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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 6: Matthew 5:21-7:29, by Kevin M. Williams

Chapter Six

Of the available English translations, the King James Version seems to get closer to the literal Greek as we enter chapter six.

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

This reads slightly differently in the NASB, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men.” The NIV renders this verse “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men.”

Here, the Greek for “righteousness” is eleemosune, literally “alms.” By translating this word here as “righteousness,” the NASB and NIV translators/interpreters seem to have captured some of the Jewishness of this verse. This same word, eleemosune, is translated “alms” in verses 2, 3, and 4. Only in verse 1 have they chosen to translate it as “righteousness.” The Hebrew equivalent for eleemosune is tzedaka, which means both “charity” and “righteousness.” In the synagogues, giving alms is considered a righteous deed.

With that said however, any liberty they have taken with the literal Greek would appear to be consistent with the intent of Yeshua’s teaching. Already we have seen in chapter five that Yeshua was not anti-Torah, but rather was very concerned with its deeper spiritual principles. It was not merely keeping them in the physical realm that mattered, it was the intent of the heart that touched God Almighty.

This same theme carries through in chapter six. Anyone can give alms (vv. 1-4). Anyone can pray (vv. 5-8), and anyone can fast (vv. 16-18). One might even say, “Look at the Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists—they give alms, they pray, and they fast. What makes their deeds any different from your own?”

We live in a world run amok with slogans and campaigns. Have they leaked into our ministries? My mailbox would say yes. Every week I am bombarded with letters talking about all the great things being done for the poor (and asking for money). There is a barrage of newsletters about prayer, to pray and to be prayed for (and asking for money). I get email and posted mail encouraging me to join others in fasting (and asking for money).

Are these men, women, and organizations doing good works? Without question. I imagine that was true in Matthew chapter six as well. But the fanfare trumpets (6:2) and street corners (6:5) have been replaced with television, slick four-color brochures, and interactive web sites. In every age and every season we need to examine our true motives and actions and ask ourselves, “Are we working from the flesh or from the heart?”

___

In Matthew 6:9-13 we have what has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is rich in Hebraic liturgical form. In fact, John Lightfoot’s A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica gives a lengthy verse by verse comparison between the lines of the Lord’s Prayer and traditional Jewish liturgy of the period. Does this mean that Yeshua’s exemplary prayer was not original material? Does it inculcate Yeshua as stealing his liturgy from Pharisees? Does this dilute the teaching of our Messiah?

Heaven forbid! Yeshua is applying a very rabbinic form of teaching—taking numerous Scriptural principles and contracting and condensing them into brief summary statements. The fact that Yeshua utilizes a contemporary form of teaching does not detract or dilute Yeshua’s prayer. Rather, it reinforces his own role as a rabbi—a teacher—communicating effectively with his audience. Further, it strengthens the premise of this whole series, that the gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience proclaiming the Messiahship of Yeshua.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil’” (Matthew 6:9-13).

“Our Father” is Aveinu in the Hebrew liturgy. One such prayer among many in the synagogues is known as Aveinu Malcheinu—our Father and our King—and is recited every morning.

“Hallowed be Thy name,” was taken seriously by the Hebrew people. The “Name” was so hallowed that no one but the High Priest could utter it, and then only on Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement.

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” is the very point of Rabbi Neusner above. Everything Yeshua has taught to this point is about establishing God’s will in the hearts of mankind.

“Give us this day our daily bread,” is a part of the grace said in Jewish households after the evening meal. They pray for God’s blessing upon all flesh for food and sustenance—Jewish and Gentile (yes, the Jewish people give thanks on your behalf)—and thank Him for his profound goodness.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is a petition that is discussed latter in chapter seven, that as we measure others, we are also measured. Holding a grudge after the offender has repented and asked forgiveness, perhaps even made recompense, is not biblical. According to Yeshua, if someone has petitioned for forgiveness, we do not have an option to extend it, but an obligation.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2002

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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