for centuries. With praise in your heart for faithfulness of the Lord, you will still sing "Ha Tikvah" (The Hope), the national anthem of the State of Israel. You will still trust him fully to fulfill all the promises to Israel through King Messiah when Yeshua returns.
Put your faith and trust in Yeshua today. Your faith will be reckoned as righteousness.
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