A Servant's Heart
By Rabbi Yaakov benYosef
Putting the Lord's will first is evidence of a believer with the heart of a servant. Serving the Lord whole-heartedly is the most difficult part of our walk. A truly submitted heart requires we lay down our desires and put the Lord's will before ours. This type of commitment does not come without cost (Lu 14:28). The cost is why it so difficult for believers to develop a heart submitted to the Lord's will. Even the Messiah was required to put aside his own desires in the service of his Father (Lu 22:42). To become a true servant to the Lord we must learn to control these desires and submit to Him fully. Our Messiah desires we each develop a servant's heart and be fully submitted to Him. Three examples in Scripture that personify a servant's heart are Abraham, Moses, and Shaul (Paul).
Abraham is our first example of a follower truly trying to develop a servant's heart. Abraham sacrificed his will to fulfill the plan of the Lord. On three separate occasions Abraham was tested. He was required to put his trust in the Lord. Each of the tests grew in intensity as Abraham is learning how to serve the living God without question. The first time Abraham was required to put the will of God above his own will, was when he was asked to leave his home, his family, and to start off for an unknown country (Ge12: 1). Abraham left all of his familiar surroundings and headed for a country that was only a promise. He moved from a place of security to a strange and insecure place simply because HaShem told him to move. In this first trial, Abram was required to leave his inheritance and family. Abram was willing to give up his family and inheritance and follow the Lord's plan for his life. The major trial that Abraham is required to endure is to establish his inheritance in HaShem. Abram could not see how he would be able to establish an inheritance when he did not have a son. Even though Avram did not have a son, HaShem promised Avram multitudes of descendents (Gen 15:3-5). This is one of the greatest trials Abram faced. It is often hard to trust in the Lord when we cannot see Him fulfilling the promises He made to us. Waiting upon the Lord to bring about His desire was difficult for Abram. Rather then fully trusting in the Lord to handle the situation, Abram desired to help the Lord's plan by creating his own descendant with Hagar (Gen 16:1-4). By Abram's desire to fulfill the promise with his own strength, he caused undue strife (Gen 16:4-5). We often cause strife in our own lives by trying to complete the Lord's plan with our own abilities.
The third and final test that Abram faced required placing all of his trust on the line. Abram would place his son, his only inheritance, totally in the Lord's hands. Abram needed to trust the Lord with his most valuable possession (Ge 22:9). Abram placed his son Isaac upon the altar. This action necessitated Abram to put all of his faith in HaShem; this action truly required Abram to put the Lord's will before his own. We can all learn from Abram's life. Are we willing to place the most important thing in our lives in the Lord's hand? Truly, until we are, we do not have a fully circumcised heart.
Moses is also an example of one who has a servant's heart. Moses first test, like Avram's first test, would require him to give up his place of security to go to a place of turmoil and insecurity. Moses needed to go back into Egypt to be the deliverer for HaShem's people (Ex 3). Moses' first impulse was not to follow Gods plan, but he was pliable and moldable. When Moses finally submitted to the Lords authority, he allowed his desire to serve overcome his fear. It was the true desire of Moses to serve.
The next test for Moses' servanthood came when Israel made the golden calf (Ex 32:19). This second test of Moses' desire to serve came from his friends and family. Would Moses follow the multitude to do evil, and would he follow his own brother to commit sin? Moses stood his ground like a faithful servant of the Lord (Ex 32:20). Often in our walk as believers temptation comes from friends and family. Even with good intentions, our friends and family lead us down the path to sin. This is the reason Yeshua said that families would be split because of Him (Lu 12:53). It is often hard for us as believers to continue serving the Lord when our family and friends try to convince us to go with them. We must remember to stand fast like Moses and not waiver in our decision to follow Yeshua.
The third and final example of Moses heart being that of a servant is demonstrated by his willingness to lay down his life for others. When the Lord desired to destroy Israel for their transgressions Moses asked to have his name blotted out also (Ex 32: 31-32). Being the type of servant that Yeshua desires often requires us to lay down our lives for those that are in sin. This is probably the hardest thing for the follower of Yeshua to do. Laying down our life for those we feel are not worthy requires a spirit of humility. As followers of Yeshua, we must try to be like the examples in scripture and develop a true servant's heart. Just as Moses was ready to go to Egypt, stand against friends, and die for the unfaithful, as followers of Yeshua we should be willing to make the same sacrifices.
Another person who exemplified a servant's heart is the apostle Paul (Shaul). Shaul who started out persecuting the early Messianics later developed a true servant's heart. Shaul's first test, like Avram's and Moses, was to leaving his place of security and following the Lord. Shaul, a persecutor of the followers of Yeshua, became transformed into an emissary of Yeshua. Shaul had to make a decision when confronted with the Truth. He had to decide whether to change or continue persecuting the move of the Lord (Acts 9:4-6). Shaul's desire to serve the Lord was greater then his desire to serve men. From his encounter with Yeshua, he was transformed into a servant. We also must be willing to change when we encounter the Lord's will.
