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Messiah, Son of David

It's now back to that big mistake, the blatant concealing of the identity of the Jewish Messiah. Instead, the rabbis look for him elsewhere.

It is one of the thirteen fundamental Jewish Principles of faith.

"I believe with complete faith in the coming of Messiah. Though he tarry, nonetheless I await him every day, that he will come."

The concept of Messiah has been re-evaluated and repackaged by them in the light of the rejection of Jesus. Here’s how it goes ...

Life on Earth is a struggle and things will only get better when the World reaches a state of perfection. This will only happen when the Jewish nation reaches a state of perfection, which - let's be frank - is not going to happen. This is where the Messiah comes in. Here will be a man, descended from King David, who will nudge the Jews to their destiny and bring peace to the World. He will bring the Jews back to Israel, rebuild the Holy Temple, abolish anti-Semitism and act as Israel's teacher and spiritual mentor. The earthly model for this role was Moses, the first redeemer of the Jewish people.

The identity of the Messiah is an easy one. If someone comes along and does all the things that the Messiah was meant to do, then that's who he is, he would be known by his works. If someone comes along and just does 99% of the right stuff, then he’s an imposter and the Jews go on looking and longing for Messiah. And this brings us nicely to the question of Jesus.

For the rabbis it's a no-brainer. Did Jesus fulfill all of the things that the Messiah was meant to, in the eyes of the rabbis? Well we examined this in an earlier article and the answer was definitely, "No!" Yet religious Jews give the simplest of instructions to those "targeted by missionaries". They are told to just walk away and don't get into "fruitless discussion" because no way can Jesus be the Messiah - he definitely hasn't banished war (Christians have certainly started more than their fair share!), he didn't return Jews to Israel (quite the reverse, they would say), he didn't rebuild the Temple, he certainly didn't eradicate anti-semitism (again, the reverse is true) and was not generally accepted as Israel's teacher. "Just walk away!", they cry. "Walk away from these people. We know he's not our Messiah. My rabbi told me so".

My rabbi told me so? So where did they hear it from? Who gave them the authority? There are two answers to this. Firstly, and correctly, there's the word of God, in the Tenakh, the Hebrew Scriptures. Secondly, it's other rabbis, ancient rabbis from the pages of Jewish history. It is worth now differentiating between these two answers and looking at how they apply the source material, especially when it is coming from the word of God.

Now we have already looked at the Jewish expectation of the Messiah in the Tenakh, the Old testament. We identified the "suffering servant" that the Tenakh speaks of. This is the individual which Christians identify as Jesus in his incarnation in the 1st Century. Then we met a new figure, the Messiah ben Joseph, created by the Rabbis, as an attempt to fulfil those scriptures that Jesus fits so well. This leads us to the main man, the one they are still waiting for, the king, the Messiah ben David, or simply Messiah, or Moschiach in Hebrew. He is spoken of a lot in the Tenakh. Here are a few mentions:

"In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2:2-4)

"See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD". (Isaiah 66:15-16)

"On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime - a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name." (Zechariah 14: 4-9)

This promised one is called the Messiah ben David (Messiah, son of David), because he is expected to be descended from King David.

More of him next week.

Steve Maltz
March 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Jesus Man of Many Names)

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