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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 18: Matthew 22:41-23:39, by Kevin M. Williams

Also in April of 2005, Pope John-Paul II passed away and the assembly of cardinals will appoint a new pope (which at the time of writing, the voting process has not yet begun). This man, whoever he may be, will become the head of the Roman Catholic Church and as such, will set doctrine and make policy as if he were seated in Moses’ chair.

Regardless of denomination (or even non-denominational church) there are those who have taken up the seat of Moses—who decide how their flock shall live according to some scriptural litmus test of their own making. They may not call it the “seat of Moses,” but the principle remains alive and well today.

Therefore, Yeshua’s words, “all that they tell you, do and observe,” are still binding as seen in the life of most believers in most churches.

However, their divinely recognized authority to assign Halakhah2 does not thereby give these leaders license to hide behind their titles and do as they please. Readers can likely call to mind a list of political and religious leaders who rose to such prominence as to consider themselves above God’s Word. Hence Yeshua’s stern warning, “do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.”

“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments” (Matthew 23:5).

Yeshua gives us an example of this abuse of power to make policy. However, the casual reader unfamiliar with the oral traditions might not comprehend the weight of this example.

In the Jewish tradition, phylacteries are called tefillin: leather boxes containing a portion of the Torah which are bound to the forehead and the left arm, in keeping with Deuteronomy 6:8:

And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

Similarly, the “tassels of their garments” spoken of here are called tzit-tzit (or tzitziyot in the plural). They are a literal application of the command in Numbers 15:37-41:

The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, in order that you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”3

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2005

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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