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King Messiah in the Ten Days of Awe - Ben Volman
September 27, 2017

By Ben Volman, Toronto Ministry Team, Messianic Rabbi of Kehillat Eytz Chaim

From the impressive blasts of the shofar (trumpet) announcing the start of the Jewish High Holy Days to the final note on the evening of Yom Kippur symbolizing the closing of the Book of Life for another year, many aspects of Israel’s worship point to Messiah and the Messianic Age:  a future era of humanity’s true Sabbath when peace and the knowledge of God enfold the earth with the fulfillment of His promise to David – a son who will reign on a throne without end.

The Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) liturgy reflects this hope in the last musaf (portion) of the morning service.  This liturgy is divided into three sections and each is separated by numerous short trumpet blasts.  The first section is directed to Malchuyot, proclaiming God as Sovereign of the universe.  In the second section, Zichronot, we focus on God as the one who remembers all things, all moments and all people.  In the final one, Shofarot, we turn towards God’s redemptive power in the future, as symbolized by the shofar.  Together, these are the essential themes of the New Year celebration, but the emphasis is on Malchuyot.

In 1 Samuel 8, we see the ancient prophet’s concern that the demand for a king is a replacement of God as King in the hearts of His people. But today, to celebrate our God as King of Israel is to speak even more emphatically about Messiah, HaShem’s  ultimate choice of king for Israel.  

There has always been a paradox in the rabbinical view of Messiah.  On one hand, the traditional teachers of Israel have taught that Messiah brings in an era of universal peace.  And yet, they are equally insistent that he will be a man like other men. Some claim that his real task will be promoting the truth of the Torah, even as tradition states that when he comes, everything we know will be changed.

It is no secret that Israel has had a troubled relationship with her kings.  In Deuteronomy 17:14ff we see the Torah’s instructions concerning the appointment of kings and their requirements.  But these only serve to remind us of those from King Saul to the last days of the Herodian dynasty, Israel’s experiences of kingship consistently fell short of the Biblical ideals.  There were some truly righteous kings in Judah’s history and others tried, but fell short. Most kings, particularly of the northern kingdom of Israel, were outright failures that the nation endured and barely survived.

Yeshua wouldn’t allow the people to make Him King, even when the people tried to elevate Him after seeing His miracles and hearing His teaching.  Instead, He slipped away (John 6:14) to prepare Himself for a greater task.

The presence of Yeshua in Jewish history shows how fully He changed everything: This King came to us humbly as a carpenter, a Roman centurion came to Him as a beggar and tax collectors gave up their money at His word. While the teachers of Israel were blind to His identity, the blind received their sight. As the spiritual leaders failed to lead, the lame walked. In the end, the Messiah was handed over to the Gentiles to be killed.  But their governor, Pilate, then defied the Jewish authorities and put up a sign on the crucified Messiah that declared Him King of the Jews. And in the wake of His coming, within a few centuries, the empire that sentenced Him to death worshiped Him as a divine King.

As He was crying out with His last breath, Israel was slaughtering the traditional “Lamb slain for the nation” in the Temple Courts.  Some have wondered why He didn’t die on Yom Kippur, but Isaiah 53 makes it clear that He is the Lamb of God, not only Azazel (a scapegoat) although He was also surely this for those who sent Him away, scourged and unwanted, outside the city walls to die (see Hebrews 13: 11-14). 

But once Yeshua committed His life into the hands of His Father, something took place that brings us right into the heart of the High Holy Days’ celebrations:  the veil into the Holy of Holies was torn open and, spiritually, Yeshua became a High Priest who not only entered into that sanctuary, but its ideal counterpart in Heaven.  His sacrifice secured an atonement of eternal significance that human efforts could not avail.  Yeshua became both the perfect Lamb of God and a sinless High Priest conjoined in the descendant of David who was foreseen as walking in the power of the Spirit (Isaiah 11), witnessing to Israel by His life, His miracles, His teaching and purity (Isaiah 42-53, the Servant Songs) and our eternal Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9).

And how is Yeshua a High Priest if He is not of the House of Levi or a descendant of the Cohanim?  The first-century letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews 5:8) makes it clear that once Yeshua is “perfected” in death and no longer limited by a human, fleshly identity but by His obedience, He becomes a High Priest appointed by God:  “You are priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6).

The famous Rosh Yeshiva, Mordechai Greenberg, notes that “Rosh Hashana is the coronation day of G-d as King of the Universe. All of the prayers… are based on this theme of G-d's reign: "Uv’chein tein pakhdekha:" And so, HaShem, our G-d, instill your awe upon all Your works, ... Then You, HaShem, will reign alone ... "Melech al kol ha’olam:" Reign over the entire universe in Your glory ...” 

How interesting that these words strongly remind us of the profoundly transcendent descriptions of Messiah Yeshua by another rabbi, Rav Sha’ul of Tarsus:

…He is supreme over all creation, because in connection with him were created all things — in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, lordships, rulers or authorities — they have all been created through him and for him. He existed before all things, and he holds everything together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

The Jewish teachers of Mussar, the character-building practice of self-reflection and personal application of Scripture to life, provide another unique view of Deuteronomy 17:15 and advise us: "Set over YOURSELF a king.”  Thus, we are taught:  “First and foremost, a person should coronate G-d over himself, and only afterwards should he pray for G-d's rule over the universe.”

This teaching is full of profound truth and is the ultimate mystery of Messiah’s sovereign Kingship. For we know that, after His death and resurrection, Yeshua has powers that transcend time and space. Although the resurrected Messiah Yeshua embodies a superior, transcendent power, that isn’t the basis of our relationship to Him.  In John’s gospel, Yeshua reveals the heart-to-heart relationship that believers find is the most precious aspect of experiencing Yeshua as Messiah:

In just a little while, the world will no longer see me; but you will see me. Because I live, you too will live.  When that day comes, you will know that I am united with my Father, and you with me, and I with you.  Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (John 14:19-21).

And this is the ultimate mystery of the Messiah as we’re compelled to know Him – one who identifies with us in our weaknesses even though He has overcome the world.  In His past and future comings, Yeshua fully embodies the description of “the Man” (ben adam—“son of man”) foreseen by Daniel:

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed
(Daniel 7: 14).

One can see that this is not merely a human figure or a man who affects change for a single generation. This is a divine sovereign power ultimately declaring Himself for us in the book of Revelation 21:6:  “…It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.” 

So, this is the one who must first be allowed to completely take hold of our lives, and then be fully appreciated as Lord of Creation. As we contemplate both the glory and the mysteries of the hope we have in Messiah, let’s make the most of these remarkable ten days of spiritual hope and reflection. 

Filed under: Jewish Festivals, Special Days, Devotional Study


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