In every Hebrew copy of B’resheet (that is the book of Genesis to those who speak English) there is a word that is never pronounced. It is the fourth word on any Hebrew scroll of B’resheet. It is made up of only two letters – Aleph and Tav. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, or more correctly, the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. Tav is the last. Most Hebrew scholars who haven’t come to accept that the person of Yeshua is their Mashiyach (Messiah) simply refer to these two characters as The Word. Most words in Hebrew which begin with the letter Aleph do not actually pronounce it. It is a silent letter which, in most words, represents the silent presence of God. That’s why they call it The Word. When Moses first wrote B’resheet He added these two characters. No one alive today knows the reason why. But, so that nothing was lost and everything was preserved, the Hebrews scribes for thousands of years have meticulously included The Word every single time the scroll of B’resheet has been copied.
I am not surprised by this fact. The more I learn about the respect with which the scribes have treated the Scriptures, and the way in which they check and double check and triple check every single scroll, fills me with admiration. It is a sad testament, however, to these same fastidious people that, in their care taken over the preservation of the scrolls, they failed to read the gospel of the disciple called John. For had they read even the first verse of John’s gospel they would have discovered the very purposes of Moses writing Aleph and Tav immediately.
The first three Hebrew words of the scroll read as follows:
B’resheet | bara | elohim
In the beginning | created | God
The next word in the Hebrew is what is known as The Word. So in English you could actually render those first four words as:
In the Beginning created God The Word.
So, when the disciple John set about trying to convince his Hebrews readers who the person of Yeshua really was, he wrote:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” [John 1:1-2 NJKV]
Had any Hebrew scholar of the first century read those words, they would have known immediately that John was explaining to them that Yeshua is the reason why an unpronounceable two-letter word appears in the very first line of Torah. He was there all along. With God. And is God. In linking Yeshua with The Word, John was telling the Hebrew people that He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end – what we know in the Greek language as the Alpha and the Omega. Except in Hebrew, the phrase would be the Aleph and the Tav. And not only is He the first and the last, He is also everything in between.
I have already made the point earlier in this series that the Old Testament was written for many reasons, but perhaps chief of all those reasons was to point the Hebrew people to the coming Messiah, in the person of Yeshua. Even His name in Hebrew should have been the biggest clue of all. The name Yeshua is what is known as a compound word. That is to say that it takes two different Hebrew words which when spoken together give a short phrase, joins them together then compacts or shortens them into one single word. In the case of Yeshua the two Hebrews words are Yehovah (the personal and unique name of God) and Yasha (the Hebrew word for saves). The phrase says Yehovah saves, the two words joined become Yehoshua (Joshua to us), and the compound version is Yeshua. That is the Hebrew name which His Hebrew parents would have given Him. Not Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek transliteration, which was achieved by taking the phonetic sounds of Yeshua and trying to find the equivalent in Greek. In the Greek scrolls it is actually rendered Iesous (pronounced Eye-Zoos). Neither the Greek nor Hebrew alphabets have a J sounding letter. The J was only introduced into the English language in the 14th century. Now, are these things vitally important to the gospel? Probably not. I only explain them here so you can understand why I use Yehovah and Yeshua when I speak of the Father and the Son. By the way, the Holy Spirit is actually Ruach HaKodesh in Hebrew.
This notion that everything contained in what Yeshua would have known as (and referred to as) the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, all pointed to Him is backed up throughout the New Testament. For example, when Yeshua was once in the Temple discussing matters with whom John refers to as the Jews (probably Sanhedrin members and teachers of the Law – the religious elite of the day), He speaks to them of the witnesses which confirm who He is. He says this:
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” [John 5:39]
Yeshua was telling the teachers of Torah that all the Scriptures (that is, what we know as the Old Testament – the New Testament wasn’t compiled for another hundred years or so) are witnesses to Him being God in person. Even His name – Yehovah Saves – confirmed that. And, it is important to note that He was making it clear that the Scriptures themselves won’t save them – only He can.
The coming of Yeshua to the people of Isra’el was foretold. They knew the very day on which to expect Him. Daniel chapter nine details carefully exactly when the Hebrews would see God’s salvation. Although the text is written in symbolic language, the Hebrew scholars know that where it said week, it means a week of years, that is seven years. From that they were able to calculate it as 173,880 days from the command given to Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of God’s salvation. That brought them right up to the 10th day of Nisan in the year we know as AD 30, the very day on which Yeshua rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. They cheered Him because they were expecting Him. Four days later they rejected Him and crucified Him. He wasn’t the salvation they were expecting. They were expecting someone to come and rescue them from Roman oppression, not from themselves.
So, despite all the evidence which the Hebrews had; despite the witnesses of the Prophets and of the Writings and of the Law, they failed to see that Yeshua was God’s Word made flesh. His first coming was to act as a watershed to the way in which God spoke to His people. Up until Yeshua, Isra’el had experienced God speaking to them in a great many ways. For The Word to become flesh was something that they hadn’t anticipated. To be fair, it is quite a difficult concept for any of us to grasp. Any explanation is fraught with either being too complex or too simple to make any sense. I can only think of it in this manner – that in the person of Yeshua there exists the embodiment of all of whom God is. Everything He tried to convey through the giving of the Law is personified in the life of Yeshua. His Torah, for example, was totally fulfilled in Yeshua. He lived His life exactly as God had intended it. The Spirit in which the Law was given, rather than the letter of the Law is how He lived whilst here on earth.
