Messianic jews, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 12
1. So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us,
2. looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting Habakkuk 2:4, Yeshua — who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Psalm 110:1).
Looking away, like a runner with his eye on the finish line, to the initiator (see Ep 2:8) and completer of our trusting, Yeshua — or, as in KJV, "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." The theme of Yeshua as beginning and end, aleph and tav is found at Rv 1:8, 21:6, 22:13. His "endurance" (v. 1) we are to emulate: think about him (v. 3; compare Pp 2:5). He, in exchange for obtaining the reward (10:35) of the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal (see Ml 10:38N. Pp 2:8N), scorning the shame, as described in greater depth at Pp 2:6-11. Believers should scorn not those who put them to shame, but the shame itself (compare 1 Ke 4:16).

At the right hand of the throne of God, i.e., "in the place of honor by God's throne" (Living Bible). See paragraph (7) of 1:3N, 1:13 and Mt 22:44. 

3. Yes, think about him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you won’t grow tired or become despondent
4. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in the contest against sin.
Compare 4:15, which says of Yeshua, "in every respect he was tempted just as we are, the only difference being that he did not sin."
Become despondent. This anticipates the Tanakh passage quoted in vv. 5-6. 

5. Also you have forgotten the counsel which speaks with you as sons: "My son, don’t despise the discipline of Adonai or become despondent when he corrects you.
6. For Adonai disciplines those he loves and whips everyone he accepts as a son" (Proverbs 3:11–12).
7. Regard your endurance as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons. For what son goes undisciplined by his father?
God is dealing with you as sons. Israel collectively is God's son (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 11:1, Mt 2:15&N, Ro 9:4&N); but more than that, each believer, Jewish or Gentile, is individually God's son, by virtue of being united with God's only-begotten Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Ro 8:14-19, 29; Ga4:l-7; Rv 21:7). 

8. All legitimate sons undergo discipline; so if you don’t, you’re a mamzer and not a son!
In rabbinic Judaism the Hebrew word "mamzer" is a technical term referring to the child of a marriage prohibited in Leviticus 18. Popularly it means "illegitimate son" and like "bastard" it can express strong contempt. See Yn 9:34&N. 

9. Furthermore, we had physical fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them; how much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live!
10. For they disciplined us only for a short time and only as best they could; but he disciplines us in a way that provides genuine benefit to us and enables us to share in his holiness.
11. Now, all discipline, while it is happening, does indeed seem painful, not enjoyable; but for those who have been trained by it, it later produces its peaceful fruit, which is righteousness.
The discipline of God, our spiritual Father, produces holiness (see v. 14) and righteousness (5:13; 10:38; 11:4,7,33). 

12. So, strengthen your drooping arms, and steady your tottering knees (Isaiah 35:3)
13. and make a level path for your feet (Proverbs 4:26) so that what has been injured will not get wrenched out of joint but rather will be healed.
In addition to completing the discussion of trusting begun at 10:35, verses 1—4 introduce the idea that believers in Yeshua are running in a contest against sin (vv. 1,4), a contest which calls for endurance (vv. 1-3,7). Having endurance means regarding the pains, setbacks and troubles which are inevitable in a believer's life (Ac 14:22, Yn 16:33) as the discipline of Adonai (vv. 5-13 constitute a sermon on this subject — the text is vv. 5-6, the three points are vv. 7-8,9-10,11-13). Only then will we be displaying the "trust-grounded obedience" (Ro 1:5, 16:26) which is the goal of the Gospel.

The contest has been set before us (v. 1); it is the "life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do" (Ep 2:10). Sha'ul (Paul) used sports metaphors when he wrote to Greeks (1С 9:24-27, Pp 3:12-14, 2 Ti 4:7-8), for whom athletic contests were an important part of life. But the author of this letter is writing to Jews, for whom, at the time, such contests smacked of Hellenistic paganism (see 1 Maccabees 1:10-15). Nevertheless, the rabbis made comparisons with gladiators (Exodus Rabbah 30:24), wrestlers (Genesis Rabbah 22:9) and other athletes. The sports-metaphor language of vv. 1-4 returns in vv. 11-13, where the author compares believers with athletes in training who care for their injuries in order to remain effective sportsmen.

