In the book of Matthew, chapter 26, the suggested Messianic reading to go along with this week’s reading from the Torah, it is said that both Yehudah (Judas) and Kepha (Peter) rejected Y’shua in some way or other. As it turned out, Yehudah rejected Y’shua by handing Him over to the scribes and the elders and the high priest, while Kepha rejected Y’shua by denying no less than three times that He knew Y’shua or that he was in any way connected to Him. Yehudah’s rejection of the Messiah, of course, was not just by pointing Him out or handing Him over. Y’shua Himself said to those who came to seize Him: “Daily I sat with you, teaching in the Set-apart Place, and you did not seize Me.” The ones who did not like Y’shua, could have taken Him at any other time. But Yehudah’s rejection of the Messiah became evident in the fact that he had spent time with the Messiah, aligned Himself with the Messiah, sat next to Him when they had a meal together, listened to his teachings, witnessed his great works, took part in outreaches to spread the word about the Messiah – and then, out of the blue, for a bribe of 30 shekels, and in a moment of madness, he turned around, kissed Y’shua and stabbed his Master and his Friend in the back. As someone has written somewhere: “Judas did not make only one kiss” – he betrayed Y’shua in more ways than one. In the same way that we can also betray and reject Y’shua in more ways than one.
Let us go one step back, to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 34, the suggested reading from the prophetic books to go along with this week’s reading from the Torah. Yahweh instructed Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) the prophet that each household should release their slaves according to the stipulations of a covenant made between Yahweh and the people of Yehudah (the namesake of Judas Iskariot). The people obeyed. They released their slaves. The covenant was honoured. But not long after this, the people started taking back their slaves again and brought them into subjection once more, thus causing Yahweh to announce pestilence, famine and all kinds of horrors to be released upon Yehudah. Why? Because these people (called by the name Yehudah) betrayed the covenant that they had agreed upon. Because they had a change of heart, turned around and rejected the word of Yahweh. There is a similar tendency today with regards to people’s response to the good news about Y’shua. They hear the good news and accept it with gladness. They drink the cup of the new covenant. They jump boots and all into the covenant which 2 Cor 3:6 describes as a covenant not of the letter but of the spirit, and Heb 8:10 describes as a covenant causing Yahweh to write his laws on people’s minds and hearts. And then, out of the blue, like Yehudah, they simply reject the covenant and return to the practice of slavery – not by taking slaves back in their households but by becoming slaves again themselves. How does this happen? In more ways than one.
Sometimes this returning back to slavery simply comes in the form of turning back again to a life of sin. Scriptures clearly reveal that living in sin is the same as living like a slave, choosing bondage over freedom, choosing confusion over fulfilment. Accepting and believing in Y’shua as the promised Messiah is the same as entering into Yahweh’s New Covenant with his people. The golden motto of the covenant is still the same: I will be your Mighty One and you will be my people. As your Mighty One I shall protect and guide and provide for you. As my people, you will align yourself with Me and show honour, faithfulness and obedience. Under the New Covenant I have revealed my Son to you. In His Name you will find forgiveness, rest and freedom. He will show you the way back to Me again. He will teach you about true freedom, which is not a life without boundaries, nor without Torah, but a life without guilt and shame. It is also a life without the endless struggle to find truth and meaning and rest for one’s soul in the midst of a labyrinth of ideas, ideals, identities and activities that are part and parcel of the new age that has dawned upon this world.
A return back to slavery also happens when people who have known Y’shua, confessed Y’shua and firmly believed in Y’shua, come to a decision to renounce and forsake Y’shua, either by taking a stance of atheism or agnosticism , or by “converting” to Judaism and thereby formally declaring that to them He is no longer the promised Messiah, neither the Son of Elohim. (Agnosticism is generally defined as the view that the existence of a divine or supernatural being, or beings, is unknown or unknowable. It is often explained as a choice not to say that one knows or believes that which one has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe).
Converting from belief in Y’shua to Judaism is a step that is perhaps more drastic and more far-reaching than many people would realize. To mention just a few examples from the four gospels: It means you have chosen to dissociate yourself from the One is able to take your burdens and your shackles upon Him and give you rest because his yoke is gentle and his burden is light (Mat 11:28-30). It means you have rejected the One who declared unambiguously that the first of all the commands is Deut 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh is our Elohim, Yahweh is One – therefore you shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might” (Mark 12:29-30). It means you will probably never witness the fulfillment of the Messianic prophesies, because you reject the claims of Y’shua of Nazareth and, more specifically, these words: “The Spirit of Yahweh is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to bring the Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send away crushed ones with a release, to proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh … today this Scripture has been filled in your hearing (Luk 4:18-21). And it also means that you are not interested in the Shepherd that Yahweh had promised He would provide for his own people – a promise that He kept most amazingly by sending his Son, Y’shua: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).
Let us go one more step back, to the actual Torah reading for this week of Exodus 21 to 24. Within these chapters we find the words: “See, I am sending a Messenger before you to guard you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on guard before Him and obey His voice. Do not rebel against Him, for He is not going to pardon your transgression, for My Name is in Him. But if you diligently obey His voice and shall do all that I speak, then I shall be an enemy to your enemies and a distresser to those who distress you” (Exodus 23:20-22). Some people are saying this Messenger is Y’shua. There is, however, nothing in this passage that points to Y’shua and the rest of Scriptures serve as a confirmation that Y’shua never appeared in Person before his birth, more than a thousand years later. What we have here in Exodus 23 is a description of the same messenger (or messengers) of Yahweh who appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yoseph and Mosheh and whom all of these patriarchs have viewed and understood as a manifestation of Yahweh Himself. To them the words of the Messenger were the words of Yahweh Himself. And the esteem of the Messenger was like the esteem of Yahweh Himself. And the honour and respect with which they approached the Messenger, was the honour and respect they would show towards Yahweh Himself.
But there is a connection between this Messenger (or these messengers) and Y’shua, the ultimate Messenger (whom some of the New Testament parables compared to a master, first sending his servants, or messengers, and then, at last, sending his own son). The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Y’shua became so much greater than the messengers of old (Heb 1:4). But like the Messenger in Exodus 23, He is also the one who would bring the people into the place that Yahweh had prepared. We should obey his voice because He is a representative of Yahweh who sent Him. The Hebrew way of saying, “He is the representative of Yahweh”, is “Yahweh’s Name is in Him” and in this sense Y’shua was (and is) also a Messenger of Yahweh. In all of this the primary focus still remains firmly on Yahweh and not the Messenger whom He had sent. If we obey the voice of the Messenger, Yahweh Himself will be an enemy to our enemies and a distresser to those who distress us. What we should notice, is that Y’shua went out of his way to emphasize that He did not come on his own authority and not for his own esteem, but only that of his Father. He is not equal with his Father. He is not to be confused with his Father. And exactly because He came in absolute obedience to his Father, He was exalted and esteemed and given a position far above any human being or messenger before Him.
Not accepting this clear Scriptural portrayal of Y’shua – either by downplaying his role within the plan of the Father or by lifting Him up to the same level as the Father, and even worshiping Y’shua as if He is THE ELOHIM revealed to us in Scriptures – is just another way of rejecting the Messiah. Accepting the Messiah means accepting that the Scriptural prophesies about the Messiah, became true in the life and works of Y’shua of Nazareth. This is not the same as confusing Y’shua with Yahweh because then our understanding would be quite different from the picture painted of the Messiah – not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New. Let us honour Yahweh by honouring his Anointed One. And let us honour this Anointed One by saving our highest esteem and adoration for Yahweh alone, just like the Anointed One did and just like He told those who listened to his teachings.