It is vital that even if we don’t fully understand what the word made flesh truly means that we accept it to be the case. This has to be part of the faith we have regarding Yeshua. We know that the gospel teaches us that salvation comes through faith in Yeshua. I think that faith has to include everything God’s written word says He is, as well as everything Yeshua said of Himself. If we were to only have faith in the parts which each of us understand, then the gospel of truth is watered down. The seed is mixed.
In the history of the world, God has used different methods at different times to speak to us. The author of the letter to the Hebrews confirms this in the opening verse:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…” [Hebrews 1:1-2]
This letter, when read in its entirety as it was written, takes the reader through the rituals and sacrificial systems of the Covenant in order to reveal Yeshua as the Messiah. The writer, who is in all probability the apostle Paul, starts by reminding the Hebrew readers how God spoke in the past. He mentions the prophets, but Yehovah also spoke through His priests and His kings as well. Yeshua is now the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7), the Prophet whom Moses foresaw (Deuteronomy 18), and the King of kings (Revelation 19), thus ending the need for any of those offices to be filled by human appointment.
This means, as the text suggests, that God has said all He intends to say and we should now look to the person of Yeshua for instruction. There is to be no new revelation from God – only a deeper understanding of Him as we draw nearer to His salvation, which is only found in the person of Yeshua. Yeshua was able to reverse the effects of the disobedience of Adam by simple obedience to doing God’s will. That is why death was unable to hold Him – it had nothing on Him because He had done what God told Him to do. And, because He achieved what God set out to achieve, there is no more to be said. That’s not to say that God doesn’t speak today. He does. But everything which is said to us comes by way of the Holy Spirit and should, ultimately, direct us to the person of Yeshua. The Revelation which was given to John was Yeshua’s final message to us before His return. We will cover what that message is in a later part of this series. There will be no new revelation, despite the claims of many self-appointed prophets. The role of the nature of the prophet has changed. Paul tells us that the role of the prophet is now to build up and encourage the saints (1st Corinthians 14).
It feels as if we, as the church, have wandered away from the true gospel. Spurgeon’s concern of the downgrading of the gospel was fully justified. The matter is far worse today than it was in the late 1800s. We need to get back to the true gospel and to the full revelation of exactly who Yeshua is. If we can and do, then we will see the same signs and wonders as the early church did because we will have put ourselves aside and He will fill us to overflowing.
If we accept (and we should) that Yeshua is God’s Word made flesh, then it follows that all we need, in every single aspect of our lives, is to be found in Him. His name, Yeshua, as I have explained means Yehovah Saves. What that means in practice is that when we call out to God for Him to save us from whatever situation we find ourselves trapped in, God sends His Son to rescue us. Whether it be oppression from others; drug addiction; debts, or any other bondage that prevents us from living as Yeshua showed we can live, the answer to our prayers is found in the person of Yeshua.
Today’s modern church appear to have forgotten that. Salvation, that is God’s rescue plan, has been made into a mumbled prayer in response to an altar call on a Sunday morning. Instead, God’s plan is available to all at anytime they call upon His name. Salvation isn’t a single moment in time when our ears finally hear the true gospel and the Holy Spirit causes us to be spiritually born again. That is our conversion. Our salvation will only come at the end of a great journey. God’s salvation is to save us from the second death as detailed in Revelation chapter twenty. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, he records the journey between conversion and salvation. The book manages to describe the experience of every single believer and their journey between the two, as well as those who fall along the wayside. For the main character of the book, called Christian, his journey begins in the City of Destruction and ends at the Celestial City. Throughout the journey, as he climbs difficult hills and walks through terrifying valleys, Christian learns to only look to Christ for the answers to the problems he encounters. He learns that everything he needs is in Christ.
Today, we have wandered so far from the Narrow Path that the state of the church reads like any chapter from Bunyan’s book. We place our reliance for salvation not upon Yeshua but on good works, nice worship services, intellectual understanding of doctrine, new laws and regulations, control of others, bums on seats, and money in the bank. Those things will all be burned up. They will not stand the test of His Holy fire for they are all earthly treasures and fleshy desires. Each time Christian and his companions got into trouble through not following God’s instructions, they had to find their way back. This is what we need to do both as individuals and collectively as churches. We need to find our way back to knowing that all we need is in Christ. Then we need to practice living that way.
In the next part of this series we will take a look into how those first disciples of Yeshua learned to rely upon Him for everything, even after He ascended to heaven.
If you haven’t read Pilgrim’s Progress I recommend you do so now. It will change your perspective on everything. It was written in the late 1600s but is perhaps more valid for today’s Christian and the church than at any time before. If you have read it, may I suggest you read it again? Spurgeon is said to have read it hundreds of times, each time learning something new. You will find a link to a modern(ish) edition on our Reading List.