The contrast with v. I is striking; the author no longer offers a pep-talk with advice to "keep running" but concerns himself with those who can barely walk because of physical and social disadvantage, emotional injury or being spiritually backslidden.

Strengthen your drooping arms, gradually increase your spiritual capacity for trust-grounded obedience to God (Ro 1:5).
Steady your tottering knees, get hold of your emotions, stop fearing the world.
Make a level path. He leads me in straight paths for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:4). Make the physical and social environment such that you can work in it for good: place yourself where temptations are not excessive, and undertake tasks that can be accomplished. For your feet. Of the wicked, Isaiah writes, "Their feet run to evil, they make haste to shed innocent blood" (Isaiah 59:7; compare Ro 3:15). But of God's servant he writes, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the bringer of Good News, announcing peace... and deliverance!" (Isaiah 52:7; compare Ro 10:15).

Someone who is hurt in any of these ways and neglects himself will have what has been injured get wrenched out of joint, "so that in the end, the person is worse off than he was before" (Mt 12:46). But if he gives his situation proper spiritual attention. what has been injured will be healed. 

14. Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Keep pursuing peace (compare Psalm 34:15(14)) with everyone (compare Ro 12:18). 

15. See to it that no one misses out on God’s grace, that no root of bitterness (Deuteronomy 29:17(18)) springing up causes trouble and thus contaminates many,
Root of bitterness. When presenting the covenant to "all Israel" (Deuteronomy 29:1), Moses warned "lest there be among you [anyone] whose heart turns away from Adonai... to serve other gods,.. .a root that bears gall and wormwood" (instead of "the peaceful fruit of righteousness," above, v. 11), "and it come to pass that when he hears the words of this curse" (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), "he blesses himself in his heart and says, 'I will have peace, even though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart....' Adonai will not be willing to pardon him" (Deuteronomy 29:17-20). 

16. and that no one is sexually immoral, or godless like Esav, who in exchange for a single meal gave up his rights as the firstborn.
17. For you know that afterwards, when he wanted to obtain his father’s blessing, he was rejected; indeed, even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to no avail.
Even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to no avail. As rendered, this says that even though Esau had a change of heart between Genesis 25:27-34 and Genesis 27:30-41, it did not avail in getting his father Isaac to bless him with the blessing reserved for the firstborn son. But the Greek could mean, "Even though [Esau] sought with tears to have his father change his mind, his efforts were of no avail," partly because a blessing once given could not be withdrawn. No matter which understanding is correct, we leam that it is all but impossible to revoke the consequences of sin.

Even if the change of heart spoken of was Esau's, not Isaac's, there is no implication either here or in Genesis that Esau ever truly repented. His tears did not flow from the kind of pain that, "handled in God's way, produces a turning from sin to God which leads to salvation" (2C 7:10). Rather, his "repentance" (Greek metanoia, "change of mind, change of heart"; see Mt 3:2N) was only in valuing his rights as the firstborn (Genesis 27) instead of despising them (Genesis 25). Thus, although some translations suggest the idea, there is no basis for inferring from this passage that it can be "too late to repent," too late for a person to turn from sin to God. Such an altitude is only an excuse for continuing to sin. It is never too late, God's arms are always open, it is always "his purpose that... everyone should turn from his sins" (2 Ke 3:9)

Holiness without which no one will see the Lord. The warning which climaxes at v. 29 begins here. Those who fail to heed it, who suppose that mere intellectual acknowledgment of God's existence and Yeshua's Messiahship, unaccompanied by good deeds and submissiveness to God, will "get them into heaven" are in for rude awakening and disappointment (compare Ya 2:19-20, Rv 20:15). 

18. For you have not come to a tangible mountain, to an ignited fire, to darkness, to murk, to a whirlwind,
A theophany (an appearance of God to mankind) was often accompanied by fire (Exodus 13:21, Judges 13:20,1 Kings 18:38), darkness (Genesis 15:12; Exodus 10:21-22, 14:20; 1 Kings 8:12; Joel 3:4(2:31); Amos 5:18) and whirlwind (Nahum 1:3; Job 37:9, 38:1; Zechariah 9:14). 

