Month 12:30, Rosh Chodesh Preparation Day, Year:Day 5936:354 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 11 March 2013
The Exalted Messiah
Incarnation, Attitudes and Rights
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus): who, being in very nature Elohim (God), did not consider equality with Elohim (God) something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore Elohim (God) exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the name of Yah'shua (Jesus) every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is Master, to the glory of Elohim (God) the Father" (Phil.2:5-11, NIV).
Today is Rosh Chodesh Preparation Day or the 'Day of the Son' so it seemed appropriate that we should devote our assembly to glorifying the Son, the Redeemer of the world!
An Ancient Liturgical Hymn
Today's passage may very well have been an ancient Aramaic hymn because of the unusual words in the Greek translation we have. It's obviously a quotation from someone or something but nobody knows precisely what. Obviously it is not a Tanakh (Old Testament) citation. Accordingly there are those who believe it was a hymn sung by the earliest believers at Pesach (Passover) and during the more regular communion or Lord's Supper. According to Pliny the Younger, one of the earliest pagan historians to write about the first Christians or Messianics, the believers would meet on a fixed day before daylight "and recite by turns a form of words" or "sing an antiphonal chant"  to "Messiah (Christ) as Elohim (God)" . What we may therefore have here is a quotation by Paul of one of the earliest liturgical songs of the first talmidim (disciples).
A Scripture of Great Depth
Every time I read this passage - and I have been doing so for three decades - I sense a depth that I can barely grasp. I come back to it again and again in wonderment. Two nights ago was no different. If this was something sung by the earliest believers it must have been a condensation of vital New Covenant truths to both aid teaching, memory and - of course - worship. And if it was sung at Pesach and at the weekly or monthly communions, then it must have been viewed with great solemnity. It contains the essence of our emunah (faith), the very mystery of the Messiah!
"Let your attitude to life be that of Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself. For He, who had always been Elohim (God) by nature, did not cling to His privileges as Elohim's (God's) equal, but stripped Himself of every advantage by consenting (agreeing) to be a slave by nature and being born a man. And plainly seen as a human being, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death He died was of a common criminal. That is why Elohim (God) has lifted Him to the heights, and has given Him the Name beyond all names, so that at the Name of Yah'shua (Jesus) 'every knee shall bow', whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why 'every tongue shall confess' that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is Master (Lord), to the glory of Elohim (God) the Father" (Phil.2:5-11, JBP).
This is the story of the Incarnation. It is the story of how Elohim (God) became mortal man, surrendering all His glory in order to become a servant. And His attitude in surrendering Himself to be this is supposed to be imitated by those who claim to be His talmidim (disciples). For one of the chief signs of a true believer is that:
Signs of the True Believer
The Embodiment of Our Faith
- 1. He has a servant lev (heart);
- 2. Confesses that Yah'shua (Jesus) is Elohim (God); and that
- 3. He - the Elohim (God)-Man - has been made chatuphya or the same as or equal to, Elohim (God).
Anyone who denies any one of these three points is not a true believer! And that is presumably why this declaration of Emet (Truth) was included in the liturgies of the first Messianic assemblies. In these verses we have the embodiment of our emunah (faith) and the central witness of our evangelism. But sadly there are some who claim to be true believers yet who deny these truths.
A Canine Analogy of the Incarnation
This is a very hard passage to translate which makes careful study of it all the more crucial. It is a hard thing to conceal your glory - your power and toqef (authority) - and restrain yourself from exercising it in order to remain a servant. We cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for Elohim (God) to become a man. Many have tried to illustrate it by means of analogy. Since many of you are dog-lovers, perhaps you could imagine incarnating as a dog. Imagine having the intelligence and feelings of a human being to then be treated like a dog. To be told what to do, to come at our master's every beck and call, to be spoken to as though you were some stupid mutt unable to string a sentence together. Imagine that. Imagine, as you are treated as an inferior species by your master or mistress, that you want to open your doggie mouth and speak like Balaam's ass and show how much more you know than they do! And then try to imagine that you tell your master or mistress that you created him/her!
Do You 'Deserve' Glory?
It is not uncommon for people to believe that they are 'great ones' deserving glory and honour from men. For any of us who may believe such things, this is delusion, for we are but human beings. But Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was no mere men - he was ELOHIM (GOD) in the flesh! The very Creator of the Universe was walking around amongst the very creatures He had made and was being treated like one Himself. Why did Yahweh do this? Because humility and obedience are only learned by being misunderstood, demeaned and not infrequently hurt. And Yah'shua (Jesus) - as a man - had to learn these things like the rest of us, be tempted like the rest of us, and yet never sin in one thing in order to qualify to be our Kinsman-Redeemer.
