They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

A Lesson From the “TaNaKh”

JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh

JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh

The foundation on which our New Testaments faith rests is obviously the Hebrew Bible. Christians are in the habit of calling it the Old Testament, which in a way implies that it is out of date and not relevant. We had the “old” and now we have the “New.”

The Jewish community refers to the Hebrew Bible as the Tenakh (also spelled Tanak and Tenach). What does this name mean? It refers to the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible. “T” stands for Torah ,or the Law and is the first five books of the Bible written by Moses. “N” is for Nebi im, or the Prophets and refers to most of the rest of the books of the Bible, such as Chronicles, Kings, Samuel, Judges and the prophets Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. “K” is for Ketubim, or writings and are the Books such as Psalms and Proverbs. The Jews believed that when the Messiah would come all three divisions would recognize him.

This makes the words that God spoke at the mount of Transfiguration very interesting. In Luke 9:28-36 Moses and Elijah show up and Jesus talked to them. Then God says “This is my son, whom I have chosen, listen to Him”. Now turn to Psalm 2:1 where God says “This is my son.” Psalm 2 was a prophetic Psalm and is attributed to Jesus in the N.T. in Acts 13:33 when Paul quotes this as a scripture that is fulfilled in Jesus, a son of David. So the “Ketubim” (say the N.T. writers) recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

Tanakh Diagram

Tanakh Diagram (Click to view larger image)

Now let’s look at “whom I have chosen.” Turn to Is. 42:1 and read these same words applied to the one who is to come whom God will put his spirit on. The writer of Matthew 12:18-20 recognized this as fulfillment of a messianic foundation when he said that Jesus fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah and then quotes Isa. 42:1-4. So the Nebiim according to Matthew (the prophet Isaiah) also recognized him as the Messiah.

Now look at the words “listen to him” and look at the words in Deut 18:15 – “The Lord will raise up for you a prophet… listen to him.” The New Testament writer John quotes Nathaniel, saying,” we have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and about whom also the prophets wrote” – Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus says in John 5:46 “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.” So the Torah or the Law of Moses definitely recognized the Messiah.

We see in this statement that God makes about his Son on the Mt. of Transfiguration that the Law, the Prophets and the writings all point to Jesus as the Messiah.” This is my son, whom I have chosen, listen to Him”. Also it might be why Peter pitched 3 tents, 1 for the Torah (Moses) 1 for the Prophets (Elijah) and one for the son of David.

This little lesson just points to how valuable the Hebrew Bible is to our understanding of the New Testament. The Old Testament is the parent of the New Testament and the Old Testament is the cradle from which Christianity came. For some reason, we have been led to believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant and out of date and Christians have become studiers of the New Testament only. We must get back to studying the Hebrew Bible, for it is the source for our Christian heritage. These are the Holy Scriptures that the disciples and early Christians knew by heart.

Blueprint for Messiah: Found in Exodus

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ ”
— Exodus 6:6-8

The more I study and learn about the Old Testament, the more I see Jesus and God’s plan of salvation in it. The saying that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed is definitely a great saying. For example, if you will look at Exodus 6 you will see that God laid out the blueprint for our Messiah, Jesus, in the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt. This is what God says in Ch. 6 to the Israelites before the Exodus:

  1. I will bring you out- from under yoke of slavery and bondage
  2. I will set you free from slavery – what would you have given if God had showed up and set you free and sin no longer had control?
  3. I will Redeem you
  4. I will bring you to myself – take you as my own, I will be your God

From the earliest of times, Jews have celebrated these 4 statements in Exodus 6 during Passover. They set out 4 cups of wine with each representing one of these statements by God. At various points in the liturgy, participants are reminded of what God said on each one and the cup is taken to remember these 4 things.

Applying the Blood

Applying the Blood

Now picture Jesus with his disciples as they celebrated Passover the night before he was to die and become our Passover Lamb. We now call this the Lord’s Supper, but it was a Passover meal that Jesus made an unbelievable claim at. Let’s look at what would have happened.

You can read the accounts of the Passover meal in Matthew 26:17-30 and parallel passages in Mark 14:17-25 and Luke 22:7-13. As their leader, Jesus would have recounted the Passover story as he held up and passed around the 1st cup – “God took us out of the land of bondage.” Then the 2nd cup would have been raised as Jesus reminded them that God set us free from sin, we are no longer slaves to it. Then Jesus did something strange to his hearers as he lifted the 3rd cup (cup of Redemption) which symbolizes that God redeemed us. Jesus said this cup (3rd one) is a new covenant in my blood .I am going to be the avenue of redemption for all people. He varied from the Passover liturgy to offer them a striking new concept; his blood would be shed for us for our redemption. This is how God will clean us up and redeem us.

When it came time for the 4th cup, which symbolizes God saying I will bring you to myself ,I will protect you (called cup of protection), Jesus said I won’t drink again. He left without taking cup of protection. He left himself open.

When the Passover celebration ended Jews left their homes and went to the Temple to spend the rest of the night watching and praying and singing hymns. This was to remember the “night of watching” at the Red Sea described in Exodus Ch. 14 He asked his disciples to “watch with me”, but he had no help or protection from them. As Jesus turned, he saw his equivalent of the Egyptians (Romans) coming to get him.

Bread and Chalice

Bread and Chalice

There was also a 5th cup set at each Passover – Elijah’s cup. In Malachi 4:5-7, it was prophesied that before the Messiah would come Elijah would come back. If you read Jeremiah 25:15-38, when the Lord does come back, he will come in judgment and this cup will be poured out on all who are sinners and the unrighteous nations. Jesus realized that Elijah’s cup, the cup of damnation, would be poured out on him. He would be damned for all of us. He willingly takes it and says,” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, why have you abandoned me? The 5th cup is empty today; it has already been poured out.

To realize that God had continually made a blueprint of salvation through his son in the stories of the OT is a great confidence to me. The plan was worked out in exact detail from the time of Abraham and God’s covenant with him and it shows itself continually through the people of Israel. God has brought us out and set us free from sin and has redeemed us and brought us to himself through the sending of his Son, the Passover Lamb, as a payment for our sins. I stand amazed in his presence and awed by his awesome plan and design for me.