19. to the sound of a shofar, and to a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further message be given to them —
The sound of a shofar will be heard in the end of days at the final manifestation of God (Isaiah 27:13, Zechariah 9:14), identified more specifically in the New Testament as the Messiah's second coming (Mt 24:31, 1С 15:52, 1 Th 4:16&N).

When God gave the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18), called the Ten Words in the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:13), all the people of Israel heard his voice, and those words made the hearers beg that no further message be given to them, but only to Moses as their representative. This is described in Deuteronomy 4:10-13, 5:20-25 and 18:16-17 (which comes in the middle of Deuteronomy 18:15-19, where God promises to raise up a prophet like Moses; according to Ac 3:22-23&N Yeshua fulfills this prophecy). 

20. for they couldn’t bear what was being commanded them, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it is to be stoned to death" (Exodus 19:12–13),
21. and so terrifying was the sight that Moshe said, “I am quaking with dread.” (Deuteronomy 9:19)
Moshe said, "I am quaking with dread." Not only the people were frightened but Moses was too. However, by quoting a remark which Moses made not on Mount Sinai but upon returning and discovering the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:14-19), the author of Messianic Jews shows us that as a result of Moses' personal experience with God, he developed a healthy fear of God (Proverbs 1:7,9:10) which lasted not only while he was receiving the Torah, but also afterwards — indeed throughout his life. And the author's point is that it should be so with all of us — those who begin well with Yeshua should not slack off later.

The awesome appearance of Mount Sinai when God gave the Torah to the people of Israel demonstrated God's holiness. See Exodus 19:16-20, 20:15-18(18-21); Deuteronomy 4:10-13. 

22. On the contrary, you have come to Mount Tziyon, that is, the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim; to myriads of angels in festive assembly;
Mount Тziyon is where King David placed the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:2); in the New Testament, Yochanan sees Yeshua, the Lamb, "standing on Mount Tziyon" (Rv 14:1). Already in the Tanakh Mount Zion is identified with the whole of the city of the living God, Jerusalem:

"Adonai is great, greatly to be praised
in the city of our God — his holy mountain,
beautifully situated, the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, on the sides of the north —
the city of the Great King." (Psalm 48:2-3(1-2))

But the identification transcends earthly Jerusalem and applies to the even better heavenly Yerushalayim (Ga 4:25-26, Rv 21:2), about which the author has more to say at 11:10,13-16&N; 13:14. The idea that what is seen of spiritual truth here on earth is but the shadow of the heavenly original pervades this letter (8:5&N; 9:1 l&N, 23-24&N; 10:1&N).

Myriads of holy angels. God "came from the myriads of holy ones" in heaven to give the Torah on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2). From 1:14, Daniel 7:10, Lk 2:13-15 and Rv 5:11 -12 we learn that their festive assembly consists in ministering to God and to his people. 

23. to a community of the firstborn whose names have been recorded in heaven; to a Judge who is God of everyone; to spirits of righteous people who have been brought to the goal;
A community. Greek ekklisia; see Mt 16:18N.

Firstborn. Yeshua is "supreme over all creation," literally, "firstborn of all creation" (Co 1:15&N). "Also he is head of the Body, the Messianic Community — he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; so that he might hold first place in everything" (Co 1:18). Finally, he is "the firstborn among many brothers" whose destiny is to be conformed to his pattern (Ro 8:29), in consequence of which they themselves are regarded by God as firstborn, with all the rights understood in Biblical times as pertaining thereto (v. 16 above). God originally assigned to Israel the status of firstborn (Exodus 4:22); in according it also to believers God strengthens the identification between the Messianic Community and Israel (see Ro 11:25-26&NN, Ga6:16&N,Ep2:ll-16&NN). Whose names have been recorded in heaven in the Book of Life (see Rv 20:12b&N).