When I was preparing this sermon yesterday I accidentally came across a 'Jews for Judaism' website that accused Yah'shua (Jesus) of being a liar. The whole purpose of the website was to reclaim Jews for Judaism who had been converted to the Messiah of Israel. The subtlety and devilishness of the arguments employed were calculated to undermine faith in His spotelssness. I am glad I am not in the shoes of some of those writers who, while denying Yah'shua (Jesus) could possibly be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah because of alleged sins He had committed, yet claim that collectively that all Jews are that Suffering Servant. I am certainly glad I won't have to stand trial for claiming to be sinless while accusing the Redeemer of Mankind of being a sinner! 
"Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (Heb.5:8-9, NIV).
Jews for Judaism
Not Clinging to Privileges
In other words, He "did not consider equality with Elohim (God) to be possessed by force" (JNT/CJB) or as J.B.Philips so beautifully renders it, He "did not cling to His privileges as Elohim's (God's) equal" (JBP). When most of us think about the Incarnation and what the mortal Messiah had to go through, few of us focus on this aspect of His sacrifice - of reliquishing what we believe to be our privileges or entitlements...letting go of what we believe is owed us or what we think we deserve from others. But as this passage so eloquently puts it, we cannot learn humility and obedience - let alone patience and servanthood - until we have precisely let go of this sense of entitelement: the respect we feel we are owned, the honour we feel we should be given, the recognition we feel we deserve, the glory that may possibly have been ours before we came here, and about which we may occasionally fantasise and which we feel we should have recognised at once! If we are to share in Yah'shua's (Jesus') glory these are amongst the first things we have to be prepared to relinquish. And to do that, we have to do what Yah'shua (Jesus) did: "He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross".
"[He] did not consider equality with Elohim (God) something to be grasped..." (v.6, NIV)
All Have a Cross to Bear
No man knows what his "cross" will be until he faces it but one thing you can be sure of: it will include suffering. I like David Stern's translation here:
Stripping and Emptying
J.B.Philips says He "stripped Himself". What does that mean in practice? The verses before today's passage explain:
"He emptied Himself..." (v.7, JNT/CJB).
Conceit and Rivalry
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (vv.3-4, ESV).
In no other religion does 'God' strip or empty Himself in this manner and in no other religion is a man or woman expected to do the same without such a living example because God has not incarnated in this way in any other religious tradition. Yes, Hinduism speaks of 'incarnations' but none of these deities conceals his glory to become a servant, nor do these deities die for the sins of the world so that we do not have to keep on paying for any karma through endless reincarnations, a futile business were it to be real because no man could ever pay off his debt of sin.
Special Entitlements and Rights: Stop Boasting
Not only does Elohim (God) pay the debt by stripping or emptying Himself of His glory and privilege but He teaches us that mankind can never live in peace unless he too imitates this example on a human level. There is no possibility of reconcilliation in the world until man stops thinking that he has special entitlements. Or to use the language of modern humanism, until he lets go of the idea that he has 'rights'. Our only 'right' is to be responsible and accounable. All other 'rights' are illusion for Yahweh does not recognise them. Rather, He commands us to be servants like His Son by considering others "more significant" (ESV), "better" (NIV, KJV, JNT, RSTNE), or "more important" (NASB) than ourselves. In a word, stop boasting whether in word or by attitude!
"To the arrogant I say, 'Boast no more,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horns. Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak with outstretched neck'" (Ps.75:4-5, NIV).
Having a Right Attitude
"Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in Yahweh'" (1 Cor 1:31, NIV).
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am Yahweh, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares Yahweh" (Jer.9:23-24, NIV).
The attitude of Yah'shua (Jesus) in His incarnation as a mere man is to be the same attitude we are to have of ourselves for relative to Him we are all lowly and with nothing to brag about. And as He treated us who are lower than Him, so we are to treat others whether they are greater or lesser, it does not matter, for we are to treat others without regard for their status or achievement. This is humility and from it comes those other difficult-to-obtain virtues which we often say we desire - like patience - but which we are not usually willing to pay the price for.
Become a Servant
There is no ultimate exaltation for us until we have been humbled. It doesn't matter how clever or loving we think we are - what matters is that we esteem ourselves as servants for others as Messiah did for us by allowing ourselves to be stripped of self-glory. Part of that is renouncing all concept of entitlement, the diametric opposite of what we are taught in our heathen society today.
With these thoughts in mind, may your Rosh Chodesh preparations for tomorrow be blessed. Amen.
 Other passages which may indicate early antiphonal chants include John 1:1-18, Luke 1-2, Romans 11:33-36, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16 and Titus 2:11-13
 Pliny the Younger, Letter to Emperor Trajan, ca. 112 AD
 To know what these people believe Yah'shua (Jesus) to be, see Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud (Princeton University Press, NJ: 2007)