The second example of Shaul's desire to be a servant comes out of the accusation of telling gentile believers that circumcision is no longer valid (Acts 21:21). With a true servant's heart Shaul follows James' advice and prepares to make a vow (Acts 21:23-24). The vow that James asks Shaul to make is the vow of the Nazarite (Nu 6:18). Shaul agrees to take the vow and make the offering, demonstrating his servant's heart. Shaul does this to prove that he still keeps the Torah, he is not telling the gentiles that circumcision has been done away. As true servants of the Lord, we are often required to prove what we believe. We need to learn from Shaul's example and make the commitment to stand firm in the Lord's Word and not waiver, no matter what pressure is placed upon us.
The third and final example of Shaul displaying a servant's heart is his willingness to lay down his life for his brethren in the flesh (Ro 9:2-5). Like Moses, Shaul is willing to be accursed from his Messiah that he may see Israel saved. Shaul's willingness to be separated from the Messiah is the essence of a servant's heart. Yeshua himself declared that no greater love is there then when a man is willing to lay down his life for a friend (Jh 15:13). Shaul goes beyond laying down his life for friends; he is willing to lay down his life for people who do not like him. Shaul demonstrates to us the same type of heart the Messiah had. We must strive to develop the type of servant's heart where we are prepared to follow the Lord wherever he requires us to go.
In summary, the true servant of the Lord is willing to do whatever it takes to serve Yeshua. Like Avraham, Moses, and Shaul we need to be prepared to go where we called. We need to stand firm for the Lord, and we need to be willing to lay down our lives in complete service. If Messianics the world over are prepared to make this kind of commitment, we can change people's hearts.
Jews in Early Non-Jewish Literature
by Hava benYosef
The first mention of Jews in literature written by non-Jewish authors comes in recorded histories. While portions of, if not all, of the original references have been lost, they were studied in antiquity and so excerpts of the originals exist within the works of later authors. These works show that the Jews have always been a source of consternation among the non-Jews. And the writings display an anti-Jewish sentiment in many ways. (Only a few sources have been cited below.)
Most of these earlier authors include some retelling of how the Jewish people came to be in the lands being discussed. Invariably the story of the Exodus from Egypt is told.
Hecataeus of Abdera was a writer about 300 B.C.E. and is quoted by Diodorus Siculus in Bibliotheca Historica. Hecataeus says that the Jews living in Egypt "were driven from the country" (Schafer, 15-16) because the practice of "different rites of religion" was causing the general population of Egypt to forget to worship their own gods. And so the gods become angry causing pestilence. This way of retelling the story casts dispersion and suspicion upon the Jews. Undoubtedly, this attitude is fairly prevalent.
Another retelling of the Exodus is done by Strabo about 50 B.C.E. in his Geographia. According to Strabo, the Jews left Egypt because they were not happy with the religion of Egypt. The Jews felt that "the Egyptians were mistaken in representing the Divine Being by images of beasts and cattle . . . and the Greeks were also wrong in modeling gods in human form . . . Moses . . . led them away to this place where the settlement of Jerusalem now is" (Schafer, 24). By extension Strabo is saying that Moses felt that his god was superior and this was a direct insult to the Greeks and Egyptians.
Other writers, such as the Roman historian Pompeius Trogus in his Historiae Philippicae written during the end of the first century B.C.E., and the Greco-Egyptian Lysimachus writings between the second and first centuries B.C.E., have equally spurious renditions of the Exodus. These leave the reader with no doubt that the Jews are an unclean people bringing disease and curses that have selfish mores.
Apion of Alexandria, in his Aegyptiaca (first half of the first century C.E.) quoted in Josephus' Contra Apionem, calls it an "exodus of the lepers, the blind and the lame under Moses' leadership" (Schafer, 29).
Tacitus, also of the first century, in his Historiae tells of six different versions of the Exodus. Peter Schafer in discussing Tacitus says "what characterizes his excursus most . . . is an overall hostile tone, from the beginning to the end" (32).
Besides their version of the Exodus, these early authors also write about the concept of worshipping only one god.
Josephus talks about the writings of Apollonius Molan (first century B.C.E.) who is credited with writing the first book on Jews after Hecataeus. Josephus claims that Apollonius considers Jews "as atheists and misanthropes" (Schafer, 21) and "they have contempt for the proper religion and dislike not only foreigners but all human beings" (Schafer, 22).
The remarks about being "atheists" relate to Jews having a God that cannot be seen, as well as the fact that the Jews will not worship the gods of the area. This evidently looked to the locals like the Jews were "godless". These feelings against the Jews reflect the suspicion held for anything other than what the local people knew.
Celsus, in Alethes Logos written in the second half of the second century C.E. and coming to the present in Contra Celsum by Origen, believes that the one God of the Jews is the highest god, like Zeus, no matter what he is called. He indicates that Jews should not be arrogant and lay exclusive claim to the one God. He also addresses a holier-than-thou attitude he sees in the Jews displayed by customs such as circumcision and food restrictions. He says they did not invent the customs nor are they the only observers of the customs.
Varro in Antiquitates Rerum Humanarum et Divinarum written between 63 and 47 B.C.E. and quoted by Augustine, was actually the first to come up with the highest-god theory that Celsus assumes. He equates the Jewish God with the god Jupiter, saying, it does not matter "by which name he is called, so long as the same thing is understood" (Schafer, 37). But Varro does not speak in negative terms about Jews or the issue. To Varro it is a fact that any god will do.
With these attitudes being written, read, and circulated about the Jews and their beliefs in the ancient sources, it is not hard to imagine how anti-Jewish sentiments became the vogue in subsequent centuries.