A Judge who is God of everyone. There is no escaping God "the righteous Judge" (2 Ti 4:8&N); many New Testament and Tanakh passages attest to a final Day of Judgment for all; see Rv 20:11-15. God has entrusted the judging to Yeshua the Messiah (Yn 5:22&N, 27-30; Ac 17:31; Ro 2:16).

Spirits of righteous people (11:4. 7,33) who have been brought to the goal (7:11N) along with us (11:39-40) by Yeshua, the Completer of our trusting (the one who brings our trusting to its goal, v. 2). 

24. to the mediator of a new covenant, Yeshua; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better things than that of Hevel.
The mediator of a new covenant, Yeshua. Compare 7:22,8:6-13.

The sprinkled blood of Yeshua. Compare 9:12-14, 19-21; 10:19-21; 13:13-15. That speaks better things than that of Hevel (see 11:4&N). Abel was the first to die (Genesis 4:3-10), Yeshua the last (since his death is timeless); Yeshua's blood brings life (Leviticus 17:11), Abel's brought only death. See 1 Ke 1:2N.

The author lists eight things to which you have come. 

25. See that you don’t reject the One speaking! For if those did not escape who rejected him when he gave divine warning on earth, think how much less we will escape if we turn away from him when he warns from heaven.
How much less. A kal v'chomer argument (Mt 6:30N), reinforced by v. 26. 

26. Even then, his voice shook the earth; but now, he has made this promise: "One more time I will shake not only the earth, but heaven too" (Haggai 2:6, 21)
Even then, on Mount Sinai, his voice shook the earth. Compare Judges 5:4-5; Psalms 68:9(8). 77:19(18), 114:7. 

27. And this phrase, “one more time,” makes clear that the things shaken are removed, since they are created things, so that the things not shaken may remain.
28. Therefore, since we have received an unshakeable Kingdom, let us have grace, through which we may offer service that will please God, with reverence and fear.
Let us have grace. Let us accept God's gracious gift of his Son, whose sacrificial death graciously atones for our sin — rather than continue adherence to the now defunct animal sacrifices for sin, or any other form of trying to persuade God to reward our works by considering us righteous. The animal sacrifices, though originally prescribed by God's grace, have become works righteousness now that Yeshua's sacrifice for sin has taken place, since they no longer avail for anything.

By accepting God's grace we may offer service that will please God. The Hebrew word " 'avodah" means "work, labor, service"; but it is also used as a technical term signifying specifically the sacrificial "service" in the Tabernacle or Temple; compare 13:15, Ro 12:1. Chapter 13 summarizes the kind of service that will please God. 

29. For indeed, "Our God is a consuming fire!" (Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Isaiah 33:14)
Consuming fire. See also 10:31, 12:18.

As at 2:1—4, the author expresses in terms of a comparison between Mount Sinai (vv. 18-21) and spiritual Mount Tziyon (vv. 22-24) the many ways, spoken of or hinted at in earlier chapters, in which Messianic Judaism, with Moshe and Yeshua, is better (v. 24; see second paragraph of 1:2-3N) than non-Messianic Judaism, with Moshe but without Yeshua.

In both cases it is the same God revealing himself, his promises and his requirements. There is but one conclusion to be drawn: See that you don't reject the One speaking (vv. 25-29), the One who spoke through Moses then and through Yeshua now. As the Sh'ma succinctly puts it, "Adonai is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4); therefore anyone who rejects the God of Yeshua is necessarily rejecting the God of Moses (this point is made at many places in the New Testament, including Lk 16:29-31, 24:25-27; Yn 1:45, 5:45-46,9:28-41; Ac 3:22-23, 26:22-23,28:23-27; Ro 3:29-31, 10:4-10; 2C 3:6-16; MJ 3:1-6; Rv 15:3). And the penalty for rejecting God is fearful, since, even though he is merciful to those who trust in him. at the same time our God is a consuming fire (v. 29; compare Exodus 34:6-7, Mk 9:43-49, Rv 20:11-15).

vv. 12:1-13:19 The last of the author's Five exhortations (see 2:1-4N) is the longest. Chapter 12 largely emphasizes the negative, climaxing in the severe warnings of vv. 25-29; while Chapter 13 accentuates the positive. 

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