So on Saturday, I spent the better part of a (very rare) day off celebrating with a Messianic congregation in West Haven, CT. Although Simchat Yisrael doesn't boast a beautiful old synagogue like Tikvat's on Grove Avenue in Richmond, and although the liturgy was slightly different and the singing in Hebrew less frequent, there was something deliciously familiar about taking time to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
One of the things I love most about Judaism, particularly Messianic Judaism, is the rabbinical way of reading Scripture. The Torah reading for each Shabbat is paired with a Haftarah reading (a selection from the wisdom literature, the Kethuvi'im, or the prophetic Scriptures, the Nevi'im), and in Messianic Judaism, with a portion of the B'rit Chadasha, or "New Covenant" (i.e. the New Testament). Always there are beautiful connections between the three portions of Scripture, but sometimes they are especially poignant. The Jewish way of reading Sabbath Scripture reminds us that this is one Story. And Jewish rabbis are well-versed in drawing connections, in figuring out how this Word God has given to His people fits together. So it is fascinating to hear a Messianic rabbi, a man who has both mastered Jewish tradition and put his trust in Yeshua (Jesus), preach. It is by nature expository, exegetical, and deeply practical.
This week's Torah portion was the "Song of the Sea" from Exodus 15:1-11. Christians will know this passage as the "Song of Moses and Miriam," which praises God for swallowing up the Egyptian armies while allowing the Hebrews to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground. For Jews, it is one of the most familiar liturgies, recited in morning prayers as well as on High Holy days. It is also, as Rabbi Tony Eaton pointed out on Saturday, the only portion of Scripture that is repeated in all three sections of the Tanak (Old Testament): the Torah (law), Kethuvi'im (wisdom), and Nevi'im (prophets). Appropriately, the Haftarah reading for Saturday was Deborah's song from Judges 5:1-9, and the B'rit Chadasha reading was the Song of the Elders found in Revelation 7:9-17.
It's not difficult to notice the similarities between the three passages. Most obviously, all three are songs of deliverance and salvation. Rabbi Eaton talked about how the Song at the Sea has been the song in Israel's heart since God's covenant with Moses at Sinai. Miriam and Moses sing "The LORD is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation" (Exodus 15:2). That word, salvation, is worth noting because as I've mentioned before, in the Hebrew it shares a root with the word Yeshua, Jesus. Deborah's song is along the same lines, even mentioning the covenant at Sinai that marked the exodus Moses and Miriam sang about. And then in the Elders' song, the theme of salvation is seen even more plainly: the great multitude, with representation from every tribe and tongue, waves palm branches and proclaims, "Salvation belongs to our God!" (Revelation 7:10). The palm branches are significant because they remind us of the palm branches waved at Jesus as people cried out Hosanna! ("Save us!") The Jewish form of that exclamation is Hoshia'na! and again, it has the same root as the Hebrew word Yeshua. And so woven throughout each of these passages, we are reminded to rejoice in the salvation that comes from the One true God.
Rabbi Eaton challenged the congregation to let the song in our hearts be that one: the song of Yeshua's salvation. What is the song in your heart today?
When He's the subject of the song, who can refuse to sing?
...A thousand tongues could not compose a worthy song to bring
But Your love is a melody our hearts can't help but sing."
--18th century hymn-writer, Samuel Stennett